Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Skye (a land of myth much-missed)


In the early 2000s, a mysterious stranger began claiming a number of hard ascents, first in Glen Nevis (The Morrighan, Jupiter Collison...etc.)and then on the Isle of Skye (Extradition, It's Over etc.). In particular, the boulders of Coire Lagan held some great-looking lines which began appearing on a local blog featuring photographs of a lithe-looking climber on very steep lines, but usually static on one of the jugs and never on video. Many climbers had visited and tried the lines, coming back claiming they were futuristic and impossible. Dave MacLeod walked away from the mythical 'It's Over' with its wee undercut holds and obvious-but-out-of-reach double-sloper. The forums, for a year or two, were alive with debate as to who this stranger was and how the hell he had got so strong.

The legendary O'Conor blog, its posts notably created in the dark hours, like some intricate verbal death-star, has mostly been dismantled by its shamed owner, who was, at considerable expense and frustration, visited by John Watson on the Isle of Lewis to winkle out some element of truth to the whole debacle. Was this O'Conor the new Sharma? Him and his faithful dog padding up to the boulders, bivvying out in extreme temperatures, pulling off 8c problems 'out of the air'? Where did he train? How did he get so strong? Did the climbs actually exist? O'Conor, in person affable and persuasive, was at the same time evasive and only once put his shoes on in anger, struggling to get off the ground on his own 8a (6c) Atlantic Bridge at Port Nis (Watson flashed this and was bitterly disappointed to have to downgrade it so - he thought he'd pulled off a miracle). Who was the mythical 'Finn' he climbed with, who O'Conor claimed had spotted him on first ascents, but whom no-one had ever spotted themselves? The whole thing was an expensive outing for Watson (building to a whisky stand-off at 2am), who like others had been forced to mention these problems in early Scottish bouldering guides, giving the creature the benefit of the doubt... that he was indeed the Finn MacCool of legend, breakfasting on 8a's and crushing all under his fists of fury.

Well, things have quietened down a bit since those heady days, which is a shame since the online rants were legendary and much-missed by the Scottish climbing community. We wish Si well on his new ventures, whatever they may be - SBS extreme kayaking or some such -  and we are at least delighted to witness, on video, and indisputably, the reality of some of these climbs under the audit of peer-reviewed boulderers. Climbed by boulderers with a propensity for detail rather than tall tales, these legendary Skye problems now exist - thanks to Mike Adam for his dedication to such remote imaginings. But maybe, just maybe, the legend will return, tripod in hand, pair of old 5.10 Moccasyms in the other...?




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