Route to the Sky (via Hobson Moor)

The Old Man of Hoy is arguably the most iconic piece of rock in the UK and its ascent will surely feature on the To Do lists of every climber operating at the appropriate level. 450ft of sometimes sandy E1 climbing; weather dependency; remote setting; convoluted logistics and the unwanted attention of vomiting fulmars, all make for a challenge that’s not to be underestimated.

Now imagine making an ascent without the use of your legs! That’s exactly the inspirational challenge that Michelle has set herself after a climbing accident left her paraplegic. You can read more about the planning and preparation that has gone into attempting this audacious goal (and the ups and downs along the way) on Michelle’s website https://www.routetothesky.co.uk

and also donate to The Calvert Trust

which is the charity that Michelle is fundraising for https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/RoutetotheSky

I bumped into Michelle training at Awesome Walls Stockport and was impressed by her dedication and focus, and asked if there was anything I could do to help…. Which is how we ended up at Hobby in the pouring rain on a dismal November Saturday.

I was keen to understand firsthand the challenges to be overcome and how Michelle was intending to propel herself up the 130m sea stack. Strapping myself into the carefully engineered rig of pulleys and friction devices,

and heading up the soaking wall at Hobby, two things were obvious: Firstly, it’s a lot more difficult without using your legs (doh, yes I’d anticipated that, and I’ve jugged the height of El Cap a few times so know my way around a jummar, but you need to have a go before you fully realise why you would normally focus most of your effort in bringing your much bigger leg muscles into play rather than relying on your arms). The second observation was what a great job Dave, Andy, Michelle and the team have done in optimising the rig to make the process as efficient as possible – there’s lots to be learned even by a seasoned big wall rat.

Michelle politely watched my flailing

… before showing me how it should be done

The team have clearly got the “going up bit” pretty well wired, and we experimented with options for “topping out” and “heading down” before adjourning for more planning and drying-out over tea and crumpets (another lesson learned – probably best to tackle TOMoH in the dry!)

You can follow prep and progress at Michelle’s site https://www.routetothesky.co.uk as the team puts the finishing touches to the planning and training then crosses its collective fingers for a weather window next year.

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