Monday, 30 November 2009

The Start, "Why"??

Since I took up climbing ,and in particular soloing, I've been asked "why"?? I've spoke a bit about why I climb but I've never really thought about the real base reasons why I chose climbing over any other 'sport'. There are quite a few reasons I can think of offhand. I never really gelled with any mainstream sports at school and increasingly played truant to head to the moors and glens surrounding my hometown preferring long walks to long division. I always knew I was different to everyone else around me and am to this day constantly reminded of it so I needed to play a game that was as far from the crowd as possible. I tried a few things but nothing seemed to compete with the freedom I felt in the hills. There was no judgment there, no rules precluding me from participating just me and wide open ground. It seemed that whatever I was going to do had to be in the countryside and preferably with as little human intervention or rules as possible. After a while I started trying to cover more distance in quicker times ,testing myself, which was great fun but it still lacked something, one more vital ingredient.....risk. In 1998 I went up Curved Ridge with a friend, November, 1st scramble, no ropes and pouring rain and a new door opened. It went on like this for a couple of years and scrambling/climbing was an innocent hobby and I had no idea what a driving force and necessity it was to become in my life.

Tam and Wullie above the Quadrocks after I'd done the first ascent of 'The Whispering Eye' , I've never been involved with any other sport that gives you days like this or bonds friendships stronger.

When I started seeing the one girl I've loved I was still climbing on occasional weekends and going on some trips but while the train wreck of our 'relationship' continued I got more into it I guess as an escape from the reality that I was losing her and couldn't stop that happening. After we parted ways my climbing took over my life and took on a whole new darker dimension. It became a way to try justify our split and to fill the void she left, which was big as I was 25 at this point and until then hadn't really felt anything. I decided then that climbing was going to be the only way for me do deal with the bigger issues in my life. Since then I've climbed thousands of feet ,solo, in an effort to break the chains that still hold me to that pointless emotional baggage, sometimes I manage to break free, other times it holds me tight in its grasp. But I can use it to my advantage as it drives me even harder than my disabilities do.Maybe that's why climbing is the only thing that works as 'therapy' for me as it takes me literally away and above all that useless social stuff?
Dave on Ben Nevis last year.Days like this form a large part of why climbing means so much to me.

Some days though just being on my local moors is enough, just to sit up there looking over at Arran makes me feel so at peace, especially if the wind is howling past to add to the atmosphere......

Monday, 23 November 2009

MSMD Reviews

The folks at Stone Country have given 'Monkey See , Monkey Do' a good review here........

Dave Macleod also wrote about it here.................... Dave MacLeod Climbing: Monkey See Monkey Do DVD out now in the shop

Sunday, 22 November 2009


Yesterday Christina , Sam and I headed to Glenmore Lodge for a DT Competition. It was to be Sam's 1st comp so a relaxed approach was taken by us but not so by a nervous Christina who was to be doing a DT Masterclass with fellow Mountain Equipment athlete Andy Turner.
Sam strikes a pose just before our first route.......

I've been doing DT comps since Scott Muir started them in Scotland back in 04 and they have been a help in my finding out whats possible with my axes but at the same time they are a constant source of frustration. It reminds me that I'm disabled when I cant high axe or switch on my axes and it really p****s me off. I thought after last winter I had a better hold on my anger related to my climbing but yesterday was a stark reminder that it can rear its ugly head without warning which resulted in a few axes planted deeply in the ground, perhaps the Jobcentre were right when they reckoned I had issues with my temper :) Yesterday made me see clearly that no matter how hard I train etc that all it takes is one switching move on a route and I'm scuppered and that is truly frustrating........
Christina gives it some welly on the Masterclass
The 'Auld Maister' Jimmy Addison [sorry Jimmy :) ] gets cranking

I'm definitely going to compete at the Ice Factor on the 5th of Dec but after that I'm finished with competing as it brings out the angry side of me too much. Its a really good crowd at these comps but afterwards when I'm at home and reflecting on my own I can get quite down about being disabled.

Friday, 13 November 2009


Last week I was really psyched about my impending trip to Canada so it was with high expectations I got on the long flight trip Calgary. The moment I arrived things started going wrong, immigration held me back for a while then as I got towards Banff my stomach felt a little sore. 3 days later I eventually felt safe enough to venture more than dashing distance away from my bathroom. Then I still had no energy to climb and conditions weren't great. The film went down well with those that saw it at the festival but after attending a panel discussion on soloing I got the impression that my reasons for doing it were very different than most others or perhaps I'm just a bit more honest about it?? I got asked a few times about "why" when I was there so during the illness and recovery I did some serious 'soul-searching' about why I do it and I reckon theres 3 reasons
1) My not allowed being allowed to join the Army and therefore not carrying on somewhat of a family tradition I feel some need to live an adventurous life.

2) Being disabled I still feel that I have something to prove to myself about my abilities.

3) Last but not least trying to clear my head from the 'heart wrenching' split from the love of my life.
These are the best, most honest and most likely reasons I have for taking risks but I'm not a psychologist so who knows...........
Above is a picture of me out of puff at Lake Louise , I had walked to 7000ft with a mate who works for the National Parks of Canada. On the way out he was putting his skis on and said to me to go ahead, he would catch up. After days of illness I was desperate to feel like I had done something so I decided to run.If you want to get your heart going I can recommend running full tilt at 7000ft, in snow wearing climbing kit. I was wearing a t-shirt by the time I got to the car and got some strange looks from the well wrapped tourists. I came home to an email from Scarpa saying they will supply me with mountain boots which is great, especially for winter here and possibly the Eiger in March!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Flip Sides

With the media attention I've had recently it's got me thinking about the flip sides of my climbing. By flip sides I mean how my climbing seems to be perceived by some and the reality of it and they couldn't be further from each other. I always try to be honest with my writing so here goes with an explanation. I did some climbing in Glen Nevis earlier this year for the Adventure Show (to be shown tomorrow night at 7 p.m. on BBC2) and after the climbing was done we did a short interview. It went the way most interviews do asking about my hand etc then Duncan , the presenter , mentioned that he detected a hint of self-hate in what I do! I'd never really thought about my climbing in that light before but it certainly seemed a logical explanation for soloing. This is one of the strange paradoxes in climbing with me pushing myself into situations where I may die or I know that I'm going to be in pain yet at the same time it makes me feel good about myself. In one interview when I was asked about soloing being a loner's sport, I explained that I feel more alone in a club surrounded by hundreds of people than I do when I'm alone in the hills.
People often ask me about how I manage to become bold for climbing and this is going to be different for every bold climber, but I do not see myself as bold. I put myself in risky situations in a small way because I feel I owe it to myself to a certain extent for not sticking up for myself early enough as a kid when I was being bullied. So if you look at all the above issues they are countered by the mirror image of themselves, self hate diminished by love of climbing , loneliness quenched by loneliness and self perceived cowardice confronted by my boldness in soloing close to my absolute physical and mental limits.............
I'm off to Banff, Canada in a couple of hours to promote and introduce Hotaches film 'Monkey See Monkey Do' and I can't wait to get there but as usual it'll be a schizophrenic experience in that I'll enjoy being in the company of some of the greatest climbers and mountaineers in the world but at the same time I'll wish I was out scoping Mark Twight's un-repeated route 'The Reality Bath' on the White Pyramid. A 600m ice climb under a serac in which, according to one guidebook writer," you have a 50/50 chance of getting the chop".......................