Climbing the remote sea cliffs of Pabbay, in the Barra Isles of Scotland was our mission. Uninhabited since 1912, with a rich history dating back to at least the 6th century AD, it had all the key ingredients of a world class climbing adventure: history, intrigue, challenge, journey and unknown outcomes, all in perfect balance.
As with any worthy mission the enjoyment starts long before the trip. Sometimes, I’ll take a break from guiding kids up big rock climbs and chasing my dog off decaying birds and sit down to read an article like this one. I get inspired and drift away, daydreaming up exciting ‘missions’ to fuel the psyche-tank and escape a world in chaos, if only for a week or two.
We’ll ride Paso Fino horses through Colombia – straight shot down to Ecuador and sell those smooth riders for a ticket home; we’ll hop on some rickety mopeds and zing ’em down to Kosovo to hike the Šar Mountains; we’ll this…we’ll that.
Climbing sea-cliffs on Pabbay was one of those dream missions, inspired by a UKClimbing article and a UK top-5 E2 route called Prophecy of Drowning. What a route!? – a precipitous 100m cliff and sensational exposed line. Hulking straight from the sparkling waves of the Atlantic the route takes you on a tour past ‘The Great Arch’, an imposing giant spanning the width of the cliff.
Mission mode engaged, my brain was focused, the horses and mopeds unceremoniously swept aside. A quick net search later and I was sold – a veritable feast of daunting sea cliff routes on exquisite rock awaited.
“A veritable feast of daunting sea cliff routes on exquisite rock awaited”
Many were tidal, abseil-in affairs soaring above the pounding surf – exposed multi-pitch bangers with a savage compelling gravitas. We’d clearly be spoilt for choice, but when I came across a route called ‘The Ancient Mariner’, I was instantly in love.
The poem, after which the route is named, has been said to give off a sense of danger, the supernatural, or serenity in different parts. If the route could stay true to the poem it was named after it would be the perfect E5-graded route to aspire to.