Video: Dave MacLeod Gives Masterclass Lesson in Hard, Dangerous Trad FA

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Have you ever wondered what preparation goes into an E9 6c first ascent? Have you ever wondered what those grades even mean? Top U.K. trad climber Dave MacLeod has released a 16-minute video answering both of these questions, following his first ascent of Mnemosyne on Ben Nevis last week.

The video is certainly eye-opening. It begins with a classic introduction: there is an unclimbed route, it looks dangerous and rarely comes into condition, let’s see if MacLeod can climb it. But this is not your typical send video.

MacLeod breaks down the hardest moves of Mnemosyne for us, before admitting that placing the nauseating nest of bird beaks, sky hooks, and a #0 RP—all intended for bodyweight-only aid climbing of course, not for protecting a 50-foot ledge fall—is the route’s actual crux. After placing this gear, MacLeod chooses to downclimb back to the belay ledge and shake out his pump there, without weighting the rope, before he takes off with the stick clipped gear.

What is perhaps most impressive, however, is MacLeod’s commitment to documenting his ascent. He is the one-person camera crew; from the scenic drone intro to his eventual redpoint success—and all the working days in between, including a play-by-play breakdown of each placement and crux move.

On send day, after squeaking through the tricky downclimb, MacLeod climbs an adjacent route with his camera equipment in order to film the rest of the attempt. MacLeod returns to the ground and fires the crux. Then, while still on lead, he edges over to his camera to tilt it upwards and film the rest of his ascent. Now that’s commitment!

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