Kev Shields is one of the recipients of the MCofS Bursary this year. MCofS has featured Kev in the magazine in the past with his soloing exploits of hard climbs up to E7. But what makes this exceptional for Kev, are his disabilities (one hand, epilepsy and arthritis). His goal over the coming year is to be the first disabled climber to climb E8. "My disability means I have limits and there is no guarantee of success but I'm willing to give it everything I have". Kev told us. "I've spoken to numerous climbers and consulted guidebooks looking for the style of route that I may be able to climb, but due to the nature of my disabled hand I have no real idea if they will be possible till I get on the routes". Returning from surgery, Kev will undertake a road trip taking in every country in the UK and try to complete his ambitions and make a film about it. No one with his disabilities has ever done this before so it is a unique trip. He started his journey in May with a return to form on a new route ...
New routing in more remote and unknown parts of Scotland has always been more enjoyable for me than any other facet of climbing, particularly in the West Highlands with its rich history. That's why when Dave Macleod mentioned a crag past Glenfinnan a few years ago I was really psyched. Dave did some hard new routes and I climbed the established ES that had been put up by Donald King and Mike Pescod who originally developed the crag. While there I noticed a potential line but was too afraid to try it, after recovering from surgery earlier this year I decided to give it another look as I knew it didn't require much strength but lots of bottle and I felt my mind was ready for that after over six months away from climbing.
I got on the route for the first time on top rope and teetered my way up the slab, moves getting harder the further I went. I thought I was almost there when I was met by a section the size of a large car bonnet that was completely blank; I fell onto the rope to have a think.
Eventually I found the only 'hold' which was literally only big enough for two fingernails, it was just enough to support me while I powered through gently on my right toe to reach the 'thank god' hold at the top.
Then the reality set in that I'd have to now get on and lead it. It was a frightening thought as it was my first route back since the operation and the route was the hardest thing I'd done since soloing E7 over two years previously. With the summer heat wave reaching new levels, it wasn't ideal for hard slab climbing, so on a very early weekday morning Dave, Glenda and I headed out. I had two nervous top rope attempts and decided it was time to get it done: I climbed up to the point of no return and paused to consider it, within seconds I was climbing onwards to the gear placement around half height, gear in and the hard climbing begins. It went in a state of total focus, I felt more relaxed on lead than on top rope. As I reached for the 'thank god' hold I felt a happiness overcome me that I hadn't felt in years. The day embodied what climbing is mostly about for me, great surroundings, great climbing and great company... and whisky to celebrate!