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We recently dispatched some of the Rab Professionals to two of the finest trad climbing areas in Europe. Accompanied by photographer Ben Winston, the goal was to get some shots of Rab gear being put through its paces.

First up Jude Spancken, new member Libby Peter (and Ally Swinton who helped behind the scenes) headed to Italy’s beautiful Orco valley. Often described as a mini European Yosemite, the area is best known for its soaring multi-pitch granite walls. Although, being in north-west Italy, there are many bolted routes it is the cracks that are the main attraction for most.

[caption id="attachment_5467" align="aligncenter" width="324"]Jude route finding Jude route finding[/caption]

Although Orco was actually a Plan B, due to incredibly unhelpful weather conditions, what a Plan B! It wasn’t long before the team got stuck into the classics, with ascents of Fessura della Disperazione (6a+) and the ever-widening crack of Elisir d’Incastro (6b+). These last two are on the Sergent (the Sergeant), a self-deprecating joke made by locals comparing their crag to El Capitan.

[caption id="attachment_5468" align="aligncenter" width="490"]Libby high on Rattlesnake (6c+) Libby high on Rattlesnake (6c+)[/caption]

Bagging yet more high quality routes along the way including Stop Press (7c), on the advice of a man who knows a thing or two about cracks, Tom Randall, they made for Rattlesnake (6c/+). It features a bit of everything and the situation was so good that Jude agreed to climb the crux pitch twice for the camera.

Ben then rushed back to the UK to get in a van with Calum Muskett and Tom Randall (and Emma Twyford to help Ben with rigging), before the team drove up to the Highlands. Poor weather (again!) ruled out the west coast so they made for the island of Hoy, famous for its impressive sea stack (The Old Man) and for having the largest sea cliff in the UK (St John’s Head).

Despite just having a few spare hours in the itinerary before their ferry left the team managed to sneak in some climbing at Mid Clyth. Calum climbed a bold E5 onsight, then downclimbed from the crux of an unclimbed E7 onsight while Tom got stuck into the most crack-like route he could find.

After catching a second ferry to their final destination, with half the day eaten up by more rain, the first target was the Old Man himself. The team jumped straight on the sea stack’s hardest repeated route, the infrequently climbed A Fistful of Dollars (E5 6a). An impromptu ascent of two pitches of the Orignal Route to free stuck abseil ropes ensured a ‘proper’ day out.

[caption id="attachment_5464" align="aligncenter" width="424"]Calum Musket on the first ascent of Dan Dare (E7 6b), Mucklehouse Area, Rora Head, Hoy, Orkney, UK ©Ben Winston Calum Musket on the first ascent of Dan Dare (E7 6b), Mucklehouse Area, Rora Head, Hoy ©Ben Winston[/caption]

Rora Head, home to a fantastic set of multi-pitch extremes, was next on the list and Tom and Calum had their eyes on an unclimbed line while Ben and Emma nipped up the classic Roaring Forties (E3 5c). On their last day, with the clock ticking, Calum and Tom both dispatch their new E7 6b, Dan Dare, before racing back to the ferry.

Inspired by Andy Murray’s Wimbledon victory (sic), Calum diverted the van to Mid Clyth to have a second crack at the route he had previously downclimbed from. Before long he had made the first ascent of the worryingly graded E7 6a which was protected by two weighed down skyhooks. Two new E7s on two different islands in a day, not a bad effort.

You can read more about the trip from the horses' mouths:

Calum – Muskett Mountaineering: The Rapid Rab Road Trip to Hoy
Ben – Mountains, words, pictures

And see the trip in numbers!