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Testament to the Insane

Date: 09/07/08
Submitted by: Iain Miller
St. John’s Head. The headland of St John’s terminates as a huge steep stepped arête at its southern end. This feature is the largest and most obvious feature on the headland and is easily seen from the Orkney to Scrabster ferry. Access to the route is gained by a scramble from the descent "gully" along the beach below the main face. A short section below the main face is only accessible at low tide. Alternatively access by boat in calm seas.  

Testament to the Insane   470m   XS 5b

 FA Derren Fox, Ross I. Jones, Iain Miller, (Alt. Leads), Les Gorham. 23-24 July 2004FFA Ross I Jones, Iain Miller. 09/07/08  The route was first climbed in a single 26 hour push with a short bivvy during darkness. An 8m leader fall was taken on pitch 8 and one point of aid used on lead, the pitch was then free climbed at 5b by the 2nd. .  In July 2008 the route was repeated in 12 hours, more direct first and last pitches were taken and the aid removed from pitch 8.

 Rock quality is in general poor but the location and the atmosphere is truly outstanding, an adventurous and serious route. 

  Pitch 1.   30m   To the left of the boulder beach, directly below the arête, climb the short seaward wall of excellent rock and scramble to the only boulder and prominent scar. Pitch 2.   35m   Scramble easily up the grass to the rock band, belay in cracks at its right hand end. Pitch 3.   40m   Continue up the steepening grass to the base of the towering arête, belay at the bottom of the big chimney/groove. Pitch 4.   55m   5a Climb the chimney/groove, pull out left at its top to a slopping grassy stance. Climb up steep ledges to another groove and pull out through the roof at its top and follow the short corner/wall to a small stance. Continue up a grassy arête on the right to a superb ledge at the bottom of a right facing corner   Pitch 5.   40m   4a From the right hand end of the ledge climb the slabby right facing corner to easier ground, ascend this swiftly to a second right facing corner, climb this to a good stance. Belay in the cracks on good rock. Pitch 6.   40m   4b Climb up trending left gently to the base of a steep red wall below a huge precarious capping boulder. Traverse right hand and ascend the steep ramp on better rock to a steep and extremely loose vegetated slope. Climb this delicately to landward side of another massive perched boulder. Belay in the twin cracks on the wall below it. Pitch 7.   45m   5b Traverse along the grassy ledge to the bottom of the prominent arête, which bounds the right hand end of the huge slabby upper wall. Pull around the arête on good holds in an exposed position to gain the base of a left facing corner. Climb the corner steeply to an exposed ledge (several pegs) and belay at the back below a wide groove.  Pitch 8.   12m   4a Climb up the wide groove and up grass to a good stance. In situ peg and gear belay. Pitch 9.   45m   5a Climb the steep right trending corner through a wee roof to steep vegetation. Climb this to a recess on the left. Climb the centre of the recess to a huge boulder and belay. Bivvy on the first ascent. Pitch 10.   48m   Scramble through deep vegetation to the bottom of the headwall. Belay on the high point of vegetation directly below the huge central fault line. Pitch 11.   25m   4b Climb the left facing corner on the left and up to and into a cave with a huge block on the floor, Climb through the niche in the roof of the cave to the bottom of a big left facing corner. Good flake belay at bottom of the corner. Pitch 12.   20m   5a Climb the hand crack 3 meters to the left of the vegetated open book corner to a good triangular niche. At the back of the niche climb the steep hand cracks to a good stance on the left. Belay in sight and sound of others. Pitch 13.   35m   5a Continue up direct in classic chimney fashion to the summit.     

Photo of Route