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The Great Climb: Sron Uladail looks impossible

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David Harron David Harron | 11:14 UK time, Friday, 27 August 2010

Our decision to commission a live rock climb, on a dauntingly imposing crag, in a highly remote location with no road access, in high definition (HD), was always likely to provide its own unique set of challenges.

However, receipt this week of the evacuation procedure and list of drugs to be available on site emphasised to me again just how different this will be from a traditional sports outside broadcast (OB).

The production is challenge enough. The location for The Great Climb at Sron Uladail on the beautiful Isle of Harris is stunning, but it's certainly not like organising coverage at a football stadium.

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There's no road within an hour's rough walk, so no OB truck. Triple Echo, the production company making the programme, have had to arrange for Portakabins to be flown in by helicopter in which the kit will be assembled.

The production team will walk in and walk out. There's no mobile signal, so in an emergency it'll be a satellite phone or something called an emergency locator beacon, which I hope I'm not expected to operate. Then there's the weather. And the midges.

However, cutting-edge and groundbreaking as this may be, as far as I can see it's nothing compared to the physical challenge Dave Macleod and Tim Emmett are proposing to take on this Saturday.

Photo kind courtesy of Triple Echo: Cameraman Ben Prichard films Tim Emmett on a practice climb on Screaming Geo, a rock face on LewisThe cliff is over 200 metres high. It overhangs by about 50 metres across. To be honest these figures mean nothing to me either; you will only appreciate the challenge Dave and Tim face when you see them like tiny dots on the wide shot of the rock face next Saturday.

In short, it looks impossible and may well prove to be exactly that. We shall see.

We could of course have mocked something up that may have looked difficult to the untutored eye, but which was actually quite easy to climbers of this standard.

That wouldn't have been the same though, and I doubt Dave and Tim would have wished to be involved in the climbing equivalent of a cabaret act.

Yet if anyone can get them up there it will be Dave Macleod, a Scottish sporting phenomenon who would be a superstar if he operated in a more mainstream environment.

The sight of him and Tim pulling their full body weight up the rock suspended only by one fingertip is truly incredible and I recommend you do not miss it. A lot of shows promise drama, tension and excitement; hopefully on this one, weather permitting, it is guaranteed.

David Harron is executive producer of The Great Climb.

Photo above is kind courtesy of Triple Echo.

The Great Climb is on BBC Two (Scotland only) at 1.35pm and on BBC HD from 5pm this Saturday, 28 August. It is streamed live on the BBC Sport Scotland website and also available to watch in iPlayer after the broadcast.


  • Comment number 1.

    Being (unfortunately) able to remember watching the live OB of the climb on the Old Man of Hoy and on the cliffs at Anglesey, I'm really looking forward to this. Good luck!

  • Comment number 2.

    What a fantastic programme. Real athletes, real drama, real skill and determination, not a bunch of prima donna third rate football players. Well done the lads and BBC Scotland

  • Comment number 3.

    As a retired mountaineer I thouroughly enjoyed my afternoon of armchair mountaineering. Well done to Dave and Tim and the BBC for pulling it off. More of this type of programme is needed.

  • Comment number 4.

    Absolutely brilliant.

  • Comment number 5.

    absolutely fantastic, more credit must be given to the engineers and technical staff involved in these programmes, without then the BBC would be nothingm forget your over paid stars !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 6.

    This was the most gripping bit of television I have seen for many months. The production team did a great job and the commentating was truly first class - really felt that you were overhearing a conversation between officionados (but not excluded by jargon) with Dougie Vipond (just the man for the job)keeping the excitement going during the rests (but wisely keeping his feet at the bottom). The whole programme exuded enthusiasm and showed what the human spirit can achieve. Congratulations to Dave and Tim, fantastic stuff.

  • Comment number 7.

    Outstanding event to watch and inspire others. Great advert for the sport and The Hebrides. The added interviews and history really added to the programme quality. Everyones enthusiasm for the day was evident especially the climbers....lets not forget the camera crew. Real talent.

  • Comment number 8.

    television at its best - outstanding talent, involving the local community, educational, ecologically responsible, rivieting viewing. A privilege to share in the passion of the athletes, presenters, cameramen and the residents of North Harris.

  • Comment number 9.

    Outstanding. TV at it's best. Well done the lads.

  • Comment number 10.

    The footage was absolutely stunning. Tim was amazing on the last slipply pitch, dave with his ankle injury... the entire programme was gripping. As a climber I'd love to see more of this sport on tv, evem my bf who is scared of heights (and got dizzy at the tv footage!) was completely enthrawled with the guys. They should be well chuffed. Absolutely brilliant. And what beautiful, if but wet scenery!

  • Comment number 11.

    It was gripping stuff, really enjoyed what I saw unfortunately couldn't watch all of it, it would be great to see other sports like Judo, triathalon etc to encourage people to go out and try it as it's often peoples ignorance that prevents them getting involved in this type of sport. Hopefully it may encourage and inspire at least some youngsters to take up the sport. More non main stream sports please although Dougie Bipod does well in the outdoor show.

  • Comment number 12.

    What an afternoon's entertainment - absolutely brilliant. Well done to the two lads, and also the team - a great achievement by all concerned. More of the same please.

  • Comment number 13.

    I thought this was an awesome achievement which made compelling TV

  • Comment number 14.

    The Great Climb was an audacious and thrilling project by both the BBC and two of Britain's greatest modern-day climbers. Dave MacLeod deservedly received all the plaudits for his ambition, perseverance, route choice and preparation as well as leading the hardest pitch (E9 6c?) with five stitches in his ankle! I realise this was Dave's day but, I feel more credit from the commentators could have gone to Tim Emmett. He fell seconding pitch 2 but he had been on a hanging belay for about an hour in the cold; his hands were cold when he started and would have been significantly disadvantaged by this. We all saw how his movement improved as the climb progressed topping out the final pitch in the rain on slippery dangerous rock. As a mountaineer and climber myself the Great Climb was a 'must see' and it delivered despite its length, but more praise should go to the Beeb for the added coverage of Harris' culture, history, people and wilderness which rounded off the show and kept the interest of my wife and three children. Well done the Beeb, keep the outdoor and adventure sport programmes coming:-)

  • Comment number 15.

    What an amazing programme, had me gripped right from the start! There were many heart stopping moments and I had to remind myself to breathe! I can't even begin to imagine how incredible it must have been for everyone involved, as for the amazing spirit and endurance of Dave & Tim...truly inspirational!

  • Comment number 16.

    A superb programme which must have needed a great deal of careful preparation for it to all happen so smoothly. The live climbing made unbelievable viewing, but the interviews with other people around and about Harris all added to the total success. Well done.

  • Comment number 17.

    Does anyone on the production team know whats happening with the Triple 5 challenge footage and are there plans for a dvd release? cheers

  • Comment number 18.

    This was Absolutely Fantastic. It was Real Action, showing young people demonstrating great strength and courage. It was everything that is best from the BBC with STEADY,daylight, Camera work and a sensible commentary by Dougie Vipond and others. It also showed Harris as it is, I only worry about this obsession with Radio Tagging anything that is remotely wild, and now the poor Sea Eagle has what amounts to a `Flat Pack` to carry around for the rest of its life. What is the RSPB up to? Well Done everybody, my fingers hurt and that`s just from gripping the seat! Sandy Main

  • Comment number 19.

    We were sitting awe struck at this outstanding piece of climbing and TV. The shear determination and skill couched within this warm friendly and encouraging dialogue that existed at all levels but particularly between Dave and Tim was extraordinary especially when set within this degree of exposure.
    As was said, we have never seen climbing like this before - we look forward to seeing more - that is when you are ready!
    Finally, grateful thanks to all the OB team - especially the dangling camera crew - even from a physiological point of view, I don't know how they did it!
    I hope someone was recording the process of supporting how this OB took place.
    Thank you all!

  • Comment number 20.

    Have noted criticism of your broadcast of the Great Climb in a Sunday newspaper. I have passed my comments to them, and now want to congratulate you on such wonderful coverage of this special event.I have never before seen this activity on screen, and was transfixed.

    Full marks for breaking up your normal schedule, and for providing such enjoyment.

  • Comment number 21.

    Well done BBC. Best television this year, absolutely superb and thoroughly compelling, with informative intelligent commentary.
    What a pleasure seeing a couple of brilliant, truly gifted athletes performing at the peak of their powers. Scrap all football and formula one coverage and spend it on more of this please.

  • Comment number 22.

    Fantastic Climbing !!
    The only downside was that the commentators drowned out what the climbers were saying to each other.
    Less needless chatter from the non-climbers would have greatly improved this programme.
    I do hope that there will be more films like this on the BBC.

  • Comment number 23.

    It was good to see two completely different characters, the shy deep thinking Dave and the carefree happy go lucky Tim, combine to make such a winning partnership.

    Gripping stuff.

  • Comment number 24.

    Thanks for all the kind comments - I'm glad people enjoyed it. It was an incredible day but we are absolutely delighted with the outcome. It's good too that as well as Dave and Tim - whose achievement almost defies belief - people recognise the contribution of the OB team and camera operators, who worked in very demanding circumstances.

    On the question about the Triple 5, we'll take a view on that soon and they will definitely get an airing on BBC Scotland. They are incredibly dramatic films and I would urge people to watch them. I need to just work out whether they would be best as say a 2 hour special, 2 x 1 hours or 5 x 30 minutes.

  • Comment number 25.

    just a quick mention, how is david now ???? I hope he is now resting and on the mend from that very nasty injury.
    I too read the comments in the only newspaper to even acknowledge the climb had taken place (well done The Sun for article prior to the event)maybe the columnist in said sunday paper should have a look at the comments from actual viewers.

  • Comment number 26.

    Are we likely to see this programme repeated on UK terrestrial television any time soon? How about a DVD release? I can't believe I missed it!!!!!

  • Comment number 27.

    What a wonderful pice of real television- one of the best programmes I have watched for a long time. Compulsive viewing! The skill of the climbers and also all the camera guys, sound people and presenters. Congratulations. Such a change from football

  • Comment number 28.

    Absolutely fantastic television, gripping right from the first live shot
    an what brilliant timing right at the end.
    Well done to all involved, climbers and production crew alike.
    Ony minor gripe was sometimes the climbers comments to each other were drowned out by the commentators.
    All in all through a truly amazing broadcast.

  • Comment number 29.

    I have been harping on about how truly spectacular, in all aspects, this programme was. I happened upon it via my red button and as a (much lesser) climber myself, watched from pitch 2 onwards. Watched is actually an understatement - I was glued! Utterly stunning footage, and with Tim's final pitch in the wet truly gripping television! Why oh why is this not being repeated upon the Beeb on mainstream TV where everyone can enjoy it? It's not just an amazing insight in to climbing, but a really beautifully shot and presented piece of TV.
    I note it's no longer available to watch anywhere on the internet and as I've been recommending it to everyone I know I wonder if it's being released on DVD any time soon? PLEASE!

  • Comment number 30.

    Hi folks - couple of updates. We'll run the Triple 5 films as 2 x 1 hour programmes on BBC Scotland, date still tbc. Also, I'm sure Triple Echo - the production company who made the show for us - will issue a DVD at some stage.

    Dave as far as I am aware is absolutely fine - seems to take much more than a big gash on his ankle to stop him in his tracks!


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