Europe, a continent viewed as the centre of the universe is, in fact, an offshoot of Asia. Great Britain, former centre of the world’s largest empire, lies on the outskirts of Europe. The Old Forge, a pub on Scotland’s Knoydart peninsula, can only be reached on foot or by boat. And on a Tuesday in May 1994, two men sat in that very place: “the most remote pub on mainland Britain.”
These intrepid travellers had just finished a two-week group tour: one as skipper of a small motorboat, the other as guide of a German tour group. The past 14 days hadn’t been easy, but remoteness does have its benefits: the Old Forge didn’t have closing hours. The beer – ale in Scotland – flowed freely. Both men dreamed of independent travel with likeminded friends – without the constraints of a trip planned at a desktop. Taking it all in, Toby – the skipper – waxed poetic about far off-shore islands, the Outer Hebrides, with pristine 200-meter seawalls, yet untouched by human hands. The other climber, with northern German roots, listened raptly. The next morning the only distinct images which remained in the men’s minds were the pristine seawalls on the outskirts of Scotland and a vague plan to climb there one day. “See you on Mingulay!”
The Outer Hebrides: Home of the greatest sea cliff trad climbing in the world
Fast forward twenty years, and the seawalls of the three southern most islands of the Outer Hebrides, Pabbay, Mingulay and Berneray are considered – according to Climb Magazine in May 2015 – “home of the greatest sea cliff trad climbing in the world”.
Reason enough for Ralf Gantzhorn, the German climber sitting at The Old Forge in 1994, to visit the island a third time after his 1995 and 1998 trips there.
Part I of the journey
To be continued…
Photogallery: Ralf Gantzhorn und Hannes Mair