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Dave MacLeod

Known for his risky trad ascents and methodical approach to climbing, MacLeod is recognized as one of the most complete climbers in the UK if not the world. Hard trad, bouldering, dry tooling, or gnarly winter ascents, Dave can do it all. Grab a cup of tea (or a dram of whisky, if you prefer), and let’s take a dive into the life of this Scottish climbing legend.


United Kingdom

Date Of Birth



Trad/Free Solo

Hardest Sport


Hardest Boulder


Hardest Trad

E11 7a

Dave MacLeod

Ascent Log

ClimbTypeSuggested GradeDate Of AscentNotes
RhapsodyTradE11 7aApr 2006First Ascent of the hardest trad in the world. Video
LexiconTradE1127th Mar 2022Third Ascent. Dave suggested it was easier than his route Mind Riot which he gave E10. Instagram Post and Video
To Hell and BackTradE10 6a24th Aug 2007First ascent of one of the most dangerous trad climbs Dave has ever done. A fall from the second half of the 115-foot first pitch is “unlikely to be survivable.” Climbing Magazine
Echo WallTradE10 (ish)Jul 2008Even though Dave refused to grade Echo Wall, he said it was the hardest trad route he’d ever done. Could it be an E11? Instagram Post
Die by the DropTradE10Nov 2010
FA. Dave was close to taking a fatal fall but survival instinct kicked in and managed to keep himself on the wall holding on miniscule crimps. Dave MacLeod’s Blog
Mind RiotTradE10Oct 2019FA. Video
What we do in the ShadowsTradE105th Oct 2021Video
AchemineTradE99th Oct 2001FA. UKC Article
The FugueTradE916th Oct 2002Scotland’s second E9. Instagram Post
Hold FastTradE9Dec 2002FA.
Present TenseTradE9Jul 2009This was a hard E9 according to Dave. Instagram Post
The Usual SuspectsTradE928th Aug 2010FA with Tim Emmett.
Longhope Route DirectTradE921st Jun 2011First free ascent.
The Golden RoadTradE9Jun 2019FA. Instagram Post
MnemosyneTradE9Sep 2021Video
Out for BloodTradE9Between 1st May 2023 and 14th May 2023Video
Divided YearsTradE9Jul 2006Dave made the third ascent. Instagram Post
If 6 was 9TradE92007First climbed by Dave Birkett in 1991 and remained unrepeated until Dave MacLeod made the second ascent. Instagram Post
Blind VisionTradE92007Second ascent.
TraumaTradE9Jun 2007Third ascent.
The Walk of LifeTradE92009Video
Indian FaceTradE9Jun 2010Video
Muy Caliente!TradE926th Sep 2010UK Bouldering Article
Return of the KingTradE9Jun 2016Video
Mission ImpossibleTradE915th Sep 2022One of the hardest trad routes in Wales. Instagram Post and Video
Practice of the WildBoulderV15/8CMay 2016This was Dave’s hardest boulder at the age of 37. Video
Big Long NowBoulderV14/8B+Aug 2008 Dave’s Blog
Seven of NineBoulderV14/8B+Apr 2011FA. Video
Natural MethodBoulderV14/8B+May 2012
FA. Video
LithiumBoulderV14/8B+Mar 2017UKC Article
New Base LineBoulderV14/8B+Apr 2012
Mystic StylezBoulderV14/8B+May 2012 Second Ascent Dave MacLeod’s Blog
Gut BusterBoulderV14/8B+1st Mar 2018Video
Below ZeroBoulderV14/8B+Jan 2022Fellow Scotsman, Will Bosi made the FA of Below Zero in Inverness Instagram Post
Catalan Witness the FitnessBoulderV14/8B+Feb 2018 Video
From Shallow Water to RiverbedBoulderV14/8B+Video
HungerSport Route9a2019Video
MetalcoreSport Route8c+2nd May 2007
Ring of SteallSport Route8c+1st Aug 2007Dave MacLeod’s Blog
A MuerteSport Route8c+Nov 2007 UKC Article
Body SwerveSport Route8c8th Oct 2006
L’espiadimonisSport Route8c15th Mar 2010
Darwin DixitSolo8b+15th Mar 2008The hardest free solo ever done. Video
Hurley BurleySolo8b2003
Cioch NoseJun 2023 Video

Kit Bag

Climbing Career

A true student of the sport, Dave Macleod has been known to dabble in almost every discipline of rock climbing. From sending hard double-digit bouldering problems to putting up sketchy trad FAs across Scotland, and soloing one of Margalef’s hardest lines, Macleod is truly one of the most accomplished all-around climbers in the British climbing books. 

Off the wall, Macloed continues to develop as an athlete with his passion for training, technique, and nutrition. Anyone who has tuned into his YouTube channel will see that Dave is equally passionate about these aspects as he is about the physical side of the sport. 

Dave holds a Master of Science degree in both Sports Science, as well as Human Nutrition, which he has put to good use. He has authored several leading climbing books, including his training guide “9 out of 10 climbers make the same mistakes” and his brilliant publication on climbing injuries and recovery “Make or Break”.

Learning the Ropes

It seems Dave was born with a thirst for vertical adventure, climbing snow gullies with an old roofing hammer or scrambling on boulders around Glasgow. But his first real taste of rock climbing came in 1993, at the age of 15.

Dave MacLeod with his wife Claire
Dave and his now-wife, Claire Macleod, in 1997

After learning from an old guidebook Scottish Mountaineering Club that there was rock climbing at Dumbarton Rock, Macleod undertook the hour train journey from Glasgow to Dumbarton. Once there, he began enthusiastically soloing Plunge (5a), and after successfully sending the route, unsure how to top out, down climbed the 20m line. He repeated this three times and then watched some locals working Requiem (E8 6b), the hardest climb in Scotland at the time. Captivated by the line, Macleod vowed to climb the route before his 16th Birthday. 

While he would eventually go on to claim an ascent of Requiem at the age of 21, Macleod’s first trip to Dumbarton Rock marked that of his long and fruitful climbing career.

Notable Ascents

In 1997, Dave made the first FA of his career, an ascent that he says “changed his life” and helped him realize the joy of following your own path, both on the rock, as well as in other aspects of his life. The route was a short 9-meter line in the little-known crag of Craigmore, a spot where Dave spent time undertaking his “climbing apprenticeship”, as he referred to his early days of development.

The line, dubbed Craig’s Wall (E7 6c) was the hardest route in the crag. It had only been climbed on top rope and was yet to see a lead ascent. Dave began working it on top rope, with each attempt increasing the amount of slack in the line before gaining the confidence to attempt the trad lead. Despite falling over 10 times on lead, he managed to claim the FA. Even today, it is thought that Craig’s Wall is still yet to receive a repeat.

Rhapsody – The First E11

Dave MacLeod on Rhapsody E11
Dave making the epic ascent of one of the hardest trad climbs in the world ©HotAchesProductions

The most iconic ascent of Dave’s career came in April 2006 after successfully topping out his long-term project Rhapsody (E11 7a). Located at his old stomping ground of Dumbarton Rock, Rhapsody is recognized as the first E11 trad ascent, making it the hardest route in Scotland, as well as the hardest trad climb in the world. 

It’s the true finish to Requiem, a line put up in 1983 by Dave Cuthbertson, and the very climb MacLoed had watched climbers project on his very first climbing trip to Dumbarton Rock. Twenty-three years after Cuthbertson’s ascent, Dave’s new variation, Rhapsody, completes the true line up the wall and follows the thinning crack up the headwall. 

The top section of the route clocks in at 8c+ climbing, with no extra opportunities to place any protection, making the route extremely run out. The crux sequence, and the last few moves of the route, are so physically demanding that MacLeod fell over 9 times, leading to a nerve-racking 20+ meter fall onto an RP nut, the smallest nut on the market. 

The route was featured in both Reel Rock 5 as well as Hot Aches Production “E11”.

Echo Wall – An Ever Harder E11?

Dave MacLeod on Echo Wall
Dave making the first ascent of Echo Wall in Ben Nevis, Scotland.

While Rhapsody may have been the most iconic send of his career, MacLeod certainly isn’t short on hard trad FAs. A lesser-known send of the Echo Wall may be the hardest climb of MacLoed’s career. 

After Rhapsody, MacLeod was on the hunt for his next big project.I was on the lookout for a project that would keep me working hard on my climbing, not so much something to tick right now, more like another horizon to keep me working hard on my climbing.”   

High up on Ben Nevis, that is exactly what Macleod found. The 70-meter arete looked like the sort of challenge he was looking for; sustained climbing clocking in at around 8c+, poor protection, and a perilous crux section that offered little chance of survival in the event of a fall.    

The send of Echo Wall is undoubtedly one of, if not the hardest ascent of MacLeod’s climbing career, if not the hardest trad route ever. And despite citing the Echo Wall is “much harder than any trad route I’ve ever done or tried” he decided to leave the route ungraded. Rather than making the grading of the route the focus, Macleod wanted people to understand the story of the multiple-year journey that ensued to attain such a goal.

So is Echo Wall E12? Is it the hardest trad climb in the world? There’s a pretty good chance it might be. While we might have to wait for a repeat or two before we get an answer, here’s some food for thought. As MacLeod questioned in this Planet Mountain interview “How many trad routes are there in the world with 8c or harder climbing in a situation where falling will be fatal and situated on a mountain with few days of good conditions? As far as I know, Echo Wall is the only one.’’

If you want to learn more about this Epic ascent, be sure to take a look at the Echo Wall Documentary.

Darwin Dixit – Hardest Free Solo

Dave MacLeod on Darwins Dixit
Dave on the hardest free solo ever done ©ClaireMacLeod

Dave was training hard in preparation for a send on Echo Wall. The level at which he was pushing himself both physically and mentally, was evident, and his free solo of Darwin Dixit (originally graded 8c, but popular consensus settles on 8b+) showed exactly that.

The route was one that MacLeod has already redpointed the year before. On this first ascent of the line, he recognized how confident he felt on the mono pocket crux, and that he felt so comfortable on the sequence, he could envision soloing the route. A year later, he returned to the route and did exactly that.

While the ascent of Darwin Dixit is considered one of the hardest free solo climbs ever, it also pushed free soloing into a new territory of high-consequence climbing at the highest level of difficulty. 

To Dave, however, it was never about the grade. To him, what was important was “learning to climb hard with confidence and safety in a situation with no protection, and the enjoyment of this.” To make this perhaps even more impressive, only days later, Dave would make the first free ascent of Don’t Die of Ignorance (XI,11, 275m). This is one of the hardest Scottish Winter ascents and a project that had shut him down on six occasions across three years prior.

Anubis VII,12 – UK’s Hardest Winter Ascent

In 2010, MacLeod achieved his goal of making the winter ascent of an E8 (summer grade) trad line, Anubis, on Ben Nevis. The 220-meter ascent raised the bar for Scottish winter climbing, with previously established routes clocking in at the E4 grade in summer conditions.  

This was a line MacLeod had made the summer FA in 2005, but despite several attempts across multiple seasons, had been shut down on three separate occasions. 

As he stated on his website “The route started as an idea to see if it was possible today to maintain the Victorian mountaineering tradition of opening a new climb in summer conditions and progressing to an ascent in winter”.

MacLeod composed himself and started again despite a less-than-ideal start, falling off a mere 9 meters into the route. Confessing the routefelt desperate the whole time” several hours later, Macleod made it to the final headwall, having tied two 70-meter ropes together and completing the last 140 meters in a single pitch. 

Practise of the Wild – A Sharma V15 Test Piece

Dave ticking off another epic ascent

After being inspired watching Tyler Landman make the second ascent of Chris Sharma’s hardest boulder problem, Practice Of The Wild, Dave was inspired to try the iconic boulder. 

He made his first trip to Magic Wood in 2012, where he made some ascents of some 8B+ problems (New Base Line and Mystic Stylez). Recognizing that he was feeling in good shape, he pulled on for a session on Practise Of The Wild. Despite not being able to do any of the crux moves, and fully understanding he might never be able to, Dave was inspired and committed to the challenge.

He returned to Magic Wood a year later, but the trip was a bust due to poor conditions and made no progress on the boulder problem. Progress stalled on the boulder over the next several years, as multiple ankle surgeries left MacLoed on crutches and severely impacting his ability to climb hard. 

For most, the thought of climbing 8C/V15 at 36 seemed unfathomable, let alone for someone who has just gone through multiple bouts of surgery. Dave, determined to bounce back to his pre-surgery form, made a model of Practise Of The Wild on his home training wall, and began to push himself once more. He began to relentlessly practice the reconstruction, but knowing he would need to shed some weight if he had any hope of a send, he put a large amount of focus into nutritional research and lost over 6kgs over the course of several months as a result. 

Returning to Magic Wood in April 2016, Dave instantly recognized that his work on the training board had paid off. MacLeod sent the boulder and claimed his first V15/8C boulder.


Video Library

Sam Laird

Quite likely the only idiot currently hauling a 70-meter rope and four pairs of climbing shoes around the world. Sam lives for backpacking, adventure, and of course, climbing. If he's not exploring crags and getting shut down on new projects, you can find him sharing his passion for climbing in publications such as Climbing Shoe Review,, Gear Junkie, and UK Climbing.

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