- Jesse Dufton
- - first
- United Kingdom ()
The first blind climber to lead an ascent of the 137-m-tall (449-ft) Old Man of Hoy sea stack in the Orkney islands of Scotland is Jesse Dufton (UK), who was followed by his sighted partner Molly Thompson up six pitches of the east face on 4 June 2019. Dufton was born with just 20% of his central vision, with large blind spots, and his limited sight continues to deteriorate. At the time of ascent, he had only light perception
The red sandstone Old Man of Hoy is one of the most iconic symbols in rock climbing, first ascended in 1966 by British climbers Chris Bonington, Tom Patey and Rusty Baillie. It is one of the tallest sea stacks in the British Isles and is a popular destination for rock climbers, despite the advanced level of skill required for its various routes, which range in difficulty from E1 to E6 on the British grading system. (E is the highest level of difficulty, indicating that a climb is graded as "Extremely Severe".) The east face of the stack is classified as an E1 5b climb.
Dufton is not the first blind climber to tackle The Old Man of Hoy but he is the first to lead a climb, which he did on his first attempt with no rehearsals on top rope, no aid, no falls or other roped assistance. He and fiancée Thompson topped out at 10:10 pm local time, and descended in three 60-m (196-ft) abseils, finally reaching their campsite at 2:45 am the following morning. The climb was captured by a crew led by filmmaker Alistair Lee, who produced the documentary Climbing Blind, first televised on 20 March 2020.
The first blind ascent of The Old Man of Hoy was made in June 2013 by Redmond "Red" Szell (UK), who, at the time, had only 5% vision owing to retinitis pigmentosa.