Adventurer in daring high wire walk to Orkney's Old Man of Hoy

Determined David Greenald spent eight hours scaling an iconic sea stack, so he could play his accordion on top.

A German adventurer has become the first person to walk to and from the summit of the Old Man of Hoy on a high wire. Alexander Schulz completed the walk 137m above the sea on a line 180m long.  Picture: Dan Hunt
A German adventurer has become the first person to walk to and from the summit of the Old Man of Hoy on a high wire. Alexander Schulz completed the walk 137m above the sea on a line 180m long. Picture: Dan Hunt

The Old Man of Hoy, is a 449ft sheer vertical sandstone pillar, off the Orkney coast, that was first conquered by Sir Chris Bonington in 1966.

David, 57, a singer/songwriter from Chester, combined his passions for music and climbing in what he calls a “personal pilgrimage”.

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The Old Man of Hoy remains a challenge for keen climbers. Around 50 ascents are made every year.

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David completed his climb on June 20, and, with the help of five others, realised his ambition to perform at the top.

He said it is something he has wanted to do for a long time, and says the idea first came to him decades ago. While at the top, he played a tune of his own composition, which he said it appropriately “northern sounding”.

He said the song is also significant, as he played it at the funerals of both his parents — he felt that playing it at the top of the Old Man of Hoy would give them an appropriate send-off. He also played Una Furtiva Lagrima by Donnezetti.

He said the adventure was something of a “personal pilgrimage”, adding: “I had a vision of playing an instrument on top of the Old Man decades ago, just as a nice thing to do.

“But when this opportunity came along, it suddenly occurred to me that I could take my accordion and play a few tunes.”

David, who has 50 years of climbing experience, explained that he accomplished the feat with the help of a group of his friends, one of whom runs a climbing wall in Newport.

Asked if his eight-hour ascent had been made difficult by the extra luggage he explained that his team hauled the accordion up part way, David progressed with the accordion on his back on pitches three and four of the climb, while one of the other members of the party, Karl Smith, took it up pitch five.

David added that the duration of the challenge was lengthy, but this was more to do with the size of the party and keeping everyone safe — and not the fault of his trusty accordion.

Since making the climb, David said he has penned a lament about the Old Man of Hoy, entitled Let the Wild Wind.