Scotsman Dave MacLeod, known for his daring climbs, grabs the third iteration of the Trad line Lexicon. The route in the Lake District is rated E11, making it one of the most difficult trad routes in England.

E11 grade routes are not for the faint of heart. This also applies to the Trad Testpiece Lexicon Neil Gresham. Regarding the potential 25-meter whipper in the route, the first ascent as part of the Brit Rock Film Tour says: "If you have decided to put yourself in a dangerous position, then the safest thing is not to get scared."

"If you have decided to put yourself in a dangerous position, the safest thing to do is not to be afraid."

Neil Gresham

Dave MacLeod can't be asked twice. “Last September I read that Neil Grasham had climbed a new E11 at Pavey Ark. There was no point in pretending, I might as well decide right away that next week I'm going to Lake district would travel.”

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Dave MacLeod in Lexicon, a Trad line with a huge runout. Picture: Chris Prescott

Shocking departure

Said and done. Arriving at the field, Dave MacLeod bumps into two familiar faces: first climber Neil Gresham and Steve mcclure, who also really wanted to try Lexicon. "It was great to sit with them and chat about climbing and life in general."

The three team up and after a brief tactical briefing, MacLead begins checking out the route. The first attempt is promising. "I made all the moves right away." But on a steep and enduring route like this, that doesn't mean much. A little later he takes a break due to the warm temperatures and watches Steve McClure at the sharp end of the rope.

Video: Steve McClure on Fall Potential in Lexicon (E11)

He climbs smoothly up to the crux at the top of the headwall. And then it happens. The 51-year-old slips and flies off. His fall ends uncomfortably close to the ground. "He shot down practically the entire height of the rock and came to a hard stop about ten feet off the ground," recalls Dave Macleod. Shocked but not discouraged, Steve McClure returns just two days later to settle his score with Lexicon.

"He shot down practically the entire height of the rock and came to a halt about ten feet off the ground with a hard impact."

Dave MacLeod

Meticulous preparation

Dave MacLeod returns in early October for two days of tweaking his top wall beta and fuses. Though the nut and skyhook he sinks into a small crack just below the Crux are of questionable quality, he believes in their psychological impact. “It's reassuring to have the rope hooked somewhere. It would definitely make me feel less lonely up in the headwall.”

“It's reassuring to have the rope hooked somewhere. It would definitely make me feel less lonely up in the headwall.”

Dave MacLeod

Dave MacLeod cleanly climbs Lexicon six times before traveling back north. "I knew then that the route was possible." However, his hope of a red point ascent was shattered by the onset of winter. In the winter months until March he follows a tough training regime and does bouldering up to 8b+.

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Dave McLeod at the point where Steve McClure made a huge takeoff. Picture: Chris Prescott

At the end of March Dave MacLeod returns to the Lake District. After a last top rope with numb fingers, he decides that the time has come. It only applies after a rest day, even if the conditions are slightly too warm.

"There are many climbers who could do the moves, but probably only a few who would also do it in the lead."

Dave MacLeod

"I haven't climbed all the difficult trad routes in England or Wales by a long shot, but I have climbed a few, and Lexicon is harder than any of them," sums up Dave MacLeod after his ascent. Neil Gresham's performance on this first ascent was exceptional. "There are many climbers who could do the moves, but probably only a few who would also do it in the lead."

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