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Mike Dunne stands at the base of a crag

Climber Mike Dunne

This time last year we were contacted by climber Mike Dunne in response to our blog post about raising the profile of up and coming athletes. Mike told us about the soloing that he’d been doing in the Lake District and we subsequently published a blog post about his climbing thoughts and experience. Mike has since moved away from the soloing and is now leading. Over the course of the year he has been very active climbing new routes and we are proud to announce that we are supporting Mike by promoting his climbs on our blog. Below Mike talks us through some recent Lake District climbs, which include Woden’s Wotsit, Samurai Jack, Rashòmon, Karma Kings and Ephliates, May you Live Forever.

Mike Dunne’s Latest Climbs

Mike Dunne climbing

Woden’s Wotsit E2 5b

Woden’s Wotsit

Woden’s Wotsit is the softest E2 around! Thought I’d soloed it years ago but turns out I’d been too far left. Wanted to lead it so I didn’t have to take it off my list of stuff I’ve climbed. A really easy route for the grade, there’s not much gear at the start but the holds are good enough that you shouldn’t fall off anyway. John seconded then we brought up Anthony and Katy who absolutely breezed it, they make me feel old! Good crack on a really nice day.

Samurai Jack

We climbed Samurai thinking it was a first ascent, gutted when we found out it wasn’t because its such a sweet line. Its meant to be E3 5c but it felt harder, we reckon E4 6a for the onsight. It was our first time at Steel Knotts (we’d spotted it a week earlier when we were trying to find Millican’s Buttress and John wanted to go back and check it out, massively good call on John’s part, awesome crag!) and there was a nice blank, fractured-looking wall which according to the guidebook hadn’t been climbed. We wacked up a top-rope and John got on first and figured out the tricky crux moves, after a quick description from John I got on it and managed to bumble my way up it. We decided the omens were good for a lead (sun came out) so I lowered off and pre-placed some gear (skyhook and micronut) for the first section which is the hard bit of the climb. It was a really nice sequency lead and like I said it’s a great line, well done to whoever did it first! Started raining just as we were packing up, perfect timing… Must’ve been our hardest climb as a pair by grade, though some of our onsights have been a lot scarier!


This is just to the right of Samurai Jack and this time it actually turned out to be a first ascent. We tried for an onsight but there was zero gear and it didn’t feel right so we did the old top-rope practice, we both got up it first time but with totally different approaches.

Mike Dunne climbing in the Lake District

Mike Dunne leads the
first ascent of Rashòmon E3 5c

I tried to use John’s undercut but the move felt awful, and my approach got me up but not very securely. Luckily I managed to find a nice little undercut of my own around the arete that made the whole thing way easier. I tried to pre-place but found nowt to put in on the tough first section (like Samurai Jack its a route of two halves). I went for the lead and it was really good apart from one bit where I messed up the sequence, I knew I couldn’t fall on the first bit so I was a bit nervous but it was fine. John followed using his ‘really good’ undercut method.

We decided to name it after the book we’d both been reading, keeping with the Japanese theme of Samurai Jack next to it. We gave it E3 5c for the onsight on the basis that the tricky bit is unprotected and my undercut that was really useful isn’t particularly obvious. At another crag it might get a slightly lower grade but the E2’s there were fairly well-protected cracks so E3 seemed right.

I love first ascents for that 10 minutes of satisfaction you get when you sitting on top after the lead, everything after that is just details.

Karma Kings

In the guidebook this gets an E7 with a question mark, and it says if you use a runner in the tree then it reduces the grade. That guidebook was written 14 years ago and the tree is in a bad way now!

I had a bash on it on top-rope having no intention of a lead but ended up going back a week later. I had another pop on it and stuck a runner in the very very bendy tree and a skyhook post-crux. I lowered off to the ledge at the bottom and brought Sean up so he could belay me and minimise the slack in the system. I realised just before setting off that the tree was in no way going to stop me decking out, scary thought! I climbed it very quickly and had to re-think when the key hold for the crux felt even looser than usual (dinner plate flake with a crimp on one edge), I managed to get left a bit and avoid it using my gibbon-like reach. I clipped the skyhook and knew I had it!

It was sunny both days but ended in rain on the first and there was a bit of moisture in the air on the day I lead it, I used more than my fair share of chalk anyway. Felt very hard to me but I’m not that good so I can’t be sure, thing is I really don’t think the tree softens the grade anymore because of the state its in, I guess you could clip the better one behind it but the distance could cause a nasty swing and branches getting jammed up where they shouldn’t….

Not my favourite line but it was an interesting lesson in hard climbing. Big thanks to Sean for all the patient belaying!

Ephliates, May you Live Forever

Mike at the top Ephialtes, May You Live Forever

Mike at the top Ephialtes, May You Live Forever

This was one of our best first ascents this summer and I’m really proud of it! It takes the blank gearless wall between Flake Out and Beyond Therapy at Moss Crags up Honister on nice sidepulls and little crimps. Another routes of two halves, totally eases off after the bulge. Two skyhooks and a wee little nut are the protection for the hard bit, getting the deep crimp/mini jug over the bulge is such a good feeling! John had put his back out so he couldn’t have a crack on it which was naff because he’d put a lot of time in belaying me but hadn’t got to try the line, but we’re planning on returning next year for a repeat.

It’s maybe not everyone’s cup of tea but definitely one of my favourites, it’s up there with The Lost Aegean as one of my biggest achievements.

Look out for more post about Mike’s climbing exploits in the future!

Not Just Climbing!

Whilst Mike Dunne’s main hobby is climbing, like Renan Oztruk, Mike is also an abstract painter. Below is one of his paintings, called Pillar of Creation.

Cliff painting by Mike Dunne

Pillar of Creation, painting by Mike Dunne

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