The conceptEight years I was when my dad explained to me how a map works. Ten years I was when I held the first atlas in my hands. There swam a tiny little dot in the North Atlantic, far out, and next to the dot stood its name: Rockall.
It was the time without computers and internet. When I was 20 I climbed mountains, higher and ever higher ones, and when I was 50 I had reached my maximum: ordinary man's Everest – the Aconcagua. Still I laboured a bit on even higher ones, but I would no longer succeed in any.
Give up mountains? No! Simply re-define my hobby? Yes. Adapt it to my age. Only wild should it remain. Without the wild, the chaos I cannot exist, but in the decisive moment it should be thought-through, orientated towards an aim. Therefore the hobby is: The highest mountain of every single European country. And because this was not enough, I added just a few curiosities, such as void territories, not attached to a country: Rockall for example.
The preparationRockall does not belong to anybody, even if this will upset the Brits. So Rockall was on my list of targets, and not only this: It ought to be the highest point on Rockall. What in fact is Rockall? An encyclopedia provided a meagre answer: Uninhabited. Rock. Birds' refuge. Yet, how getting there?
Without the internet nothing doing. Praise to technology! And what a stroke of luck! That the internet had been developed still during my lifetime! That I looked in it just at the right moment and realized that a group was just forming that planned a landing attempt! That they did not object against taking me on board!
I was told I had to be trained. A Greenpeace activist came and taught me in climbing on a vertical rope by means of a mechanized Prusik technology, with „ascender“, „croll“ and „stop“, three devices available from specialized shops. Then a neoprene suit. Learning how to swim in a neoprene suit with fins on my feet, life jacket and in full climbing gear. Helmet of course as well.
The idea was to be taken out to the lonely rock by an old fishing vessel, then hop into a dinghy that would bring us very close to the sheer walls of the rock. One of us would then jump and hopefully not fall into the water, would carry a 40-meter rope over his shoulder, would climb up to the one-meter-wide platform of Hall's Ledge right under the summit, and would lower the rope on the vertical side of the rock. The rest of us would then work their way up in the already mentioned techniques.
The targetGetting there is one thing, getting up something else. One is as tricky as the other. The gigantic rock of Rockall stands by its own in the north east Atlantic, 253 miles west of the Outer Hebrides, a group of islands off the Scottish west coast. It is about 435 miles away from Iceland in the north and 270 miles from Ireland in the south east. The exact position of the 21-meter-high and 27-meter-wide rock, measured from and at water level, respectively, is 57°35’48"N - 13°41’19"W. Rockall is the loneliest island on Earth: Nowhere sits an island that isolatedly, all others would have at least a minor second island as a neighbor.
Until recently there have been more people on the moon than on Rockall. A guano-shitten, uninhabitable drum of rock, shooting out of the north Atlantic cathedral-like, the pebble that once Finn MacCool had thrown has witnessed turbulent times. Actually Rockall is, miles away from any important shipping route, a pretty negligible object „in the middle of nowhere“. Vertical on one side, it is steeply sloped on the other, and with its white stripes of birds' shit it looks as if somebody had sunk a giant statue of Don King in the foam of the ocean. In spite of that Rockall has made nations to struggle against each other, was in the focus of global environmental protests and even got pawned during the Cold War.
A legend tells that the rock represents the outmost post of the old, mysterious kingdom of Brasil, whereas scientists claim it is the tip of a volcanic vent that was last been active 50 million years ago. I rather stick to the tale of Finn MacCool, describing it as a giant.
The deedPlanning is everything. The cutter was found, the skipper put under contract. In June it had to happen. Experts know that only June is viable. In any other month of the year the probability of good weather is not high enough, „good“ meaning calm waters on the spot. The slightest swell at the rock would mean failure to the endeavor. It is said that out of 20 landing attempts only one is successful.
And we hit one of these lucky days! WE are the Kings of Rockall! We were on top! On top of life! For two hours we were sitting in bright sunshine on the summit – wrong! There was only space for one up there at a time, the others had to sit on Hall's Ledge, where they radioed hectically all over the world and enjoyed the singularity of the moment. Never again would any of us succeed in doing something such extraordinary! We were sitting on a rock that had been conquered only by a maximum of a few dozens of people before. We had our personal Everest under the belt!
The exquisiteThose who want to imitate us, be warned: Hardly anybody will ever accomplish that. For we, the Kings of Rockall, have proclaimed the People's Republic of Rockall and will defend the rock against unprofessional intruders! And should the English ever come and try to chase us away: Blow it!
Lots of success, however, to the smart ones that will be as fortunate as we were!
ROCKALL 2005 TEAM
ROCKALL PICTURE GALLERY
More at PEAKS, POLES, AND PARAGRAPHS - Europe 135 times from above or: GIPFEL UND GRENZEN - Grenzenlose Gipfel