In 2017 Jesse and Molly joined a four-week climbing and skiing expedition to the Stauning Alps in a remote part of Greenland, involving at 100km circular ski route in temperatures that reached -28oC. On the expedition Jesse became the first known visually impaired person to complete first ascents in the Arctic when the team established Katalice (1,100m, AD) on Boughfell and Sequoia Spire Route (800m, PD) on Sue’s Spire, both in alpine style. During the trip the team also repeated measurements of the Roslin Glacier and to installed a network of ablation stakes to observe the impacts of climate change.
Some of Jesse’s trad on-sight leads include stiff gritstone classics like Flying Buttress Direct (E1 5b) at Stanage, Sloth (HVS 5a) at The Roaches and Great Western (HVS 5a) at Almscliff, as well as multi-pitch test pieces like the five-pitch Copper Dragon (E1 5b) at Great How Crag in the Lake District. He has also led up to AD+ on the Grand Fourche in Chamonix, ice climbed up to WI5 (single pitch) and led sport climbs up to 6c and seconded 7a.
In June 2019 Jesse completed his most adventurous trad climb to date: the classic East Face Route (E1 5b) on the Old Man of Hoy in Scotland. Guided by Molly, Jesse led all six pitches on-sight, so to speak, and placed all his own gear on lead.
For many of these expeditions and adventurous climbing trips, Jesse says that the hardest part is foreseeing the difficulties and working out the solutions ahead of time.
“For Hoy we spent a reasonable amount of time reading different route descriptions to try and work out if Molly would be able to see me for the traverse section,” says Jesse. “I can climb unaided, but obviously it is much harder for me so I am more likely to come off if the difficulty is near my limit. If it's easy for me I can just hold on and feel around until I work it out for myself. On Hoy Molly couldn't see me for the crux, but that didn't really matter, as it was a jamming section.”
Having completed this adventurous challenge, Jesse now has a few other E1 trad routes on his wish list, including Cenotaph Corner and Cemetery Gates in North Wales, and wants to break into leading E2 (“I've got my eye on a couple I think would be good for me”). Ice climbing and more first ascents are also on the cards.
“I'd love to get some first ascents in Antarctica,” says Jesse. “I think I'm the first blind person with FA's in the Arctic, it would be great to complete the set.”