Montane athlete Jesse Dufton writes new chapter into para climbing

Montane athlete and para climber, Jesse Dufton, has broken new ground in climbing by becoming the first blind climber to lead a rock climb of the iconic Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, USA.

Jesse, who has the degenerative disease Retinitis pigmentosa which renders him completely blind, successfully scaled the 1,558m rock formation on 15th May 2024 alongside his wife and sight guide, Molly, opting to embark upon an audacious ascent of the notorious and sustained route ‘El Matador’ (5. 10d, 150m).

The difficulty of the route puts it at the very edge of Jesse’s current climbing ability and establishes a new benchmark for the para climbing community, an achievement captured on camera by adventure film maker Alastair Lee and set to feature in the forthcoming Brit Rock Film Tour.

Speaking on the achievement, Jesse said: “I don’t think I have ever had to try as hard on a climb as I did on El Matador. I chose the route to test myself, both physically and mentally, it was significantly harder than anticipated on both fronts and pushed me to my limit. I’m hugely grateful to my wife and climbing partner Molly for supporting and guiding me, on this climb in particular. The partnership is critical in challenges such as climbing the Devil’s Tower and my life was literally in her hands throughout.”

Adventure film maker Alastair Lee commented: “It was some of the most frightening and compelling footage I have ever captured. I cannot imagine how hard that must have been without the use of your eyes, leader falls on your own gear are scary at the best of times. What an absolute lesson in guts and tenacity that was.”

Inspired by a talk given by legendary climber, Catherine Destivelle, Jesse’s chosen route suited his style of climbing, which included distinctive parallel columns reminiscent of the formations in Fairhead (Northern Ireland) and Kilt Rock (Isle of Skye) where he has completed some of his most challenging climbs.

Montane’s Marketing Director, Matthew Hickman, commented: “At the very centre of Montane’s core is the relentless, insatiable drive for breaking new boundaries and journeying into the unknown. What Jesse has achieved at Devil’s Tower perfectly encapsulates that ethos, as well as what being a Team Montane athlete is all about.

Jesse’s achievements are truly inspirational, and this is just the latest a long line of his climbing accomplishments that firmly position him as a trailblazer of the climbing world.”

The feat follows on from Jesse becoming the first blind person to lead climb the ‘Old Man of Hoy’, which was recognised as an official Guinness World record and is the focus of the multi-award-winning documentary, Climbing Blind. As well as his trad pedigree, he also has first ascents in Arctic Greenland completed in alpine style in winter conditions and is a competition climber, representing the GB Paraclimbing team and winning medals in multiple international competitions.

More information on Jesse can be found here.

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