/ Tony Willmott; Philatus
First of all, it’s pretty hard, but also in a style that wasn’t so common then; most hard routes of that time are a series of problems between hands-off rests. Philatus is sustained from the first move to the last with no really good rest en route. It reminded me of Howling Gale at St Govan’s East (although harder, despite their respective guidebook grades).
Second, although it’s reasonably well-protected nowadays (again despite what the guidebook says, although I suppose it’s true that the gear has to be looked/worked for and fiddled in, which my leader did quite well), I can’t think it had any gear at all in 1965. Although the guidebook says it used to be A2. I don’t quite know what A2 used to involve in the early 1960’s. Maybe it could be protected a bit with pegs? Though there don’t seem to be any traces.
I don’t know much about Tony W; in fact I’d forgotten he started at Swanage. Like most people I know of him best for Baggy Point and Amanita, but it’s hard to tell how hard Amanita was at the time because one doesn’t really know how much aid was involved. And the Baggy routes are much more in the style of the time. I know TW had a reputation as a brilliant technical climber; to judge from Philatus this is well justified.
Anyone on here make an early ascent of Philatus and know what it involved at the time? Or anyone with reminiscences of TW?
Didn't notice any; that's what I mean. And it's not like Swanage doesn't have plenty of rotting pegs; surprising there are no signs at all if it used to have pegs.
It was a complete clip-up in the late 60´s and still used for aid practice in those days, I did it both ways back around then. It was what we would call A1 these days as all the gear was in place but A2 if you´d have needed to place the pegs.
Interesting, thanks. So a bit like Vulcan then; less "amazing what climbers in those days could do with the gear they had" and more "amazing what climbers in those days could do when they tried sport climbing".
Funny how little mark they've left. Is that because it was the practice on artificial routes to put the pegs in for the ascent and take them out again? Or what did people used to do when they were doing it free?
Stroof must have had a permanent peg once, surely?
I thought Philatus was a really brilliant route in its present incarnation though. Looking at the logbook it seems to be mainly top-roped, which is a shame - it should be one of Swanage's classic E3s, albeit in a rather Pembrokey style rather than typical Swanage.
Loving the vacuum cleaner.
Sorry; I see you said the pegs were all in place. Gosh; you'd really never know to look at it now. I always assume all those rotting stubs on, e.g., Richard Crewe's routes at Swanage date from the FA or thereabouts, but perhaps not. Maybe pegs don't actually last that long and the corpses one sees now are corpses of 1980's pegs, and for some reason the ones on Philatus didn't get replaced and so now it looks clean.
I didn't have the leisure at the time to wonder where these pegs went but I do wonder, looking back on it now.
I once saw him start to lead First Slip just as it started to rain, I had just done it the day before and found it a nerve wracking lead in the days before small wires. I was sure he would back of the thin groove in the wet, but no as the rain got heavier he just carried on up the groove as if it was bone dry, An impressive piece of climbing, especially in those days when it rarely got done.
Probably. Percy Spring. PS wrote a fine eulogy of TW somewhere - possibly even in Extreme Rock. Or did he do the Heart of the Sun essay in ER and what I'm remembering was from the mags?
Tony was a schoolboy at the time of Philatus and Stroof, at Dauntseys ifI remember correctly. Before my time, I climbed with him when he was at Bristol.
The challenge in those days was to find enough krabs to aid it, there were something like 9 pegs and we didn´t have that many crabs. The pegs gradually all rotted away and from vague memory of when I did it regularly there was one which you tied off, a brass hex somewhere and the nervous moved over and placed a Moac in the corner to the side, there was a thin sling somewhere as well I think. One of the best technical routes at Swanage with remarkably consistent climbing all the way and not a crack to jam your hands into.
Stroof was another matter altogether, the was a poor nut placement and a rotting peg in the horizontal below the crack but nothing for the crack itself, Willmot soloed it and we might as well have as well since a groundfall was a distinct possibility and hitting the bulge a certainty.
Ten years was good for a peg at Swanage in a lot of cases and the knifebades in Philatus would have had a distinctly shorter lifespan being that near to the sea (or often under it!).
Very good to read your memories of Tony. He was my best friend for quite a while in Bristol, until he was killed. He could indeed be very caring, and the story about after Percy’s (Mike Spring’s) accident is true to character. He was always a thoughtful friend, quiet and intelligent, not like the wilder stories (which I don’t enjoy reading).
I’m naturally still upset about his death and still miss him. It’s funny – he’s forever young – locked in my memory like that.
Good one about First Slip. I personally watched him lead Vector up to the cave stance in big boots (he’d forgotten his rock shoes) – he just walked up it.
>Stroof was another matter altogether, the was a poor nut placement and a rotting peg in the horizontal below the crack but nothing for the crack itself, Willmot soloed it and we might as well have as well since a groundfall was a distinct possibility and hitting the bulge a certainty.
Fascinating, these recollections. It's so hard now looking back to understand which routes were harder than which other routes BITD and why.
Tony Willmott - the original stone child. So much drive, talent, unrealised promise. Haunting echoes of John Syrett.
There's a superb article about him by Steve Dean who was with him at Avon 'the day the music died'. I believe Gordon Stainforth also knew him well.
His EB's went to a young beginner called Stevie... Haston.
Our music dies and is reborn in others.
They're all forever young, those boys and girls of distant summers. Though we've grown old, they haven't. They're still with us and always will be.
Why wouldn't a peg go in the crack of Stroof? It seems made for it. Or was it considered infra dig since the FA hadn't needed it?
Definitive nearly-6a, I'd say.
> They're all forever young, those boys and girls of distant summers. Though we've grown old, they haven't. They're still with us and always will be.
Your words are very comforting to me... And I really like what you wrote. Really thanks.
> Why wouldn't a peg go in the crack of Stroof? It seems made for it. Or was it considered infra dig since the FA hadn't needed it?
> Definitive nearly-6a, I'd say.
Quite so, that was how it was done and so it stayed. not many people lead it anyway, I don´t know of many up to the 80´s.
A one-and a half move 5c that requires commitment, if you have thin fingers its easier.
> Quite so, that was how it was done and so it stayed.
Autre temps, autre moeurs!
>not many people lead it anyway, I don´t know of many up to the 80´s.
When was the guidebook with Kev Turner soloing The Conger on the front? There was a photo in that of a chap in mid-air off Stroof, who told me that he'd had to take the same fall seven times before his incompetent photographer managed to catch the moment. I guess by then they must have had gear that would fit!
John W! Good grief - didn't know you were on here. Any recollection of TW to share?
I write as I was/am "that chap in mid-air off Stroof"... Tony Evison was the photographer and he was pretty good... it just took me loads of attempts to get up the route! Must go back and try it in better style!
Here you are John, really puts Tony's effort in the perspective of the time! http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=222022
The belayer is Walter Watson, my PE teacher until his death in the Alps.
To set the record straight it was me wrote the piece entitled Stone Child, coining that epithet)
And i am also the author of the ER Heart of The Sun essay.
AND...there never was a vacuum cleaner with long blonde hair ergo no vacuum cleaner. The story probably came from one the many sarcastic snots who like to mock Tony's route names. He named the route Elecric Orgasm as a description of what went on in his brain during the lead.
Fantastic, Scott, thanks. Loving the costumes, and glad to see that in those days proper climbers soloed down.
Not really taking the line of the modern Philatus at all but zigzagging up the buttress, and presently on what is now Poetry in Motion.
Fair point! I suppose I was more interested in whether the old aid line was the same as the new free one in view of the lack of any obvious signs today of its past as an aid climb (which is rare in my experience; usually you can see *something*). So I'm guessing the old line was more wandering? Or perhaps once it 'became' Philatus it was straighter.
Tony Wilmot and Percy Spring were camping in the "British Campsite" near Andalnes when Gordon and I were climbing (and falling off) there in 1969. Tony talked more about Pink Floyd than climbing. I left Romsdal with Percy: he gave me a lift to Oslo where he dropped me off at the railway station. He drove at a maniacal speed. We got to Oslo in a few hours, probably about three times quicker than it takes nowadays with the (slow) speed limits.
There were pitons all over the place, the photo shows the randomness of the placements. The wall was used for an early experiment in sleeping in hammocks (before "big wall" had been heard of). There was an old route "Piton route" somewhere on the wall. I would guess that TW climbed the easiest of the aesthetic lines up the wall clipping everything that came to hand!
You wonder that you can see no traces of old pitons, as has been said the rate of solution of old pegs is quite rapid at Subluminal, I can find no trace of pegs I can remember clipping, for example on Grandmas Groove , here is probably why http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=165556
Yes, I guess the seas can get at this crag better than most.
Grandma's Groove - actually I quite fancy doing TW's other routes down here now, having got the taste for them.
Here's an interesting website I found just now while googling, which mentions Percy Spring briefly. His driving seems to have left an wide impression!
Shaker; yes of course, sorry, I should have remembered it was your article in ER, and also at least one I've seen in the mags. Maybe I was confusing that with the one I think I remember by PS.
> And i am also the author of the ER Heart of The Sun essay.
Brilliant essays, as I recall. Congratulations.
I've got a vague memory of reading one (or two) essays by Tony Willmott in (I think) the North London Mountaineering Club journal(s). He mentioned some dire first ascent which went on for hours, at one point thinking, "Well, I'm still on. There's still a chance..." And then he did it.
Over the decades there have been quite a few lonely, heart-searching leads where I've consoled myself with this mantra, "Well, I'm still on. There's still a chance..."
Grandmas Groove was also more or less a clip up, I think it might have been another aid route in its time. There used to be 3 pegs below the groove and maybe 4 in it and some of them certainly where you´d wouldn´t want or bother to clip. I don´t remember placing any gear on it and I must have climbed it 10 times or so in those days.
Your memory is impeccable. Tony's piece mentioned was published in the north London mc journal 'climb 1970' entitled 'Blitz' and was his story of the ascent of all the Avon extremes in the then new Ward Drummond guide. The bit you referr ed to was about White Elephant and the last route he covers is strangely his first ascent of Electric Orgasm, as his first free route of his own vividly describing his bread experience. It should be republished for posterity. I've also found a copy ofCrags 26 from August /September 1980 where Stone Child appeared.
I didn't remember that it was so many years after his death.
I have no recollection of the car itself, only the driving!
Any kind soul like to post a copy of these (north London mc journal 'climb 1970' entitled 'Blitz' / Stone Child)? I can't find them. Thanks a lot.
Thanks SO MUCH for the links - that's great.
(Still hoping for the above links - anyone kind enough to help? Thanks)
>I,m looking through my archives for possibly a better copy... What do you want/ suggest?
Really thanks for your reply, and for trying. I was just looking for an Internet link to the articles (north London mc journal 'climb 1970' entitled 'Blitz', and Stone Child). E.g. decades-old Alpine Club journals can be found on the net (pdf copies) - but I can't find the above two anywhere, and hoped someone else could post a link. Thanks very much.
Elsewhere on the site
Climbing as a discipline offers plentiful metaphors for tackling life's obstacles - bravery, courage, climbing to... Read more
The usual suspects and dark horses have been in play across Scotland over the rock season of 2014. One of the main... Read more
Save £20 when you buy a Petzl Elios Helmet!! The Petzl Elios helmet (2013 Version) is tough & durable,... Read more
The B.D.V. — short for Black Diamond Vertical — jacket and pants are Black Diamond’s most versatile climbing... Read more
Urban climber James Kingston will be on stage at all UK screenings to answer questions about his remarkable film... Read more