/ Tony Willmott; Philatus

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johncoxmysteriously - on 17 Jun 2013
I did Philatus at the weekend and I thought it was an extraordinary route for 1965.

First of all, its pretty hard, but also in a style that wasnt 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 Govans East (although harder, despite their respective guidebook grades).

Second, although its reasonably well-protected nowadays (again despite what the guidebook says, although I suppose its true that the gear has to be looked/worked for and fiddled in, which my leader did quite well), I cant think it had any gear at all in 1965. Although the guidebook says it used to be A2. I dont quite know what A2 used to involve in the early 1960s. Maybe it could be protected a bit with pegs? Though there dont seem to be any traces.

I dont know much about Tony W; in fact Id forgotten he started at Swanage. Like most people I know of him best for Baggy Point and Amanita, but its hard to tell how hard Amanita was at the time because one doesnt 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?

jcm
pneame on 17 Jun 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously: a2 would suggest an aid route. Peg scars?
johncoxmysteriously - on 17 Jun 2013
In reply to pneame:

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.

jcm
jimtitt - on 17 Jun 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:
It was a complete clip-up in the late 60s 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 youd have needed to place the pegs.
John2 - on 17 Jun 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously: I think Wilmott was a student at Bristol, though I'm not certain about that. He had a reputation for hard partying and all that that entailed, as one might infer from his obsession with Pink Floyd route names, not to mention Amanita Muscarina. I've heard that he used to give slide shows accompanied by Pink Floyd songs. His Avon route The Electric Orgasm was so named after an encounter with a vacuum cleaner at a party.
johncoxmysteriously - on 17 Jun 2013
In reply to jimtitt:

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.

To john2:

Loving the vacuum cleaner.

jcm
johncoxmysteriously - on 17 Jun 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

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.

jcm
Al Evans on 17 Jun 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously: I knew Tony quite well, he was almost a Stoney regular at one time. A very stylish climber of great skill.
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.
Al Evans on 17 Jun 2013
In reply to Al Evans: He was also a very caring and thoughtful character too, when one of his friends, Percy, I think his second name was Spring, got badly hurt in a car crash Tony wrote to everyone who knew him asking us to write a letter to him at the hospital with our best wishes for a speedy recovery.
johncoxmysteriously - on 17 Jun 2013
In reply to Al Evans:

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?

jcm
jimtitt - on 17 Jun 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:
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 didnt 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!).
abseil on 17 Jun 2013
In reply to Al Evans:
> (In reply to Al Evans) He was also a very caring and thoughtful character too...

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 Percys (Mike Springs) accident is true to character. He was always a thoughtful friend, quiet and intelligent, not like the wilder stories (which I dont enjoy reading).

Im naturally still upset about his death and still miss him. Its funny hes 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 (hed forgotten his rock shoes) he just walked up it.
johncoxmysteriously - on 17 Jun 2013
In reply to jimtitt:

>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.

Jeepers.

Fascinating, these recollections. It's so hard now looking back to understand which routes were harder than which other routes BITD and why.

> One of the best technical routes at Swanage with remarkably consistent climbing all the way and not a crack to jam your hands into.

Absolutely.

jcm
Mick Ward - on 17 Jun 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

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.

Mick
Al Evans on 17 Jun 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously: Yes, and I still think the crux on Stroof is 6a.
Mick Ward - on 17 Jun 2013
In reply to abseil:
> (In reply to Al Evans)

> Its funny hes forever young locked in my memory like that.

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.

Mick
johncoxmysteriously - on 17 Jun 2013
In reply to Al Evans:

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.

jcm
abseil on 17 Jun 2013
In reply to Mick Ward:
> (In reply to abseil)
> [...]
> 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.
eroica64 - on 17 Jun 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously: Oh Mkke Spring... what a character - stinking out people's cars with his tinned sardines. Apparently he broke his back in a car crash travelling up to Llanberis with Tony Wilmott. Took up single-handed sailing I seem to recall.
jimtitt - on 17 Jun 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:
> (In reply to Al Evans)
>
> 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.
>
> jcm

Quite so, that was how it was done and so it stayed. not many people lead it anyway, I dont know of many up to the 80s.
A one-and a half move 5c that requires commitment, if you have thin fingers its easier.
johncoxmysteriously - on 17 Jun 2013
In reply to jimtitt:
> (In reply to johncoxmysteriously)
> [...]
>
> Quite so, that was how it was done and so it stayed.

Autre temps, autre moeurs!

>not many people lead it anyway, I dont know of many up to the 80s.

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!

jcm


jcw on 17 Jun 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously: A great guy and a great climber
johncoxmysteriously - on 18 Jun 2013
In reply to jcw:

John W! Good grief - didn't know you were on here. Any recollection of TW to share?

jcm
victorclimber - on 18 Jun 2013
In reply to eroica64: mike spring did break is back,and couldnt move his legs I recall,he did take up sailing and actually sailed the Atlantic in a specially adapted small Yacht.I met him at the earls court boat show with his boat at that time he lived with permanent pain ..hope my memory is right
pauls911 - on 18 Jun 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

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!
scott titt - on 18 Jun 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:
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.
shaker - on 18 Jun 2013
In reply to victorclimber: Mike 'Percy' Spring did indeed become a lone sailor. his boat was sponsored by 3M who he worked for. he kept walking with the aid of callipers and crutches on land. He was subject of a This is yr Life with Eamonn Andrews on which I was asked to help, but they wouldn't use any of the good stories ...like him and Bonnie Masson being rescued off Gogarth in his first craft...an inflatable ! I was on the air with him Eric Jones, Duncan Goodhew and I think Alan Williams ...how embarrassing ! (dG was great swimming champ at the time , did a lot of work helping patience at Oswestry Orthopedic.)
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.
johncoxmysteriously - on 18 Jun 2013
In reply to scott titt:

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.

jcm
scott titt - on 18 Jun 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously: I know John, but "Climbers starting up First Corner, crossing what became Philatus and Poetry in Motion and belaying two thirds of the way up Second Corner" lacks punch as a photo caption.
johncoxmysteriously - on 18 Jun 2013
In reply to scott titt:

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.

jcm
John Stainforth - on 18 Jun 2013
In reply to eroica64:

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.
shaker - on 18 Jun 2013
In reply to John Stainforth: given the way Percy drove it is ironic that his accident happened when he was a passenger in the back of a minivan. Were you in the car with the rope across the back seat to keep the doors closed?
scott titt - on 18 Jun 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:
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
johncoxmysteriously - on 18 Jun 2013
In reply to scott titt:

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!

http://homepage.ntlworld.com/mad-dogs/index.html

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.

jcm

Mick Ward - on 18 Jun 2013
In reply to shaker:

> 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.

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..."

Mick
jimtitt - on 18 Jun 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

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 youd wouldnt want or bother to clip. I dont remember placing any gear on it and I must have climbed it 10 times or so in those days.
jcw on 18 Jun 2013
In reply to johncoxmysteriously: North London Club. I remember he was into all sorts of wonderful gear that were mysteries to most of us, sky hooks etc. My memories have faded but he was the star of the club, very keen and talented, but always friendly. I have some vague impression about routes on the Mot in particular. Were you North London? Pete Williams I occasionally bump into, Bill O'Connor etc?
shaker - on 20 Jun 2013
In reply to Mick Ward: thank you for your kind word
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.
John Stainforth - on 20 Jun 2013
In reply to shaker:

I have no recollection of the car itself, only the driving!
abseil on 21 Jun 2013
In reply to shaker:

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.
ads.ukclimbing.com
eroica64 - on 21 Jun 2013
In reply to abseil: Here ( http://02c1289.netsolhost.com/AZORES.HTM ) is Mike Spring's log of his single-handed voyage from Falmouth to the Azores and back. His account of how he started sailing after his back injury is inspiring - http://02c1289.netsolhost.com/PARA.HTM
abseil on 21 Jun 2013
In reply to eroica64:

Thanks SO MUCH for the links - that's great.

(Still hoping for the above links - anyone kind enough to help? Thanks)
shaker - on 21 Jun 2013
In reply to abseil: obviously I have a copy, but I can't scan it as it seems the only copy iI kept for my self is very badly printed (decidedly faint). I,m looking through my archives for possibly a better copy or the original ms. I may be some time. As for posting I am an ancient techno dunce and haven't a clue. What do you want/ suggest?
Shaker
abseil on 22 Jun 2013
In reply to shaker:
>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.

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