/ Mr Dawes - Legend !!!
I think the UK climbing community (if it could) should award Johnny Dawes a blooming knighthood. Just watched the Meltdown video (elsewhere on this site) and the vision of JD to even consider and largely climb this route in the 80's beggars belief. When you look at his gritstone masterpieces (most now a quarter of a century old) his vision and ability were way beyond the norm and as big a leap forward as Messrs Brown, Whillans et al.
The thing is 25 yrs after Cenotaph Corner was climbed it was being described as a trade route yet the routes JD has done rarely get an ascent a year and Indian Face has yet to be climbed in better style than when JD did it.
Hat's off to the man and massive massive respect :-)
He is a legend but the 25 years thing does not really hold as routes get progressively harder and improvement increments get smaller
Oh and I meant to add what a really nice bloke he is too, met him a fair number of times initially in the early 90's in the llanberis party scene and I'll never forget his solo (in trainers - of course) of Crucible in Cwm Silyn where I had to shout directions up to him as to where the route went (I'd done it a couple of weeks beforehand with Bill Preston from the Vags) He was so laid back and I sure he went off route and finished up Jabberwocky !!!
I wonder if anyone else will come along and make such a quantum leap in Standards - I suppose the less virgin rock there is the less chance of that !
He truly is a legend.
Met him in the Vaynol Arms in Nant Peris, seemed like a nice bloke. Tried to sell me his book, lol :)
Agreed. At the time, Jerry was the best climber in the world and he's saying to JD, "What do I do?" !!!!
The video of him on the Quarryman is the best footage of rock climbing I've ever seen. It's only a minor part of the video, but I love him placing the quickdraws as he goes. 9a sport routes would be so much more interesting to watch if they placed the kit as they went, rather than making it seem like they are indoor-climbing outdoors.
He may be many things but 'nice' is an unusual way to describe him.... ever seen one of his rants? He is very accessible and will talk for hours on stuff that I think is still very important and explains why he was so groundbreaking and still is as able as he is (how many other paunched middle aged men do you know still trying to put up high extremes or making movement experiments like a kid) and why visionary still applies. He was always way more itinerant master than sponsored sport pin-up.
Yes, I confess to a bit of hero worship of Dawes. I saw him lecture once and it was disorganised, shambolic and absolutely riveting. The first slide was a picture of Winston Churchill, "I dunno what that's doing in there" and later there were slides of a small plastic pink panther balanced on various chair legs "that move is 6a, holding that position is 6b".
Is he still climbing? The last I saw was on the Welsh Connections DVD doing the Bolton Wanderer on Scimitar Ridge and the very poignant footage of him & Paul Pritchard on the Rainbow Slab.
Met him in Petes a couple of times and he seemed affable.
Looking at his routes now I think there's little doubt that he was the most visionary climber we've ever seen.
A life in which someone performs possibly their greatest feats by their mid-20s is ripe territory for tragedy. Has Mr Dawes avoided that pitfall?
> A life in which someone performs possibly their greatest feats by their mid-20s is ripe territory for tragedy.
That could describe pretty much all sportspeople.
So he doesn't have rubber legs after all!
There is no connection between the incidents on the first and second links?
I realised just after posting so I have corrected it. Thanks anyway.
Hence the dangers of bandying 'best' given the wonderful range of acheivements in climbing.
Thanks for posting this. Would have been grim if he'd lost his leg. You probably remember Neil Foster hobbling around Endliffe Park in '84 (I think) after his fall from Ulysses. Your heart went out to him. Amputation or maybe dying? What a terrible choice. Thankfully he came through it OK.
Also remember Martin Veale showing me his ankle which had been wrecked after a tiny fall. Was just warming up, bouldering, stepped onto the rock and... Although it had mended, it was devastatingly misshapen - and obviously vulnerable for ever more. Typically, Martin was getting on with things as best he could. Suberb climber.
Re JD. I think Pasbury, above, has summed it up admirably in only seven words, '...the most visionary climber we've ever seen.' He's always seemed fundamentally decent and honourable, albeit delightfully bonkers. But it can't be easy being him (is it easy being any of us?) My guess is that his good days are a lot better than ours' and his bad days a lot worse.
Typically he was a good sport about the accident, generous in his gratitude to the MRT. Even legends are human - but they're still legends.
Hi Mick. Well expressed.
I'm not sure I understand your point. I try not to 'bandy' words. Back then (as I recall) there was a huge emphasis on sport climbing; from memory (admittedly dodgy at times!) Jerry (and Wolfgang Gullich) was pretty much top of the pile. But I doubt either of them would necessarily have been best at climbing shale, rubble etc. Different games that climbers play... and different players excelling at them.
Perhaps we might agree on, 'Even legends are human - but they're still legends.'
A lot on this is covered with disarming honesty in 'Full of Myself'.
He's also proved on a few occasions that he doesn't need both his legs anyway !
A fascinating character, very articulate but not without his flaws
Still climbing very well when I saw him recently on a project Prof Popp had pointed him at on Cheshire sandstone. I had a look again the other week and the holds had disappeared again. And yes, he sold me a book :)
I would say that sports where you decline after your mid 20s are a minority. Mo Farah didn't really breakthrough to the very top level until he was 28, he has won 5 global titles in the 3 years since, Wiggins won the TdF and Olympic Gold at 32, Hoy won double gold at 35, Kath Grainger had to wait until she was 36 to win Olympic Gold and Redgrave won his final gold at 36.
Chatting to him in the bar before a lecture, he quite genuinely said "so what do you want me to talk about?".
Met him on a lonely boulder near Idwal a few years back and the passion he showed for that single lump of 10ft rock was worrying.
Mad, genius, cracking chap....
> .... the passion he showed for that single lump of 10ft rock was worrying.
Admirable I'd say!
Worrying and admirable?
'To see a world in a grain of sand...'
Wasn't getting at you Mick. Just pointing out its a bit ' top trumps' what best means given the games we play and the top can be hard to define and the chasing pack in the particular game is often closer than indicated. Legends are even less simply defined, as so much relates to time, place, history, personality, partners, country, etc. As a for-instance, when I got to know Cubby well (by accident) it was interesting he was that much less legendary than some other climbers who were less obvious candidates from acheivements in any one of his specailisms let alone in combination. When forming lists of greats and rechecking it was often...oh yeah we forgot Cubby.... its also a bit odd talking to living legends, maybe best to treat them like fellow climbing humans, and then you can discover these high achievers are friendly, helpful, unpatronising and fun, even to low acheivers like me.
So the overarching impression that I got from Full Of Myself is that Johnny spent a long time tying up all his self-worth in a push towards ever harder and scarier climbing, faster driving and wilder partying, and when that eventually proved to be unsustainable he went off the rails a bit. And that he then spent a long time trying to find some more sustainable source of self-worth, eventually finding it in helping other people to understand how to do the stuff that comes naturally to him.
At least, that seems to be the way he packages it in the book...
I think that sums it up rather well.
I was once at the climbing wall with a friend of mine, i look out, and 30 metres away i see Johnny walking past. Just about the time i'm going to point my mate to the fact that Dawes is in 'our' wall, he sees my mate, waves to him and strolls directly for us.
He starts chatting amicably and we have a good chat. As soon as he moves on i turn to my friend and go like "so how come you know Johnny Dawes?" and my friend is like "Ah, have you met him too? Nice guy isn't he?". "Well i haven't met him before, but everyone knows who Johnny Dawes is". To which my friend replies "What? is he famous or something? I met him in N. Wales in a pub and then we bouldered together for a bit..."
Story goes, my friend was alone at the Vaynol Arms looking grumpy, Johnny approached him and started chatting with him, and asked him if he was OK. My friend explained that he wasn't too good, as for some reason his debit card wasn't working and he was out of money until he could go to a bank on Monday to sort it out.
To this, Johhny reached into his wallet, handed a wad of notes to a total stranger, and told him to just pay it back into his bank account when he could...
Total legend. And he sold me a book too ;-)
Yeah, but what's he done on grit?
Totally agree about Cubby.
That speaks volumes about the character of the man.
Jd was always the best around even when he wasn't
The one time I met JD, I was legging up to the Cromlech to have a look.
He comes up behind, a quick chat and on his way.
I see him next about a third way up Left Wall, obviously didn't fancy it, so he backs off and disappears up Cemetery Gates.
I was lucky enough to spend a very drunk evening at "The Heights" back in its heyday, with Johnny, who was also in his heyday.
Good bloke, passed the beer test. (But didn't buy any.)
Also there and in our company that night, was Mr Perrin. Interesting bloke, but a bit of a twat.
I agree Johnny is one my favourite climbers a true visionary who also produced some of my favourite climbing videos, he should have done more.
I spent a day bouldering with him at Frogatt, no ego at all, he was just happy to help me do some of the problems. I had no ideas who he was, and after seeing him do some amazing moves I asked "what blú8dy grade do you lead!!??" To which he replied "oh nothing too hard" . that was two weeks after he'd led Indian Face!
The next day I discovered who he was. Lovely guy and a truly inspiring, fun character.
Interesting stuff this. JD is well-deserving of the accolades he gets it seems. Lots of nice human-touch stories
Slightly off topic. Leaves me wondering about the personality/character/midset/outlook of the real 'greats' in the sport. Are top performers (in any era) more frequently more likely to be genuine nice-guys, or temperamental geniuses? I can think of examples of both.
They can be both - sometimes genuinely nice, sometimes very much not
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