AUDIO: The Rock Archivist - Phase Two

by Mick Ryan - UKClimbing.com May/2010
This news story has been read 6,445 times
+First ascent of London Wall E5 6a, Millstone. FA: John Allen, Steve Bancroft 1975, 158 kbFirst ascent of London Wall E5 6a, Millstone. FA: John Allen, Steve Bancroft 1975
© Steve Bancroft

+peter livesey  and the book  y h a deansgate  manchester  , 47 kbPete Livesey busy recording a new route in the YHA Deansgate new route book. © Brian Cropper
UKClimbing.com reported in February about The Rock Archivist, the brainchild of Sheffield-based climber Phil Kelly.

The Rock Archivist is a project attempting to collect new route books all together, image and index them and then publish them online. Back in February Phil had managed to publish eight surviving Stoney Middleton books as well as two from the Outside shop in Hathersage.

The 1970's and 80's were an interesting time for climbing and climbers.

The E-grade system was invented, climbers became athletes, they trained and donned body-hugging lycra - and then took them off again - , the first E6, E7, E8 and E9's were climbed, sport climbing was invented and went from 8a to 8c, there was of course a huge bolting debate that still smoulders today; there were three climbing magazines, Ken Wilson published Hard Rock, Classic Rock and Extreme Rock; hundreds of climbing walls were built and all over the UK there was a new route frenzy.

It's fairly safe to say that between 1970 and 1990 there were more new routes climbed in the UK than at any other time. Such was the pace of new route development that each month, High (formerly Crags), Climber and Rambler and Mountain magazines all had multi-page new route sections documenting what, where, when and who, and sometimes how.

And when a new route was climbed the first ascensionist recorded the climb in a local new route book.

Enter The Rock Archivist

'Last week I finally completed scanning the 21 volumes of the Pete's Eats books that I have; that's around 1,200 pages I think'.......Phil Kelly, the Rock Archivist

I asked Phil what's happened at the Rock Archivist since February?

I decided to go live in February with what remained of the available Stoney Middleton books and the two from Outside in Hathersage. I always found the Stoney books fascinating as a cafe regular back in the 80's so that seemed a good place to start from. But since then the ball has really started rolling.  

As a quick test I also threw in a curve ball with a simple audio recording of Rowland Edwards talking about the early developments of Wilton Quarries in Lancashire, taken from Brian Cropper's archives. All these have proved very popular and I've had a shed load of messages saying that people never knew some of this existed and that they really enjoyed reading it all as well as asking why the Mountain Heritage Trust were not already doing this.

As regards new routes books and journals. I have added Steve Bancroft's personal new route journal (the basis for his Recent Developments guide) and what I think is an older book from Stoney, dating back to 1975. No one seems to really know much about this one and I can't say with 100% confidence that it is indeed a Stoney café book (“after 4 years in a café, it's too clean”, as Graham Hoey pointed out to me) but it certainly contains some important and significant first ascent claims.

I've added two Tremadog books as well, and have one more to complete, as well as adding what is for me one of the most important books around, and one which I actually scanned way back in the very early 1990s; Ian Lonsdale's Black Dog book for Lancashire.

These are all online now.

Last week I finally completed scanning the 21 volumes of the Pete's Eats books that I have (that's around 1,200 pages I think). I'm going to format them and put them up 'un-indexed' and maybe suggest that people can help and index them; it's a good way of getting to read the books and to both learn about and contribute to the storage of our history. The Pete's Eats books range from 1978 to the present and start with Paul Williams' writing up Ron's super routes on the Cromlech, going through Redhead's routes, many from Pat Littlejohn, Masters Wall, Pritchard's classic Gogarth frighteners, the whole slate boom and an acre of trees worth of Cliff Phillips ramblings.

Tequila Mockingbird E6 6c, Chee Tor, FA: Ron Fawcett 1982

+Tequila Mockingbird E6 6c, Chee Tor, FA: Ron Fawcett 1982, 128 kb

Rock Archivist Forum Comments

"What grade did Ron give this? Can't read it under the scribble."

"Ron gave it E6 6b. It lost holds on the lower wall, but is still generally regarded as E6, but sustained 6b. If it was bolted it would be 7b+/7c."

"I'm sure Ron gave it E5 7b. Jerry Moffatt repeated it soon after and reckoned E7 6b."

"Some time later it received its first redpoint from a Frenchman (Jean-Pierre Bouvier) who audaciously renamed it Gandalf le Magicien"

"Zippy told me a good story about that. He was belaying Jerry who fell off near the top pulled back on straight away and climbed straight to the top, and claimed the ascent with typical chutzpah saying 'it was harder to do it that way!' "

What have you got in the pipeline? What's planned?

The CentreSport Yorkshire new routes books and the Rock and Run Lakes books are on their way. We have access to the Orme books that used to be in Dave and Chris Lyon's shop, and Graham Hoey and Neil Foster's archives. Pat Littlejohn has agreed that we can use his old South Wales books. My contacts with a certain 'Mr Big' may also lead to the publication of some diary entries from early Gogarth and the Pass developments (fantastic reading) and also a whole traunch of FA letters spanning back 30+ years and my own Lancashire archives.

Also I have started to add Brian Cropper's 'YHA' new route books into the mix. When I scanned these I finished up with around 990 pages (luckily these are loose leaf and I have a double-sided scanner!) and have split these into Northern & Southern Limestone, Northern and Southern Gritstone, Lancashire, Yorkshire and 'Other Areas'. It'll take some time to get this lot indexed and completed, and I'll be adding them to the online list weekly as we move forwards. This is work in progress.

That's a lot of paper, scanning and work

One thing to remember is that this isn't all about new route books, I've already got over a thousand letters to trawl through, a few media files, some early video. This week I'm going to contact the surviving editorial team from Rocksport magazine to see if they mind us reproducing some of their old content, and then bringing things more up to date with Crags, Mountain World, Mountain, Clinger and Dangler, the one and only edition of Rock Action, and the rest.

I see you have a profile of Paul Pritchard at the site. There's a red P next to his name and if you click on it you go to a profile of him.

Yes, that's another idea. In the future you will be able to click on a first ascensionists and it will open to their page containing a dialogue about their history, background and a general write-up, web site/blog details followed by list of FA claims by them, magazine articles they have written, books about them etc. I've started to do the same with individual crags and we could link this to the UKClimbing.com database. So you would have a brief resume of crag, a list of FA claims for the crag (from db) and articles about the crag.

+mr kelly  arthur st   2009  , 148 kbPhil Kelly, the Rock Archivist. © Brian Cropper

Take A Look Yourself

Phil's Rock Archivist forum is taking off as well, usually on the minutiae of certain ascents, which can be quite illuminating - see the Tequila Mockingbird sidebar - and when he next updates the site ( Monday 31st May) he has a Chris Hamper cartoon competition and a chance to win a super prize – a RockFax guide of the winner's choice.

The Rock Archivist will be of interest to those around at the time and younger climbers wanting to know the history of some of the routes that are still great challenges today. It will also be of great use for those wishing to write articles or books, or make videos about our climbing history.

You have to register to view the documents that Phil is archiving but it's worth that small amount of time.

Cruise on over to The Rock Archivist.

You can contact Phil by emailing him at phil.kelly@rockarchivist.co.uk

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