Desert Island Climbs #5: Rob Greenwood

© Rob Greenwood - UKC

In this series of interviews, we whisk off some of Britain's best climbers to a lonely desert island (we might give them a belayer to take along, if they're lucky...) and asking them to regale us with tales of their eight favourite routes of all time, before singling one out to have as their "Desert Island Climb." Alongside their chosen route, our climbing castaways will be asked to select a book and a luxury item to take to the island.

Our fifth castaway is UKC's very own Advertising Manager Rob Greenwood. After a week of hard work in the office, Rob's the one who ventures to crags far and wide and returns on Monday with yet more climbs logged and uploads jealousy-inducing photographic evidence of said climbs. He's a true weekend-warrior with an impressive list of varied climbing achievements from around the world and across many disciplines, making him a veritable "all-rounder."


I would ordinarily have chosen Extreme Rock, but seeing as it is unlikely that there will be any Extreme Rock routes on the desert island I think I'll choose something a little broader – Dune, by Frank Herbert (if possible stretching it out to all six books)

Luxury Item

A photo album containing pictures of friends, family, routes and memories.

"Over the years I've taken part in just about every style of climbing I can think of. Each has brought something new and enjoyable to the table and I suppose that's what I've loved so much about climbing - it's so diverse."

The Snowdon Horseshoe

The Snowdon Horseshoe from Crib Goch - 6am  © Nicholas Livesey
The Snowdon Horseshoe from Crib Goch - 6am
© Nicholas Livesey, Apr 2013

It's an odd one to start off with seeing as it's not technically a climb, but as a child it certainly felt like it (as I'm sure it does to many unsuspecting tourists). Crib Goch's clean cut ridge line is both sharp and exposed, wild and exhillarating - it still is for that matter!!

Whilst living in Llanberis this was, alongside the Moel Eilio Skyline, one of my most frequent post-work runs. It really did feed that mountain rat, as you get right up into the thick of it so quickly: out there along Crib Goch, pacing your way along Garnedd Ugain, running up the steps towards the summit of Snowdon, then descending onto 'the dark side' of Lliwedd where there are so few people around and you get the mountains back to yourself for the jog home.

I've also added this because in between all the climbing fell running is something that's always meant a lot to me. I've run for far, far longer than I have climbed and nowadays it's something that tends to come and go, but deep down if I ever feel like I need to blow the psychological cobwebs away it is something I can call on in times of need.

The Chasm VS, Buchaille Etive Mor

The Chasm oozing style, water, midges and quality
© Rob Greenwood - UKC

I've chosen The Chasm due to my long standing affinity with esoterica (even though it is included within Classic Rock it still feels pretty obscure!).

This fascination, for reasons unknown, started early within my climbing life back when I was a member of the Bangor University Mountaineering Society (BUMS), my club hoody had the slogan 'The Campaign for Looser Rock and Denser Vegetation' embroidered on it.

The style of climbing within such traditional horrorshows gives you a sense of perspective when other styles of climbing seem all too serious. Thrutching your way up a wet chimney and wrestling your way through reed beds is the perfect antidote to anyone who thinks that the number of seconds you can hang off a Beastmaker really matters...

The One Eyed Man E5 6a, Blind Bay, Pembroke

Rob Greenwood on The One Eyed Man (E5 6a), Blind Bay, Pembroke  © Benno Wagner
Rob Greenwood on The One Eyed Man (E5 6a), Blind Bay, Pembroke
© Benno Wagner

Britain is - according to Google - famous for David Beckham, Fish and Chips, Big Ben and Red Buses. Nowhere within this list does it mention sea cliffs, but it should have, as sea cliffs are without doubt the best thing we've got; BUT, when it comes to sea cliffs there is one overriding and completely arbitrary question to ask ourselves: which is better - Gogarth or Pembroke?

It's a tough and completely unnecessary choice to make, but if I had to choose one it would have to be Pembroke simply because it's the one that feels most special. Every weekend I have ever spent there could rank as one of the greatest weekends of my life. The rock is fantastic, the pub is close, and the number of routes is so volumous it spans five different guidebooks.

It was hard to choose a single route in Pembroke as there are so many good ones to choose from, but having previously selected Darkness at Noon for my Top 5 E5s in the UK article I thought I would select The One Eyed Man for my Desert Island Climbs. 

Narcissus Font 7a, Froggatt, Peak Distict

Ben Silvestre latching the finishing holds of the relatively exciting 'Narcissus'
© Rob Greenwood - UKClimbing, Nov 2014

Ahh the Gritstone, it's what the UK is renowned for and yet it rarely stretches beyond 12m in height – what's all the fuss about?

Upon first acquaintance the grit is, I'm afraid to say, quite underwhelming. It's short, pretty damn slopey and frustratingly conditions-dependent. However, it was only when I moved to Sheffield 2 years ago that I started to see what people saw in 'the brown rock' and when my own personal love affair began.

It's such a subtle medium, no matter how much you train or how hard you try it all pales into insignificance in comparison to how well you are moving. It's a feel-orientated rock type and if you can't feel it just feels bloody hard!! I once heard Johnny (Dawes) say 'you've got to love the rock', but then again Johnny has said quite a lot of things - either way I think I can see what he's getting at, maybe...

For me Narcissus represents that perfect height (i.e. high, quite exciting, but still vaguely justifiable), and was done on a day with that perfect group of people (i.e. similar ability, all getting further up it each go), and - most importantly - with the perfect number of bouldering mats underneath (i.e. lots).

The Prow 8a, Raven Tor

James McHaffie on the Prow
© Nick Brown, Jul 2013

Raven Tor: you either love it or you hate it.

Part of me can't even believe I'm including it here, it's like a dirty secret. However, like olives, have enough of them and you'll soon begin to like them. So it was with the Tor, to begin with I really didn't get it (how can a crag be both loose and polished?!?) but in time, session after session, go after go, red-point after red-point, I grew to love it (or at least that's what the madness convinced me had happened).

The Prow was my first 8a and something that I was really 'proud' to have done (get it). At nearly 40m in length it's a long pitch and perfect for someone of a trad background such as myself. Red-pointing has never been my favoured style of ascent, but getting to know the route was an extremely satisfying process and I cemented several friendships along the way (there's never a shortage of people in need of a belay on Mecca if you live in Sheffield).

Citadel VII, Shelter Stone Crag, Scotland

Nick Bullock seconding the crux pitch of Citadel (VII), Shelter Stone Crag  © Rob Greenwood - UKC
Nick Bullock seconding the crux pitch of Citadel (VII), Shelter Stone Crag
© Rob Greenwood - UKC

From 2009-2012 I spent an average of between 8-11 weekends per winter in Scotland, driving up on a Friday night then back down to Wales on the Sunday night/Monday morning – it would have been exhausting had I not have been so irrepressibly psyched*.

Throughout this time I worked my way through the 'road-side' classics of Lochan and t'Sneachda: Savage Slit, Deep Throat, The Hoarmaster, Fallout Corner, Magic Crack, Stirling Bomber etc..., but for some reason these routes pale into insignificance in comparison to any of the routes I've done in the Loch Avon Basin. As soon as you walk up and over the Goat Track, down Coire Domhain it feels wild and things only get wilder when you get on the routes because they're longer and more committing.

Of the routes I did Citadel is probably the most memorable, but I'm not sure – like I am with many of the routes selected – whether it was the route or the memories surrounding the route that make it so exceptional. Come to think of it, with this particular route I was climbing with Nick Bullock and climbing with Nick is ALWAYS memorable (for better or for worse). His account of the weekend within his UKC Article Pitfalls of the Peroni Supermodel brings back so many memories of a hilarious few days together.

*looking back on it, obsessed could have been a more appropriate way of describing the situation

The Shield, El Capitan

Looking down the C4 pitches high up on The Shield  © Rob Greenwood
Looking down the C4 pitches high up on The Shield
© Rob Greenwood
Alex Haslehurst and the offending bag  © Rob Greenwood - UKC
Alex Haslehurst and the offending bag
© Rob Greenwood - UKC

Big wall climbing is around 10% climbing to 90% faff.

In fact, it's hard to think of it as climbing at all - it could simply be viewed as a very arduous and inconvenient way of getting your (very heavy) bags from the base of the cliff to the top.

That said, there is nothing quite like it and despite all the hardship climbing El Cap still ranks as one of the most fulfilling events of my life. After five days in the vertical, sleeping on our portaledge each night, my climbing partner and I were so at ease with each other that we could quite literally take a dump in a bag whilst maintaining a perfectly normal conversation and eye contact.

Memories I will take to the grave...

1938 Route, North Face of the Eiger

Rob Greenwood mid swing on the Hinterstoiser Traverse, Eiger North Face.  © Jack Geldard
Rob Greenwood mid swing on the Hinterstoiser Traverse, Eiger North Face.
© Jack Geldard, Apr 2011

If ever there was one route I thought I would never climb it is this.

Having read The White Spider whilst I was at university I was 100% sure that anyone even wishing to climb the North Face of the Eiger was mentally unhinged, it just seemed too dangerous – completely unjustifiable.

As the years go by times change and due to a series of complete coincidences I found myself half way up the route whilst on an impromptu visit to UKC Editor Jack Geldard. The weird thing is that the route, steeped in as much history as it is, went without trouble.

After getting back down to the Kleine Scheidegg it took around one month for me to stop repeating to myself "I've just climbed the North Face of the Eiger, I've just climbed the North Face of the Eiger"  - it was too surreal a thought to comprehend.

If you had to choose one...

It would have to be The One Eyed Man/Pembroke.

British sea-cliffs are where my heart has always been and if I could choose one it would have to be The One Eyed Man, that way I could gain access to Pembroke or – at the very least – the rest of Blind Bay. This particular bay has a vast number of deep water solos that I could build myself up towards doing, I've always liked climbing on my own too – it presents a different challenge when you've got no one to fall back on when you get in to trouble.

A beautiful Pembrokeshire sunset...and a bomb...  © Rob Greenwood - UKC
A beautiful Pembrokeshire sunset...and a bomb...
© Rob Greenwood - UKC

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28 Aug, 2015
Very good, particularly the link to Nick Bullock's essay (had forgotten how good it was).
31 Aug, 2015
I just want to know why Alex is reaching into that bag...
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