Iain Edwards Obituary

© Iain Edwards Collection
Contributions from John Dunne, Ron Fawcett, Bill Turner, Roger Whitehead, Adi Gill, Damian Tolon and the Baildon crew.

Iain Edwards  © Iain Edwards Collection
Iain Edwards
© Iain Edwards Collection

Iain Edwards on the first ascent of JB Special - E6 6c  © Iain Edwards Collection
Iain Edwards on the first ascent of JB Special - E6 6c
© Iain Edwards Collection
Perhaps Iain should be referred to as an unsung hero of Yorkshire climbing, operating in the shadows of his contemporaries; he would not seek publicity but would remain a driving force in the sport often quickly repeating many of the counties most challenging routes.

He began climbing at an outdoor pursuits centre at Pateley Bridge and through the scouts would demonstrate an early aptitude for the sport by sneaking out of camp in the Lakes and soloing multi-pitch routes in Langdale which landed him in a load of trouble.

As an apprentice engineer in Ilkley every lunchtime was spent at the Cow and Calf rocks on a soloing spree where he'd meet amongst others a young Ron Fawcett, a partnership that would take them on many trips to the Peak and Lancashire.

Iain also climbed and trained with Pete Livesey who would sneak him into Bradford University's climbing wall where Pete lectured, and this would bring them together to make a trip to Yosemite making an early British ascent of the West Face of El Capitan.

Back in Yorkshire Iain took over from where Ian Clough and Geoff Grandison left off with the development of Baildon Bank, a semi urban quarried crag which though not everyone's taste, hosts some memorable routes. Teaming up with locals Bill Turner and Roger Whitehead, they would systematically pick off line after line with the likes of Scar, Moria and Last Edge being amongst the best. This dominance lasted for many years and it wasn't until earlier this year that the last of his E6's in the lower quarry (previously unrecorded) were repeated by Dave Sutcliffe who was able to acknowledge with Iain their difficulty and quality.

Though a formidable talent on the rock, Iain's biggest contribution was the influence he had on the people around him, from encouraging his peers, being thoroughly entertaining in the pub and providing his technical know how to all manner of situations.

Iain lived his life to the full and although Yorkshire has lost another character his memory is engraved in the minds of all who knew him.

Iain Edwards on Green Death, Millstone  © Iain Edwards Collection
Iain Edwards on Green Death, Millstone
© Iain Edwards Collection

Iain Edwards on Hand Jive at Ilkley  © Iain Edwards Collection
Iain Edwards on Hand Jive at Ilkley
© Iain Edwards Collection
Words from Ron Fawcett:

I know it is an often and overused cliché but Iain was a true one off, a real character of a bygone era.

I first met him in the early seventies mooching around the quarries of his beloved West Yorkshire. Of course there was no internet or mobile phones back then, in fact my folks didn't even have a land line. It was normal to turn up at the crag and boulder, solo, did routes with whoever was about. If the crag was Ilkley or the Bank then the possibility of bumping into Iain was very high and you were certain of some, shall we say, excitement and some damn good craic.

Of course he was a highly talented climber with what you needed to do hard routes in those days, a long neck! Just look at the Yorkshire grit guide, nobody has ever dominated a first ascent list for a crag like Iain did with Baildon Bank, and I am certain nobody ever will - what a legacy! In fact the members of SADCOCS, [Skipton and district climbing or caving society] had a nickname for Iain as was the norm back in the day, it was Headbanger, this was a name given with great affection, and I am sure he had a good laugh at how such a hard core gang gave him such a notorious nickname, I was jealous, mine was Tap.

I could recount many tales I had around Iain, one entailed going round to his folks house in Baildon for a pre arranged session on his local crag. I sauntered up the drive and knocked on the door, no answer, as I knocked again I heard a muffled noise. As I walked back down the drive the noise grew louder, I then realised it was coming from under the car parked up outside the house. I bent down and there was Iain trapped by the engine which he had been fettling, and, his Heath Robinson engine support had given way and the motor was now resting on his chest. I managed to get him out and any normal person would have either cried off the climbing or headed off to casualty, not Iain. Off course we went to the Bank!

I could go on, let's remember the great days, rest in peace.

Ron Fawcett

Iain Edwards at the top of Wellington Crack at Ilkley  © Iain Edwards Collection
Iain Edwards at the top of Wellington Crack at Ilkley
© Iain Edwards Collection
Words from John Dunne:

I first met Iain in the early eighties in Ilkley Quarry watching him soloing the classics. He would rock up at lunchtime in his suit and brogues and solo up and down Tufted Crack which was impressive.

We climbed many times together with epic trips to North Wales in his Porsche, great days on the grit and of course memorable sessions on Baildon Bank that ended in the Bay Horse or the Malt Shovel.

Iain may have been a tear-away but his climbing was that of a bold clinical technician.

In the early eighties he was up there with some of the best climbers around, demonstrated on a trip to Pen Trwyn where Iain casually onsighted the Bloods, Axle Attack and more impressively Acid Test.

Things didn't always go Iain's way in life, especially in the mid eighties but he was an incredibly generous guy who would do anything for you. Iain was like a mentor to me and I will never forget when I hit hard times in the early nineties and he gave me a place to stay.

Iain was his own man and you had to respect that he could be wild at times and always enjoyed a prank, he often sent me hiking across the moors to find an unclimbed arête only to find out it was a wind up. I would then arrive back to the Malt to Iain, Captain and Damian pissing themselves.

Iain was without doubt one of the true legends of Yorkshire climbing and one of the most genuine people I've ever met.

Iain - it was a true privilege to know and climb with you.

John Dunne

Words from Bill Turner:

I've known Iain for more than 40 years. We lived one street apart as teenagers. He was the most naturally talented climber I ever met. He was incredibly modest about his achievements and did many first ascents years before anyone claimed them. Everything we did at Baildon was originally graded HVS 'cos they couldn't possibly be XS.

There are hundreds of stories but one of my favourites was when we went to Snowdon for the first time. We couldn't understand why nobody walked straight to the bottom of Cloggy. So we set off in a straight line only to find a bloody lake in the way. Most brassed off we decided to do the hardest route on the crag 'cos we weren't coming back, (Great Wall). At that time it used 3 or 4 pegs. Iain led the crux and we did it completely free. Still brassed off with the walk we did another 4 extremes. Turned out the ascent of Great Wall was probably the first free ascent but he never told anyone.

I won't mention soloing on Baildon Bank in shoes after the Bay Horse shut or climbing the 30' concrete street lights on Baildon Road or facing down 20 bikers in Ambleside or driving his dad's Vauxhall at 100mph ......etc

Wonderful memories. Thanks Iain.

Bill Turner

Dave Stucliffe makes the long awaited repeat of Cripples Revenge - E6  © Adi Gill
Dave Stucliffe makes the long awaited repeat of Cripples Revenge - E6
© Adi Gill
Words from Roger Whitehead:

When I was about 10 years old I was playing around on Baildon Bank and there was a teenager with some rock climbing "stuff." We got chatting and though I didn't know it at the time my life had changed. For years thereafter, Iain was the best of friends, an amazing climber, and for me, very definitely a mentor. The fact that he would take on such a young kid speaks volumes to his generosity. Over the years we did hundreds of routes together and following up on Bill Turner's comments, yes, Iain was amazingly modest about his achievements. He led many, many routes at Tremadog and in the Dales where he eliminated points of aid or did first free ascents - he never boasted about what he'd done and would rarely even mention these climbs.

One incident worth relating was a day when we were coming back from the Dales... Iain had just got his driving license. At a T junction, he asked me if the road was clear, and I was in the process of saying "Clear after the red one." All Iain needed to hear was "clear!" After the ensuing accident, he never asked me for any money for repairs despite the fact it was clearly my fault.

His willingness to climb with a young kid had a huge impact on my life. Like so many of us, I was hooked on climbing instantly and so many of my life decisions were influenced as a result. Wherever I've decided to live, there has to be climbing... so many travels, so many friends and experiences all directly or indirectly a result of a teenager's willingness to teach a young kid how to climb. Thanks Iain, my life would have been very different without you.

Roger Whitehead

Iain Edwards – The Baildon Perspective:

On Sunday mornings for as long as I can remember the Baildon Crew would rendezvous at 5 Ada Street at 7.30. Cap, Big D, Andy Mac and "our kid" would watch The Oik (Iain) finish his full set whilst deciding which crag was to be invaded before heading out in convoy at high speeds; racing being the norm! All these forays onto the rock would involve an "incident" instigated by one of the crew, usually Iain – this could involve climbing, driving, drinking or interaction with members of the wider public and would be done in order to cause general hilarity!

Iain was well known in Baildon and the wider local community due to the aforementioned actions but also as somebody you came to for help – plumbing, electrical and any major DIY job that would be completed to a high standard at no cost except maybe a pint. He tried to draw a fence design for one of his friends whilst on his death bed! Iain, even with the well earned nickname of The Oik, was extremely popular with the ladies as evidenced by the many who came to see him in hospital. This is due to his very traditional courteous behaviour in the company of women and his willingness to listen and advise on people's problems; usually with the offer of significant material help.

Iain was a brilliant climber but his real strength was the level of friendship and support he could offer to people he knew – my family called him our third brother. He was a one-off, we will not meet his like again.

Thanks for having us in your life mate.

Iain (far left) with the Baildon Crew in September 2010
© Iain Edwards Collection

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15 Jul, 2011
Sad news but what a lovely article.
15 Jul, 2011
Sounds like quite a character. Todays climbing world needs more like him. RIP
2 Aug, 2011
Although I never climbed with Iain and didn't know him well I did know Bill Turner well so heard all the stories many times and these stories live on. By the way where are you Bill?
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