Perfect Partners #13 - Jerry Moffatt and Ben Moon

In this series of articles, Tom Ripley interviews some well-known - and lesser known - climbing partnerships to dig up their dirty secrets and find out what they really think of one another...


For many climbers, the names Moon and Moffatt are synonymous with hard sport climbing, hard bouldering and training. Ben Moon and Jerry Moffatt first met in their youth, in the early Eighties and together pushed the boundaries of hard climbing. Making many first ascents of hard routes and problems around the world, many of which were the first of their grade along the way.

Ben and Jerry - two names synonymous with British climbing. © Ben Moon Col.
Ben and Jerry - two names synonymous with British climbing.
© Ben Moon Col.

Some of the first ascents on Ben's CV include:

  • Statement of Youth 1984 (8a) - when Ben climbed this it was widely regarded as the country's first sport route and one of the early 8a's.
  • Agincourt 1989 (8c) - the hardest route in the world at the time of its first ascent.
  • Hubble 1990 (9a) - retrospectively considered to be the world's first 9a.
  • Voyager Low Start 2006 (Font 8B+) - a hard boulder problem that sees very few ascents to this day.

and a small selection of Jerry's:

  • Revelations 1984 (8b) - the hardest route in Britain at the time and infamously soloed by Antoine Le Menestrel.
  • Liquid Ambar 1990 (8c+) - the first of the grade in Britain and possibly the world.
  • Dominator 1993 (Font 8B) - One of Yosemite's hardest at the time.
  • The Joker (Font 8A) and The Ace (Font 8B) - Two hard problems right at the top of Stanage Plantation.

Both Ben and Jerry feature heavily in UKC's new feature film, Statement of Youth, which you can watch at Kendal Mountain Festival this weekend.

Jerry on Ben


Ben before the whipper on Axle Attack © Martin Atkinson
Ben before the whipper on Axle Attack
© Martin Atkinson
How did you first meet?

I met Ben at Pen Trywyn in the early eighties. We were just climbing one day, and Ben turned up. He was a young climber. He only looked about 14, pasty white with black scraggly hair, like a young punk rocker. He stood out straight away when we saw him climbing. Ben was trying Axle Attack and we were all sitting on the road. It was classic, he started shaking at the crux, near the top. Basher and I were shouting him on. He got higher and higher, shaking more and more. He got to near the top bolt and was a jibbering wreck. We kept telling him to go for it. He didn't clip the bolt, went for it, got higher and took a massive whipper. Landed right by the bottom, upside down with the rope behind his leg...

Did you know Ben by reputation before meeting him?

No. He wasn't a very good climber then. He didn't have a reputation. To put it in context, he fell off 7a+ and we were almost climbing 8a at the time.

What was your first impression?

The one thing that stood out was how hard Ben tried. You didn't see anyone try as hard as that. He didn't have great style, but he really tried. Ben did not let go and that for me is one of the most important things.

What was the first route you climbed together?

I don't think I climbed with him in Wales that summer. We all went to the pub together and dossed in the cave. I invited him back to Sheffield to train that winter. Ben came and stayed with us on Hunter House Road. When we first climbed together it would have been bouldering on Broomgroove Road and doing pull-ups in the Polytechnic gym.

Sheffield's premiere training venue in the early 80s © Richie Brooks
Sheffield's premiere training venue in the early 80s
© Richie Brooks

Why do you enjoy climbing with Ben?

It's difficult to find people who are as enthusiastic as you are. I found it difficult to find people who were really keen to climb all the time. When I first met Ben I was a lot better than Ben. I was certainly the best climber in Britain, one of the best climbers in the world. It was very hard to find someone who was always keen and Ben was always super keen. He was as motivated as I was and it is difficult to find people with that level of motivation.

What's the most memorable route you've climbed together?

Watching Ben do Agincourt. I'd go up and try. We'd suss out the moves together, trying to find the best sequence. It was great seeing him do that.

Sum up your partnership in three words.

Mutual admiration, motivation.

What's the most scared you've been when climbing together?

I didn't do scary routes with Ben. Probably watching him take that big whipper on Axel Attack. Ben didn't solo and he didn't do dangerous routes. That was the fashion before Ben came along. Ben was more about difficulty. On routes like Statement of Youth, he put bolts where runners could go. That was the revelation for me.

Ben and Jerry with Kurt Albert and Sean Myles © Jerry Moffatt Col.
Ben and Jerry with Kurt Albert and Sean Myles
© Jerry Moffatt Col.

If you could change one thing about Ben what would it be?

I wouldn't change him.

Any climbing plans for the future?

Not really, because I'm not actively climbing currently.

What's the least enjoyable route you've done with Ben?

Doing the competitions together wasn't too pleasant. They were super intense times in a competitive environment. You'd rather be out doing routes.

Has Ben ever cheated on you and climbed a route you really wanted to do together with someone else?

No. When he did Hubble it was an open project. We were trying it together. I did all the moves first, but Ben did it first, and I stopped trying.

What have you learned from climbing with Ben?

You have to try really hard. You've got to be motivated. I've belayed Ben when he's been in tears, kicking the rock. It's a lot of frustration but he just kept trying.

Ben on Jerry


How did you first meet?

I first met Jerry in 1983 on the Great Orme at Pen Trwyn. It was quite funny actually; I had hitched over from Sheffield and was just walking up the Orme. when I heard this guy 'effing and blinding hanging on a rope, complaining he'd be sandbagged. It turns out it was Jerry on Electric Koolaid Acid Test. He'd asked Andy (Pollit) for a recommendation. His fingers were really sore and he wanted something he could do quickly. Andy put him on Electric Koolaid Acid Test: this desperate, thin, crimpy thing.

Jerry watching Ben climbing at Parisella's Cave © Martin Atkinson
Jerry watching Ben climbing at Parisella's Cave
© Martin Atkinson

Did you know Jerry by reputation before meeting him?

Not really, only through the magazines. He was portrayed as this super brat, snapping at the heels of my hero Ron Fawcett. I was in the Ron camp at that point...

What was your first impression?

A loud, brash climber. My first impression was him hanging on the rope shouting, blaming people for being sandbagged. I guess he is a bit like that. Later that evening we all went to a pub in Llandudno. We were in the back room playing pool and the landlord kicked us out. I don't know why we got kicked out. Maybe I was underage? Jerry was up in arms. He was pretty loud and forceful back then.

What was the first route you climbed together?

Probably something in France. I went on a road trip, my first ever, with Jerry in April 1984. We went to Saussois, Buoux and Verdon, so it was probably something down there. But I'd spent the whole winter training with him in Sheffield, which stands out more than a specific route.

photo
Ben on Chimpanzodrome at Saussois
© Jerry Moffatt Col.

photo
Jerry on his 21st birthday
© Jerry Moffatt Col.

Why do you enjoy climbing with Jerry?

Who said I enjoyed climbing with Jerry? But seriously he is a lot of fun to be with, has good energy most of the time, and I think it's important to have a good sparring partner to drive you on.

What's the most memorable route you've climbed together?

We both did Chimpanzodrome at Saussois on that road trip. The hardest I'd climbed before that trip was probably about E5. I did Chimpanzodrome after working it for a couple of days and Jerry onsighted it the day I did it. It was Jerry's 21st Birthday too. That evening we hitched down to Buoux.

Sum up your partnership in three words.

I can't sum Jerry up in three words!

What's the most scared you've been when climbing together?

I've not been scared climbing with Jerry. It's more chasing each other driving cars and riding motorbikes. Looking back and I can't believe we did that. We did have accidents but fortunately, we survived them all.

If you could change one thing about Jerry?

It's a shame he's still not climbing.

Any plans for the future?

No. Maybe go hunting with him sometime.

Jerry with gun © Jerry Moffatt Col.
Jerry with gun
© Jerry Moffatt Col.

What's the least enjoyable route you've done with Jerry?

Something like Chrysalis or Fenrir in the Verdon that was way too hard for me and I was just his belay slave. We had a bit of an epic on one of those routes. Kurt Albert lowered us down on a 500 metre rope and we were spinning in space trying to find that start.

Has Jerry ever cheated on you and climbed a route you really wanted to do together with someone else?

Yes. Lots of times. We've had some pretty big fallings out over first ascents, which were both trying. Sneaking out when the other wasn't expecting. I've got him back though.

What have you learned from climbing with Jerry?

I learned a lot about training, determination, motivation and focus.

About the Interviewer:

Tom Ripley © Charlie Low
Tom Ripley has been climbing for over fifteen years in both the UK and abroad: personal highlights include an ascent of Denali's Cassin Ridge and first ascents in Patagonia and Peru. Tom is dedicated to sharing his obsession for all types of climbing through his work as a climbing instructor and guide.

Currently, Tom is part way through the British Mountain Guides' rigorous training scheme. And, as a trainee guide, he is qualified to guide and instruct rock climbing and mountaineering throughout the UK.

Whether you are interested in making the transition from indoor climbing to real rock, working towards your first lead climbs, gaining self-rescue skills, or climbing a classic route that has so far eluded you, Tom can help you achieve your goal. Staying safe, patience and adventure are always a priority. He can be contacted through his UKC profile.

Kendal Mountain Festival © KMF
Kendal Mountain Festival 2018

The first opportunity to see Ben and Jerry in Statement of Youth will be at Kendal this Friday.

Kendal Mountain Festival (15th-18th November) is an award-winning event that has grown in size and diversity over the last 18 years. It is also the main social event for outdoor enthusiasts in the UK. Thousands of outdoor enthusiasts plus media industry specialists, athletes, top brands & equipment manufacturers, artists, photographers, adventurers, explorers and inspirational speakers gather every year to share adventures and celebrate the very best in outdoor and adventure sports culture.

- Book tickets on the KENDAL MOUNTAIN FESTIVAL SITE


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14 Nov, 2018

Lotta love there, lotta love......

14 Nov, 2018

Very good. Not a lot of new info but cool to hear things from the perspective of such a famous duo! 

14 Nov, 2018

Yes, the article reminded me of the classic fell running books about Kenny Stuart and John Wild, who competed hard for the UK Fell Running Championship in 83, two awesome talents who ultimately ended up friends...

I think Ben and Jerry's friendship and humour on top of their talent makes them so endearing...

The Real Thing is one of my favourite videos and I look forward to the new one!

 

15 Nov, 2018

“I was certainly the best climber in Britain, one of the best climbers in the world.”

Yeah, I’ve heard Moffatt is prettt modest. 

15 Nov, 2018

 

Are they the fellas that make that nice ice cream then? :P

 

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