Perfect Partners #6 - Greg Boswell and Will Sim

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

Greg Boswell is one of Scotland's most experienced and talented winter climbers, with myriad hard first ascents up to XII 12 to his name. Originally from West Cumbria, Will Sim is one of Britain's best all round climbers, having made hard ascents of everything, from sport climbs to new routes in the greater ranges. Like Greg, he is particularly drawn to the adventurous side of climbing. The pair of them first climbed together in Scotland in winter and have since made numerous first ascents and early repeats of hard Scottish routes. In 2017, after a few years of climbing separately, they teamed up for a month-long trip to Alaska, where they established two hard first ascents in stunning weather.

Will Sim and Greg Boswell in Alaska
© Sim/Boswell

Greg on Will

How did you first meet?

I think we first properly met in person when I picked Will up from the Green Welly Stop on our way to Beinn Dorain. We had arranged to go on a bit of a Scottish winter climbing road trip and his parents dropped him off in Tyndrum on their way North. I then picked him up, from the side of the road, and off we went. We had bumped into each other once or twice in Chamonix, but had never properly talked nor shared a rope.

Did you know Will by reputation before meeting him?

Ha, Obviously! Who doesn't know Will Sim by reputation? When I spent the winter in Chamonix, Will seemed to have climbed every route I wanted to, regardless of the grade. This is one of the reasons I was psyched to meet up with him and climb together. At the time (we were both about 20) it was hard to find other psyched and experienced climbers that were of a similar age.

What was your first impression?

Easy… Will gives zero F**ks! He's super laid back and isn't out to impress or show off. He just wants to have fun in and out of the mountains.

What was the first route you climbed together?

We did Defenders of the Faith on Beinn Dorain. This was an awesome day and a cool way to start a climbing partnership.

Greg leading Defenders of the Faith IX/9 at Beinn Dorain.
© Will Sim

Why do you enjoy climbing with Will?

As I said before, Will gives zero F**ks! There's no ego to contend with. It's all about having a good time in the mountains and climbing cool stuff.

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

That would have to be Beastiality on The Bears Tooth in Alaska. The route was home to pitch after pitch of world class climbing and we had a good laugh the whole way up.

Sum up your partnership in three words.

Little and Large.

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

When Will was filling his piss pot in the tent in Alaska. He was kneeling right by my head in the middle of the night. Listening to the tub getting near to full was pretty terrifying.

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

He'd have bigger boobs for the cold bivis.

Greg and Will at the base of Coire an Lochain., 63 kb
Greg and Will at the base of Coire an Lochain.
© Will Sim

What are your plans for the future?

Who knows? It'll probably just start with another sporadic email or text, with a cool idea that we're both psyched for.

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

The Great Chimney on Ben Nevis. We climbed it during "Hurricane Baw Bag" in 2011. It was the most spindrift-pummelled that I've ever been on a route. The snow tornado inside the chimney was so strong we could hardly breathe. To put things in perspective, the roof blew off the CIC hut that night.

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

Not to my knowledge, but I might have cheated on him…

What have you learned from climbing with Will?

Just go along with the ride and see what happens. And no matter how many bagels you take to the glacier, you always need more!

Will and Greg at the top of Stone Temple Pilots., 50 kb
Will and Greg at the top of Stone Temple Pilots.
© Will Sim

Will on Greg

How did you first meet?

Although our paths had briefly crossed in Cham in the winter of 2009, the first time we ever met for real was in the car park of the "Green Welly Shop" in Tyndrum. There was a hint of winter climbing conditions to be had if we went high enough up the Ben. I had just come back from Patagonia and I remember we had been messaging one another about Scottish plans when I was in Argentina. Greg picked me up in his Renault Scenic and we drove north. He told me about a thin crack next to The Secret, which was unclimbed and he'd been tipped off about. The next day we climbed it. Greg made a very determined and impressive lead of the crux pitch, ripping all but one placement a few times. Following, I remember thinking it was the most intense 15 metres of Scottish climbing I'd done up to that point. It was New Year's Eve, and we were psyched to have pulled it off.

Did you know Greg by reputation before meeting him?

Yes. We had mutual friends and I think our paths had briefly crossed the winter before in Cham. We knew each other in the way that when you are 19 or 20 you pretty much know most of the folk of the same age who climb well in winter. I was also well aware of all the cool winter ascents Greg made the year he exploded onto the Scottish scene.

What was your first impression?

I remember thinking he looked physically much more like a rugby player than a climber. I also remember thinking it was weird that a 19 year-old drove a family-oriented Renault Scenic, but I guess back then neither of us could afford van insurance and family cars were the next best thing for sleeping in!

Greg and Will on the Buckskin Glacier during their trip to Alaska., 221 kb
Greg and Will on the Buckskin Glacier during their trip to Alaska.
© Greg Boswell

What was the next route you climbed together?

Here's a funny anecdote. We woke in the back of Greg's car in the parking beneath Liathach. Our plan was to climb Blood, Sweat and Frozen Tears VIII on Beinn Eighe. Neither of us had been to Beinn Eighe before and we set a 4am alarm. Given that it was early January, we were surprised that it was already getting light when we woke. I think we just didn't think much of it and naively thought that it gets light earlier in Torridon because it is so far north. (I know we got things completely the wrong way round and it was an idiotic thought process).

Anyway, we got lost and walked up the mountain next to Beinn Eighe. Eventually we traversed to Beinn Eighe and found the top of West Central Wall. We abseiled in, got it wrong and had to do some weird redirecting of the ropes. After all this messing about we finally started climbing. Upon making my belay at the top of the first pitch I noticed the light beginning to fade and that sickening realisation you get when you know you've got a long way to go and minutes of daylight left! We climbed the majority of the route in the dark and had a great mini adventure - the type that Scotland is so great at providing. I think we came to the conclusion that the phone which we'd set the alarm on had somehow been many hours out. Punters.

Why do you enjoy climbing with Greg?

He's good at long night drives when knackered. Up for ambitious plans. Has a lot of files.

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

Probably Beastiality. The line, the climbing, the difficulty, the fact that it kept only-just going for three days. I think we worked well as a team and made good, transparent decisions. It was Alaskan perfection. We were on the summit of the Bears Tooth after three of the best days climbing ever and there was not a breath of wind. I turned to Greg and said something like, "Don't ever come back to Alaska, you've been spoilt."

Having said that I could equally name a bunch of other memorable routes in Scotland we climbed together: Stone Temple Pilots, The Tempest, Knuckleduster. There was a week before Christmas a few years ago when we were both ill, the weather was shit, and we failed every day on our desired routes for about a week. Those times are arguably just as memorable to me as the dream ascents.

Sum up your partnership in three words.

Optimistic, productive, lucky.

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

Although it only lasted a second, looking up and seeing Greg hurtle through the air off the "easy" pitch of Satyr on Stob Coire Nan Lochain, which at the time hadn't had a winter ascent. I remember seeing two objects flying through the air. I had just realised one was a huge block, when it severed one of the ropes and Greg went even further before the other rope held. On the descent a large remotely triggered avalanche missed us by a few metres and it hit home that we weren't welcome in the mountains that day!

Greg Boswell and Will Sim join in their element.
© Michael Meisl /

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

I wish he was less focused! He is very good at focusing on goals and specialising in one type of climbing. I get distracted easily and try to do all the disciplines of climbing as best I can. I'm not saying I want to change! I love my approach to climbing and wouldn't have it any other way, but that doesn't mean I don't get a bit of irrational jealousy from time to time!

What are your plans for the future?

I hope we'll climb lots together in the future. More big technical routes such as the ones we did in Alaska this year would be great. The weather we had in AK this time was so good. We'll probably have to have a couple of epic failures in the next few years to level out our mountain karma. But hey, that's how it goes!

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

I've not climbed an unenjoyable route in my life!

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

Nothing that we've had a fixed plan to do together. There's lots of stuff I would have liked to have been there for! There is one Scottish line in particular we tried together, which I'm surprised he hasn't cheated on me with yet. It's only a matter of time though, and I'm prepared!…

What have you learned from climbing with Greg?

If you're good, you don't need to talk.

Will is sponsored by: Grivel, Outdoor Research and Scarpa.

Greg is sponsored by: Deuter, Edelweiss, Grivel, Leki, Rab, Scarpa and Suunto

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