Perfect Partners #8 - Ed and Adam Booth Article

© The Booth brothers.

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...

Seven years apart, the Booth brothers are two of Shropshire's strongest climbers. Ed's a firefighter, whilst Adam's a GP, making these two more dark horses rather than dirtbags. Adam started climbing with his school's mountaineering club and quickly introduced his younger brother. After a couple of false starts, Ed soared through the grades, making headpoint ascents of My Piano and Ten O'clock Saturday Morning, at his local crag Nesscliffe, when he was just 16. In recent years Ed has devoted his talents to sport climbing and has climbed up to 8b. Adam's progression was more gradual, but he's no slouch having climbed multiple 8as on one end of the climbing spectrum and has summited Everest on the other. Together the pair have climbed an impressive number of UK and world classics including The Nose, Half Dome, The Devil's Appendix and more Extreme Rock routes than you can name.

Adam Booth and Ed Booth.  © The Booth brothers.
Adam Booth and Ed Booth.
© The Booth brothers.

Adam on Ed.

How did you first meet? Did you know Ed by reputation before meeting him? What was your first impression?

This isn't really climbing related, but it might give a bit of an insight into how we've ended up climbing together so much now. Meeting Ed for the first time is one of my strongest early memories. I was 7 years old and remember holding him for the first time and crying tears of joy (imagine violin music for this bit!). I was the proudest big brother in the world! Whilst growing up we developed a really strong friendship, despite our 7 year age gap. Later on we started climbing together, which has been amazing, as it's now such a big part of both of our lives. We've been so luck to share so many amazing experiences together.

What was the first route you climbed together?

I'm fairly sure the first route we climbed together was a Mod at Pontesford Rocks near where we live. I was probably about 16 which would have made Ed about 9. He'd been nagging me for ages to take him climbing as I'd been getting into it for a little while. A few meters off the ground he broke down crying with uncontrollable fear and I had to lower him off.

Little did I know, this I was the only time I would ever burn Ed off on a climb!

A young Adam and Ed.  © The Booth brothers.
A young Adam and Ed.
© The Booth brothers.

Why do you enjoy climbing with Ed?

Ed's climbing went from strength to strength as a teenager, whilst I was still bumbling around on easy multipitch trad. I've spent the last 20 years trying to catch up! It's great being the underdog though, as it's a constant source of motivation to try to get better! Not that I'm competitive.

Climbing with Ed feels really natural. I'm just going out with my bro, and my best bud, and just climbing. We're quite similar personalities and we know each other incredibly well, so that makes for a really strong partnership. (It also leads to some fairly spectacular arguments, as I'm sure other people who climb with us would tell you!)

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

For me it would be The Nose on El Cap. We just had so much fun. At the time it also felt like a major achievement for the two of us, and I remember feeling so lucky to have been able to do something like that with my brother.

Ed with hot aches.  © Adam Booth
Ed with hot aches.
© Adam Booth, Feb 2009

Sum up your partnership in three words.

Always out climbing!

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

The Frendo Spur - our first alpine route - we were totally inexperienced, underprepared and out of our depth. I was so naive and complacent that I took a copy of FHM with me expecting a nice relaxing time on the bivvy spot. Needless to say we took so long on the first day we only got a few hours kip, certainly no time for reading magazines! We took so long on the second day that we got caught in an electrical storm near the top of the mountain, where I thought we were going to die!

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

I'd make him a few kgs heavier to give the rest of us a chance. And I'd make his fingers a bit less injury-prone so we'd didn't all have to put up with his permanent moaning.

What are your plans for the future?

Ed's expecting a baby soon, so hopefully a few more family climbing trips, and show the next generation that amazing world out there.

Ed and Adam with their Dad, Peter on the Old Man of Stoer.  © The Booth brothers.
Ed and Adam with their Dad, Peter on the Old Man of Stoer.
© The Booth brothers.

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

Darkness At Noon. Soaking wet. Ed pathed it as always. I did not. This was like the reverse of the Pontesford Rocks story above, except that I was well into my thirties and not 9!

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

No, all the stuff Ed goes and does with other people would be too hard for me anyway! He's always cruising up my projects though, if that counts as cheating on me.

What have you learned from climbing with Ed?

I'm constantly learning from Ed - technique, training ideas, beta, approach - but above all Ed's attitude to improvement - he's doesn't put any constraints or limits on what he thinks he can achieve, so the potential for improvement is endless. I find this really inspiring.

Ed on Adam

How did you first meet?

I think it was my parents who first introduced us.

What was the first route you climbed together?

We had a few false starts in our climbing. I remember Ad setting up some top ropes at Pontesford and an optimistically early attempt at top roping a route a Nesscliffe. We didn't manage either. I got stuck on ledges halfway up on both, paralysed with fear, and burst into tears, unable to continue up or down. Our next attempt didn't end any better: A pack of hunt beagles charged along the bottom of a cliff which Ad was leading his way up, they knocked me over (I was only a small thirteen year old) which in turn pulled Ad off. Subsequently all of his gear stripped out and he landed alongside me in a heap. We dusted ourselves off and chased after the huntsmen hurling expletives.

We moved away from the local stuff, thinking bigger, scarier stuff in Wales could be better. Amphitheatre Buttress was first on the list. After a torrential night in the tent and a wet misty walk in, again tears ensued on my part and we didn't even get off the floor on that one.

I believe the first route we actually got up was the Classic Rock route Flying Buttress on the Cromlech a month or so later.

Why do you enjoy climbing with Adam?

I'm quite picky when it comes to who I climb with. I think I'm nervous about trusting people belaying me, and also I can be a bit of a wimp at summoning the 'go for it' courage to set off from the floor on harder, bolder stuff.

One of the best traits of our climbing partnership is a long-established trust and understanding of each other's thoughts and abilities. Even though we irritate each other at times, I think trust is such an important thing in a partnership, especially when you do want to really go for it on something sketchy. It just takes so much out of the equation, not having to waste energy thinking about extra stuff. That way you can knuckle down to the business on the sharp end.

Booth Brothers > Huber Brothers?
© The Booth brothers.

Aside from the technicalities, we've just had so much fun on so many routes together. Naturally in any partnership it's hard for everything to align between both of you: psyche, apprehension, confidence, skill and fitness. I think once you have a good partnership it's easier for those to fall in place and then all that's left is just having a laugh, which at the end of the day is what it's all about.

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

It's got to be The Nose on El Cap for me. It felt like such a steep learning curve for us, and an emotional roller coaster. Out of all the routes we have done, it's the one that I think drew on all of our different qualities as a team in order for us to succeed. I often think what would a pair be like on a route if it were two of me, and I'm sure on The Nose the 'me' team would have bailed after day 1. Ad pushed us on. We had an amazing few days on the wall and it was a really emotional as we arrived on the top, totally elated.

Crowberry Gully on Buchaille Etive Mor was really memorable as well.

Sum up your partnership in three words.

Boothy Brothers Banter.

Ed on pitch 2 of The Mighty Trojan  © Adam Booth
Ed on pitch 2 of The Mighty Trojan
© Adam Booth, Feb 2009

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

Back in the start-out years, when we didn't really know how to place gear or build safe belays, we did either Britomatis or Spider's Wall. I can't remember which. I had led the first pitch and built a belay, which in hindsight was probably sub standard. Ad led through and I remember him struggling to get any decent gear in at all. Before we knew it he was right up at the top and was struggling with a move, getting more and more pumped. I remember having a laughing fit, before it dawned on me that he was still struggling and there was a real possibility that he could fall off. It went on for a while, the grunts, the noises and things he was saying had me completely convinced that he was about to fall the full height of the pitch and rip us both off the wall and into the Irish Sea. Thankfully we survived the 'no idea' years and both know how to make a belay and place kit now.

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

I'm not sure I would. When we started out, we both dabbled in all genres of climbing. Gradually I have streamlined towards harder rock climbing. Whilst Ad has as well, he is generally still more of an all-rounder I would say. We have often discussed how it may be better if either he got more into just pushing harder in rock climbing, or if I still winter climbed. Though I think we have a good balance.

Perhaps I would make him have more confidence in his climbing ability.

Sometimes he can look so strong on stuff but won't want to lead it, or won't want to try something he thinks will be too hard. I reckon he could push more out of his comfort zone. He might not always succeed but unless they are chop routes where you could hurt yourself, I think just having a go is really important for improvement. Also I think Ad would surprise himself with what he could actually climb. If you asked Ad he would disagree and say I'm just as guilty. We can be very argumentative when we're together, perhaps we should change that.

What are your plans for the future?

A couple of years ago we had a bit of a none-start to free climb Golden Gate on El Cap. Lots of things conspired against us, but ultimately I blame myself for being a bit too gripped. I would love to go back and have a decent crack at that with Ad.

Also, I'd like to try and get myself back to being a bit more of a rounded climber. Although I have focused on higher grades in sport climbing recently, I'm still keener than ever to transfer the strength across to trad. I also want to start doing some bigger, fun adventurous routes, like Ad and I have done in the past, again. It would be great to get back into that sort of stuff now with more experience. And we both also love sea cliff climbing, so as much of that as possible.

Edward and Adam Booth... ugly genes??
© Adam Booth, Oct 2005

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

Can't really think of one. Maybe any routes where I had hot aches, so all of the winter routes we have done together.

I'm sure we have probably had arguments on plenty of routes as well, but fortunately I think my memory is positively selective and I can't actually remember them.

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

No. However, whilst it isn't currently on my radar, I would be gutted if Ad did the Eiger North face 1938 route with somebody else. Just because when we started out climbing, and then winter and alpine climbing it was a route we both aspired to do. When I stopped winter climbing a few years back, I told Ad to go and do it, but if he did it I'd be gutted. I can't imagine myself doing that route with anyone else. If I did it with Ad it would probably be a type 2 bucket list experience.

That said, I have started to get the winter bug again, after doing a fun mixed climb again the other day, so maybe it will happen one day, if Ad doesn't do it with someone else first.

What have you learned from climbing with Adam?

He's one of the best people I know for being proactive and pushing on to make the most of time and, more importantly, life. I always try to think about that when I'm feeling lazy.

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.

12 Apr, 2018

Well good! 

I remember sitting down in El Cap Meadow as the two of you were up on The Nose. We'd just got back from North America Wall and were totally f**ked, but at least we were only three days of f**ked - you guys were still up there!

Not only that, but our three days were in a relatively modest temperature; the day we returned to ground the heatwave hit and whilst you were up there being baked in the furnace we lay down in the meadow sipping on our river-cooled ales. As if fate hadn't already dealt you a damning enough blow the weather then turned for the worse and - if memory serves me correct - it started to snow/hail just as you were finishing the final pitches.

Still, when you got down I just remember you both laughing :-)

13 Apr, 2018

That booger picture haha... pmsl/vommed

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