The Man has done more for sport climbing in the UK than anyone else. Fairly sure he didn't set out to make the world a better place but certainly the world of sport climbing in the UK would be a lot poorer without him and Hazel.As for those that find Gary confrontational. onionated and challenging I am almost certain he couldn't give a flying you know what. He probably has the last laugh though because unbeknownst to those peoples they have probably climbed at least a couple of his routes.
I would imagine for most climbers, it's a lot more nuanced as that. Personally I've enjoyed any number of Gary's routes and appreciated the many guidebooks he's contributed to BUT I've also cursed bolts encroaching into classic traditional territory where they alter the nature of existing routes.
> .As for those that find Gary confrontational. onionated and challenging
He's certainly a multilayered personality and has brought a few to tears!
some climbing companies were wary of being associated with Gary. I was a director at Troll and we loved him. A great harness tester as he wore them out faster them anyone so we got accelerated tests from him, and he wore all the wacky Troll tights and clothing too, which was good as photos of him were always in the mags. Gary's character and climbs make for a great read. He's a one-off.
Controversial? Yes. A proper character? Absolutely. I got a grin out of him once when I called him The Man With The Smoking Drill.
I find it strange how many apologists GG has these days. The fact of the matter is that if he’d had his way Pembroke would have been grid-bolted. No amount of s**t clip-ups can excuse that.
Also, the notion that he contributed more to the voluntary guidebook sector than anyone else is extremely dubious.
> I find it strange how many apologists GG has these days. The fact of the matter is that if he’d had his way Pembroke would have been grid-bolted.
Are you sure about that? Your knowledge of Pembrokeshire climbing in the 80's and 90's is i'm sure better than mine, but I know he put up a lot of pure trad routes, and the ones he did peg or bolt were done pretty sparsely as far as I'm aware.
The man put a route up in Tenerife, protected by three threads called " Sick English " It now sports nine bolts, and there's nearly always a queue to climb it.
> Also, the notion that he contributed more to the voluntary guidebook sector than anyone else is extremely dubious.
What do you base your extreme dubiousness on? Having been involved in that sector for many years myself it seems highly probable that the statement is true.
> What do you base your extreme dubiousness on? Having been involved in that sector for many years myself it seems highly probable that the statement is true.
Im not sure how comprehensive it is, but a UKC admin could have a go at answering the question using the guidebooks list here https://www.ukclimbing.com/logbook/books/
> Are you sure about that? Your knowledge of Pembrokeshire climbing in the 80's and 90's is i'm sure better than mine, but I know he put up a lot of pure trad routes, and the ones he did peg or bolt were done pretty sparsely as far as I'm aware.
That is pretty much what happened and Martin Crocker was doing the same but using drilled pegs as opposed to bolts.
Thanks, but I'll wait for JCM to give a definitive answer.
Your posts are normally very thoughtful but there are two assertions in this one that don't stand up to scrutiny.
> I find it strange how many apologists GG has these days. The fact of the matter is that if he’d had his way Pembroke would have been grid-bolted. No amount of s**t clip-ups can excuse that.
Come on John, I think you’re being a bit unfair (and unforgiving). Gary overstepped the mark with (as I recall) a few indiscretions at Pembroke but backed off when others complained. He was pushing the boundaries but then stuck to the rules once they were established. And he has put up loads of quality trad routes, not least at Pembroke.
I can only say that he’s put a huge effort in Peak guides, in particular the Roaches and was always very helpful to me, at a time when he had little cause to be friendly to the BMC.
Just for your information I have written/edited 12 guidebooks, contributed to another 27 with written sections in each, commented on a number more. I was on the BMC executive guidebook committee for ten years. I was news editor for High Magazine for 5 years and I have also contributed to two books on football and four text books on Podiatry. The comment was also made by one of the leading collectors of climbing guidebooks in the world, not me.
And the assignation about drilled gear is also misleading as I clearly state my view in the book that what I did was wrong, so much so that I went back and led around two thirds of them without the drilled gear, even removing some of it myself.
Thanks for the information Gary!
I finished reading Blood, Sweat and Smears a couple of days ago and really enjoyed it, so thank you for yet another great contribution to the climbing world.
I forgot to add that all of my guidebook work has been voluntary save for one instance where I was paid an honorarium for the two books I did for the Climber’s Club on Pembroke. I was very unsettled by the idea of being paid for my work, so decided to give half of the money to a Mountain Rescue organisation that helped save my life and the other half to a family I help support in Kenya.
I never set out with the intention of gaining money for the guidebook work I did, more just for the enjoyment of writing, well I enjoyed writing, and just giving back to the sport I have committed my life to.
Of all the leading new-routers of, say, the last 50 years, can you with any certainty name an activist who has been in an ethical sense totally unimpeachable? I thought not. Or rather, perhaps you can proffer names, but how do you know it's the truth?
Let me know what you think?
I've been reading it whenever I get spare time. Loving it. An absorbing and interesting read.
I've just got to the bit where you've done your 1000th route (Blimey! I'm only on 49) so about halfway through the book.
Did you ever get to watch the footage of the ascent. Someone must have a copy somewhere. It would be great to see.
I’m confident I could name a large number of new routers who have behaved a great deal better than GG, certainly.
John, you must be aware of certain household name climbers, with seemingly unblemished reputations, who have - at least on occasion - behaved appallingly. And it all got brushed under the proverbial carpet.
I'm not in favour of raking up the past. Let it be. But to single out Gary - who has arguably been by far the most honest of anybody - is simply unfair, in my view.
You must also be aware of Jim Perrin's quote about many new routes being reported in the style that the first ascentionist wished he'd used, rather than the style actually employed on the day. Wise words. (Apologies for the gender bias - but obviously, back in the murky past, certainly, most new routes were done by men. And when women finally got their chance, it seems they were much more honest.)
John, just let it go. We've all sinned. All too often, it goes beyond ethical criticism (which is fine, but should apply equally to everybody) and ends up in personal animosity. None of us is getting any younger. What's the point of taking grudges to the grave?
> I've just got to the bit where you've done your 1000th route (Blimey! I'm only on 49) so about halfway through the book.
If you've done 49 FAs, how many has Sarah done?
Or not been found out?
The notion that he has contributed more to the voluntary guidebook section than anyone else is actually, on the basis of the facts, pretty much incontestable
And reducing his new routing to your throwaway 'no amount of s**t clip ups'
- is to ignore the enormous number of absolutely classic trad routes he has put up
- is to unfairly generalise about Gary's sport routes. Gary is a completer, he finds a new crag and he climbs every route there that he can. So obviously some of them are not great routes and others are only average. But a huge number are pretty damn good and some are excellent. The fact that most climbers value them is evidenced by the hundreds of thousands of repeats recorded on the UKC logbook pages
So your comments don't really tell us much that is either new or fair about Gary Gibson.
But they do perhaps reveal you as a rather spiteful (and maybe jealous) little man
Gary is an enigma. He has annoyed as many climbers as he has pleased over the years and I would have included myself among the former before I got to know him. But there is absolutely no denying his huge contribution to climbing. Perhaps he has mellowed in his mature years but I found his company knowledgeable, entertaining and amusing a couple of years ago in Kalymnos where we kept bumping into each other, as you do out there, on the crags and in the bars.
I trust you and Hazel are are keeping well Gary. Don't know if you heard but I broke my ankle out there, Easter before last. They pinned it but I had to have it redone when I got back to the UK which is why I have not been around for sometime.
I'm looking forward to reading your book.
> Of all the leading new-routers of, say, the last 50 years, can you with any certainty name an activist who has been in an ethical sense totally unimpeachable?
Yes, Pete Whillance
> but how do you know it's the truth?
Pete is still putting up new routes and his ethic remains ground-up or abseil inspection but no practicing moves/headpointing.
Did you realise that you've returned to snipe for a second time on a thread on which earlier you were called out for talking rubbish? Read the beginning of the thread again and maybe answer some of the responses to your earlier post re Gary's guidebook work.
Abseil inspection? Ethically unimpeachable?
Yeah you’re right. I’ll let him know - he’ll be gutted
I think everybody regards Pete Whillance with enormous respect (I certainly do). But I'm sure he'd agree that ground-up is the ideal style. Problem is, if you do that on enough FAs, chances are you'll end up dead. And a large part of climbing is staying out of the graveyard for as long as you possibly can. I'm sure he'd agree with that notion also.
Just taking the first three names that come to mind, I'd cite Pete Whillance, John Syrett and Jim Perrin as being exemplars of purism. But nobody's perfect.
Jim Erickson had a maxim that, if he fell off a route, he'd pull the ropes and walk away. That's purism! And then, when he took falls on the FFA of the North-West Face of Half Dome, he got accused of hypocrisy. Not so. It was the Dawn Wall of its day. Back then, nobody was going to get up it without falls.
The point is, we do our best. And sometimes our best falls well short of what we'd like. Welcome to the human condition! The important thing is to be honest. And that is what Gary has done - he's been honest. And Andy Pollitt, bless him, was honest too. Honesty is the way forward.
End of sermon!
Pete Whillance is more comparable as he has done a lot of new routes. But if you apply Pete's limited fixed gear ethics to a lot of the sport routes that Gary has equipped and put up, they aren't going to be getting a lot of repeats (and won't be very sporty either).
I thik the point is, if you took Gary's contribution away, would the climbing world be a better place? Not in my opinion.
I’m not sure about this fabled honesty - surely one of the main objections to GG was claiming routes he simply hadn’t done? I suppose he’s at least admitted that now, if I remember right.
Besides, there’s no merit in honestly saying that I’m going to bolt crags no-one else wants bolted, retro other people’s routes willy-nilly, and anyone who says I shouldn’t is just another opinion and all opinions are like arseholes. It wouldn’t be so bad if he’d eventually apologised and admitted he was completely in the wrong, but all I’ve ever seen on the subject is self-pity, whataboutery, petulance and sulking. And, of course, reclimbing routes which were E7 with ten bolts without them at no change in grade. It’s possible the present work is different, of course.
You're absolutely right - re volume of new routes (I think Jim may have done 100 but wouldn't like to speculate on John Syrett), they're not directly comparable. They were just the first names that came to mind! Perhaps Emma Alsford (circa 2,000?) new routes is more comparable. As with Pete Whillance, would think a pretty high level of ethical purism.
I guess whether routes are better as trad or sport is another argument...
> I thik the point is, if you took Gary's contribution away, would the climbing world be a better place? Not in my opinion.
John, might I respectfully suggest that you read the book? If you can't bring yourself to buy it, I'll happily lend you my copy when I get back to the UK. You may have a rather different view of Gary when you've come to the end. It's also a bloody good read!
With regard to Pembroke, the bolts were not ‘indiscretions’ but a deliberate attempt to establish the principle that drilled gear in Pembroke was fine as long it was on routes that GG couldn’t do without it. Nor did GG back off when ‘the rules were established’; he backed off when better climbers made it clear they were going to remove his bolts and embarrass him by reclimbing the routes without them and renaming them.
In relation to guidebook work, by the way, there are far more ways of contributing to guidebooks than by writing them (and in the process, if you wish, taking the opportunity to glorify your own routes and describe the history of events you were involved in how you want it). I could name more than one person who has done more work on more guidebooks - it’s not hard to identify them if you want - but as they prefer to remain in the shadows, I shan’t.
I’d be happy to, Mick. Do I gather you wrote it? If so that would no doubt help.
Hand on heart, though, are you really telling me it represents a volte-face from GG’s normal public position as described above?
> I’d be happy to, Mick. Do I gather you wrote it? If so that would no doubt help.
Gary wrote it. I only helped with the editing - as did others. You can imagine that trying to get 40 years of non-stop action whittled down was no easy task!
Where anything was the least bit contentious, it absolutely had to be Gary's words. He would have to live with them - I wouldn't. In my view (and, OK, I'm biased) he took some bloody brave decisions that I'd have shied away from. I was well impressed.
> Hand on heart, though, are you really telling me it represents a volte-face from GG’s normal public position as described above?
In my view, yes, absolutely. But then again, maybe I'm too close to it. It would be good if others would give their views.
Re Gary going to Kendal to promote the book (yikes, lion's den, wild horses wouldn't have dragged me there), I phoned an old mate who's connected with such things. His reply was blunt, "Gary's pissed off an awful lot of people." I totally agreed but suggested that, to a considerable degree, he'd changed his ways. As chance would have it, a few weeks later, my mate met Gary on the crag and was very impressed. Now I know folk can put on a show (though it's rather hard to do so on the crag!) but my mate's got a very well developed bullshit meter. Again and again, people who've met Gary on the crag are impressed by his friendliness and willingness to help anybody. Yes, he behaved badly, back in the day. So did many others. Some of them haven't changed so much; to his credit, he has.
I'll stop now. I'm boring myself, never mind everyone else!
‘Yes, he behaved badly, back in the day. So did many others.’
You were doing so well. And then, as absolutely always with GG fanboys, this whataboutery.
As to Kendal, I’m sure we could all agree that refusal to acknowledge any obstacles to self-promotion has long been a GG trait.
But he changed - that's the whole point!!
Look, John, your views are your views. And that's fine. All I would suggest is that you read the book and/or meet Gary in person. Your view might change. Alternatively it might not. But at least you'd have some more up to date due diligence, as it were.
I have met him, albeit a long time ago - before the Pembroke saga; possibly even before Clarion Call. He’s an agreeable enough fellow.
And when did this change occur? Presumably after he retroed Manic Mechanic and Friday the Thirteenth without asking a few years ago?!
> And when did this change occur? Presumably after he retroed Manic Mechanic and Friday the Thirteenth without asking a few years ago?!
Nope, before it. But he explains this in the book. Best if I send it to you when I get back and you make up your own mind.
Haven't read it yet, but looking forward to, anyway enough of the controversy what's your favourite Stranglers album ?
Surely everyone's favourite Stranglers album has to be Rattus Norvegicus.
... or maybe Feline.
Apparently there are people who prefer Raven, but Rattus for me -)
Black and White for me because it had Walk on by as an extra on it.
I first saw the Stranglers on the Old Grey Whistle Test performing this and was blown away.
> Black and White for me because it had Walk on by as an extra on it.
Bought the single on vinyl and it had George Melly with the Stranglers singing “Old Codger” on the B side... funny.
I was in sixth form at the time, loads of albums had been transferred to a reel to reel tape recorder in the common room. The album of choice was ‘Live at the Hope and Anchor’ which is essentially a live version of Rattus plus other tracks. Very low fi. Saw them first in ‘77 at Barbarellas in Birmingham
Sarah's on 34 currently. We've got a 'few' new routes in mind for when (if) the bloody weather improves. I've just ordered a load of steel to cover the bolt requirement. I'm sure you've got stuff in mind too for when you get back. I'm 4weeks into the 6week hernia recovery so should be back out there (gently) soon.
I finished Gary’s book a while ago and thought it about time I offered my final review:
This book is a very interesting, well written and definitely honest account from someone who obviously deeply loves climbing. He caught the new-routing bug early on and became, perhaps sometimes mistakenly, single-mindedly focused on developing routes.
The book is full of fun anecdotes, touching family adventures, (spoiler alert) near misses and heartfelt reflection.
Yes, he pushed the envelope of what was acceptable practice, partly from watching what others around the country and worldwide were doing at the time, and partly just from the desire to get a route done.
The ultimate outcome when things came to a head (helped at the time by the newly widespread use of the internet as a forum) was that climbers had a (very) frank and open discussion about what was acceptable in various climbing areas.
He may not have been right in all his decisions but at least now (in my opinion) we have trad and sport areas around the country which have clear new route policies which are (mostly) adhered to.
As someone who merely dabbles in putting up new sport routes, I find the sheer magnitude of his work mind boggling. The hard work, money spent and dedication he shows is amazing. Also, his wife must be a very patient woman. 😉
Buy it, read it.
Please can we have JCM’s and Mick Ward's biographies next.
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