I had originally thought of posting this as a quiet New Year topic, but then a seven hour boozy zoom call intervened, now I figure some of us may have some time to tell their stories...I'll go first.
It must have been about 1987 or so and my brothers and I had a Scouts Annual. There was a photo in it of a few folk in red Joe Brown helmets under an enormous overhang. I don't remember much of the detail other than it scared the bejeesus out of me - how could they have got there? Where were they going? Was it safe? I knew without a doubt that I never wanted to be somewhere like that, but it was strangely compelling, I could not stop looking at it. If anyone else remembers this photo or can source it I'd love to see it again!
A few years later my Mum read Julie Tullis' autobiography on holiday somewhere European. I picked it up and again was spellbound, somehow I got through to the end without knowing that *spoiler alert* she passed away on K2 with Kurt Diemberger at her side and was heartbroken when I found that out. Next up was Touching the Void, I devoured it, again it came via my Mum. I think one of her badminton partners was also a serious mountaineer which was why these books kept cropping up.
Adolescence and sex and drugs and drum and bass came along. I had meant to join the climbing society at University but spilt a kettle of boiling water over my foot so never got to Fresher's Fair, or perhaps I did join but never got involved beyond paying some subs? Shame that - I wonder what would have happened had I picked it up then? Life after University saw me working at Oxford University and I got involved briefly with the OUMC (fond memories of the bulletin board and the enormous row when different posters got different colour text IIRC) and managed a trip to Stanage and found the Brookes climbing wall. I bouldered intensively for a couple of years at Brookes, dreaming of real rock. Another hiatus when I joined the TA and that took all my spare time, then my wife and I embarked on a round the world trip. I packed the boots but didn't use them till one fateful morning in Wellington when I hooked up with a random to go to Ferg's Climbing wall (world famous in New Zealand). The touch paper was lit and I spent every weekend climbing at Ferg's or some of the other local crags. I bought a harness, a lid and a few biners. Somehow I managed not to die as my partner was as inexperienced as me. Hilarious memories of heading up a multi-pitch hauling a lunchbox behind us and wondering how we were ever going to get down again, met a bunch of cool people - the Wellington International Climbing Orphans!
Returned home to Bristol, picked partly for the climbing nearby. Met a partner on UKC and spent the next few months climbing every weekend in the Wye Valley with them. Then one day at work I bumped into Bald Eagle of this parish, joined the Avon Mountaineering Club and the rest is history. These days I've followed the typical UK Climber with kid evolution and now mostly ride bikes instead of getting to the crag but that's another thread : )
Stumbled upon Classic Rock in the library, aged 15. Went to the local climbing club (EYMC) a week later, which met in a pub in Hull city centre. First time in a pub, and on my own, and only 15. That was a Wednesday night.
On the Friday night was picked up by two members who I hadn't met, and a third who had invited me on the Borrowdale meet.
I had no idea where Borrowdale was.
After a session in the pub late that night (the smoking put me off pubs forever) we dossed down on the campsite.
Saturday saw me leading through on Troutdale Pinnacle. I got the second pitch, with Dave explaining how to belay and place runners as he led the first pitch.
Never looked back. Sod this modern stupidity of 'climbing ' walls, endless instruction and expensive course.
It was probably May time. In December of that year, from the CIC, I soloed many of the easy Ben gullies, and most of Tower Ridge (we used a rope for the Gap).
And thought nothing of it. I was 16 by then.
(Well, I thought quite a lot of it in the sense that I was blown away by winter climbing! Awesome).
Started wild camping and walking my local moors aged 13. Did Helvellyn aged 14 and self taught myself rock climbing from books (Blackshaw Mountaineering- a real scary read these days!). A week at Plas y Brenin aged 16, and then did Central Gully on Great End that year as my first winter route. Joined my local club aged 18 and still a member 47yrs on. Joined Frcc in 1983.
Not too sure of why but persuaded parents to go to the Lake District for a holiday when I was in my early teens, possibly after reading lots of Arthur Ramsom books. Started hill walking & reading everything about mountains in the local library, wanted to go climbing but didn't really know how. Then discovered there was a local club & aged about 16 went along to one of their weekly pub meets. A week or two later I was in the Peak District for a weekend with a couple of guys who were probably about 20. I think we camped at Edale but went to Frogatt to climb. I remember seconding a mix of severes & VSs & I think I led a VDiff. Then followed the traditional route of rock climbing, winter climbing & the Alps.
Life has never been the same since.
Growing up in cycling distance from the Frankenjura crags around the Trubach valley helped, we were scrambling around as children all the time.
Proper climbing came later, as a complementary sport to my main one, judo.
As I kid, my dad took me hillwalking a lot, but he was not into roped climbing - described himself as being too scared for such adventures, despite getting himself (and us) into some fairly exposed scrambling in treacherous conditions later on.
Apparently, when I was around 5, we were walking up Ben A'an, when we came out of the trees and saw roped climbers on the face. I informed my dad that I wanted to go that way, and when he insisted we would have to take the path as usual, I sat down and refused to move. It took soon concerted bribery to get me to Go up the "boring" way.
I didn't know anyone who was into roped climbing growing up, so I tickled the itch to scale things by climbing trees and scrambling up the various bits of interesting rock lining the hillwalking paths.
We discovered drink and drugs pretty young in my village (not so much the sex as I was very shy, and by the time I was drunk enough for an approach I was too drunk for anything else) and so my life became focussed around chasing less wholesome highs.
During those adolescent and early teenage years we used to hang around the bus stop drinking and smoking, and would sometimes have pushup and pullup competitions. I had a very high strength to bodyweight ratio, and would think nothing of knocking out a set of thirty pullups, despite not doing any training.
In my late teens and really 20s, I started getting into the gym a bit, mostly out if a feeling of inadequacy about my small statute and skinny frame. It used to upset me that whatever I tried, I only got stronger, not bigger. With hindsight, perfect for climbing.
I do sometimes wonder how good I might have been, had my early fascination with climbing been encouraged.
As a kid I had no great of heights whatsoever.
At around 14, I broke my back falling about 10m from a tree, which slowed me down for a while.
I distinctly remember the first tree I climbed after the accident. It was a tree I knew well, it was the location of our biggest rope swing - every time there was a broken bone an adult would take it down, and I'd put the rope back myself a few times.
I was on my own, and maybe 8m off the ground, shinning up a vertical section of a major branch with no smaller branches off it, when I got completely gripped. I couldn't move up or down. I was most perplexed, as of never experienced fear of heights before, let alone an interference with my physical ability to climb.
It took a long time to overcome that great and get good with heights again.
On the plus side, I sometimes wonder if I'd have died, had my early fascination with climbing been encouraged. Whilst adding ropes is obviously safer than soloing trees, I would have been incredibly bold without that accident to teach me a little bit about reality.
I ended up moving to London, and continuing my hedonism in the city. At some point in my late 20s/early 30s my sister moved there too. She'd got into sport climbing at some point on her travels, and started training at the westway gym. She suggested going down one night, and introducing me to a bunch of mostly Italians she was climbing with.
It was mostly for social reasons I went down, but I watched her climbing a 6b on the comp wall, was rather impressed, and thought "this looks right up my alley, I'd like to learn to be able to climb something that steep."
It quickly became an obsession, even more so after my first trip to Portland for proper sport climbing. From then on in I was training through the week for adventures at the weekend.
It also came at a time when I was starting to realise my lifestyle was pointing towards an early grave with lung, liver or heart damage. I think it's fair to say I may never have done anything about it, if I hadn't stumbled into the climbing world.
Climbing was also the gateway drug to other sports, as I looked to increase my fitness and health, but it remained a constant obsession through it all, for well over a decade now
I dont remember ever getting into climbing. Nor do I remember when climbing got into me.
No single word of a lie; a woman on tinder I met casually told me that if I hated running so much I should find a new sport, one that was more impressive to women on the internet. I'm friends with a route setter at the Works in Sheffield, so thought I'd give it a go. Got hooked basically immediately. That was about eighteen months ago. Now I spend my time scrabbling around on pieces of rock and browsing trad gear on ebay.
The woman is long gone but the climbing remains. And nobody is impressed by it.
In about 1972, Cornwall County Council Physical Education Department were running two day climbing courses for Cornish schoolkids, usually during half term. A school mate was keen and talked me into going along. We always met in the morning at the YMCA in Penzance, then off to that day's chosen crag, Bosigran, Chair Ladder or Sennen. Leading the group was the late Les Williams, he was a terrific bloke. He lives on via his route William's Chimney at Trewavas.
I wasn't overkeen to start with, I remember being on the Ledge Climb belay, bricking it, thinking I didn't want to go again. I did, we started buying our own gear, parents giving us a lift from Redruth to the crag, and it went on from there. Hitching to the Lakes and North Wales at 16, getting drunk in the Old Dungeon Ghyll and the Padarn, inspired by the likes of Don Whillans, Joe Brown, Fawcett, Livesey, hydraulic man Tom Proctor, Cannings and Littlejohn. We fantasized about climbing extreme and new routing. I was doing that at 19, I didn't realise at the time that I had pretty well peaked, I'm still working on it though !
I had seen climbers on Stanage whilst hiking in the early 60's and that sowed the seed. A year or so later I was sent on an Outward Bound type course to a centre in Castleton as part of my electrical engineering apprenticeship. That would be around 1964/65. I seconded Black Hawke Traverse and that was me hooked. Lucky for me a couple of neighbours were also interested so between us we bought a book of knots, a 60 foot Viking rope and a couple of Ex WD Krabs. The rest as they say is history.
I started as a kid, climbing regularly from about 8 until 14; mostly indoors, but some trad outdoors. After that I just sort of stopped (the school had a great climbing wall, but I got too focused on building interesting things).
At the age of about 25, I was sat on my sofa one evening (smoking a lot of pot probably) and was watching 127 Hours... that film where the prat had to cut his own arm off. At the end of the film, there was some text about what he was doing since the accident, including mountaineering! I thought, in my stoned state, well if he can do that with one arm, I have no excuse to do it with 2 arms!
I then vowed to climb mont blanc (which I never did) but promptly bought some mountaineering equipment. At the Snow and Rock, I was buying some odd size nuts and the guy at the store said 'you're better off buying a full set because you'll only want to do trad climbing later anyway.' He also said I should get back into indoor climbing, as it would be handy for training. As such, I joined the London Mountaineering Club, started wall climbing again and then ended up going on a trad meet.
I did my first outdoor climb in over a decade belaying and then seconding someone doing a slabby HS in Swanage. I thought; 'I can lead that!' So my second climb was an HS lead. :D Not that I ever pushed my grade much beyond that!
My first hill walk, in 1980, was Ben Alligin. A tedious uphill slog followed by some exciting scrambling over the Horns. It was immediately clear that clambering over rocks was the fun part.
I spent my teens doing the classic scrambles of Wales and Scotland with my Dad. By 1988 I had a job (a rare thing at the time!) and money and bought a rope and some bits of gear, and using ‘how to’ books from the library, we got into proper rock climbing.
Ive gone through three distinct climbing phases since then. 10 years of adventure climbing, 10 years of pootling around and 10 years of happy soloing. Not sure what comes next?
In about 1994 is started Kayaking, soon though some of my frends started going to the Netherton activity center in Liverpool the NAC as we called it! I used to just go in without paying as I was a bit of a scally! It was a really fun wall with all sorts of different angels and textures to climb on, it also had a cave that smelt of wee.
One day we went in and we were jumping off the top of the wall as we did at the time probably about 6m and I missed the crash pads that we had pushed together and broke my ankle and badly sprained the other one, that put a stop on my climbing for a long time as I had very week ankles or so i thought at the time (probably didn't on the grand scheme of things) my climbing was very sparse over the next ten years climbing VD's in the mountains and just having adventures kayaking or walking.
2007 and everything changed I saw the PYB fast track instructor program advertised, and despite being very expensive I fancied four months of from fitting tractor tires. As the corse went on I fell more and more in love with climbing to the point all I was doing was climbing and when I should of be wandering round the mountains learning to navigate. As part of the corse we came to the Peak district to climb on the grit to help give us moor single pich experience for the SPA. That was it for me then all those classic rotes to do not far from home in Southwingfield. While on the corse i was told by one of the instructors that id never be any good as I was to heavy, which I was at the time 95KG! Right I sed to my self I'm going to get as good as I can.
I've spent the next 14 years trying my best to learn to be the best climber I can be, having more fun than any one person can expect to have in a life time and still enjoying my climbing as much if not more than when I first started in the 90s, long may this continue!
Ps all this climbing hasn't helped my spelling and grammar I'm Dyslexic and i can't change that unfortunately, but sometimes even though it reads badly its nice to wright things down!
Ourward Bound Mountain School, Eskdale. Forced me to do it, quite a few times. Forced me to discover the mind numbing beauty of the Lake District. Forced me to understand just what I was capable of. Forced me to accept that most limits were self imposed.
Changed the course of my life which massively changed the course of my future kids lives too.
Unforgivable, or rather, unforgettable.
Started lateish at age 24. Living in Chesterfield Id been walking up by Birchen Edge a few times and seen climbers and had thought it looked quite interesting. Went back up there on my own to 'have a go' (didnt no anyone that climbed).
Felt a bit self conscious so found some easier scrambles out of view of others - managed a few things at N end but one memorable occasion I got stuck and couldnt move up or down. My (ordinary) shoe was jammed into a crack when I felt my foot slipping out of it. In a sudden panic I flailed (thankfully) upwards and manage to top out.
Shortly after I found Paul Nunns Peak District climbing guide in the library and was very proud and pleased Id actually done some real rock climbs - some of the Emma routes.
My first lead was Brown Widsor at Derwent Edge and for some reason it felt more scary than the solos.
And 40 years later Im still climbing.
My uncle was a climber and took me on brown slabs aged 7. Then climbed and walked with him till mid teens, then women and drink caught my interest more. Re-ignited my interest mid to late 20's and joined a club. Never looked back since. Still haven't improved my grade much 😂
I grew up in Hyde just east of Manchester, and was always an outdoors child. We used to get kicked out of the house at 8.30am and not let back in until 5.30 during the holidays, as both parents worked. Our grandma who lived a few doors up was always around if we needed anything. I remember playing around in various old workings along the river Tame, some of which had small quarried walls, mostly of the crumbliest sandstone around though! But I dreamed big. Kinder and Bleaklow forever loomed on the horizon, but may as well have been the Eiger. But it wasn't until college back in maybe 2002 that I tried indoor climbing, at Rope Race in Marple. To say I fell in love with it would be a bit of an overstatement.. it was difficult letting go of the scaffolding at the top of routes even on top rope! I think I only carried on going because I fancied one of the girls. Once I moved on to uni I never continued with it, sadly.
The next time climbing reentered my mind was in my mid to late 20s, I'd moved with my girlfriend of the time to her families small holding just outside Kirkby Stephen. Nine Standards Rigg and the Coast to Coast were literally out of the back door. I was beginning to put on a bit of weight so decided to start hill walking, with the aim of moving on to winter walking and climbing. I split up with the girlfriend and moved over to Ambleside where I stayed for a winter. I didn't really meet anyone as I was still heading back to Manchester and the North East for work, but I did begin to explore grade I winter stuff on my own. I had no real idea what I was doing, but very little to live for and a sense of invincibility that youth brings didn't really stop and think.
I decided that if I were to take it up properly then I should probably (re)learn the rope work, so booked in for a refresher session with a mate at Rope Race again. Really started to enjoy it, met another friend, now long term climbing partner, and got it in to it. With this new friend I did my first lead, Eight Metre Corner (D), on a cold wet February day and ended up leading Central Gully Left Branch (III) a few weeks after. Still not really any idea what I was doing, only the basic knowledge of belays and knots but very little real world experience. No one died.
Gone from strength to strength since, and despite a solo jolly up Goûter Route (PD) and other alpine adventures, I'm still waiting for a go at the real Eiger
First time I ever went climbing was aged 15, the Police came in to a school assembly and asked if anyone wanted to try climbing. They took us to Hobson Moor Quarry.
A year or so later, also though school a couple of us got the opportunity to go and walk up various mountains and through one of those people it was suggested that I joined was was then known as Venture Scouts, in that little group I led my first route, did my first winter climb, had my first trip to the alps. The core of that group remain some of my best friends today, together we have had hundreds of days in quarries, on crags, sea cliffs and stacks and mountains large and small.
> We fantasized about climbing extreme and new routing. I was doing that at 19, I didn't realise at the time that I had pretty well peaked, I'm still working on it though!
You do alright mate! I saw Bonners at the Wilderness lectures a couple of years back and bought his book. I queued up to get him to sign it and thanked him for putting up Malboogies when I got to the front of the queue. He asked me how I found it and I was proud to say I found it pretty steady on the 2nd but was glad to have someone older and better than me to lead it - that was you almost ten years ago (wow but time flies doubt you even remember!).
> Ive gone through three distinct climbing phases since then. 10 years of adventure climbing, 10 years of pootling around and 10 years of happy soloing. Not sure what comes next?
On yer bike ; )
> First time I ever went climbing was aged 15, the Police came in to a school assembly and asked if anyone wanted to try climbing. They took us to Hobson Moor Quarry.
Eh? The Police?!
> Eh? The Police?!
I don’t know the reason, but that is what happened. All well behaved middle class kids, maybe they were recruiting. It was a long time ago, 1990.
> I don’t know the reason, but that is what happened. All well behaved middle class kids, maybe they were recruiting. It was a long time ago, 1990.
I imagine the Police would be good instructors, watching every move you make.
> On yer bike ; )
My Brother used to work at Og Cottage and he took me up The Brothers on the Milestone. I was 16 so 60 years back. Was hooked and led my 1st VS at 17 . Saber Cut in bendy boots & not 1 runner on the top pitch. When I got a boot stuck i thought I could die here. Last time I led it a got 15 runners in as an exercise.
In reply to Albert Tatlock:
I didn’t attend your school, but I was your climbing instructor, small world.
> Oulder Hill
A school with a lot teachers who were good climbers, Bruce Goodwin, Dave Crilly, John Vose & Clive Morton.
> A school with a lot teachers who were good climbers, Bruce Goodwin, Dave Crilly, John Vose & Clive Morton.
Slightly before my time mostly I think. I remember Mr Crilly, who had a scary reputation. I think he left the school when Hopwood Hall College was created in 1989.
My parents were keen hill walkers and my brother and I were dragged along from an early age and eventually enjoyed it (I still do). Climbed on a local wall with school (and once to Stanage) and wasn't that bothered about it but got hooked on scrambling by Harry Griffin's books and clambered up anything I could (some of it actually rock). This soon spilled over into easy soloing on obscure craglets in Torridon and Nant Gwynant, then Salisbury Crags in Edinburgh and various bits of Gritstone. One weekend I tagged along on a trip to the Roaches with lithos of this parish and another mate, intending just to enjoy the craic and solo the odd Diff. Mid afternoon it rained while Rob was belayed halfway up Pedestal Route. The other guy (who I won't embarrass by naming) failed to get off the ground in the wet, leaving Rob stranded, so I was persuaded to tie on and second the route. It absolutely chucked it down and blew a hoolie, felt a real adventure and I got hooked. Still am 35 years later. Cheers Rob!
I always enjoyed scrambling up things as a kid but it was never something I actually took up, because I didn't really have the opportunity to do so. Fast forward to 2007, I was on holiday in Crete, veered off route while going down a famous gorge and ended up scrambling a bit. I remembered that I like this shit! I had loads of friends in the University of Nottingham Explorers club, which was one of the three mountaineering clubs there, so I joined. Found myself at the Nottingham Climbing Centre more often than is advisable for a good academic year, Snowdonia and the Lakes every other weekend and six months after I started climbing I finally went trad climbing with a mate one weekend. Seconded some routes, then did my first two leads. Oh boy was that the start of a long and expensive journey.
I genuinely don't know where I would be and what I would be doing if it weren't for this. I stayed in the Midlands after finishing university specifically to be close to the Peak, so I certainly wouldn't be having my current career and I'd probably have been a lard arse playing games 24/7.
As an adolescent and young adult I showed little interest in outdoor pursuits, but as a child I do recall being given a lot of freedom by my parents to go out and explore on my own - the local woods for example.
For a couple of years in my late twenties I was in a dismal job which I managed to escape with a move to Durham. Almost immediately I discovered the joys of hiking, first in the Yorkshire Dales and then in the Lake District. I usually went on my own and must have had an innate sense of direction and map reading as there were never any misadventures. This inevitably led to incorporating some easy scrambling.
I had also tried a few other sports, skiing which was fine but didn't compel me like it does with some people. And a weekend taster session kayaking down the Esk in the Lake District, exciting enough but it did not feed my fire.
I then signed up for a taster rock climbing weekend in Snowdonia with a guide. It was March and there was only one other person signed up, I can't remember his name but I will call him Joe. We stayed at Pen y Pass youth hostel. On the Friday evening the guide introduced us to the equipment and safety. Joe had been on these weekends before and said he loved climbing and was super enthusiastic. The following morning the weather was not so great so the guide took us to Tremadog. We started on Oberon, the guide led up the first pitch, and Joe went second because he had climbed before. I watched him really struggle up the slab, it looked hard. When it came to my turn I kind of scrambled up the slab without too much difficulty. And so it went on Joe climbing second and making it look really hard and I not finding it nearly so tough. Joe kept saying how much he loved climbing.
On the second day we went to Clogwyn Y Tarw in the Ogwyn Valley and started on Slab Climb. At one point I remember being isolated on what felt like a tiny stance, feeling incredibly exposed with an amazing view down the Ffrancon Valley. I also came to the realisation that although Joe loved climbing he was really quite useless at it as he was still struggling with moves I was managing relatively easily.
The long and the short of it was that on that weekend I discovered the love and enthusiasm for climbing that Joe had. The next stage of my development is told elsewhere.
My girlfriend at the time (1990's) said, "You climb or I don't go out with you." The rest is history
Wow, hello fellow AMCer! Hope you are well. Never knew you were an astrophysicist.
> My girlfriend at the time (1990's) said, "You climb or I don't go out with you." The rest is history
Sounds like you had the opposite problem to many climbers!
Climbed trees , buildings & also a gritstone edge we discovered in Graves park in Sheffield from a early age without any incident's or real fear, but the urge was there from an early age, pre-teens.
This was supplemented with a love of the Peak after spending time walking most weekends in the Peak with my parents & the local scout group.
This rapidly progressed to exploring the gritstone edges with a couple of mates, helped massively by the period of the cheap bus travel in South Yorkshire, 2p at the time, from the centre of Sheffield to Fox House . Actually met like minded individual's on the 272 Castelton bus & so an informal club formed of which most are still as enthusiastic after 45 years or so.
The next step was purchasing a Viking rope from Don morrisons along with a couple of runners using the paper round money & heading out to Birchens where I led my first route aged 13 & discovering a life long love for both climbing & being outside.
Climbing has influenced so much of my life, from my career, my friends, the people I've met along the way along with where I have lived during this period. I had no idea at the time of my first tree climb that this obsession & urge would influence so much of my adult life.
Started at school as part of Duke of Edinburgh scheme, along with a mate from my year. The school had a surprisingly good wall for the early 70's, with some very fingery, chiselled brickwork routes in a historic building. Part of the skill of the original designer is that they had created a lot of holds, only some of which were useful, so it made you think. We got quite good at ropework, crevasse rescue techniques and fingery wall climbs, before ever setting foot outside.
First real rock was Avon Gorge and I loved it, despite being taken up / across a route called Black and Tan in the Amphitheatre. This featured a low crux, followed by a long leftward traverse, with the usual lack of gear that characterises the place. I could see that if I didn't manage the move, I was going to plough a mighty furrow, so it did frighten me. In part, it was getting used to the rather more tenuous style of Avon, but with the encouragement of my mates (shouts of 'wanker' and the like) I did it. More trips followed, including a snowy February where we camped at Black Rocks and spent a few days freeing routes of guidebook aid at Wildcat - this was my fourth trip to rock. Easter that year (74), was glorious and I spent ten days in the Lakes in shorts and progressing through the grades in Langdale. Tried to repeat the experience the following year and was shut down by snow.
Been at it off on on ever since. Still climb with my mate from those early days whenever we get the chance. Following school, we both moved to Bristol to work at temporary jobs, rent a flat and climb, working our way through the Gorge offerings up to the mild extremes. Enjoyed university in Lancaster at the height of the Lakeland boom, often doing second ascents on the day that the activists were putting things up. Probably gone steadily downhill ever since, but still keen and still training!
For me, I took my first steps in Borrowdale, 5th June 1980, my first birthday. Exactly 6 years later having badgered dad, who is afraid of heights, I can recall dragging him up the screes above Carl Side to the summit of Skiddaw. Dad was terrified, I was elated. My 7th birthday treat and my first mountain top.
Many holidays to The Lakes followed then volunteering at Derwentwater YHA summers '96 and' 97, before a full season there throughout 1998. I found my legs as a hillwalker and in the company of experienced colleagues did my first routes at Shepherds; Ardus, Brown Slabs and the like and my turn to be terrified. I even tried bouldering that year, at Bowderstone of all places - ha ha ha.
Fast forward Easter 2000, bored during the holidays in Falmouth. All my friends had gone home so I amused myself by spending two weeks essentially learning to rock climb on the Gyllynvase Beach granite sea wall. Great holds, soft landings, big falls - I've loved highballing ever since.
On graduation I moved back to London and again bored, I joined the London Mountaineering Club. Clive took me under his wing (eternally grateful) and during my short stint as a member taught me the basics. A couple of faltering trips to The Roaches, near death on Dinas Cromlech and a crevass fall in the Bernese Overland later; having survived those early days, I was hooked and have climbed pretty much ever since.
Yes doing well thanks. Trying to retain a sense of adventure in this changing world of ours.
When I was 18 I worked as an instructor for PGL in the flat lands of Surrey. Some of the other instructors were climbers and I got chatting to them, it sounded fun so I ordered On Peak Grit and perused it endlessly until my season finished and I moved home to Chesterfield.
I bought some kit and a book that showed me how to belay, place gear, tie knots etc and roped some mates into coming with me.
I don't remember my first lead, im assuming it was probably some grit Severe somewhere but I became hooked very quickly. My mates I had convinced to come with me soon got bored and I managed to get in touch with someone on UKC (Martin Andrew, if you read this I hope you are well, long time since we spoke), who taught me even more and I started to steadily progress through the grades.
This was 17 to 18 years ago and I still love it just as much, if not more, than I did then. Still not managed to bloody onsight E4 yet though!!!!
I pestered my parents endlessly to let me go on the school ski trip when I was eleven and without concept of the value of money, and they eventually relented. I was instantly hooked, on skiing and on the mountain environment. I never really considered the possibility of going upwards in the mountains though. Until, sometime around when I was sixteen, I saw The Beckoning Silence on TV. That was it. I have no idea why, but the concept of launching into the unknown, with real and terminal consequences, to achieve something ultimately meaningless, appealed to me like I can’t describe.
I didn’t really do anything about this festering desire for a long while, but eventually while at university I took a course at the local wall and started climbing all the time, whenever I could. In the evenings, between lectures, during lectures, all the time. The wall had a few autobelay lines and was always quiet during the day, so it as very easy to just fill all my time with climbing. Partner or otherwise. I persuaded a guy looking for a partner on UKC to take me out on rock a few times too, because the indoor wall really was a means to an end. It didn’t tick any boxes beyond education.
I read all that I could, bought some gear and persuaded some mates out to the local quarry and crags for some days of questionable safety. Graduated to having a minor epic on Little Chamonix. Met some more partners from UKC, one of whom became instrumental in my development as a climber and as a person, and whom I’m still very privileged to be able to call a good friend.
I repeated the clueless idiot process with an equally enthusiastic and clueless young student in the Alps in 2015, did an alpine Conville Course in 2016, broke my leg in 2018, reassessed my sense of mortality in 2019, decided that alpinism wasn’t for me a few weeks before heading to Chamonix for two months, reignited a long-neglected passion for the UK mountains in 2020, and here we are. 2021. Back on alpinism, back daydreaming about the high mountains. Can’t help it. It’s like a siren call.
Unfortunately I’ve never really been truly able to master my head, and so I’ve ended up in the bizarre position of being able to second into the low E numbers one day while failing to commit to the crux of a VD on the sharp end the next. I’ve always had a severe apprehension of heights and exposure, and I feel like I’ve accidentally taken the fast-track route through my apprenticeship in the lower grades. The focus of 2021, I feel, will be re-serving my apprenticeship, getting in as much mileage as possible at VS and below, in as many different places as possible across the UK. Plague-permitting. And some gentle classic routes in the Alps with my very enthusiastic other half. Plague-permitting.
I sometimes worry that I’m actually a sport climber in disguise.
And skiing? Hate it. The idea of taking mechanical uplift to head back downhill is utterly lost on me now. Skis are a great tool, method of transport, for being able to move around in the mountains. Well away from the groomed pistes and the ‘après-ski’.
> Yes doing well thanks. Trying to retain a sense of adventure in this changing world of ours.
Try a trip to the supermarket, that's pretty perilous these days! You still in Bristol?
My father was an occasional hillwalker and I'd done a bit in Scotland and the Pyrenees. and later age 12 in Wales and Lakes with my school. In sixth form Kent County Council bus picked up some kids from nearby schools to climb at Harrison's as alternative to usual sports, with instructors including Terry and Julie Tullis. First week taught bowline round waist, waist belay, rope running round tree (or sling and krab), later classic abseil. After that we were largely left to our own devices with little teaching.
First "proper" climbing Snowdonia weekend with uni club. Persuaded friend to go to to Wales after Christmas with inadequate borrowed gear, struggled up a few Diffs and saw New Year in getting superficial frostbite while benighted at top of the Idwal Slabs. Most of my climbing knowledge was gained reading Blackshaw's "bible".
A few recurring themes starting to crop up:
A desire to just climb, sounds stupid to say it but for many of us this seems to be innate. We don't know why but we have always wanted to climb, it was just a question of getting there. I wonder how many people have this feeling but have never had the opportunity or will to make it happen? I feel sorry for them!
Geographical serendipity - I'm talking to all you lucky buggers who happened to grow up around Sheffield where the rock lives. I remember aching about the thought of real rock when I was in the flatlands of Oxfordshire!
Parents who were into hill-walking.
Youth organisations - Scouts, DofE, school, the Police (!). Shout out to anyone who now volunteers their time to kindle passion for the outdoors in today's youth.
UKC - lots of us seem to have met significant climbing others via UKC. UKC take a bow!
Seems as though our paths must have crossed at some point. When were you in Oxford? I was in Bristol 1986-89 (many happy memories of the Avon scene then) and OUMC 89-93.
I suppose my climbing history could be summed up as UBMC (Birmingham), MAM, UBMC (Bristol), OUMC, MCSA, BMC, OAC and Bar (throughout).
Should have added that I soloed a slab, with a small tree at two-thirds height at age seven in Czechoslovakia. We lived on the outskirts of Prague and I found it while on the way to a friends house up the hill. It didn't look bad, but I remember being relieved to make it to the tree and to find that the last bit was easier, partly because the tree made a slip less serious. I've often wanted to go back and find it again!
> A few recurring themes starting to crop up:
> Geographical serendipity - I'm talking to all you lucky buggers who happened to grow up around Sheffield where the rock lives. I remember aching about the thought of real rock when I was in the flatlands of Oxfordshire!
> Parents who were into hill-walking.
Looking back & realising that being born in Sheffield was the equivalent of winning the climbing lottery in being able to access rock so easily with so many like minded people & climbing partners on tap.
Actually feels odd not be based somewhere lacking in hills or mountains.
Same as most I think - Scouts and my Dad.
My Dad was part of a mountaineering club as a youth so steered the family towards holidays in The Lakes etc, where he occasionally made references to his rock climbing days. I now know that this involved mountain routes, waist belays, hawser-laid ropes and drilled out machine nuts so respect to him!
The scouts gave me a first opportunity to top rope climbs, where I remember being fearful that the rope might snap.
Books in the school library and a couple of days with a guide called Stuart Miller in The Lakes meant that I was straining at the leash, waiting for the moment that I passed my driving test and could get out of Oxfordshire.
University choice (Sheffield) was chosen on the basis of the climbing rather than anything else and I haven't looked back. Not looking back was probably part of the problem which caused me to step backwards off Burbage Edge one day, a couple of weeks before my first-born was about to make an appearance.....
This led to a 16 year pause but the urge has returned and even though I am now rubbish, it is still great to get back out there again.
At Primary School (c1967 age 10 I think) a student teacher had a Honda 90.
Went to Ilkley Quarry as pillion with the rucksack on my back and Joe Brown helmet for safety??!!
Was most impressed by someone climbing Walewska. Been climbing ever since and am still no good.
Started hilwalking with parents aged about 5 and was soon obsessed, reading old expedition books and hooked on Munro bagging as soon as I was aware of them aged 7 or 8. Teenage obsession with Munros gave me a great all round/all weather mountain grounding which led naturally to rock climbing and winter climbing as I finished the Munros late teens. Never looked back.
Gloucestershire Youth Service ran an Outdoor Pursuits long weekend Whit holiday 1959 in Snowdonia - organised by Dick Bird and a second in Lakes in August. On the latter one of the staff was a Gloucestershire M C member so started to attend their meets. Was already hill/mountain walking but not climbing. Went on a two week Schools Exploration Holiday Course at Glenmore Lodge summer 1960
BC (Before Climbing) I was a keen cyclist and at Uni. got into hillwalking (despite Uni being Sussex!). After doing a PGCE I got a job teaching at a school in Leek in a girls' grammar just turned mixed comp, from which the Roaches were visible. This reminded me of a teenage cycling tour of about 450 miles in three days (what I thought was training for the Bath Road 100 mile TT, if that means anything to anybody) when I had comes across the Roaches and remember being enchanted by the place. In the first summer holiday of 1968 I found myself in charge of a minibus-load of sixth formers camping in the Lakes for the purpose of leading hill walks. One morning a couple of lads from the boys' grammar turned up in a car and announced they weren't coming on the walk, because they were going rock climbing in Borrowdale, and taking one of my girls with them. Not knowing how to deal with this scenario I rather lamely asked if their parents knew about this and they said yes and off they went. The next day, they said they were going back to Shepherd's and would I like to come too. Mrs Wilko led the walk, and off I went. My first climb was, of course, Little Cham, followed by Ardus. I was hooked. I suspect all that would have had me summarily sacked later in my career.
> One morning a couple of lads from the boys' grammar turned up in a car and announced they weren't coming on the walk, because they were going rock climbing in Borrowdale, and taking one of my girls with them. Not knowing how to deal with this scenario I rather lamely asked if their parents knew about this and they said yes and off they went.
You signed off their risk assessment first no doubt!
I'm still hanging in there ! I do remember, I think there were there 3 of us ? If I am right, who was the 3rd person ?! It is a great route, and the original start is still tricky, polished, sloping holds...
Yeah three of us, James P was the other. I did Morpheus with him in the summer, which constituted exactly 1/3 of my routes ticked this year : ) Was good fun!
I don't think so - Oxford from 2000 - 2006, then Bristol 2009 onwards. I only lurked at OUMC though so only met one or two folks properly.
> My girlfriend at the time (1990's) said, "You climb or I don't go out with you." The rest is history
Yes, I mostly got into it for the girls.
> I don't think so - Oxford from 2000 - 2006, then Bristol 2009 onwards. I only lurked at OUMC though so only met one or two folks properly.
Oh well. The Oxford Brookes wall was a godsend. While I was a student we had to make do with the one at Iffley Road (which had been painted in frictionless green paint just before I left). When I came back in 96 as a postdoc it was a whole new world!
I started at the bottom and worked my way up . . . . ;-)
It's the way! I met my current wife through climbing too
> we had to make do with the one at Iffley Road (which had been painted in frictionless green paint just before I left).
I imagine the conversation went something like this.
Student: "I really want to practice for climbing at Avon, but how do you cope with the polish?"
Caretaker: "I have an idea."
> I imagine the conversation went something like this.
> Student: "I really want to practice for climbing at Avon, but how do you cope with the polish?"
> Caretaker: "I have an idea."
It was diabolical. It had chipped holds and cemented in pebbles already polished to a high gloss, and then they made the whole of the rest of the surface frictionless too, making any smearing completely impossible. Avon was like the Cuillin in comparison.
Is she happy with the word current?
Scouts and Outward bound course @18. After a year of rugby at university I was dragged out climbing by my mate from school, who was at the same uni. Wet October weekend in Wales, boots to small and fell off the bottom of the western gully descent from Dinas Mot. The next weekend Wintours Leap with my new boots. 39 years of adventure started and still more to come.
Honestly, I was scared of heights
I read " The White Spider" by Heinrich Harrer. I then did my first climb solo. I joined the Ochils MC after tha
keeps her on her toes
Who was that then? It was Ron James who really taught me to climb.
Getting scared on scrambles, so decide to get a climbing lesson to see if that helps confidence wise
Enjoy climbing lesson, lead trad route at end of day.
Have cash windfall (Halifax building society sell out), spend entire lot on climbing kit and a lightweight tent for trekking. Read all the climbing mags and every climbing related book I can find in the library
Somehow manage not to kill myself doing more trad climbing.
Some Pyrenean trekking with scramble bits
Low-grade winter climbs
Indoor wall for first time
Outdoor sport & easy Alpine routes
Occasional indoor bouldering (but can’t get into it)
About 6 years ago a mate took me to an indoor wall telling me what I needed to know to pass the competancy test. (I later did the same with a mate who nearly killed me)
After the occasional top rope sesion got into bouldering in and outdoors.
Moved to Mancehser and climbed inside loads over the winter then started outside properly this April.
Now spend my days looks at trad gear on ebay that I dont need and persuaded friends to do the same. Was going well till lockdown 3!
1973 - taken to Avon Gorge on a school climbing trip from Bath and left in the capable hands of a 6th former, Richard Hackett. (Anyone know if he still climbs?)
Did the Arete - it was desperately polished, the glassy smears had been roughened with the point of a peg hammer. From Lunchtime Ledge we did Bob's Climb. I recall being very frightened and utterly desperate for a piss on the scramble down. I may have partially wet myself before finding somewhere for a self conscious youngster to pee discretely.
Despite that I was hooked and pestered the teachers to take me again so much they ended up giving me the kit when I was old enough to get myself there on the bus!
Then taken to N Wales in winter by a friend's Dad who was a climber, where we walked Cader Idris and the Snowdon Horseshoe.
There started my slippery path ....
Had done a little bit in Scouts before, but when my parent's current neighbours moved in, it turned out he was an MIA.
After a while, he knocked on the door one evening and asked if I wanted to go to Guildford Uni climbing wall.
The rest, as they say, is (an expensive) history.
Brought up in an alpine valley- family of hikers, ski-tourers and scramblers (génépi picking mostly) but no-one into “ropes”.
Read Frison-Roche’s books which are loosely based on alpine climbing in Chamonix in my early teens- got fired up.
taster session organised by the Highschool- found I was no natural but provided summer entertainment waiting for winter (by then I was full on boarding and still skiing).
Self-taught with a friend. First proper pay aged 14 spent on a rope. An uncle gave me bits and bobs, which I always suspected he nicked on one of his jobs (tradesman).
Climbed half the year until I was at Uni, subscribed to a local garage lock-up. Still pretty rubbish but lots of experience by then.
Moved to Scotland, realised that skiing here was a no-goer: shifted all my mojo to climbing. Still pretty rubbish but even more experience.
I am a lifer and won’t ever give it up for biking!!!!
> I am a lifer and won’t ever give it up for biking!!!!
Sure, sure that's what I thought too till suddenly I realised I was spending my nights furtling brake pads instead of polishing my rack.
Nah, I'm a lifer too - just at the moment biking is far easier and time efficient.
> 1973 - taken to Avon Gorge...
> Did the Arete...
> There started my slippery path....
You progressed to Chudleigh I take it?
Dave Powell more of a hanger on I think, was also the Warden of the Youth Hostel next door to the Cot for a bit. I also knew Tom Shaughnessy and survived a few trips from Brum on the back of his bike. Also climbed a lot with Harry Richards over the years, can still smell the Capstone Full Strength Knew John Jones from those days till he moved to Llanberis.
Thankfully, no! Never went there. Nor Yorkshire limestone!
Saw the light and headed for Wales.
Summer of 98 I think, I heard the DofE group at school I was peripherally involved with were getting taken climbing and that the girl I liked was going. Somehow I wangled a place in the group. While I doubt I did more than a handful of routes that year (there was no local climbing culture and not much of an indoor wall if it even existed then) I was totally hooked. A uni I could climb from was priority no.1 the following year. I think that's how it went anyway, it's all a bit of a blur now but I still remember the harsh rubber smell of my first ill fitting mail-order Zephyrs from that summer.
The climbing outlasted the girlfriend by about 15 years. Still, really happy days
The saga in Australia's Grampians continues as Parks Victoria have released a draft of their management plan for the area. If the plan is adopted, it would mean that access to roughly 80% of the existing climbing would be banned.