/ FRI NIGHT VID: Hard Rock - A Tribute to Ken Wilson

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UKC News - on 13 Oct 2017
Hard Rock, 3 kbOur Friday Night Video this week is from BMC TV and Hot Aches Productions, celebrating the life of Ken Wilson and his classic book; Hard Rock. It might have first hit the shelves in 1974, but this feast of climbing literature has weathered the following years as easily as a granite crag.

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scot1 on 13 Oct 2017
In reply to UKC News:

What a crazy, narrow minded idiot
keith-ratcliffe on 13 Oct 2017
In reply to UKC News:
'Shine on you Crazy Diamond'
eroica64 - on 13 Oct 2017
In reply to UKC News:
Totally and utterly brilliant film-making that puts the Red Bull Alex Megos thing in its miserable, flippant, place. Enthralling stuff that left you wanting more. So .... more please BMC and Hot Aches.

Great use of drone photography for Cenotaph and Stanage. Brilliantly evocative climbing of Right Unconquerable.

The narrator by the way, was excellent too. Who was it?
Post edited at 19:24
scot1 on 13 Oct 2017
In reply to keith-ratcliffe:

And yet two of the climbers in the film are accomplished competition/sport climbers. I don't think Ken would approve
keith-ratcliffe on 13 Oct 2017
In reply to eroica64:
And who was the young lad climbing? That wobbly rock on Tryfan didn't make him bat an eyelid - star.
Mick Ward - on 13 Oct 2017
In reply to UKC News:

A really lovely tribute to a man of undoubted greatness - sadly missed.

Mick
Greenbanks - on 13 Oct 2017
In reply to UKC News:
Stunning - aching nostalgia for those routes, those days...and for the integrity, vision and beauty of his creations. A colossus of the sport. Thanks are owed, and owed again for what he left us with.
Post edited at 19:57
diff - on 13 Oct 2017
In reply to eroica64:

Glad you like the film. The narrator is Keith Fleming.
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0281717/?ref_=ttfc_fc_cl_t76

And the drone work was expertly done by Dom Bush.
Gordon Stainforth - on 13 Oct 2017
In reply to UKC News:

I find the final statement of this great and courageous man very moving. It's really a statement of what all authors are trying to achieve:

"Once you've got a book out there, it's there for ever. It's a statement in history, isn't it, really? And to be able to do it is a privilege. And it's pretty natural to go seeking after greater illumination of the world in which you lived."

How poignant is that final past tense.

And then he's asked how he feels, now that he has incipient dementia:

"Well, all good things come to an end."

"Do you feel disappointed?"

"No, on the contrary. I feel very privileged to have taken part in such a great period of climbing history."

What incredible, final very gutsy, moving, philosophical words from a very great man.


keith-ratcliffe on 13 Oct 2017
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
It was the 'Next year's chip paper' comment that brought the tears for me.
Gordon Stainforth - on 13 Oct 2017
In reply to keith-ratcliffe:

Yes, again, so brave, realistic, and not self-aggrandising.
Gordon Stainforth - on 13 Oct 2017
In reply to keith-ratcliffe:

> It was the 'Next year's chip paper' comment that brought the tears for me.

I think he's simply talking there about the truth of history, that's it's often very cruel. But I sincerely believe that he died happy, knowing (rightly) that what he'd achieved would in fact live for ever.
keith-ratcliffe on 13 Oct 2017
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:
And it does so on many bookshelves across the world.
pneame on 13 Oct 2017
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

Nicely put.

Gorgeous film - took me through all the stages of my climbing life - although I never did the corner. It always petrified me for some reason, even though it was a style of climb that I like.
Really captured Ken Wilson's cutting, analytical, approach to things while at the same time espousing the romantic aspects to climbing. No mean feat.
luke glaister - on 13 Oct 2017
In reply to UKC News:

That was class. A Friday night vid I could of watched for hours. Brilliant.
keith-ratcliffe on 13 Oct 2017
In reply to UKC News:
This video was shown at the Boardman/Tasker awards at last year's Kendal Mountain Festival. If anyone deserves an award (albeit posthumous) for his contribution to Mountain literature it is Ken Wilson.
keith-ratcliffe on 13 Oct 2017
In reply to diff:
But who was the young climber? And why no credit?
Post edited at 21:30
aln - on 13 Oct 2017
In reply to UKC News:

I just watched that and I'm not ashamed to admit that I was in tears at the end. A beautiful film about a beautiful man, so in love with our stupid pastime of climbing up rocks.
FactorXXX - on 13 Oct 2017
In reply to keith-ratcliffe:

The 'Young Ken' was Daniel Rose as credited at the end of the film in the credits.
Excellent stuff and one that I will watch again.
Martin McKenna - UKC - on 14 Oct 2017
In reply to UKC News:

Paul, that is what a climbing film is all about, a proper good story coupled with some brilliant footage and interviews! My favourite climbing film I've ever watched was another one of your films, The Pinnacle, and this is definitely up there with that.

That's the first time I've heard Ken talk and what an insight into the creators mind of such a series of books. It reaffirms the unique quality of UK trad and adventure climbing.

Loved it!
Lemony - on 14 Oct 2017
In reply to scot1:

> What a crazy, narrow minded idiot

Whilst I don't agree with that sentiment in its entirety, it is galling to listen to someone express such impassioned loathing for climbing as I experience it.

Ken's legacy in the UK climbing scene is enormous but it has both positive and negative facets - I think it's to the credit of this film that it explored both.

TobyA on 14 Oct 2017
In reply to Lemony:

I own Cold Climbs, but not any of the other books and I got that as I was living in Scotland and obsessed with winter climbing, I'm not even sure that I was aware of the other books at time.

When I started climbing at the beginning of the 90s I started reading about Wilson more as a 'position': arch-traditionalist, anti-bolts etc. than as a person. I don't think I remember reading anything by him directly, or interviews with him in the magazines. It was much more references to Ken, often as representing one side of the argument, occasionally as the butt of a joke, than Ken saying anything himself. When the whole Harpur Hill thing kicked off (mid-90s?) I remember Perrin writing a big article about it in Climber. He went there with some of the people involved - although I can't remember if it was bolters or choppers, but possibly that included Ken Wilson. Does anyone know if he went and removed some of the bolts personally?

At the time it all seemed a bit bizarre and very far removed from my climbing. Since, decades later, moving to the area and having gone climbing at Harpur Hill, it seems even more bizarre that anyone would pick that hill as their hill to fight for, regardless of which side we are talking about! Anyways... it's a lovely video and I've even done most of the routes shown! It is interesting though that even to the end that Ken was still taking such a hard line on the issue of bolts and sport climbing. It feels somehow that time has moved on making those arguments somewhat moot, like re-reading early Noughties arguments within the left over humanitarian intervention.
Kemics - on 14 Oct 2017
In reply to UKC News:

This was really inspiring, manages to sum up so much of what I love about Climbing. I’ll never be a hard sport Climber, i typify that “every man in the street”in my Climbing. But damn I’ve felt like a hero when I’ve topped out some trad routes

I was really inspired to try the hard rock Ticklist...mostly low e grades and hvs. And then one e7...in Scotland! Just to make sure no one actually does it ;) tough ole bastard!
Jim 1003 - on 14 Oct 2017
In reply to UKC News:

Good movie...
stp - on 14 Oct 2017
In reply to TobyA:

> Since, decades later, moving to the area and having gone climbing at Harpur Hill, it seems even more bizarre that anyone would pick that hill as their hill to fight for

That's nothing. I remember hearing how he and maybe Martin Boysen? went to Leeds climbing wall and started leading the routes, skipping the bolts and placing their own trad gear instead. They didn't last long and were soon asked to leave. If that's meant to be some kind of statement about adventure climbing it's a pretty bizarre one.
TobyA on 14 Oct 2017
In reply to stp:

Yes, I remember reading the same thing. Slings draped over prominent holds if I remember. It takes all sorts!
Purple - on 14 Oct 2017
In reply to Lemony:

> Whilst I don't agree with that sentiment in its entirety, it is galling to listen to someone express such impassioned loathing for climbing as I experience it.

> Ken's legacy in the UK climbing scene is enormous but it has both positive and negative facets - I think it's to the credit of this film that it explored both.

Yep, hugely influential, mostly positive, but often negative.

quote 'facile climbing wall competition result' unquote -

There is more that one view of the world.

Like most people Ken had two ears and one mouth. Like many, he would have done well to use them in that ratio, instead of the reverse. Seek first to understand, then be understood.

RIP Ken.

Tony Jones - on 14 Oct 2017
In reply to UKC News:

A wonderful tribute to Ken Wilson.

I could (and will) watch this over and over.
Andy Hardy on 14 Oct 2017
In reply to scot1:

Rather than add to the tally of dislikes I'll just point out that ken viewed bolted routes more or less as stealing from the next generation of better climbers.
Phil Kelly - on 14 Oct 2017
In reply to scot1:
> What a crazy, narrow minded idiot

There was nothing crazy or narrow-minded about Ken Wilson, and he was definitely no idiot.

You should be ashamed of yourself for that entirely disrespectful comment, as should everyone who likes it.
Post edited at 20:16
Lemony - on 14 Oct 2017
In reply to Andy Hardy:

> Rather than add to the tally of dislikes I'll just point out that ken viewed bolted routes more or less as stealing from the next generation of better climbers.

An opinion which would seem more compelling if it was adjusted to even the tiniest degree in the face of the two or more generations of climbers who have now grown up understanding the importance and value of sport climbing or even by trying to understand that perceived value.
Colin Wells - on 14 Oct 2017
In reply to scot1:

> What a crazy, narrow minded idiot

Ha ha, Ken would have loved that comment actually (whether it was meant sincerely or ironically).

(As in: 'If you've got a blacklist, I want to be on it'.)
Shapeshifter - on 14 Oct 2017
In reply to UKC News:

I'm 53 and if I was in my 20's /30's and had started climbing in the last 10 years or so, I'm sure I might very well feel, who the hell is this old fart I've barely heard of trying to tell me that the sport I love is less valid than his and give this feature a dislike.

As such it's very difficult to describe what Hard Rock meant to a whole generation of 'joe average' climbers in the 80's and 90's and maybe even today for some of us. This was a book that everybody aspired to get ticks in. There was a definite sense of kudos that you could share with other people who had ticked the same routes or aspired to do them. When you were planing to do a route, you'd read the Hard Rock article with trepidation, thankful for any beta and when you'd done it, you'd very soon read it again to 'bask in the glory' of your own ascent. Basically Hard Rock was Cool! Today it's hard to believe that a single book could be so inspiring.

Climbing has changed beyond anything us old farts could have imagined - but here's to you Ken for all those brilliant days on routes and in parts of the UK I probably wouldn't have been arsed to visit if it wasn't for you and Hard Rock.

And here's to today's young climbers and finding your own versions of Hard Rock.
Fraser on 14 Oct 2017
In reply to UKC News:

I realise I'm swimming against the tide here, but I got 3:20min in and had had enough. This isn't a reflection on the guy - I don't know him or really know of him - but as a film, it had bored me too much by that stage to continue.
Robert Durran - on 14 Oct 2017
In reply to UKC News:

Wow. Brilliant film. And one of climbing's true heroes. British climbing has a huge amount to thank him for, both in terms of literature and in the defence of it's traditions.

He may have gone on fighting too long after the bolt battle had been settled, but there was a time when it needed his like to stand up and fight it.
Mick Ward - on 14 Oct 2017
In reply to Andy Hardy:

> Rather than add to the tally of dislikes I'll just point out that ken viewed bolted routes more or less as stealing from the next generation of better climbers.

Hmm... he once said to me that he had no particular objection to the steep bits of Malham being bolted as they were obviously very hard and lacking in natural pro. So he didn't view those as stealing from future generations.

My take on it is that Ken had a very strong 'moral compass' when it came to climbing. Classically however, he would refine his argument by a series of dialectical oppositions, i.e. he'd argue merry hell with Tom, Dick and Harry and subtly change his views accordingly (but never while the argument was actually going on!)

What Ken believed in was adventure. He saw adventure as life-enhancing. He didn't want sanitisation in climbing and he was definitely against 'psychotic boat pushing' [my term]. He really disapproved of that. He stood for a middle ground where you definitely pushed yourself but not to the extent where things got silly.

I can entirely understand people thinking he was reactionary vis a vis bolts. In many ways he was his worst enemy (but isn't this so of most great men?) What he was really after was adventure in climbing. For him, that enhanced one's experience of life. All of the body of work which he has left for us is about enhancing our experience of life.

He believed in us. He really did. And he gave us so much.

Mick

Andy Hardy on 14 Oct 2017
In reply to Lemony:

Sport climbing, has no intrinsic value or importance. In that regard it's exactly the same as trad.

However a sport route is never going to be climbed in a traditional style, so Ken's basic grievance still stands.
Fraser on 14 Oct 2017
In reply to Andy Hardy:

> However a sport route is never going to be climbed in a traditional style...

Maybe I'm misinterpreting your comment, but surely there are plenty of sport routes which have been climbed on trad gear alone. If not that, then could you clarify what you mean by 'traditional style'?

diff - on 15 Oct 2017
In reply to Fraser:

Ha, I'm sorry about that Fraser, the film doesn't really get going until 6:25min in ;-)
I appreciate it is a little slow by today's standards, when a 6 min film is considered long on the internet, but that is the style of film I set out to make.



John Gresty - on 15 Oct 2017
In reply to UKC News:

I heard Ken ranting about being thrown off Leeds Wall a few days after it happened, I was at meetings where Ken explained his motivation in removing the bolts from Harpur Hill soon after the event, I also had loud discussions, not sure that is the right word, with him on a couple of occassions while climbing in the Peak.

This film does not show the passion (which was very loud and vocal) Ken had for upholding what he regarded as climbing ethics, more like a gentle reflection on climbing today.

John
Fraser on 15 Oct 2017
In reply to diff:

I went back and watched the rest of the film from where I'd left it previously and have to say it picked up a lot, so much so that I really enjoyed it. I still think the beginning was too slow though, sorry! ;)

Based purely on the content of this film, his personality type (as opposed to his 'trad head' opinion which I can understand, although not necessarily agree with) is one I'd ordinarily try to avoid, but judging by the comments on this thread alone, he clearly had and still has a lot of fans.
Jeffertsc - on 15 Oct 2017
In reply to UKC News:
Ken, I loved the man to bits, even his 'quick' phone calls that lasted for hours! Will never make it to Kendal, but maybe it will go out to Netflix or Amazon and there's a wider audience.
Andy Hardy on 15 Oct 2017
In reply to Fraser:

nobody is going to climb a sport route without clipping the bolts, and even if they did, knowing that there are bolts to clip if needed changes the challenge of the route fundamentally
eggburt1952 - on 15 Oct 2017
In reply to scot1:

you disrespectful oink
Fraser on 15 Oct 2017
In reply to Andy Hardy:

> nobody is going to climb a sport route without clipping the bolts, and even if they did, knowing that there are bolts to clip if needed changes the challenge of the route fundamentally

Well, you're definitely wrong in the former and the latter has been discussed so many times on here in the past and this isn't the time or the place to reopen that debate. There are so many to choose from but I'll leave you with this clip, of a 'sport route' and climber I know well:

https://www.redbull.com/gb-en/robbie-phillips-trad-climbs-marlene-climbing-video
Andy Hardy on 15 Oct 2017
In reply to Fraser:

> Well, you're definitely wrong in the former

OK but the number of times this happens makes it noteworthy when it does

and the latter has been discussed so many times on here in the past and this isn't the time or the place to reopen that debate.

On that we can agree

Fwiw I'm not against sport climbing, I do it myself every now and then, I was just trying to give Ken's POV

keith-ratcliffe on 15 Oct 2017
In reply to Fraser:
I can understand why you might find this tedious - the film captures Ken Wilson in his later stages of dementia and it is not rivetting footage.....
Unless you know the huge contribution that he made to journalism & publishing then it looks like a tired old man. If however you had ever waited for the latest copy of Mountain to drop through the door or pre-ordered Hard Rock to be eventually overwhelmed by the architecture of that book then his stature as the king of climbing media in the 70's & 80's is never in doubt.
I do believe that it is not just nostalgia that makes me love this film -it is also the recognition of someone who shifted the game of mountain literature that sets the standards for today and has not yet been surpassed.
I think that my love for this film is driven by being there at the time of his greatness. If you want to look back to comparative issues of the publications of the day then the photography in Mountain left everybody standing. He took that into his books as well. They stand clear on the shelf as the storytellers of the day.
keith-ratcliffe on 15 Oct 2017
In reply to Mick Ward:
From someone who knew him well I gained this insight. Any conversation with Ken was an adventure - you never knew where it would go - he would use it to explore his own views and those of others and come up with a conclusive & passionately held view which would become his own- original of course - take on the topic. He loved argument! But he was no bigot.
Mick Ward - on 15 Oct 2017
In reply to keith-ratcliffe:

Totally agree. We were his hapless sparring partners in his pursuit of ultimate truth - or as close to it as he could possibly get.

Mick
Mick Ward - on 15 Oct 2017
In reply to diff:

> ...but that is the style of film I set out to make.

Nobody could have done better. The young boy... Ken nearing the end. This is a wonderful, elegiac film.

Mick

johncoxmysteriously - on 15 Oct 2017
In reply to scot1:

> What a crazy, narrow minded idiot

Calling dying people names? Stay classy, dude.

jcm
Mick Ward - on 15 Oct 2017
In reply to John Gresty:

John, I share your pain, I really do. As many will attest, to be on the receiving end of a bombardment by Ken was… quite something. But however uncomfortable the experience might be, it would be a pity if it blinds us to the true calibre of the man.

My own experience was typical:

‘I first met Ken Wilson at the foot of Pontesbury Needle, at the very spot to which Drummond, like Icarus, fell. It seemed somehow prophetic. After ticking the crag, we adjourned to the pub for a few beers. Subsequently we argued vehemently for nearly three hours in an empty car park while a silvery moon threw eerie shadows across Nesscliffe. Ironically we were on the same side.’

Note - we were on the same bloody side! I remember thinking: if he argues like this with those of similar persuasion, what on earth is he like arguing with infidels?

I was to find out. I guess if you visit Harpur Hill today it’s like going to an old battlefield – kind of hard to imagine things. But Harpur Hill really was the Maginot Line of unrestrained bolting. That’s not Sid and Bill’s fault; they were just unlucky. Passions on both sides were running high. It was timely that everyone drew back and examined themselves. Bolt agreement groups were formed; co-existence began to happen. Our present relatively harmonious situation can be traced back to this era.

Why was Ken so vociferous? What was the key to such an intense personality? Gordon Stainforth wrote that he simply couldn’t stop caring about the world and everything he encountered in it. He couldn’t stop caring. He cared with an intensity which we can’t begin to imagine.

Understandably the film doesn’t show Ken in his argumentative prime. It’s a more thoughtful, considered Ken. It’s Ken nearing the end. He knows full well that he’s under a death sentence. But there’s not a shred of self-pity. He’s grateful to Whillans. When he uses words such as privilege and humility, he means them. My God, he means them.

From a profile of Ken which I once wrote: ‘…Ken, however much he may rant, is truly the Jonathan Swift of our time. That such an extraordinary creature should have emerged from the climbing world should be cause for celebration, not confusion.’

W.B. Yeats wrote a brilliant epitaph for Swift. It is as applicable to Ken.

Swift’s Epitaph

Swift has sailed into his rest;
Savage indignation there
Cannot lacerate his breast.
Imitate him if you dare,
World-besotted traveler; he
Served human liberty.

Mick

johncoxmysteriously - on 15 Oct 2017
In reply to UKC News:

Enjoyed that, thanks.

I see even a climber as good as MT has to cheat the top of RU!

Hah - I used to know HR by heart, and I still think I do, but obviously I'm wrong. Pity to miss out Pete Crew's '...and even women have led it', I thought, as I listened, but on rereading I see that was about White Slab. I always wonder how much of a deliberate flouting of convention that was even in 1973, and how much simply a straightforward expression of what people thought at the time.

I could also have sworn it was 'let them be never so short', rather than 'never be so short'. It still seems to me that the former would have been preferable, but I find the text is against me.

As others have said, Ken speaking about his legacy and dementia is the best part of the film. RIP.

jcm
Alex Messenger, BMC - on 16 Oct 2017
In reply to everyone

Really glad you all enjoyed Hard Rock. We think that films capturing the unique spirit of British climbing like this (and Operation Moffat) are the core of BMC TV.

More feature films are free to watch here:

http://tv.thebmc.co.uk/videos/?channel=feature-films

We also have five rather special films coming up for this season:

Mind Control: Hazel Findlay battles her way back from injury to climb 8c
Solo: Pete Whittaker takes on the biggest challenge of his climbing life: El Cap on a rope solo
9b: Steve McClure finds his very limit on Rainman, the UK's hardest line
Inaccessible: What is driving Mary-Ann Ochota to climb the Inn Pinn?
Beyond the wall: Ray Wood travels to Palestine to discover the local climbing scene.

They'll be premiering at Kendal Mountain Festival. Then all BMC members will be emailed access codes to watch them.

So you know the score: if you like the films and want to watch them, then join us:

http://www.thebmc.co.uk/join






Dave Garnett - on 16 Oct 2017
In reply to Fraser:
> Based purely on the content of this film, his personality type (as opposed to his 'trad head' opinion which I can understand, although not necessarily agree with) is one I'd ordinarily try to avoid

I can understand that impression, and the first few times I encountered Ken was at public meetings where he fully lived up to his caricature and we generally ended up on opposite sides of the debate. He struck me as inflexible and out of touch and I said something to that effect. What surprised me was that he remembered me and the next time we met he bought me a beer and we asked what I'd been up to recently.

In private he was interested to know what I believed about bolting and how I'd come to my more flexible view. He was kind and generous and, as Mick Ward has commented already, he really did believe in the Hegelian dialectic. The quickest way to gain his respect was to give as good as you got - as long as there was logic and consistency to what you said. If you convinced him on a specific point, he would modify his position and you would get credit for making him do so. Even when you didn't persuade him he never held it against you; the important thing was that you cared and had thought about it, you still had more in common than that which divided you.

Ken's views on traditional climbing reminded me of Thomas More's arguments in 'A Man for All Seasons'. Often trivialised as the Thin End of the Wedge, his belief was that unless there was an easily understood absolute prohibition, any compromise would inevitably be eventually eroded into a free for all. Actually, I happen to agree that, although each generation is restrained by the culture and ethics with which it grows up there is a real danger that, with each subsequent generation, these self-imposed restrictions are loosened a little until in the end people forget that were ever any such rules.

So far, this has happened more slowly than Ken feared. There are agreements that, by and large, people stick to (with one or two worrying exceptions). That doesn't mean that Ken was wrong though. If activists in a particular locality decide to bolt somewhere and there is at least tacit agreement in the area, then that's what happens. It's one of the limitations of democracy that the result often depends on who you think deserves to be consulted. The test will be whether there is still unbolted trad limestone in another fifty years.
Post edited at 12:28
SuperstarDJ - on 16 Oct 2017
In reply to UKC News:

Wasn't there a plan for a new edition of Hard Rock to be released sometime around 2010? Did anything come of it? I'd like to finally take a look at the books but they're hard to get hold of.

Great film - thanks to the BMC for putting it together. Lovely mix of interview and climbing footage.
scot1 on 16 Oct 2017
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

Calling people names is effectively what Ken Wilson did in a subtle way. He derided anyone who displayed what he would have regarded as the lack of depth required to be interesting in sports climbing or competitions. Nowadays all sides of climbing exist in harmony and Kens black and white thinking is a relic of the past. There is no conflict.
scot1 on 16 Oct 2017
In reply to eroica64:

How deep of you. When you watch Alex Megos climb you're seeing something very special, try to look beyond the Red Bull.
Dave Garnett - on 16 Oct 2017
In reply to scot1:

> Nowadays all sides of climbing exist in harmony and Kens black and white thinking is a relic of the past. There is no conflict.

Have you been to Aldery Cliff recently?
Simon Caldwell - on 16 Oct 2017
In reply to scot1:

> Nowadays all sides of climbing exist in harmony and Kens black and white thinking is a relic of the past. There is no conflict.

Then I suggest you try a trip to High Stoney Bank and try to climb some of the trad routes without being able to clip any bolts. A trad crag became a trad crag with a few bolts, became a sports crag with a few trad lines, will sooner or later be a pure sports crag. Likewise Norber/Robin Proctor Scar. And another tranche of trad routes at Giggleswick Scar have recently been retro bolted.

As far as Yorkshire limestone goes, Ken was pretty much right, it's just taking a bit longer than he thought. It could easily be argued that it's no great loss to trad climbing, but that's not the point.
Robert Durran - on 16 Oct 2017
In reply to scot1:

> How deep of you. When you watch Alex Megos climb you're seeing something very special, try to look beyond the Red Bull.

You are completely missing the point; we'd all love to watch a good film showing Alex Megos' climbing. The Red Bull film was absolutely dire though.
Robert Durran - on 16 Oct 2017
In reply to scot1:
> Calling people names is effectively what Ken Wilson did in a subtle way.

No, he argued his case passionately at a time when it badly needed arguing. And today we maybe still need to be reminded of his case from time to time in order to maintain the harmony.
Post edited at 18:06
yesbutnobutyesbut - on 16 Oct 2017
In reply to UKC News:

A great film. No mention of grades just great footage of why British trad is so great and should be preserved as it is for future generations.
John Stainforth - on 16 Oct 2017
In reply to scot1:

I don't think Ken's thinking was black and white. And he was not an oddball, out on a limb: his views echoed most climbers of his generation - he just voiced his views more loudly than most. (Actually, there were climbers with stronger views than Ken. For example, Alan Austin considered that it made absolutely no difference whether one used a peg/bolt for aid or just for protection.) And I don't think there is complete harmony today - many climbers are concerned about the trends towards excessive bolting.
Lion Bakes on 16 Oct 2017
In reply to UKC News:
What a beautiful thoughtful film. I only ever knew Ken through his writings. A man passionate about adventure and its positive affect upon us.
Post edited at 20:14
TobyA on 16 Oct 2017
In reply to Dave Garnett:

I'm not really sure that Aldery is a bolt thing though is it? Yes, the bloke (badly) placed some bolted lower offs, but it was all the chainsawing of trees and damaging the cliff top that really made a mess of things.
Dave Garnett - on 16 Oct 2017
In reply to TobyA:

> I'm not really sure that Aldery is a bolt thing though is it? Yes, the bloke (badly) placed some bolted lower offs, but it was all the chainsawing of trees and damaging the cliff top that really made a mess of things.

It's all related though, Toby. I have the impression there was an agenda to get the lower-offs bolted and that the trees were cut in such a way that made that the only solution. If so, you have to wonder what the motivation was to get the bolts in. Was the next stage to bolt a couple of eliminates? Create an easy sport crag? I think it's pretty safe to assume what Ken's view would have been!

Sean Kelly - on 16 Oct 2017
In reply to UKC News:
I always wished that someone would update Ken's 'The Black Cliff' as it was spoiled by very poor production, hence the reason why ken set up his own. but as a large format coffee table type book similar to Gordon's S's classic books, it would be brilliant. and obviously updating the climbing history with Indian Face and so on. Go on somebody , take it on!
Post edited at 21:41
Mick Ward - on 16 Oct 2017
In reply to Sean Kelly:

I completely agree and have been told that a book on Cloggy has been initiated. It will sit well with the forthcoming one on Gogarth. Perhaps Peak Rock is heralding a resurgence of such books. I very much hope so.

I suppose I was so young and keen when 'The Black Cliff' first came out that I didn't notice the poor production. I just thought it was brilliant! I remember the premier bookshop in Belfast having loads of copies. I grabbed one; Lindsay Griffin grabbed another. I know I practically drooled...

Mick
EarlyBird - on 16 Oct 2017
In reply to Dave Garnett:

> II have the impression there was an agenda to get the lower-offs bolted and that the trees were cut in such a way that made that the only solution.

Having seen at first hand how the trees were removed I completely agree.
EarlyBird - on 16 Oct 2017
In reply to UKC News:

Lovely film by the way.
johncoxmysteriously - on 16 Oct 2017
In reply to Sean Kelly:

Eh? It's not Ken's, is it? The Wilson of the title is Rodney Wilson, and AFAIK Ken didn't have anything to do with it, did he?

I agree though an update would be good.

I saw a lecture by Ken once about the 60's, which concluded with the words 'In the end, the story of the 60's was of two cliffs, Cloggy (slide) and Gogarth (slide), and two climbers, Brown (slide) and Crew (slide)'. It also had a great slide of Malcolm Howells looking a bit bloodied after falling off Naddyn Ddu. I wonder when anyone last did *that*.

I suppose what I mean is that perhaps Cloggy hasn't really been all that happening since Indian Face and Redhead's routes. Which reminds me that I've just clocked up my second pint on my ongoing decade-old spread bet with Tobyfk on when IF is going to be onsighted...maybe when that happens it'll be time for a new edition.

jcm
TobyA on 16 Oct 2017
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

> Which reminds me that I've just clocked up my second pint on my ongoing decade-old spread bet with Tobyfk on when IF is going to be onsighted...

Can you explain how that bet works? And bear in mind that, many moons ago, TobyFK spent the entire slog up to one of the higher Henningsvaer crags on Lofoten trying to explain the general concept of spread betting to me. I don't think I really got it then, so am interested to see if I get how this pint based long term spread bet on IF works!
Chris the Tall - on 17 Oct 2017
In reply to UKC News:

Pretty good tribute to the man that he stir up arguments from beyond the grave !

I think the film shows both the good side of Ken - his passion for adventure- and his bad side - his inability to see things from any other standpoint than his own.
johncoxmysteriously - on 17 Oct 2017
In reply to TobyA:

You take the date IF is first onsighted. For every year it falls before 2016, I owe TKF a pint. For every year after that date, he owes me one.

A misnomer as I'm not sure there was a 'spread', as such. Or perhaps there was - maybe I offered 2016-18 or something in the first place, in 2004 or whenever it was.

jcm
Dave Garnett - on 17 Oct 2017
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

> You take the date IF is first onsighted. For every year it falls before 2016, I owe TKF a pint. For every year after that date, he owes me one.

Free beer for life, potentially, just fairly infrequent!

Sean Kelly - on 17 Oct 2017
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

> Eh? It's not Ken's, is it? The Wilson of the title is Rodney Wilson, and AFAIK Ken didn't have anything to do with it, did he?

> I agree though an update would be good.

> I saw a lecture by Ken once about the 60's, which concluded with the words 'In the end, the story of the 60's was of two cliffs, Cloggy (slide) and Gogarth (slide), and two climbers, Brown (slide) and Crew (slide)'. It also had a great slide of Malcolm Howells looking a bit bloodied after falling off Naddyn Ddu. I wonder when anyone last did *that*.

> I suppose what I mean is that perhaps Cloggy hasn't really been all that happening since Indian Face and Redhead's routes. Which reminds me that I've just clocked up my second pint on my ongoing decade-old spread bet with Tobyfk on when IF is going to be onsighted...maybe when that happens it'll be time for a new edition.

> jcm

Rodney Wilson...very confusing. I'm sure I heard Ken going on about the poor reproduction as he had no control so he set up his own company to handle such issues. Rodney Wilson...was he the guy that introduced technical grades into British climbing? I imagine the book is quite rare.I've never come across a copy apart from when it first appeared.

There have been some development since the Black Cliff came out, and besides a new book would certainly generate interest if it had stunning large format photos to do justice to the location. And if the weather played ball, after all it was the summer of '59 that resulted in others following on from Brown and Whillans. I was there earlier this year and only one other party on the crag on an absolutely brilliant day. A sad sign of the times I suppose.
Sean
Pedro50 on 17 Oct 2017
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

> Eh? It's not Ken's, is it? The Wilson of the title is Rodney Wilson, and AFAIK Ken didn't have anything to do with it, did he?

The Black Cliff. Peter Crew, Jack Soper and Ken Wilson 1971

My copy (price £2.65) would be the first book I would rescue in event of fire.

Mick Ward - on 17 Oct 2017
In reply to Sean Kelly:

I believe Rodney Wilson was the guy who introduced technical grades into British climbing (apart from Southern Sandstone tech grades). I think he was the guy who first spotted and top-roped Beatnik at Helsby (later soloed by Al Rouse). I've got a feeling he used to climb with Hugh Banner and was part of the Cheshire sandstone scene. He may have done a guidebook to it? (Pekkie will probably know.)

Would certainly agree with Ken's assessment:

'In the end, the story of the 60's was of two cliffs, Cloggy (slide) and Gogarth (slide), and two climbers, Brown (slide) and Crew (slide)'.

Crew was a big influence on Ken. Re publishing Crew's attitude was, 'Crack on with it; get it out,' rather than dithering around forever. An attitude I'd completely agree with. Note: this is not to imply any lack of consideration re editorial standards. Ken was merciless about standards. He withdrew and replaced one entire issue of Mountain (No 47? The one with poor, doomed Mick Burke on Everest on the front cover) because there was a typo (I think it was 'face' instead of 'ridge', or vice versa.) And the typo wasn't even his! Such an action is pure commercial madness - a bit like Chouinard stopping making (excellent) pegs because of cracks getting trashed - but indicative of near-absolute ethical/quality standards. Brian Cropper had to return copies from the YHA shop. He bought one for himself and ended up with both versions. Collectors, huh!

Ken learned from people. He gathered people around him who could make things happen (e.g. Bernard Newman's superb photography in Extreme Rock). And then he bloody well did make things happen.

But Crew was definitely a big influence. For me Crew, as with Brown, was a colossus. I think he had so very much more to give the climbing world. Sadly it wasn't to be. I hope he found fulfillment elsewhere.

Mick

Mick Ward - on 17 Oct 2017
In reply to Sean Kelly:

Re influences/people who could make things happen, Jim Perrin was very much the secret weapon in Hard Rock. If I remember correctly, he contributed about half a dozen essays. Again from memory, they were the strongest essays in the book.

Ken, Jim and Crew knew each other very well indeed. They were close. It was a crucible of talent.

Jim went up to Yorkshire and met the Leeds 'class of '72' out on the grit. Bernard Newman published 'Hubris', a stunning essay of Jim's, in the first of his groundbreaking Leeds Uni journals. This began a long professional association between the two.

A crucible of talent - from which the climbing world has greatly benefited.

Mick
Robert Durran - on 17 Oct 2017
In reply to Mick Ward:

> .........For me Crew, as with Brown, was a colossus.

"..... Crew, arrow climber, wall without end. Amen."

Have I quoted that right? I don't have my copy of Hard Rock to hand.

And THAT photograph......


Pedro50 on 17 Oct 2017
In reply to Robert Durran:

Lovely boy Crew....

Best essay in Hard Rock IMHO
Robert Durran - on 17 Oct 2017
In reply to Pedro50:

> Lovely boy Crew....

> Best essay in Hard Rock IMHO

Yes, definitely. "Elephants bounce pass trumpeting". That had gone through my head so many times over the years.

Probably for me the second finest short piece of climbing writing I know.
eroica64 - on 17 Oct 2017
In reply to Robert Durran:

Agree so so much. Ward Dummond was a star; "There was a quartz break and I took one too."


scot1 on 17 Oct 2017
In reply to Robert Durran:

True. It took an egotistical arse to do it but that maybe swayed the balance
Mick Ward - on 17 Oct 2017
In reply to Robert Durran:
From memory (and I've got this wrong before!) it was, 'Lovely boy, Crew. Arrow climber. Wall without end.'

Is it the John Cleare photo of Crew going back years later 'for a look'? Finally met John Cleare recently at the Count House. What a privilege. And his mate, Ian Howell. People you'd crawl over broken glass for the sheer pleasure of meeting.

That essay will live forever.

When I first saw 'The Black Cliff' in the bookshop in Belfast, with Lindsay, I was gobsmacked by Ken's photo-sequence of Drummond on Great Wall. I'd never seen a photo-sequence before. Drummond in his shorts! I was entranced by the physicality of it all. This was still the 'three points of contact; don't fall' paradigm (rightly) bequeathed from the Victorians. But Drummond was prefiguring what was to come. Another collossus.

Years (decades?) later, Ken had to explain to Drummond that they'd all been waiting for him to fail. Only he didn't. He bloody well didn't. He carried his dreams up there and he damn well persevered. He saw it through.

'Lovely boy, Crew. Arrow climber. Wall without end.'

Mick
Post edited at 20:27
Pedro50 on 17 Oct 2017
In reply to Mick Ward:

Seal cold in my shorts - I half not-rested...
jon on 17 Oct 2017
In reply to Robert Durran:

> Probably for me the second finest short piece of climbing writing I know.

What's the first, Rob?

Sean Kelly - on 17 Oct 2017
In reply to Sean Kelly:
I'm in the middle of writing up an article about Cloggy and found this on the net
http://publications.americanalpineclub.org/articles/12197353401/Clogwyn-dur-Arddu-The-Black-Cliff
Nice to know that my memory in not totally lacking.

So the question is Mick... who was actually doing this Cloggy book. I'm sure I heard this rumour quite a few years back. There have been books on the Cuillin and Ben Nevis, so it's about time there was something from Wales. Apart from Trevor Jones's book, nothing much aside comes to mind? Oh! I've not heard about the Gogarth book, would there be as much call for this? These serious cliffs always seem so empty these days but that's another issue altogether.
Only 47 years since the last book on Cloggy (apart from guide)!
Post edited at 21:15
keith-ratcliffe on 17 Oct 2017
In reply to Mick Ward:
Do you know how Ed Ward Drummond is nowadays? I recall a few years ago his sister(?) was trying to crowd fund some treatment for him out in California.
PS Mirror Mirror would be my favourite Drummond piece closely followed by the Hard Rock essay.
Post edited at 21:43
pneame on 17 Oct 2017
In reply to Mick Ward:

> I believe Rodney Wilson was the guy who introduced technical grades into British climbing (apart from Southern Sandstone tech grades). I think he was the guy who first spotted and top-roped Beatnik at Helsby (later soloed by Al Rouse).

I could have sworn this was Jim O'Neill - [citation: climbers club journal; Derek Walker, a much neglected crag (the link won't paste)]
Mick Ward - on 17 Oct 2017
In reply to pneame:

You're right - I'm getting them hopelessly mixed up. Reckon it was Jim O'Neill for The Beatnik and Rodney Wilson for tech grades. And I think Jim O'Neill who climbed with Banner. Which begs the question: who was Rodney Wilson?

Mick
Mick Ward - on 17 Oct 2017
In reply to Pedro50:

> Seal cold in my shorts - I half not-rested...

Oh, the feeling!

'A hard move and up to the peg...'

Yeah but what happens when you get up to the 'up' bit? God they were all in sandbag mode.

Mick
Mick Ward - on 17 Oct 2017
In reply to Sean Kelly:
That's a nice write-up. Isn't Lindsay Griffin the AAC editor? Or am I getting mixed up again? Obviously this was written by Al Rubin.

Well, on the basis that this is unlikely to be confidential (can't think why it should be)... Graham Hoey. And I'll tell you right now, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone better. Phil Kelly and Graham made Peak Rock happen. There's a lot of talent out there but... Graham just feels so right for this one. It'll be a worthy successor to 'The Black Cliff'.

Re the Gogarth book, the bit I've read (Wen Zawn area) is outrageously good. Tons of grassroots essays. OK they're not by professional writers but, in my view, that makes them more gritty. And commentary/analysis by Grant Farquhar which gives amazing insight. You can feel the place. You're back there. It's... something else. I think there's going to be an article on it here in due course.

Everybody says these crags are empty a lot of the time. I know I miss them terribly and I'm sure many others do. But Peak Rock showed that there's a vibrant market for books celebrating much loved climbing areas.

Mick
Post edited at 22:43
Mick Ward - on 17 Oct 2017
In reply to keith-ratcliffe:

I think he's in a very bad way but, as you'd expect, making the best of it. There was a crowdfunding exercise a few years ago and people contributed as best they could. But - I'm sure it's very difficult indeed.

Mirror Mirror was another example of Ken being lucky but then absolutely capitalising on it. He was musing over something to blast off 'The Games Climbers Play'. Dicky Swinden (sp?) happened to bump into him and said, "Have you seen that article of Drummond's in [I think] 'Ascent'?" Even though Ken and Drummond went way back (along with T.I.M Lewis) I don't think he knew about the article until then. Ken being Ken - he went with it. The rest is history.

I'd be hard pressed to choose between the two essays - both are unutterably brilliant. On pure emotion, the Great Wall essay might just sneak in. It adds so to the history of that wall. And it's such a graceful elegy for Crew.

Mick
Robert Durran - on 17 Oct 2017
In reply to jon:

> What's the first, Rob?

Robin Campbell's obituary of Dougal Haston from the SMC Journal. It's in Games Climbers Play. So many emotions distilled into a few short paragraphs.
TobyA on 17 Oct 2017
In reply to Robert Durran:

It's a long time since I read that and can't remember too much about it. Was it there that he pointed out the darker aspects of Haston's personality and history?
Robert Durran - on 17 Oct 2017
In reply to TobyA:

> It's a long time since I read that and can't remember too much about it. Was it there that he pointed out the darker aspects of Haston's personality and history?

No, it's aimed very personally and with devastating effect at Haston's climbing circle from his earlier years before he became well known.
pneame on 17 Oct 2017
In reply to Mick Ward:
> And I think Jim O'Neill who climbed with Banner. Which begs the question: who was Rodney Wilson?

Yes, I think it was - Jim was quite the star in his day. And great company, but Lord, he could snore for England.
And here he is - https://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=5624. Look at those empty fields in the background!

The only reference I can find to Rodney Wilson in a cursory search is that he and Crew developed the technical grading system [ Climbers Club again ]. As you say.
Post edited at 23:52
Sam Beaton on 18 Oct 2017
In reply to pneame:

Isn't wilson582 on here Rodney Wilson?
Mick Ward - on 18 Oct 2017
In reply to pneame:

What a great photo! Is the rope round his back? I can remember when we used to put the rope round our backs because we hadn't any runners. And yes - empty fields.

I haven't got the relevant guidebook to hand but I have a feeling that Jim O'Neill seconded Hugh Banner on the FA of Rule Britannia on Bingorm in the very early 1960s. It was a big breakthrough. Ironically it got straightened out as Eireann go Brath (sp?) which, if my dodgy Irish is anything to go by, means something like, 'Ireland Forever!' All good clean fun.

Mick
Mick Ward - on 18 Oct 2017
In reply to Sam Beaton:

Well spotted! He must be. We're very much in his debt. When you combine Rodney Wilson's tech grades and Pete Botterill's E grades, you've got (it seems to me) the climbing equivalent of a Periodic Table. You can make far greater sense of things. Much more informed climbing decisions may be made.

It seems Rodney Wilson certainly climbed with Hugh Banner (as well as Jim O' Neill?) His gallery is amazing! The shots of Banner on Suicide Wall, Banner on the FA of Troach and (my favourite) Crew on the FA of The Boldest...

Ken once laughingly said that 'Crewey' was entirely the wrong shape to be a climber. The inference was that his climbing was a 'triumph of the will'. But he was no slouch at bridging! The photo of him on the FA of Zukator shows a pretty wide bridge but that one of him on the FA of The Boldest is eye-watering.

As I recall, 'The Black Cliff' documents the FA of Great Wall. But I can't remember anything about the FA of the Boldest. Although Crew did bend the rules a bit, both routes stand testimony to his vision.

Mick
keith-ratcliffe on 18 Oct 2017
In reply to Robert Durran:
More from Robin Campbell - Mountain 14 1971 - The Scottish Winter issue.
"Such writing and such climbs remind us that mountaineering is a struggle and winter mountaineering often a desperate one. No dry exercise of logic and skill, but a 'howking of immense jug-handles', a frozen waiting in icy torrents of 'thundering rubbish', a fight with the green rockless wastes of the last 400 ft of Scotland while the sinister dark clutches at your ankles, a world where to spend time is maybe to spend your last time and where only the bold stroke will suffice, where victory is celebrated not with a shaming glow of smugness but with great baying whoops of triumph and relief: a world of primitive delight."

A couple of years ago he did the summary at the end of the Boardman/Tasker awards at Kendal and to hear him in full flight was remarkable.
pneame on 18 Oct 2017
In reply to Sam Beaton:

Indeed - I'd completely forgotten that iconic set of pictures
pneame on 18 Oct 2017
In reply to keith-ratcliffe:

> "where victory is celebrated not with a shaming glow of smugness but with great baying whoops of triumph and relief: a world of primitive delight."

That really completely sums up, well, everything. His writing and clarity of thinking was genius
pneame on 18 Oct 2017
In reply to Mick Ward:
> But I can't remember anything about the FA of the Boldest. Although Crew did bend the rules a bit, both routes stand testimony to his vision.

Documented in depth and with analysis!
Another good bit of writing (Boldest):
"There was hushed silence and furtive mumbling from the crowd as the cardinal sin was committed"[Crew]

It has been a while since I looked at Black Cliff. What a gem it is - thank you for making me dig it out!
My copy has a detailed tech grade topo of the West inserted (drawn by me), with every pitch I'd climbed annotated as to whether I'd seconded, led or soloed. There is still quite a lot of work to do.... I must have drawn it in '72 or '73 as it is missing a few pitches that I know I've done. Talk about obsessive compulsive...

Sean Kelly - on 18 Oct 2017
In reply to keith-ratcliffe:

> More from Robin Campbell - Mountain 14 1971 - The Scottish Winter issue.

> "Such writing and such climbs remind us that mountaineering is a struggle and winter mountaineering often a desperate one. No dry exercise of logic and skill, but a 'howking of immense jug-handles', a frozen waiting in icy torrents of 'thundering rubbish', a fight with the green rockless wastes of the last 400 ft of Scotland while the sinister dark clutches at your ankles, a world where to spend time is maybe to spend your last time and where only the bold stroke will suffice, where victory is celebrated not with a shaming glow of smugness but with great baying whoops of triumph and relief: a world of primitive delight."

That no.14 Mountain, with its blue cover was an absolute classic issue. It opened my eyes to Scottish winter climbing and the writing of Smith & Marshall. i remember something about being ' in an ice-blasted refrigerator!'
Mick Ward - on 18 Oct 2017
In reply to pneame:

Many thanks. I just couldn't remember the account of the Boldest. It's ages since I've last lead The Black Cliff.

If I remember correctly, there's a mention of 'a direct start to the Boulder' or some such in Rock Climbers in Action in Snowdonia with an intriguing comment about the difficulty of describing the difficulty (obviously a total head trip, pre wires). Al Rouse got gripped soloing it when a hold snapped. Will Perrin soloed it on a dank day with mist swirling around an otherwise deserted crag. It must have been a terribly lonely experience.

Did you ever do Walsh's Groove? The most bizzare feature imaginable. It looks E10. Amazing FA by Patsy Walsh in mistake for a pitch on Sheaf (shudder!)

Of course... doesn't The Black Cliff finish with a fictitious account of a pair finishing Walsh's Groove and thinking ahead to 'the long drive home'?

A pity they didn't use Jack Soper's brilliant comment: "You could stand with your back to Cloggy, look out across the valley and feel the vast, brooding presence behind you..."

Mick
pneame on 19 Oct 2017
In reply to Mick Ward:

> Did you ever do Walsh's Groove? The most bizzare feature imaginable. It looks E10. Amazing FA by Patsy Walsh in mistake for a pitch on Sheaf (shudder!)

> Of course... doesn't The Black Cliff finish with a fictitious account of a pair finishing Walsh's Groove and thinking ahead to 'the long drive home'?

> A pity they didn't use Jack Soper's brilliant comment: "You could stand with your back to Cloggy, look out across the valley and feel the vast, brooding presence behind you..."

I'd forgotten that bit - an essay that really sums up the addictive nature of the place. Do we climb for the joy of it, or the rush from the feeling of it being over and we are still alive? To each their own, of course, and I haven't even touched on the loveliness of a piece of rock, examined in detail, as you try and work out how to get up it.

No, never done Walsh's Groove. A bit rich for me!
Sean Kelly - on 19 Oct 2017
In reply to pneame:

The amazing thing about the West Buttress is that it looks like an easy slab but the slab is tilted towards the vertical. So apparently appearing easy, is almost an optical illusion, especially when seen head on. Then standing directly beneath the crag is when the overpowering presence of the crag dominate your vision and mind.
Gordon Stainforth - on 19 Oct 2017
In reply to Sean Kelly:

I remember standing at the foot of West Buttress Eliminate (on a photoshoot for my first book) on a murky, damp day in November, and it being the most intimidating-looking climb I've ever seen in my life, bar none – well, except some things on Sron Ulladale. A huge, incredibly powerful line disappearing up into the murk, full of black dripping overhangs.
pneame on 19 Oct 2017
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

My first sight of Cloggy - I think I was 16. Stayed at the Llanberis Youth Hostel and wandered up after a rainy night. A vast black thing with phenomenal rock architecture. No sounds except for the Ravens. No people (who would be daft enough to go there with it so wet?). A vast silence. The Pinnacle was awesome, a great fortress hanging above me. The East was, well, the East. The Far East looked like another, remote fortress. And the West - lines everywhere. I remember nothing else of the trip - how did I get there? Must have hitched. How did I get home? Likewise. But the crag is vivid in my memory. Later, it always seemed rather friendlier!
Mick Ward - on 19 Oct 2017
In reply to pneame:

What a fantastic description! You should send it to Graham - honestly. The Gogarth book has lots of people's impressions like this. They just make everything come alive.

I think someone on here once suggested that West Buttress Eliminate would have been better named West Buttress Direct. A classic Crew understatement. It feels so fitting that it ends up on the crux of Longlands (got an Egyptian in there!)

Mick
pneame on 19 Oct 2017
In reply to Mick Ward:

Thanks Mick! High praise coming from you - somewhere, I have slides, but being on Kodachrome 25, they look awful when scanned. Well, actually, you had to be there for them to mean anything even when projected. Perhaps I'll have a go at some digital wizardry, but Kodachrome 25 - when it was great, it was fabulous, but when it was bad it was horrid.
Skyfall - on 19 Oct 2017
In reply to UKC News:

Great video and I imagine it's all been said above but to add my comments.

I started climbing not that long ago (20+) years but, even then, sports climbing was not a large part of most people's climbing life in the UK. We were going out each weekend, challenging ourselves on traditional climbs and our milestones were the routes documented in such a fantastic way in Classic and Hard Rock. The Cracks and the Direct on the Mot, the Crack on Gimmer, Dream etc. These experiences stay with me today and the climbing friendships last a lifetime. With judgement, as Ken put it, we managed to scrape up some routes that perhaps we had no right to get up as compared to today's wall trained climbers and felt like heroes at the top. For years I was regularly on-sighting (is there any other way?) E1's and even the occasional E2 and had never climbed a sports route above f6a. Nowadays, I supposedly sports climb at a considerably higher level and can just about manage to get up the odd VS or soft HVS I like the look of. Back then, each weekend brought an adventure in the Peak, Lakes or Wales; a moment of madness which wasn't really but fed the rat, for a short while. Those were the halcyon days of my climbing.
Post edited at 22:55
Mick Ward - on 20 Oct 2017
In reply to Skyfall:

What a lovely, lovely post. Absolutely catches the joy and magic of it all. Ken and his various publications must have had such an influence on so many people.

I few years ago, while ghostwriting a book about a particular charitable organisation and pondering the vast legacy of its founder, I came up with the notion of 'influencers'. These so strongly influenced people, that it's probable those whom they influenced went on to influence still others... and so on. Obviously such influence could be for good or ill. I guess teachers are the classic influencers. Many of my generation chose careers based on which subject they most liked at school. Often they liked it simply because there was a sympathetic teacher and not some drone simply giving it, "Read chapter 10".

It seemed to me that those who influenced for good could bring profound benefits to society. (Where do the ripples end...?) It's obvious from your account and those of so many others over the years, that Ken brought such an influence to bear.

Normally I'm just not into awards and all that kind of stuff but perhaps there's a place for a Ken Wilson award for contribution to climbing/mountaineering/literature. Obviously one wouldn't wish it to compete with the Boardman/Tasker. Perhaps it could be more of a lifetime award, given intermittently. It needn't be about money. It might be something very simple indeed - maybe a little plaque or something like that. It would both honour Ken's memory and help perpetuate a theme of giving to the climbing community.

Just a thought...

Mick
Zoony - on 20 Oct 2017
In reply to UKC News:

Too much nostalgia, climbing has moved on, its all about indoors and competitions now
Mick Ward - on 20 Oct 2017
In reply to Zoony:

I beg to respectfully differ. I came back this afternoon totally mentally drained from a first ascent. Although it's technically easy and there are a lot of bolts in it, it still feels adventurous, intimidating and a 'head trip', partly because it's very exposed and partly because the rock (although thoroughly cleaned) is still potentially snappy.

Last night I was looking at proofs for the main cliff section of the forthcoming Gogarth book. I would imagine that first/early ascentionists had remarkably similar 'head trips' some fifty years ago. (Obviously my little jaunt was infinitely safer; with a 60s rack, they really were playing with fire.)

I like the thought that I'm going through much the same emotions as people fifty years ago. And, no matter how much things change, I would hope that people go through much the same emotions in fifty years time.

Conversely, fifty years ago, I was a raw beginner. And I hope that people now feel the same excitement I did. And I hope that in another fifty years, they're still finding it.

Mick
Offwidth - on 21 Oct 2017
In reply to Mick Ward:
"Although it's technically easy and there are a lot of bolts in it, it still feels adventurous, " I can see that grave spinning ....

Ken was too often a pain in the arse because he cared too much. If we all behaved like that, probably little would ever get done. He was also exceptionally kind (read some of the tributes on the Supertopo obit thread) and, as others here pointed out here, not as rigid ethically as his argumentative nature indicated. It's funny to see people getting defensive on his behalf as he never wanted that when he was alive and if asked then I'd guess wouldn't want it now. I don't like the comparisons to Thomas Moore either... he tortured Protestants whereas the grilling you got from Ken was only verbal. I regard his contributions to mountain literature as way more important than any ethical stuff about bolts.
Post edited at 11:07
Mick Ward - on 21 Oct 2017
In reply to Offwidth:

> "Although it's technically easy and there are a lot of bolts in it, it still feels adventurous, " I can see that grave spinning ....

Don't worry - I'm only too well aware of the irony! Oddly enough, I don't think I ever got any grief from Ken about my climbing. I think he just reckoned my heart was in the right place (I hope it is) and, if I was into facets of climbing he wasn't, well best just to let me get on with it. Which he did.

The last time we climbed together, soloing on Castle Naze in a gentle drizzle, I lagged hopelessly behind Dick Turnbull and him. Both were in their element. I wasn't (have always been terrified soloing on loose/wet/polished rock). Typically both were kind, encouraging and, despite their reputations, surprisingly gentle and understanding. As Jim Perrin once wrote, Ken, while no technician, was bloody competent. Unlike me, he wasn't easily fazed by loose, wet or polished. In fact he wasn't easily fazed, period.

Similarly, while obviously he had that incident with Boysen at the Leeds wall, using slings for runners, I can remember having a great evening with him on a climbing wall where he was impeccably behaved. Mind you, he did have a predilection for chimneys and offwidths (no pun intended). He'd disappear up 'em in his hairy, blue Javelin pants (a mere two decades after their fashion zenith). He swore by their stickability.

I remember Phil Robbins saying he'd spent a weekend in a hut somewhere with Ken, nervously expecting a non-stop motormouth. To his great surprise, Ken quietly read and once again was impeccably behaved.

So I suppose the danger is that we become so blinded by the Ken parody (and yes, sometimes he lived up to it and more!) that we lose the (slightly) quieter, more reflective man who has bequeathed us so much.

That's really why I loved this film. To me, it caught the rather quieter, more reflective man who saw the great themes of climbing as the great themes of life itself.

Mick







john arran - on 10 Nov 2017
In reply to Mick Ward:

Well it's taken me several weeks to find time to watch this - I've really been very busy. But I'm glad I did.

Not that it was an easy watch. I never knew Ken very well and always had a great respect for his drive and determination to pursue what he was convinced was right for his beloved activity (I dare not call it a sport in this context!) And, of course, his legacy in terms of publishing of climbing literature may well be second to none.

But equally I am horrified that such narrow-minded, blinkered views can go unchallenged by so many.

I share his passion for trad, for adventure. It's what I love more than anything else in climbing. Probably always will. But his unwillingness to appreciate or acknowledge that anybody could have perfectly valid opinions that differed from his own, when it comes to the joys and fulfilment that can be gained from climbing, is a failing too many seem to regard as a strength.

I had an introduction to climbing that wasn't dissimilar to that portrayed in the film, complete with bendy boots and rope around the waist. I wouldn't have traded it for the world. But neither would I have traded competing internationally on indoor walls, climbing and establishing hard sport routes, or for that matter, adventure trad exploration on big walls in remote parts of the world. I shared Ken's passion, I can see exactly where he was coming from. But the way I see it, it was him that was missing something, not those who can also gain huge satisfaction from types of climbing that don't fit into the relatively narrow category he called 'adventure'. I liken it to a Classical music aficionado refusing to go even to the ballet, and heaven forbid never to a jazz or rock concert.

When I started working as Development Officer at the BMC in 1996, Ken called me within the first week. I later found out that he was in the habit of calling many of the BMC officers regularly, including my predecessor in the role, to make sure his opinions were not being ignored (related to me by other officers as "giving them an earful"!) I was responsible for pursuing the development of climbing walls, competitions and youth opportunities, and he obviously had strong opinions about most things in my in-tray, so I listened to what he had to say, although I confess to finding almost all of it of little or no relevance to my role, and thanked him for his input. To my surprise, he never once called again.

I'm glad to have known Ken, and I'm glad he had such an impact on the sport (yes, it really is such) that he loved. But none among us is perfect - certainly not me - and to recognise the failings of such a unique character as Ken may well be a necessary step in truly appreciating his traits of genius.
David Rose - on 15 Nov 2017
In reply to keith-ratcliffe:

He's my son Daniel. We filmed this with Diff in 2016, when he was 12. He loves climbing and caving, and is very cool about it, too.

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