British climbing legend Joe Brown has passed away peacefully at his home in Llanberis at the age of 89. Joe was a true pioneer of rock climbing and was most active in the 1950s and 1960s. His ascents were as varied in style as they were in location and ranged from the gritstone outcrops of the Peak District, to 8000m peaks in the Himalaya.
Nothing more to add.
This was reported by John Appleby on Footless Crow so presumably true.
One of the masters.
End of an era.
How old was he?
Oh dear. The most inspirational man of all for a lot of my era.
Thanks and reflect with sadness and a smile what he has brought to our community
How sad. He inspired to me to climb. I'll be thinking of his family as they try to say goodbye at this difficult time.
Can't believe this, sorry guys, and no word on UKC. Never! Brown's death would be huge to anyone even remotely interested in climbing. Let's get a good source first before we commiserate and wear black arm bands.
> One of the masters.
End of an era. So tough, so enterprising, so competent, so talented. And by all accounts the real embodiment of that cliché, 'the best climber is the one that's having the most fun.' One of my great regrets is that I never saw him climbing in the flesh - and even more so that he never gave masterclasses in crack climbing. What's that story of Birtles: 'Why did you give Elder Crack [or some similar route] the VS grade?' 'Well it is, isn't it?'
The only consolation is that maybe now we'll get to read his bio, which I think was being written by his daughter for publication after he was gone.
Yes, no reports anywhere and he would warrant news articles wouldn't he? Let's wait...
Thanks for everything Joe.
For our generation, he was the climbing inspiration of our lives. I'm only glad that I managed to visit him 18 months ago, still in good spirits though very frail.
Small in stature, but a giant in our climbing history.
Apparently he only died late last night. Give the climbing media a bit of time.
A legend has departed. My condolences to his family and friends.
Absolute legend and inspiration, his routes still test people to this day and we have miles better equipment nowadays...
Dreadful news, such an inspirational figure. Condolences to his family.
What a legacy of routes he left.
Montagnes-magazine had an orbituary for Serge Coupé yesterday which ended
"Serge Coupé était aussi l'un des derniers pionniers de la glorieuse époque des grandes conquêtes à 8 000 mètres que l'Autrichien Kurt Diemberger (premières du Broad Peak en 1958 et du Dhaulagiri en 1960) et l'Anglais Joe Brown (première du Kangchenjunga en 1955) semblent être les seuls à pouvoir encore raconter." https://www.montagnes-magazine.com/actus-serge-coupe-dernier-survivant-makalu-mort
So Kurt Diemberger is the only survivor of that period of Himalayan climbing
Oh no, such sad news. What a life though and what a legend. Really feels like the end of an era.
A legend and an inspiration to many thousands of us. RIP. The Master.
Anything I could possibly say would understate what a towering figure Joe Brown was in climbing. Climb on, Joe.
So sad to hear this! A legend, by the true definition of the word!
As such, I imagine climbing media will not be looking for a rushed response. More, a well written, and wide covering complete piece, fitting of the man that it's about. He and his legacy deserve that.
Sad news indeed. And I'm looking forward to likely learn even more about him than I already do.
Is is perhaps accurate to say that Joe Brown really was a true legend, his legacy the quality and quantity of his climbs. And yet a modest man despite his achievements. RIP Joe.
He crossed the sea to Chamonix
And to show what he could do,
He knocked three days off the record time
For the west face of the Dru-
On the unclimbed face of the Blaitière,
The crux had tumbled down-
But he cracked the crux by the crucial crack
Now known as the Fissure Brown.
Tom Patey - The Joe Brown Song
A sad, sad loss then. RIP Joe.
Remarkable just watching him on the Roraima film thread just now.
Yes, strange coincidence. I was looking at the Roraima film late last night ...
RIP Joe, thanks for all the great stories and legends you created.
Ah, a great shame. An inspirational climber.
It's hard to know where to begin, because he did so much and led the way for so long - something I was reminded recently whilst reading The Black Cleft and High Peak.
Working at Joe Browns in Llanberis changed my own life too and the fact his routes are still sought after today is a testament to his vision.
Rest in peace...
Climber of the century for me.
His and Whillans' books inspired me to climb and there is always something special about his routes whether it be line, technicality, brutality, route-finding or just plain cunning.
Sad beyond belief.......
Remembering the times I chatted to him in the Padarn.....
The end of an era......
Made a grown man cry.
''if you can't reach the starting holds you have to climb up to them''
Few people become legends in their lifetime. Joe Brown was one of them. RIP.
Very sad news Condolences to his family, colleagues, and friends.
Greatest of all time
That is sad news.
The complete mountaineer. An adventurer, as distinguished on the world's great mountains as he was as a pioneer on British rock. Thanks to Mo and Derek Walker I had the privilege of knowing him a bit.
Sad news. That really is the end of an era. Gone but never forgotten.
So sad, what a legend!
Happy that I managed to climb 4½ of his routes:
Right Unconqurable, 1985
- and half of Brown-Whillans on Blaitiére in 1986.
Will have to do more...
Michael Hjorth, Copenhagen
Never forgot that, left a mark. What a man, RIP.
Very sad news. A proper bona fide legend.
A hero of many - including me - for his ability, his vision and his sheer good grace throughout a lifetime of being an inspiration to huge numbers of climbers. RIP Joe.
"bouldering ain't anything new, we just used to call it arsing about"
Can't remember where I heard him say that but it always makes me smile.
Thanks for the routes Joe, you legend.
RIP Joe.....find myself quite upset to hear of his passing away. For lots of us he has been a real influence on our climbing and therefore, our lives as a whole.
A huge loss to the climbing world.....
Very sad news. I think the greatest climbing inspiration for me. RIP Joe
Very sad, so many great routes to his name, to my mind the most outstanding climber of last centuary.
What a legacy.
Peerless in an age that was incredibly blessed.
Sad that he's gone, pleased that he achieved so much in his time.
He was a true pioneer who was pushing the boundaries of climbing as it developed. When he started out climbing was almost unrecognisable to what how it is today - there was no chalk, climbing shoes were hob nailed boots, dynamic rope and harnesses didn't exist, protection was pretty much non existant, your belay device was your waist, helmets were unthinkable... I could go on!
When you look at what they climbed using that lot the mind boggles.
There will ever be another like him, or his contemporaries - they were pushing the boundaries using gear that basically didn't work. Nobody would dream of that these days.
Seemed like a nice fella too (in stark contrast to others of his time!) here's to him!
There's already "The Hard Years" which although is ancient now it's very good.
The closing of a chapter of British climbing. One only has to flick through Eastern Grit or one of the North Wales guides to see the legacy which Joe has left the UK climbing community: an abundance of high-quality routes at the pinnacle of the sport at the time of first ascent, and still often very respectable efforts for the average climber now. I think it would be fair to say that routes such as Right Unconquerable, Cemetery Gates and Cenotaph Corner are milestone goals and achievements for many of us even today, and that is testament to the routes not only being historically hard, but being truly compelling lines.
Thank you for the legacy, Joe, you were a true inspiration even several generations on. Rest in peace.
What a legacy he has left for us all. Have always aspired to his routes and still do.
Really saddened to hear this.
> There's already "The Hard Years" which although is ancient now it's very good.
There's a great wee story in that when (if I remember correctly decades after reading it) Joe Brown and Joe Smith get caught emerging from the top of a crag somewhere they're not supposed to be and truthfully give their names to the disbelieving police!
Wow, I didn't expect to be tearing up at this news, normally don't at this sort of thing, but here I am. I only met the guy once, for a couple of minutes over a decade ago.
Would it be fair to call him the father of modern British rock climbing? It's kind of how I've always seen him.
Oh dear, thats a big one. Sad day but what a full life, one worth celebrating considering the fact that what he did was part of where we're at today.
Very sad news indeed. Legend is an often overused word but in this case it isn’t, Joe was a true legend and a total inspiration. I have read ‘The Hard Years on many occasions and it inspired me to start climbing in the early 70s. I was lucky enough to meet Joe on a few occasions in the early 80’s playing darts in the Padarn and climbing in the pass, often on Dinas Mot. He was very friendly and very encouraging, he always stopped for a chat to discuss the routes we had done. I’ll be digging out ‘The Hard Years’ this afternoon. RIP Joe.
I dug out my copy of his autobiography, The Hard Years, read probably 40 years ago. I remember lots of it well from then, particularly the picture of him captioned 'bandy legs, teeth like tombstones and hands like bunches of bananas', and the description of him sliding on a boulder into the Snowdon railway station. I also remember descriptions of hard climbs done on Cloggy in awful conditions in socks where he almost always found a jam to rest on around the crux. And sure enough, if you look at the climbing pictures in the book, he is almost invariably jamming.
When I started climbing in the mid/late 70s there were new `heroes' around, e.g. Livesey and Fawcett etc, but Joe Brown (and Don W) was something else. It wasn't just the routes, the lack of gear, the seriousness of what he did, it was also the post-war breaking out of the middle class Alpine Club `training for the Alps' approach. Given how much I was into punk that just chimed. Of course he went on to do brilliant things in the Alps (and elsewhere) but there was always the sense that he was, first and foremost, a rock climber. RIP.
RIP. The Hard Years is a great read. I was looking for a first ascent list and found one via the UKH forum that was dead but using the waybackmachine here is a 2012 snapshot (scroll to bottom): https://web.archive.org/web/20120511235426id_/http://www.joe-brown.com/first-ascents/index.php
I feel very sad and emotional reading this. Joes routes have given me so many rich experiences!
Right Unconquerable, Browns Eliminate, Great Slab, Octo, The Corner, Cenotaph Corner, The Mostest, Shrike, Grond, Vector, Grasper the list goes on and on. So many great days out, so many memories.
Just ask yourself how many of those climbs you would have done if you only had the gear and boots Joe was using at the time.
It's a cracking read, loads of great stories in it.
The stories of them climbing in their socks because it was raining... Unthinkable now!
> Very sad news indeed. Legend is an often overused word but in this case it isn’t, Joe was a true legend and a total inspiration. I have read ‘The Hard Years on many occasions and it inspired me to start climbing in the early 70s. I was lucky enough to meet Joe on a few occasions in the early 80’s playing darts in the Padarn and climbing in the pass, often on Dinas Mot. He was very friendly and very encouraging, he always stopped for a chat to discuss the routes we had done. I’ll be digging out ‘The Hard Years’ this afternoon. RIP Joe.
I read The Hard Years when I was 12 or 13 and just getting into climbing, and was also inspired by it. To live for nearly a century and have the life he did, I think is something anybody could be glad to look back on.
I had the privilege of climbing with Joe and Don on Dinas Mot in the early 50s. While Don White and I climbed North West Arrete, followed by Don and another, Joe wandered solo diagonally across the face putting up a new route which I think he called Slings - ‘covered in teacup handles’ he remarked as I was belayed above the crux and he passed by. Lovely, unassuming chap, sorely missed. I recall later taking Joe Smith (Morty) up his first VS in Langdale - soon to become an inseparable companion of Joe Brown. Those were the days .......
The legend. Very few sports can claim that a single figure has had such an influence. Now, as then, Joe Brown's repertoire and contribution has been and is peerless, and will remain so. A sad day. RIP.
Oh no, Joe was the greatest, I have always had a great deal of respect for him, RIP Joe Brown
> Oh no, such sad news. What a life though and what a legend. Really feels like the end of an era.
Exactly, sad but what a life. 89 is a good innings. A life well lived.
The Hard Years is the book I am going to buy today.
Can other people thumbs up and thumbs down on this thread?
Many years ago a good friend lent me a well thumbed copy of 'The Hard Years' to read. The book was inspirational and started me on my ongoing love affair with climbing. Joe, you'll never know how much you influenced my life. Tonight I'll raise a glass to you and your memory, no doubt leading to reliving some of your classic routes in my head. RIP Joe Brown, The Master.
Very sad news indeed. As others have said, he was a true legend.
Only just finished reading ‘The Hard Years’ a couple of days ago. If you haven’t read it, make sure you do. It’s inspirational stuff.
At least he lived to a good age and had a full life, I suppose, unlike so many of his counterparts.
Sad news - I can still vividly remember hitching down the pass in 1970 when a small van stopped and the passenger door opened - my partner started getting in "it's Joe Brown" he cried. We were both a bit star-struck. A nice, easy going, non-judgemental and brilliant person.
edit to add:
The Footless Crow article (excellent!) reminds me that East Gully was the first climb I ever did on Cloggy. Following in the footsteps of giants!
Seems even the immortal are mortal.
what a legacy he’s left. Keep the adventure alive.
He was the man, and I'm glad that I got the chance to attend a talk that he gave in Llanberis a few years back.
Somewhere, in the hereafter, Whillans is shouting "On belay... Climb when ready, Joe!".
Yes, Joe was THE man. He was such a nice guy. I first met Joe under the Cromlech in 1958 and was in awe, but he was such a nice guy. The last time we met was in the pub in Llanberis a few years back now - he came over and asked how I was and what I was up to…
RIP Joe, you were a star and an inspiration
A real hero. One of very few true 'greats'.
Good night, God bless, the legacy will live on forever.
I once played Joe at pool in the Victoria Arms when mine was the next 20p on the table. He was at least as much better than me at pool as he was at climbing.
It was Muhammad Ali who famously said 'I am the greatest of all times'. Joe would not have said it about himself but he truly was.
Thoughts are with Zoe and Helen.
Quite probably the greatest British climber, in terms of his overall contribution to climbing history. What a life.
> Yes, Joe was THE man. He was such a nice guy. I first met Joe under the Cromlech in 1958 and was in awe, but he was such a nice guy. The last time we met was in the pub in Llanberis a few years back now - he came over and asked how I was and what I was up to…
> RIP Joe, you were a star and an inspiration
Yes, absolutely agreed. He was such a nice person, with a completely natural charm. He was very helpful to me with my Peak book, but my brother and I had first got to know him a little bit right back in 1969 in Romsdal ... he invited us to his tent for a brew. Amazing. Like you, I was in awe, but he put us at ease immediately. I think that's what made him so astounding, when you add his personality together with his achievements.
I remember in 2010 reading an interview with him at the occasion of his 80th birthday. He said, that he would not like to become as old as Ricardo Cassini, which then just passed away at an age of 100. So I hoped Joe would wait at least until he was 99. Unfortunately it did not come this way.
I'm much too weak a climber too fully appreciate his accents, but I followed once the Left Unconquerable...just for this piece he'll go straight to heaven.
Once gave me a lift up the pass in his old van in the 60's - my inspiration as a fellow shorty and my hero.
RIP Joe true legend.
Just so so very sad. Joe - your climbs will live forever - and that image on the Dangler... you really are MY ABSOLUTE HERO.
The only time we met was in the Padarn - I turned across to speak (just to say I had) and as I left I realized I'd accidentally managed to ..... onto his foot!!
Very sad. He was one of the greatest climbers ever over multiple aspects of the sport most notably being responsible, along with Don Whillans, for a massive rise in standards in the UK in the 50's and 60's. Thanks for the inspiration Joe.
Rest in peace Joe. True climbing legend.
Well Joe you had to leave us at some point but hey what a legacy of climbs and inspiration you have left us with, a modest man but to many like me the original hero of our sport, "Thank-you" - climb in peace.
Joe and Don were an inspiration to us climbers born in the 60s. Iconoclasts who climbed so many brilliant routes, stories and adventures lived. A sad day. RIP JB.
Great loss, one of my all time climbing hero’s would probably have had a great laugh at me floundering on his classic routes with all my new fangled modern kit.
So very sad, happy I have read his The Hard Years book and to have climbed some of his inspirational routes around Dinas Cromlech. Cemetery Gates seems so much more poetic now. Thanks for inspiring me to climb.
I just wrote this on Facebook and thought that sharing here couldn't hurt.
As a young climber living in Llanberis in the 90s, I did loads of the Rock and Ice routes. Many of the Brown routes were a bit unlikely and involved a certain degree of cunning, like the man himself (I'll get to that). One Tuesday, after climbing on Cloggy, Paul who I worked for suggested that we go for a pint at the Vic. This was not exactly the beating heart of the North Wales climbing and party scene at the time, so I turned my nose up. "Joe Brown's normally down there Tuesdays."
My ears pricked up, "Well I might come for one then." I nicked back to my room and secreted my copy of The Hard Years in my jacket for possible signing. A night of pool followed with Joe surveying proceedings and chatting away with various oldies. Playing doubles, we lost more than we won. I didn't really dare speak to him for fear of sounding silly. The following week, I barely needed asking and was there ready, book in pocket. This went on for weeks with the same result; book back at home unsigned.
Eventually, Paul discovered my book signing plan and to my immortal shame piped up with "Look Joe, did you know that you James' hero!" I could have died. "I'll sign it, but first you have to beat me at pool." At the time, I played lots of pool and I couldn't understand why I wasn't beating him. This went on for weeks until I realised that when I wasn't looking, the balls shifted magically around the table. "You're not cheating are you?" A wry smile. I got my book signed and it sits on the shelf, a treasured possession. I smile each time I pick it up. He never did tell me anything about climbing; what would he have to say to me about it? I learned more than I wished to know at the time of fishing. I never did get to know him really, but I liked his sharp, smiling eyes and quick quip. His legend was and is real, largely due to never really saying much and letting his climbing do the talking. If you want to find out about Brown, go and do the routes. These vertical adventures left behind, truly are the measure of the master.
The name "Joe Brown" IS climbing - the guy's immortal!
Sad times, but what a life. A man who pretty much had his own grading system theres a HVS and theres a Joe Brown HVS. Memories of standing at the bottom of routes and hearing the words its a Joe Brown route and knowing all that it would entail. An improbable line, a breathtaking route and a fight till the end. RIP
I once played Joe at darts in the Padarn. He thrashed me.
Another time he gave my 6 year old son a 1frank coin to play table football in the Bar National.
As others have said he was a lovely man. In contrast to some others of the time.
He was the man that gave me the reason to climb back in 1961, I had joined the Junior Leader Regt in mid Wales, I was 15 years old. I was told stories by a Scouser I had made friends with, of this bloke Joe Brown who could do 1 finger press up's and could hand jam upside down, this was the start of a frienship with the rock. Thank's Joe and RIP.
Sad news. He was a great inspiration. I'll miss him. RIP Joe.
Very sad news. One of my heroes.
Sad news, a true legend. I only saw him climbing once in the mid 1980s. I had just done Comes the Dervish and he came along and asked me what It was like and what gear was needed, before he proceeded float up it. It made my day, The Master asking me for beta.
Sad news, revered roll model.
I remember playing darts against Joe in the Padarn in the 60's, can't remember who won at the time but he was just such a nice bloke it wouldn't have mattered either way.
The first crag that I ever climbed at in the early 60's was Crookrise Crag near where I live. There is a route of Joes that I've attempted a few times over the years, but never had the skill or balls to commit to, its called 'Small Brown E4 6b'.
Nothing 'Small' at all, he was a Giant in my eyes.
So sad. A "Real" legend of climbing and a nice guy with it. See you in the big crag in the sky!
I'll always remember him for climbing Crack and Slab... What a route.
With the reference there to Small Brown E4 6b *** (rope tension used at start but still utterly cutting edge and visionary at the time) at Crookrise, it occurred to me that neither that nor Hovis (E1 5c ***) make it onto the Joe Brown Shops 50th Anniversary Tick list. Joe Brown generated enough of a legacy that such a list can comfortably exist overlooking such routes! How many climbers have a FA history to rival his? Not very many.
Quite rightly, the Stanage guide mentions a lovely route, 'The Link', (HVS 5b ***) as 'Craggsy's finest hour... 'a three star FA on the best crag on the planet - who could ask for more?' From memory, it says something like that. I make reference to this not to denigrate in any way the achievements of one climber, but to put in context the achievements of another. I would give anything to have got a decent FA on Stanage, as Craggsy has. And that one is only REALLY a variation on an existing route, brilliant though it is. JB accounted for the finest natural lines on the crag. AND at Froggatt. AND Curbar. AND The Roaches. AND most of the other crags in the Peak. AND Yorkshire. AND a wonderful list in The Alps. AND Kanchenjunga. AND elsewhere across the world - Middle East? Morocco?
But the Welsh stuff is what completely blows my mind. As with many climbers, I had a long period of my life pretty much devoted to repeating his routes and paying homage to him. The routes on Cloggy would put him very high on a life time achievement list for British climbers - my favourite is 'Shrike', but of course the others are all fantastic. Definitive Tremadog route - obviously most people would immediately think of 'Vector'. I devoted my climbing life to that single route until I had finally done it. Gogarth - 'Mousetrap'. Who has peered into that Zawn and NOT thought 'I want to do that'. But who would go back in time, peer into that Zawn, look at that rock quality and think, 'Let's have a crack at that with not much more than a washing line around our waists, no harness, no cams, woolies pumps, home-engineered nuts from the shed, no chalk, no guidebook describing the pitches and belays' and nobody else there to break through all the mental barriers because you're having to do that yourself.
Sorry, bit of an essay, but he'll only die once, and I feel like I've lost an uncle in a way, even though I never met him.
I was very sad when I heard this news. Joe was an inspiration to many generations and THE inspiration to mine. He broke the mold of climbing being a middle/upper class activity and he broke the mold of Brits not being good at alpine and bigger ranges. To cap it all he was an incredibly nice bloke. I met him several times mostly over drinks and dinner and one of my biggest regrets is to never have actually climbed with him.
It is very sad news but amazing that someone packed so much into one lifetime. I never met Joe despite being taken to his house several times by a mutual friend on rainy days in Wales, Joe was always off fishing! to my great disappointment. I do not recall hearing anyone over the years ever saying a bad word about Joe Brown as a person which is amazing for someone at the cutting edge of climbing which as a sport seems to enjoy a good bitching session about almost any leading personality.
I have been looking through some stuff and I reckon Joe & George Band were the first UK climbers to summit an 8000m peak when they climbed Kangchenjunga in 1955. Is this right?
is the south summit of Everest a summit ?
The beautiful chart in Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eight-thousander#Verified_ascents shows categorically that you are right.
> is the south summit of Everest a summit ?
According to the following website, no it is not (you can see the section "In Mountaineering"):
It's really nothing much more than a shoulder. It only sticks up above the line of the ridge by 11 metres. It was first called the 'South Summit' because it looked like a summit from below.
I met Joe Brown only once, in the Padarn Lake Hotel in Llanberis, in the mid-1960s, when my university mountaineering club was in North Wales for a weekend’s climbing. Large quantities of beer were being consumed by all and sundry and the toilets were often fully occupied. I was waiting my turn and when a stall became free, I started to move into it. As I did so, I became aware of a figure at my shoulder. I turned my head and saw it was Joe Brown. I stepped back and waved him to take my place. He raised his hand and said “Be my guest” and we sidled in together. I kept those boots forever, claiming that Joe Brown had pissed on them.
Lovely story. So much shows Joe's character.
Guardian obituary, by Jim Perrin: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/21/joe-brown-obituary
Molly Thompson-Smith has become the first British woman to onsight 8b with an ascent of Odysseus at Götterwandl in Tyrol, Austria.