NEWS: Obituary of Ian Cummins

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 UKC News 15 Jan 2020

Beth's Traverse GoldsboroughRichard Waterton looks back on the life of Ian Cummins, who sadly passed away recently at the age of 58. Whilst in recent years Ian had stepped back from climbing to concentrate on caving, his influence was still felt across the climbing scene. He was an 'under-the-radar' climber, a talented and prolific onsight climber and an excellent boulderer.

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 Paul Figg 15 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC News:

Thanks all, for putting this together. A phenomenal climber and nice guy who's achievements were up there with the best of the day and deserve greater recognition.

 Lankyman 15 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC News:

It's always very sad (and somewhat of a shock) to hear of the death of one of your 'contemporaries', especially at the tragically early age of 58. I first heard of Ian through Stew Wilson and his 'North of England' guides - Ian featured in some of the photos and his name was marked against many of the most difficult and classy looking lines. These were all on far-off places with strange names like Goldsborough Carr and Slipstones that no-one (west of the Pennines!) ever went to. Stew knew everyone and was a native of those parts and would often mention these semi-mythical master technicians (such as Ian) from Teeside and County Durham. Verily a land of giants where mere mortals such as I would never get off the ground. I learned of his death via the UK Caving forum and at first did not realise that this Ian was the same as the climber I'd read about decades earlier. In his caving he seemed to be equally determined to push the boundaries, getting involved in digging projects and later cave diving where he was on the verge of qualifying to join the CDG (no mean feat in itself). I'm sure I would have enjoyed having a chin-wag with Ian as we both shared a love of climbing and caving although he , of course, was moving on a much higher plane than me.


 EdS 15 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC News:

Nice to know about Ian's climbing.

Met him a few times on the local cave digging project. Most understated bloke

 Sayon 15 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC News:

Very sorry to hear this. I climbed with Ian on a few occasions both in the UK and on European sport climbing trips. Apart from his obvious ability, Ian was a delightfully modest person who was very encouraging to those of us of lesser talents, and a really nice person to be around.

BethyCu 15 Jan 2020

We'll be having a climbing get together in memory of my dad on 29th Feb 2020 at Goldborough. Everyone is welcome. Thanks for your lovely words and stories! 

Hope to see you there. 

Beth Cummins 

 jo banner 15 Jan 2020
In reply to BethyCu:

Looking forward to seeing you there Beth xxx

 Franco Cookson 15 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC News:

Absolute legend of North East climbing. An inspiration. 

Thanks Ian.

 Neil Foster Global Crag Moderator 16 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC News:

Wow - what an incredible track record!  I was actually more aware of Ian’s caving exploits in recent years, having read many trip reports on the White Rose website. Whilst there was little fanfare accompanying these reports, given the territory he and his companions were exploring, it was quite clear that Ian was hard as nails...

As for his climbing exploits described in these wonderful tributes, you really cannot fail to be extremely impressed.

Thanks to Richard for putting this together, and ‘reluctantly’ putting pen to paper. I’m really glad you did...


 Ian W 16 Jan 2020
In reply to BethyCu:

> We'll be having a climbing get together in memory of my dad on 29th Feb 2020 at Goldborough. Everyone is welcome. Thanks for your lovely words and stories! 

> Hope to see you there. 

> Beth Cummins 

29th feb at Goldsborough! that could be interesting depending on the weather. Your Dad would have loved the idea!!

See you there.

 Tony Marr 16 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC News:

A fitting tribute to a really nice bloke and superb rock climber. NE climbing and caving is poorer by his passing. RIP Ian.  

 rjwaterton 16 Jan 2020
In reply to Neil Foster:

There's actually yet more details and photos and anecdotes that could have been added, but which I assume have been omitted so the article is not over-long: one of my favourites being to do with the photo of Hitchhiker's at Kyloe-In where he's hanging one-handed... Ian would do circuits on this (eight the record apparently!), climbing up the problem, traversing the top break and down-climbing back into the problem! ...I wonder which lap number he's on in the photo!!

(Pedant's Corner: in my opening paragraph it should of course have been edited to say '...June last year...'!! Hopefully has been rectified at some point.)


 Dave Garnett 16 Jan 2020
In reply to Neil Foster:

>  it was quite clear that Ian was hard as nails...

Even without knowing anything else about Ian, that much is quite clear to me from the second photograph in the piece.  I've never managed to get both feet off the ground on Streetcar, let alone get to the top...

Sorry our paths never crossed - what an exceptional all-rounder!

 Will Hunt 16 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC News:

Imagine coming down from a route and having Ron Kauk say "phenomenal resistance, man".

Great article, thank you.

 john Dunne 16 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC News:

I didn't know Ian that well but crossed paths with him on many occasions in the early eighties in and around the limestone crags of Yorkshire during the sport climbing boom.

I remember travelling out to Trollers Gill with Dave Pegg and a few others one bitterly cold January day in 84 to look for possible new lines without our climbing gear only to find Ian traversing along the lower traverse with his top off and a weight belt on. We were completely blown away and realised we needed to up our game and i often think about that day when i'm drinking a latte in warm cosy climbing wall - hardcore 

A very sad loss great guy and climber

 raymondmardon 16 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC News:

I seconded Ian on Lord of the flies ( preventing an overly ambitious on sight attempt by myself ) and climbed with him for two separate weeks in the States. On the latter of these we did Astroman, on which I led all but the Harding Slot. Knowing the great difference in our climbing abilities, this will surprise those who knew him, as it did me at the time! We did the first pitches in the evening, and both led the pitches we had seconded when we returned in the morning. Ian then very slowly swam up the Harding Slot facing the wrong way, and when I arrived at the belay, he invited me to lead the rest of the climb, because he was exhausted. We did the E4 pitch in the near dark, and the top pitch in the actual dark. We had agreed to climb fast and light, and not to take trainers or a torch. Fortunately Ian had both, so I followed him across the top of the Death Slabs in trepidation and pain.

I moved from the North East shortly afterwards, and never saw Ian again. He was the best, and most dedicated climber I ever had the privilege of sharing a rope with. Not a long life, but so much packed into it, and so much achieved - and not just as a climber.

Ray Mardon

 hollytree 16 Jan 2020

Terrible news.

I still have my Avon guide with Ian's name against the pitches he led on the routes we did together when we were at Bath Uni.

Steve Cook

Post edited at 18:41
 Geordie 16 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC News:

An outstanding person and an extraordinary climber. A privilege to have known and climbed with Ian.

Well done Rich - a fitting tribute.

In reply to UKC News: Really enjoyed reading this. I didn’t know Ian and hadn’t really heard of him much before except bumping into Steve Dunning at Slipstones and him telling us about him. Sounds like a great climber! 

Much prefer the obituary celebration of someone’s life rather than the short, somewhat morbid news reports. 

 SimonDKemp 17 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC News:

Still a bit stunned, the man was always so healthy and fit when I knew him. Think I last spoke with Ian some time in the 90s - reckon it was an Easter in Buoux and of course he was quietly crushing stuff.

We met at uni in Bath - so 79/80. He was a keen member of the caving club and if I remember correctly he'd not rock-climbed before. He and another caver Sean hooked-up with the climbing club and gave it a go. We were no great shakes and Ian didn't take long catching up with us. Memory is hazy but he was rather quickly pushing into the E numbers at that esoteric Avon Gorge - good times for all of us. Checked out my old Avon guidebook and his name is there many times. Didn't know he'd done so much hard stuff in the Lakes before reading the UKC obit - Avon wouldn't have been a bad place to start gaining gnarly trad skills.

Couple of years after graduation we rather randomly decided to cross the pond...

With hindsight, that American trip was bit of a mess - we had rather vague plans, no money to speak of and were out of our depth most of the time. But it felt like a real adventure and we pulled-off some half decent stuff. Best day by far being West Face of the captain - very much at our technical limit and by far longest route either of us had done at the time. That could have gone wrong. We cheated a bit (on advice of others) by climbing the first two hard pitches a couple of days before and leaving our ropes in place. Then slept under it, jugged those 2 pitches then set off with a bottle of water and some granola bars. Monster day out, jogging the long way back to the valley floor through gathering darkness with only real incident being Sparky* going flat on his face a few hundred yards from the camp site. I remember him fretting about every noise in the woods - as if the grizzlies weren't going to go for slower and chunkier me. We then failed totally on Astroman - the long long enduro jam corner thing was beyond us, trying it in direct sunlight probably didn't help. Nice to read that (of course) Ian went back and did the thing.

*Sparky was coined later in the trip when we bailed from the Naked Edge amid lightening and mayhem of an afternoon storm. He was freaked by seeing sparks jump from him to me and declined another attempt.

Great times. Sad you went so soon Ian.

 adcat 18 Jan 2020
In reply to UKC News:

Back from the days of the old Rock Antics, just when I'd started climbing myself, I always wondered who the guy was that used to effortlessly dance up the tufa route to the right as you walked in, until sometime pointed Ian out. Incredibly graceful and talented climber

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