/ FEATURE: PODCAST: Factor Two - S2 Episode 5: Patch Hammond - No More Heroes?

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UKC Articles 12 Sep 2019
El Capitan, Yosemite National Park. In this podcast series, Wil Treasure shares stories from the climbing world through interviews with both well-known and lesser-known characters. In-depth, personal accounts that aren't read from a page on a variety of themes. Settle down with a cuppa and have a listen...

Patch Hammond has remained a bit of an enigma in the climbing world. If you flick through the magazines from the late 1990s you'll see a scruffy youth with an impressive climbing CV – onsighting E6 and E7 in North Wales and climbing with the likes of Tim Emmett, Neil Gresham and Leo Houlding.



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Paul Figg 12 Sep 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

Probably the best climbing podcasts out there (of those I've listened to anyway)

Really good stories told by great characters.

Ramon Marin 12 Sep 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

My god this is sooo good, what legends! Also really refreshing to have a nicely produced climbing podcast, with good sound, good narrative and no rambling, climbing podcast are normally so sh*te

Ed Booth 12 Sep 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

Absolute gold dust. Loved this along with the Leo one. Two of my hero’s and that period in North Wales and their ascent of El Cap basically we’re my inspiration when I started climbing. 

NickDixon always recounts how good Patch was in this era. 

Ive still never met Patch. It’s great to hear this podcast and hear the tales first hand. 

munro 14 Sep 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

So good! The last two have been class, great work.

TobyA 15 Sep 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

Enjoyed this a lot listening whilst vacuuming yesterday! The only thing I did end up annoyed that it wasn't discussed was: what is Patch up to these days? All those late 90s stories were a big part of my climbing life back then, but then he disappeared from the magazines. Did he just get a 'normal' job and does a bit of climbing at the weekend (I suppose like most of us)? Or did he find another sport he loved and just stop climbing? I remember reading that Adam Wainwright started surfing and pretty much stopped climbing seriously - does Patch have a similar story?

I don't seem to be able to shake climbing, even at my rather lowly level - so I'm interested in how others' relationship to it has developed and changed over the years.

steve taylor 15 Sep 2019
In reply to TobyA:

I would expect that his climbing wall business, Stronghold, takes up most of his time.

Wil Treasure 15 Sep 2019
In reply to TobyA:

Patch is pretty busy running the Stronghold, a really good bouldering wall in North London. He and Leo both have kids now. I find it strange to think of them waiting at the school gate, I'd like to imagine them daydreaming of being up there in that storm as they wait for their kids 😁

Patch has plenty of other climbing stories, but decided in his early 20s that he should go to uni and make sure he had a solid career for the future. He's stayed in touch with the climbing world though, he'd seen Leo the week before our interview which was one of the things that persuaded him to do it. He seems to be able compartmentalise these things better than I could, and dipping in and out of climbing isn't an issue for him.

It doesn't sound like his wall business is going to slow down any time soon, but with such great training facilities maybe once things settle down we'll see a full return to form? 

TobyA 15 Sep 2019
In reply to Wil Treasure:

Cheers Wil. So it sounds like he's very much still involved in climbing through his work, although perhaps not climbing outside too much - seems to be a bit of theme for people who move to London!

And thanks to Patch for doing the interview - I really enjoyed it. In fact it inspired me last night to start watching Valley Uprising, which I had on my watch list on Amazon for some time but hadn't got around to starting until last night. I haven't had chance to watch it all yet, but I did see a quick flash of a youthful looking Mr Houlding sporting a hat I remember from OTE, and I presume Patch holding the ropes in the background as Leo did some ridiculous dyno! It also inspired me, despite a failure to find a partner yesterday, to nevertheless go out yesterday evening and climb I think 15 (albeit rather easy) routes at Birchen that I hadn't done before. A near perfect* couple of hours as the crag emptied of climbers and the sun turned the rock to gold.

*I say "near perfect" as there was one loud and rather terrifying scream: an unfortunate climber had come off a route and although her gear all held I think she had hurt her leg quite badly swinging in. I said there was no shame in asking for MRT to come and help her back to the road, but she seemed made of sterner stuff and had a big group of clubmates with her, so they were doing a good job of looking after her and then self-evacuating. Get well soon to the climber concerned - hope it wasn't too serious. And kudos for level of grit displayed!

Adam Long 16 Sep 2019
In reply to TobyA:

Great interview. Despite knowing the story I must admit I hadn't appreciated quite how audacious that final day was.

Like a lot of climbers of our era Patch ended up doing rope access in his twenties (he never finished his degree iirc), which led to engineering work in the wind and oil industries. I forget why he started up living in London, I think his brother was down there, but I know it was on the commute between there and work in Scotland that he met his wife. She works in the London fashion industry so it was only when he became a parent that the need to work locally led to the wall start-up.

Agree it's a very interesting question why he drifted out of it. Despite the credit he generously gives Leo and Ben in the podcast as being better, I think most of his contemporaries would rate him as right up there with them. I certainly did, particularly as his ability was very much movement based (i.e. technique/ 'talent') rather than strength, stamina or dogged determination. He is naturally strong; his dad owns the bronze age copper mines on the Great Orme, and Patch attributed his huge hands to a childhood spent excavating new passages. But I remember one dismaying afternoon at the Plantation when still he burnt me off despite one arm in plaster. Likewise we went to Font a few years back and, knowing he'd done very little in the previous ten years, had presumptuously switched our places in my mental ranking. Nah. He has an annoying ability to find stuff easy - and make it look so - which I can only compare with Alex Honnold (and yeah I know that's an outrageous name-drop but there are very few people who display that natural comfort on rock). Leo's style by contrast is rapid and slappy; effective but he frequently appears to have snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.

But the best guess as to why he stopped, well, I suspect that having reached the very top of the sport so young, and with so little conscious effort, he felt it couldn't be that hard and therefore of limited worth. And maybe also that the prospects for a professional climber at that time were rather narrow and not at all lucrative. He's certainly got a work ethic which is rare amongst climbers, and I've always been impressed by the way he can find satisfaction in his work, rather than view it as an inconvenience.

Paul Sagar 16 Sep 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

I’ve really enjoyed this whole series, but thought this episode was particularly excellent. Well done - and looking forward to series 3!

TobyA 16 Sep 2019
In reply to Adam Long:

Thanks Adam. I think its almost more interesting that some people (particularly those like Patch who are obviously fantastic climbers) just drift away and do other things (I don't really know and haven't read his book but have the impression that Jerry Moffatt might be a similar case?), than people leaving climbing for some much more dramatic reason, an accident, a traumatic expedition or similar - which is normally more understandable.

But that perhaps reflects my own inability to be very interested in anything else than climbing and mountain sports even after many years and very modest levels of success!

Adam Long 18 Sep 2019
In reply to TobyA:

So I got that totally wrong about Patch not getting a degree - although he dropped out of Uni first time round he went back and did a BSC in Environmental science and then a postgrad in Environmental engineering.

Jerry I think is a unique case. In his book he states that, at least by the end of his career, climbing had ceased to be something he did for it's own sake - he did it purely to be the best at it. So when it came to the point where he couldn't be the best, he had no motivation to do it any more. I find that pretty hard to relate to, to be honest.

Patch is still climbing and only had a few years where he didn't, I'd say rather than drifting away he  was just on a bit of an eccentric orbit. From our generation I think Leo is the exception because he convinced himself being a pro was a viable career path (having Bonington as a mentor must have helped). Whereas for the rest of us it just wasn't realistic - Caff worked his arse off for a few years trying just to make a living and couldn't, because social media means being the best isn't that important any more. I've got a lot of respect for folk who manage to combine a proper career with climbing really hard. Though throw parenthood in too and one of the three tends to give... there has to be a balance I suppose.

Tyler 18 Sep 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

Well that didn't disappoint! I'd always thought this was one of the great UK climbing events* since I started climbing so it was fortunate that Patch was able to tell story so well. I don't know how much rehearsal or editing there was but I thought it was pitched perfectly, no hyperbole, no false modesty and plenty of detail. My only criticism has been mostly answered by this thread although I'm still unclear if Patch is nipping out and cruising the odd E6 on-sight or if he is just climbing indoors.

Well done to all involved.

*The only thing I can think of which is similar** (and from before my time) was Alex McIntyre and Nick Colton nonchalantly wandering up a last great problem on the Grandes Jorasses after repelling many previous sieged attempts.

** OK, maybe Stevie Haston soloing the Walker Spur in winter as well!

TobyA 18 Sep 2019
In reply to Adam Long:

> So I got that totally wrong about Patch not getting a degree - although he dropped out of Uni first time round he went back and did a BSC in Environmental science and then a postgrad in Environmental engineering.

So lots of uni! I had a feeling he went to Leeds because I was in the Leeds Uni Club for a year when I did my second degree, which would have been 98/99 and I think some of the people I kept in touch with for a bit after that had been excited that one of the country's climbing rock stars was about to start there. It was all dead hard mountaineering and winter climbing when I was there (not from me!) with Al Powell and Jon Bracey still floating around the club pub night even if they might have actually finished their degrees by that point! 

Adam Long 18 Sep 2019
In reply to TobyA:

Yeah that's right. My now wife started at Leeds in Autumn '99, so I was up there a fair bit. Ben Bransby and Patch started uni at the same time, and were living in a shared house with several other climbers including Ben Tetler and Sam Whittaker. I ended up moving into a subsequent house with Ben and Sam in 2001. We knew a guy called Nick Fletcher too, who lived with Al Powell for a while. I remember in 98-99 - my final year at Sheffield uni - there was a similar rumour going round that Ben Bransby was starting. Although Ben was keen to get back to his Almscliff roots, that they went to Leeds was mostly driven by Patch I think, he was always keen to avoid the clichéd or predictable. It was a big party house and the vibe was very much wanting to create their own scene.

galpinos 18 Sep 2019
In reply to Adam Long:

Ben Bransby was on my open day visit to Sheffield Uni. I was a little star struck.

TobyA 18 Sep 2019
In reply to Adam Long:

Was it Ben Tetler who repeated Knockin' on Heaven's Door (or did Born Slippy which is based on Knockin' on Heaven's Door or something like that)? I remember there being a really quiet chap in the club the year I was there, and it was either that year or shortly afterwards hearing he had done this mega hard route on Curbar (I had never been to Curbar at that point so it was all just more mystical hard-grit stuff to me!). I have a feeling that was Ben Tetler, although I might be confusing people. Word in the club was he was a total wad and super cool headed, but seemed very low key in the pub on Tuesday nights at least, if I'm thinking of the right chap.

Does, or did, your wife climb? She might well known some of the people I climbed with in the Leeds club that year. I climbed  a lot with a North London lad called Jim Thompson that year, who I really liked. We had some good winter climbing adventures: Jim was a really good rock climber, had done a bit in the Alps and knew Kenton Cool (before he was famous ) so I figured he'd be fine following me up anything I could get up. He was but it was maybe a bit more 'in at the deep end' than Jim was expecting! Email was only just taking off then, UKC hadn't really risen out of the ashes of UK.rec.climbing and of course social media not a thing at all, so we lost contact when I went off to start my PhD. I've often wondered if Jim still climbs and what he's up to these days. 

(If you're reading this Jim - hi! And I was listening to old Chemical Brothers on Amazon Music last night which I remember was your thing when DJing and formed the sound track of that winter in Leeds - in my memory at least!)

Post edited at 15:40
Adam Long 18 Sep 2019
In reply to TobyA:

Might have been. Ben wasn't at Uni as far as I remember, but low key and quiet (usually!) yes. Nick knew all the uni crowd and we went to the odd Tuesday night meet.

There's a Jim Thompson who's a regular on UKB, no idea if it's the same guy though.

Tom Briggs 18 Sep 2019
In reply to UKC Articles:

As others have said, that is an excellent podcast. What a gift Patch has for storytelling. I was smiling all the way through, but the last part - just brilliantly told...

How do we preserve this kind of digital media for future generations 🤔? It feels like a really important part of British climbing history, which should not be lost. 


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