Peter Trewin writes about Liverpool's place in climbing lore, and what it has to offer today.
When I was a kid in Liverpool I used to wonder about all these big red sandstone outcrops you'd see in lots of places. Most of them are railway cuttings but there are some down near the 'Pier 'Ed' that may have been quarries? There are also lots of tunnels cut into the sandstone.
Nice read Peter!
I believe Liverpool University Mountaineering Club is also one of - if not the oldest university climbing clubs in the country - established around 1930 if I remember correctly. Lots of history!
Oxford University club was something like 1910 & I'm not sure that's the oldest in the UK & I think some Swiss universities go back into the 19th century
Nice read Pete. I don't know if it's just some kind of confirmation bias but a Merseyside apprenticeship seems to have paid massive dividends for a certain generation. And decent longevity. I think Brian Hall's recent Jamcrack Podcast claims Britain's first/early English 6b from Al Rouse at The Breck. Phil Davidson on E7s before his untimely death. Mike Owen hoovering up hard repeats around the country and still cranking 8a. Harold Walmsley new routing sport/E3 in his 70s. Lots of others. I happened upon the Dawes in Harmers Wood a couple of years ago, Andy Popp showing a long standing project. True to form he sold me a book
An interesting read for sure...I grew up in Paige Moss and started climbing at Pex and various cuttings about 1980 I moved away in 1983 as did my climbing mates so never was part of the scene at the time. It's worth mentioning.... although not strictly Liverpool, but quite a few of us enjoyed our first winter trips with St.Helens mountaineering club who welcomed us and showed us a great time....I can't recall names but there were some very good and classically tough winter climbers in the club.....I hope it's still going.
Grate article. One correction. The IM Marsh Campus is owned and was recently in use by Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) not Liverpool Hope. However, following the opening of their city centre sports complex it currently closed and is no longer in use for teaching.
Very good but I can’t help thinking that this could be expanded into a book?
I’ve really great memories of climbing regularly at Pex in the 80’s and early 90’s and trying but not succeeding to emulate the brilliant technical and bold climbers there including Phil Davidson, Mike Owen and Joe & Gaz Healy.
A nice read. Since you mention Half Man Half Biscuit in your intro, I wonder if you are aware of their 2018 song "Mod Diff V Diff Hard Severe", whose narrator, cragfast on Cloggy, namechecks Colin Kirkus and J Menlove Edwards?
> A nice read. Since you mention Half Man Half Biscuit in your intro, I wonder if you are aware of their 2018 song "Mod Diff V Diff Hard Severe", whose narrator, cragfast on Cloggy, namechecks Colin Kirkus and J Menlove Edwards?
Yes, I was aware of that HMHB track! My partner in local minor crag rescue, Neil, is a HMHB fan and plays them in the van. Now, whenever I'm frustrated or hit my thumb with a hammer doing DIY, it's 'Fxxng 'ell, it's Fred Titmus!'
Minor point of accuracy, in relation to the quote, technically, the first British climbers to get to the summit of Everest were a pair; Doug Scott was the first of the 'English' alongside and equal with Dougal Haston, the first 'Scottish' climber to get there.
From an earlier era there was the Walker family, Frank and his children Horace and Lucy.
Between them they did many first ascents in the Alps: Horace was on the first ascent of the Grandes Jorasses - hence Pointe Walker - and Lucy was the first woman to climb the Matterhorn and the Eiger and many other peaks.
Also the Mayor of Birkenhead Godfrey Solly who led the daring first ascent of the Eagle’s Nest Ridge in 1892. He ranged over the Alps, Caucasus and Canadian Rockies.
The opening lines of National Shite Day and "the man with a mullet going mad with a mallet in Millets" later in the same track also seem to indicate a familiarity with the vicissitudes of the climbing life.
Were female climbers banned from using Liverpool crags or did you just forget naming a few? Nea Morin, among others, certainly climbed there. Ask Martin Boysen!
Err... to quote Pete:
'And although this potted history would suggest a majority male climbing scene around Liverpool, two big names in British and world climbing grew up or spent part of their childhood in the north-west: Shauna Coxsey (Runcorn) and Hazel Findlay (Warrington).'
When writing these articles, it's almost inevitable that you miss out the odd deserving person. I'm sure, as an eminent journalist and author, you must be only too well aware of this.
Having said that, I'm glad you've noted Nea Morin. I've always loved her book - and her route. If you know of other people - female or male - who've somehow been missed out, please let us know.
I wasn't aware that Nea Morin climbed on the Liverpool/Merseyside crags so thanks for that. I also missed off Lucy Walker, the 1st lady to climb the Matterhorn in Victorian times - she lived in Liverpool and is buried in St Luke's cemetery below the Cathedral which, coincidentally, has recently seen lockdown-inspired climbing on its impressive quarry walls. Also missed off, Ron James who taught at IM Marsh and was a Pex regular. His Rock Athlete TV series was required watching in the 70s and a young Phil Davidson and Gaz Healey famously asked for his autograph below Dateline. In any snapshot you're going to miss people off - I've even had hopefuls contact me to complain that 'I'm a well-known Liverpool climber so why am I not included?' But the best revelation was this Half Man Half Biscuit track. Quite catchy isn't it? 'I call out to the ghost of Kirkus' and 'Menlove let me hide myself in thee'. Wonderful. youtube.com/watch?v=Qc0mjT0e5pc&
> When writing these articles, it's almost inevitable that you miss out the odd deserving person. I'm sure, as an eminent journalist and author, you must be only too well aware of this.
Our friend Ian Jones deserves a mention, not only for being a footwork god (Haston, S) but also for being extremely scouse.
> Our friend Ian Jones deserves a mention, not only for being a footwork god (Haston, S) but also for being extremely scouse.
Unfortunately, extreme scouseness is not sufficient; if it were, my mate, Mark Hounslea ('he's a chirpy, cheeky scouser') would be top of the list. Stevie Haston - oh no, how could I miss him? His Haston Dyno at the Breck is still an area testpiece. https://www.ukclimbing.com/logbook/crags/the_breck-1628/haston_dyno-255684
Extremely Scouse? Yup. Footwork god? Yup. "Ian and John Dunne have the best footwork in British climbing." (Stevie Haston)
I still smart with embarrassment at that fateful day, so long ago, when it was decided t'wixt Ian's girlfriend and mine that I'd 'take him climbing'. Off into the Peak we wandered, finally finding ourselves beneath the coyly named 'Easy Pickings'. Wot could possibly go wrong?
Pore 'ole Stevie. Cruelly denied his place in Crags Top 100 climbers (did he come in at 101?) And now this. When will his genius be recognised? It's time the lad learned not to be so bashful and speak up for himself. Is there no justice in this world?
(Grabs coat, legs it for door, trips...)
> Extremely Scouse? Yup. Footwork god? Yup. "Ian and John Dunne have the best footwork in British climbing." (Stevie Haston)
John Dunne? Left out? This gets more embarrassing by the day. Recently watched Joe Healey giving him some technical footwork tips at Pex. Only joking. Apologies, John.
> I think some Swiss universities go back into the 19th century
So there's one.
Top New Zealand climbers, Dan Joll and Karl 'Merry' Schimanski had both been looking at the Airport Wall in Fiordland for over 20 years. As a culmination of their careers as climbers, this is the story of patience, determination and perseverance....