Mick Ward shares another retrospective, this time of the 1960s climbing scene: The 'Vector Generation.'
The 1960s was arguably the coolest decade ever. 'If you can remember it, you weren't there...' The UK reeled under the concurrent influences of sex, drugs and rock & roll. Out on the crags, the bravest of the brave were making climbing history. This is their story.
Another gem, Mick. Thanks!
A wonderful piece. Much appreciated Mick.
Good read that
That rolled back the years.
Great stuff. It brought back many memories both good and scary You may have coined an iconic phrase there and one that I may well adopt for my own use. I was post Cenotaph Corner and Pre Cream so Vector fits in nicely and is in any case one of my favourite routes.
Excellent read Mick. To that generation there existed a kind of reverence for Brown & his climbs which possibly helps explain why it took a while for the pack to catch him. BTW where did you get the info about Barry Brewster? Of course the other bright light was John Clements, tragically killed in the Alps.
Sean - and others - many thanks. When I was writing this article, I never dreamed that we would lose Joe Brown and John Allen in such a short space of time. I feel utterly numb and I'm such many people do.
'A kind of reverence' is exactly what it was. I found doing Brown routes very intimidating - and this was in the '70s, not the '60s. Usually I wouldn't know anyone else who'd been on a particular route before. There was always a sense of being measured against the master - and inevitably being found wanting.
Re Barry Brewster and Vulcan, that info came from the late Colin Goodey. Just amazing. Six years before Our Father - which itself was ahead of its time.
I've long been fascinated by John Clements but don't know much about him. I believe he was killed winter climbing in Glencoe, when someone fell, landed on him and dragged him off. He certainly wasn't afraid of heading into outrageous territory. As with Tony Willmott, there's a tragic sense of wondering what might have been.
Just one polite query; Al Harris and "Anything he could lead, I could second - in winklepickers and mortar board!". I am convinced I read many years ago that it was "in cow cape and winklepickers". Looks as if he is wearing both.
Not quite boxing gloves and roller skates!
Ah, you could well be right. I had to look up what a cow cape was. Looks like he's wearing one though. Bizarre attire!
Fabulous article; fabulous photos. A well-written and enjoyable saunter through memorable times. It must have taken an age to research and write it. Where did you get those phots from - Crew on the 5b Vector groove for example, is just astounding.
I thought it was a cow gown?
Another great and well written article. It is so evocative of this bold era of British rock climbing and the great climbers and characters of the time.
Yes Jon, it was a cow gown (lab coat). Mentioned in Welsh Rock, but referenced elsewhere.
Couple of mistakes which need correcting:
The Vikings isn't on Scafell, it's on Tophet Wall on Gable. First ascent Richard McHardy, not MacHardy.
Also a credit for Dave Yates would be nice below the photo of him before the second ascent of Great Wall.
Good article. Pretty sure Perrin has first ascent pics of vector. I have certainly seen them, in the 70's.
> Also a credit for Dave Yates would be nice below the photo of him before the second ascent of Great Wall.
By the look of it Potts must have been quite hard up at the time as his toes are sticking out of his boots!
Thanks Mick, I really appreciated that. It brought to mind an article called, I think, "Llech Ddu, Lawrie and Me." As a young climber starting in the late 70s I read it obsessively. Does that ring a bell with anyone? Andy Popp
A very good read, redolent as it is of the days I began in the mid 60s. Taking it very seriously and making a few strides forward at first I'm afraid I took my foot off the pedal for a while so it wasn't until the early 70s we got to doing the Rock and Ice routes. Climbed as they were with no prior knowledge save the words and line drawing in the guide book and with imprecise grades of Hard VS or Extreme, we found them to be intimidating, of wonderful quality and seemingly coming at us in an endless stream. These were great days for us, evoked very meaningfully by your well researched, illustrated and written article. I can't wait for the follow up which I hope is in chain, giving the same treatment to the next great leap, hinted at by your reference to Livesey, though have no first hand knowledge of the climbs of his era. Thank you.
Over 30 drafts - and still mistakes in it!
Most of the photos are from a collection which Ken Wilson left. It's curated by Chris Harle, who kindly dug out all the ones I asked for, plus a few more. Ken was a photographer of professional standard, so you really couldn't go wrong. Obviously most climbing photos taken, especially then, were spur of the moment things. I actually like these as much, if not more than professional shots. There's a grass roots feeling to them.
I love the three Rod Wilson shots, particularly the one of Pete Crew heading for the crux of The Boldest, in the first ascent. Hanging around to place a scratty bolt which probably wouldn't have held much of a fall. Brave or what!
An excellent article, many thanks. It is really interesting understanding all this history. I still have one of my dads MOACS. ‘Hang a house of that’ he used to say. A solid, comforting but of fear to get in.
Jeez, now I know what a cow gown is. Surely nobody in their right mind would let Harris into a lab! The mind boggles.
Thanks for Richard McHardy and The Vikings (sounds like a group!) Stuff you know but still get hopelessly wrong.
Totally agree about the credit for Dave Yates. It was in - all the way to draft 33 - and then somehow fell out at the very end. Mea culpa.
I find the Dave Yates photo amazing. He's standing with a hole in his boot, all those heavy, pretty useless slings around him, heavy ropes, seemingly happy about things. I'd have been bricking it.
Thanks, Andy. 'Llech Ddu, Lawrie and Me' was in Crags if I remember correctly. Always wanted to go to Llech Dhu - something about those dark, intimidating crags: Eagle crag in Borrowdale and Eagle mountain in the Mournes. Pretty gutsy of Ian Campbell (of this parish) and the late Mo Anthoine getting stuck into Llech Dhu before the Holliwells arrived.
Some years ago, Steve Dean wrote an absolutely brilliant article about the Holliwells. I can't remember where it was published but I'm sure many people who haven't read it would love it if they had the chance to see it.
> I can't wait for the follow up which I hope is in chain, giving the same treatment to the next great leap, hinted at by your reference to Livesey, though have no first hand knowledge of the climbs of his era. Thank you.
I've written 'The Stone Children' about the 1970s - but don't want to carry on after that. 1980s routes were too hard for me (so were many '70s ones!) and I'd feel a bit of a fraud. Would be great though if others would carry it on to the present day.
Also, the late '60s and '70s were my time. After that, it was a different generation and, although I knew some of the activists, understandably they were a different breed, a different culture. They made huge advances - no argument about that.
That was brilliant, Mick.
One climber who I much admire but who is lesser known is Tony Barley. The dates are a bit muddled I think but today is actually the anniversary of what was probably the second ascent of Forked Lightning Crack in 1966. Later in the day he did the FA of The Creation at Guisecliff (a completely neglected very long splitter crack, E2). The next day he and his brother made the first ascent of Carnage at Malham. A couple of pegs for protection on that pumpy top pitch, I think.
Around the same time he also climbed Barley Mow at Almscliff. This now attracts a guidebook grade of Font 7A and is quite high.
Tony would have been a teenager at the time I think.
Another superb article Mick. Brought back lots of great memories. Best wishes Tony.
Thanks for the journey and reminding us Mick just how good and bold they all were .
I started to climb in 69 and driving round the country in my 1952 Morris minor trying to do what I could great memories with great mates on sometimes suspect rock and gear although far better than the decade before.
again well wrote and thanks.
Wonderful article mick, really enjoyed this one. I'm so glad i wasn't born 20 years earlier and had to be bold, carry pebbles or climb in winkle pickers! Amazing stuff on routes that were and still are an inspiration. Keep on writing!
Great article that Mick. I hope its not the last though.
We (the Burnley lads) were staying in Willy Sutherlands Bunkhouse in Glen Brittle in 1965 when Al Harris turned up on his scooter after riding up from Llanberis to do some guiding. He was looking for a doss at the time, so he stayed with us for a few days.
I remember how he tried to teach us how to play bridge one day, but it was too complicated for us working class wallies, so he had to put up with 3 card brag instead.
It's always amazed me how Harris was always potrade as the crazy hedonistic type, but he never gave me that impression at the time when we got to know him.
The next day he and his brother made the first ascent of Carnage at Malham. A couple of pegs for protection on that pumpy top pitch, I think.
I was climbing on the right wing at Malham the day Tony and Robin made the first ascent of Carnage. We didn't see them at first but could here the noise of a peg hammer being used. We eventually spotted Tony ( i think it was) on the top pitch, which at the time seemed in on outrages position, compared to routes already there at the time.
One of the best articles I have read in a long time. Getting to the heart of the matter without hyperbole.
> Thanks, Andy. 'Llech Ddu, Lawrie and Me' was in Crags if I remember correctly. Always wanted to go to Llech Dhu - something about those dark, intimidating crags: Eagle crag in Borrowdale and Eagle mountain in the Mournes. Pretty gutsy of Ian Campbell (of this parish) and the late Mo Anthoine getting stuck into Llech Dhu before the Holliwells arrived.
Always a good reason to dig out old mags. "Llech Ddu, Lawrie and me" by Les Holliwell is in Crags 13 and well worth a rereading. There is a lot about gardening and loose rock and then surprise that it is not more popular, I imagine many of the routes are now quite neglected.
I especially liked the last shot of Al Harris with the building in the background that would eventually become Eric's cafe.
Another brilliant analysis of a bygone age and a superb selection of photographs of the era. I started climbing in 1964 and the rumours surrounding the daring deeds of these characters held us youngsters in awe.
Any chance of scanning and uploading?
> Any chance of scanning and uploading?
Would be delighted, however it is 6 full pages, apart from my phone I have no access to technology, pending unlocking I will have to see what I can do.
Many thanks to everyone. Am very grateful indeed.
I remember seeing Harris in Wendy's and then again, a couple of hours later, in the cafe at Pen y Pass, with a very pretty waitress (from Wendy's!) There's a man who likes to live dangerously, I thought. His wife/partner had been giving them suspicious looks. Women's intuition...
I suspect he was a highly complex character. His mate, TIM Lewis certainly was. As was/is their mate, Jim Perrin. Sad that only one of the three is left.
Completely agree with Will about Tony Barley. You'll certainly remember what big reputations Carnage and Wombat once had. That they were graded HVS just added to the sense of foreboding. Most people of my generation regarded them as far more intimidating than Vector.
Doing Forked Lightning, then The Creation, then Carnage - Tony Barley was on fire! I remember reading an article in Climber and Rambler, I think, about the brothers development of Guisecliff. It reminds me of an equally interesting article around the same time by Tony Howard, giving a similar account of the Rimmon development of Dovestones Quarry. Bold climbers, all of them, that's for sure!
Great article and a stunning selection of photos. I never managed Vector (stopped by the traverse to the slab!) and looking at the unique photo of the last pitch, I think that may have been a good thing.
One of my very happiest climbing memories. Leading the long crux pitch was quite close to my limit, but what stupendous moves on the Ochre Slab. It's so entrenched in my memory, even though it was nearly four decades ago, the feeling of doing that really difficult rockover on a little shiny pebble, and then seeming to float upwards ... And that final groove, how brilliant is that?
You've done a tremendously interesting and thorough job here, Mick. Thanks.
Many thanks, Peter. The top groove is more intimidating than anything else. 'Joe Brown's jug' makes all the difference. But you really don't know it's there (well I didn't) until you're right on it. And obviously Brown had no idea it was there.
I've always felt that genius is simplicity in retrospect. Once someone's made the crucial breakthrough, it's kind of obvious (provided you understand the discipline, of course). But before the crucial breakthrought, it's literally unthinkable. For instance, whoever invented the wheel was arguably one of the greatest geniuses in history. Going from a stone rolling to a wheel turning...
Joe Brown seems to have been a climbing genius. And John Allen. And Johnny Dawes. It's as though each of them had the ability to realise the future of climbing, relative to their eras. Also I suspect that each of them had a kind of spatial ability which the rest of us simply don't have.
Thank you, Gordon. I'll never get as good a set of photos again, that's for sure. So I'm really grateful to everyone who helped with them.
For so long, I've felt that those 1960s climbers have been somewhat forgotten, so it's great to have the opportunity to redress things a little. They were such formative influences on us. Crew going into the crux of The Boldest, crappy bolt or not. He didn't know how hard it was going to be - or even whether it was possible. All he knew was that he'd have to give it total commitment. And he did. Nearly 60 years on, that route's still no pushover. And I doubt it ever will be.
Just looking up at it (The Boldest) is bad enough.
Another brilliant article, thanks Mick.
Cannot remember if it was in Rock Climbers in action in Snowdonia or the Black Cliff.
"You go, you commit yourself, and its the big effort that counts. "
Beats aiming to clip the next bolt any day.
> Cannot remember if it was in Rock Climbers in action in Snowdonia or the Black Cliff.
> "You go, you commit yourself, and its the big effort that counts. "
It was indeed in Rock Climbers in Action in Snowdonia (one of my treasured possessions, BTW), which had some great photo captions. Another I like: "I had this dream, see, and I was falling upwards in a shaft of light" for Crew doing the first pitch of Pellagra.
> I've always felt that genius is simplicity in retrospect.
I think this is a universal truth - music, writing, art, maths, climbing.......
You think, that is so simple, so obvious, anyone could have done it....... but of course they couldn't,
> Joe Brown seems to have been a climbing genius. And John Allen. And Johnny Dawes. It's as though each of them had the ability to realise the future of climbing, relative to their eras. Also I suspect that each of them had a kind of spatial ability which the rest of us simply don't have.
I think you are right - there are people who can make jumps that defy reason. Is it intuition? Is it just a more connected brain? Your example of object rolling -> wheel - certainly not at all obvious once you remove "well that's obvious" from the equation. And it is certainly different from what it takes to be outstanding at, for example, playing a musical instrument (much repetition). It is almost as if they are connected to the world in a different way from ordinary folks. They just "see".
Cue much amateur philosophical musing....
Super stuff Mick. Really enjoyed that, as ever. Hope you're doing well.
And yes, what is it with the initial J?
> I think you are right - there are people who can make jumps that defy reason. ... And it is certainly different from what it takes to be outstanding at, for example, playing a musical instrument ...
I disagree: some people in music just 'have it': they can pick up any instrument as a kid, and just play it. Likewise, for example, the skill of drawing. Or chess. Or mathematics. Etc.
I don't think having a natural talent for climbing is any different in that respect: some people are just naturally blessed.
Yes, I think some people are naturally blessed - maybe they find it easier than the rest of us to make distinctive neural connections (or whatever). Yet there are naturally blessed people, who achieve relatively little.
When naturally blessed people make a distinctive commitment to their art - and then they put in the thousands and thousands of hours of practice (relatively easy if you love it, but you still need a work ethic), then maybe their neural connections (or whatever) massively outstrip those of the rest of us. And they soar ahead of us.
Somewhere there's an old film of Joe Brown doing some routes at Ilkley (in the late 50s/early 60s?) I used to solo those routes all the time in the early 70s. On one of them in particular (S crack?) I used to aim for 'perfect form'. And I probably got close (9 out of 10?) But when Brown did it, it was as though he was swarming up it, there was an extra dimension that was far, far beyond me - and, I suspect, most climbers.
Re 'extra' natural talent/spatial ability, have been thinking about this. I strongly suspect that John Syrett also had it. Which would make at least four: Joe Brown, John Syrett, John Allen and Johnny Dawes.
As David Alcock rightly said above: 'And yes, what is it with the initial J?'
Mick (wrong initial!)
Lovely article Mick and I agree that the 1960s was possibly the most dangerous time to be a hard climber!
A few points:
According to Black Cliff, Pete Crew is actually trying to place a peg in the photograph, a Simmond ice dagger. The bolt was placed higher up. Interestingly, if he'd abbed it he would have been able to unearth a superb slot just one steady move above where he placed the bolt, but that's onsight for you!
I do wonder how hard Vector actually was in it's original form (puts tin hat on!). With two pegs for aid (Ochre Slab and top groove) the climbing can have been no more than 5b (assuming the route was clean of veg). Some sections (e.g the lower wall and leaving the cave and traversing to the groove) are barely HVS. Many routes on grit from the 1950s were far harder technically e.g. Sentinel Crack, The Great Crack, Goliath. Great route finding though and a superb route.
Have Rodney Wilson's pictures been digitised? They seem to be a fine historical resource from the few I've seen. I wish we knew about them when we were putting Peak Rock together.
How about another J, Jonny Woodward?
Poignant to note that Joe Brown was John Allen's inspiration and hero when he first started climbing. So sad.
Many thanks indeed. Hope all's well with you. Rod Wilson's photos are amazing! Interestingly he feels that the early 50s were a more dangerous time to be a hard climber. I'm guessing there were fewer people climbing hard then though. Either way, pushing the boat out in the 50s and 60s was unbelievably impressive.
Re The Boldest and Vector, obviously both first ascentionists were heading off into the unknown. I've not read The Black Cliff for many decades, so had forgotten about the Simond ice dagger. I'm guessing that Crew wanted something reasonably close to the overlap to stop him, if things didn't work out. But would it have? I'm glad it wasn't tested.
I can't believe that Vector wouldn't have had mud, grass, loose bits, etc on it. (Claude Davies will know.) Am guessing that Brown reckoned he could get a peg or a chockstone in, to retreat from, if things went badly. Am also guessing that maybe Brown had an uncanny ability to understand particular rock types, e.g. whether you were likely to find small cracks or not, for protection.
Bottom line - The Boldest might have turned out to be E9 in modern money. Vector might have turned out to be a complete non-starter. I just think that both Pete Crew and Joe Brown showed amazing inspiration.
As did John Allen. Yes, so sad...
All best wishes,
Great article and much appreciated as the sixties were my own heyday.
You have assembled a superb set of photos and here are a couple of coments.
Reg's photo of Dave Yates really captures Dave and the spirit if the times. If you saw someone turned out like that nowadays you would give him a fiver ! At the time of the photo Dave had a half-decent pair of PA's but prior to that he used a battered old pair where the tip of the sole was coming adrift, so Dave had to place his foot above the hold and carefully scrape it down to position the flap. He met Pete Crew on the belay of White Slab one day and Pete was amazed at the sight.
We did have runners Mick as you can see - not up to modern standards but we thought they were adequate for the job. This was before the waistband and well before the harness so Dave would have been wearing two hemp waistlines. The ropes would be tied off with a bowline and two full hitches and attached to the waistlines by two Stubai screwgate carabiners.
A few weeks earlier Dave and myself were making plans to do the climb and had agreed to flip a coin to see who would lead, but were rained off. The weekend of the ascent I had to work so Dave did it with Reg and Al Hunt. And by the way Dave Yates was a superbly talented, very confident climber and success would never have been in doubt.
I am confused by the photo of Pete Crew on the top pitch of Vector. I did the climb twice and remember a level traverse from the cave belay round a couple of bulges and then ascending a thin groove (the notorious one). Perhaps someone could explain.
Thanks again for the article Mick - it was obviously appreciated by all who read it
> I am confused by the photo of Pete Crew on the top pitch of Vector. I did the climb twice and remember a level traverse from the cave belay round a couple of bulges and then ascending a thin groove (the notorious one). Perhaps someone could explain.
The photo looks exactly as you describe, to me. Maybe we’re seeing it slightly differently from each other? You must still have dozens of photos you’d like to share...
I've just learned that sadly Claude Davies died last September. I didn't know that when I mentioned him in my last post. As I can't edit or delete the post now, it seems better to explain. I apologise for any offence I may have unintentionally given.
I always yearned to meet Claude Davies and Joe Brown. They were a very strong partnership, that's for sure. Vector will always be a unique tribute to them.
Interesting about Al Harris. I stayed at his house and climbed with him for a week so knew him but not so well. Two things I remember about him that I haven't seen mentioned are he was a really kind caring bloke and he was really keen on mental chess. We used to play when I used a board and he just used his brain, needless to say he annihilated me every time! He had flaws but was more than just a party going womaniser. A great guy to spend some time with.
I'd love to read that as well if you ever get the chance to scan it.
Anyone got stories of Dave Yates? I know nothing about him but am totally gobsmacked by that photo below Great Wall, talk about displaying courage, commitment and love of climbing. Did he ever write anything? On his ascent was most of the aid in the crack above the now first stance? I remember something about Joe Brown putting two pegs in lower down so presumably they were still there? Apart from that did he carry on climbing? he looks like he was/is quite a charismatic talented guy.
Also Mick thanks for the article.
Glad you liked the article and profuse apologies for the delay in replying. Dave Smith, who kindly volunteered that brilliant photo of Left Wall with icicles (and I thought I went out on bad days!) has sent me the following brief account:
'As to Dave Yates, one of the most impressive things I saw was the instant evacuation of the injured climber from a route (Naddyn Ddu) next to Mostest that he organised whilst we were on that route. He knew exactly what to do - set up a lower system and got the man in an improvised tragsitz on my back - lowered us, passing a knot through the karabiner brake in seconds, until I and the casualty were at the base of the wall - in what seemed like minutes. There we waited for the rescue team to arrive, job done, improvised splinting and all. The ultimate professional.'
thanks Mick, one impressive guy!
An impressive guy indeed. He seems to have been very highly regarded by his peers - and this in a generation absolutely brimming with talent. I think Jim Perrin mentioned somewhere (Facebook?) that he had an accident (don't know whether it was climbing or not) which sadly curtailed his climbing career.
I can vaguely remember an early 1970s article in Mountain detailing an epic on the Walker Spur, a load of people caught in atrocious conditions and pretty much trapped. When a journalist asked Rene Desmaison what was going to happen, apparently Desmaison simply replied, "A leader will emerge...' He couldn't have been more right. Even though Lawrie Holliwell and Claudio Barbier (a kind of early '60s Dolomite version of Honnold) were in the party, it was Dave Yates, who took over. (I don't think people were fighting for the job!) A bit like Buhl on the Eiger; he got them all to safety.
I love the photo of Crew and Harris on the ledge of Zukator together; there's almost a sense of intimacy about it. And I love the photo of Dave Yates underneath Great Wall, getting ready for the second ascent. A lot of people must have stood in that spot and been pretty nervous. But he seems OK about things.
As you say - one impressive guy!
Hello Mick - a few thoughts about Dave.
We were colleagues at Ogwen Cottage in '62/'63 but we rarely climbed together as we both wanted to lead. When we did I think we were a pretty good team.
Dave did have an accident in South Snowdon and to quote him "it was a silly fall on a silly crag". His arm was badly hurt and it took two years to recover, but it did not curtail his climbing career - far from it. Once recovered Dave set off for his first season in the Alps and headed for the Walker Spur, which may even have been his first climb. The story of his heroic actions where he led a group to safety during a terrible storm is well known so I will not repeat it here.
After that Dave went to the Hindu Kush but enjoyed the walk in and out and the deserts more than the actual climbing. The three month long trip was not popular with his wife Lilian who made it clear that another such trip would not go down well. Dave took the hint and later said that it was the best thing that ever happened to him.
Dave and Lilian spent the rest of their lives avoiding popular areas and climbing and walking in places such as Northern Spain, Lebanon, Syria, Eastern Europe and Turkey. Along the way they bought a boat and sailed around the world.
A great character, a talented guy and a good friend.
Nice article, Mick. One question, what is Suede Wall? Never heard of it.
The bolt was a lot higher than where Crew is in that pic on the Boldest.
Thanks for coming on here. I'm glad to know that Dave Yates' climbing wasn't curtailed by his accident. Jim may have got that wrong - but I'll happily take the blame. Sounds as though he led a fascinating life; there must have been a fair few adventures along the way!
Re the Walker, could we maybe tempt you to tell what happened? All I can vaguely remember is that Mountain article (by Lawrie Holliwell??) which I think was pretty matter of fact. And Phil Kershaw telling me about the Desmaison quote - which I've always loved. I'm guessing this was after Desmaison's own ordeal on the Jorasses. It can't have been that long before Lawrie Holliwell's untimely death.
I met Dave when he had moved from working at Plas Gwynant Outdoor Centre to Ogwen Cottage as an Instructor. I had several contacts who worked there and I used to hang out at week ends or whenever I could get away from work and find someone to climb with.
Boge ( Ian Campbell) upped my game and I started to lead some of the classic routes of the day but it was Cloggy that became the focus in 1962 and the break through came when I led Bloody Slab and Lithrig. Dave then persuaded me to lead Diglyph and some days later I followed him on the second ascent of Scorpio and then I led Ghecko Groove taking the left edge of the slab without the benefit of the protection peg with much encouragement from Dave. Later in the year Dave made the second ascent of Great Wall with Reg Philips and myself. Reg’s photo of Dave at the base of the wall with his toe sticking out of his boot typifies the youth.
Time moved on and my weekend focus moved to the barn in the Gwynant converted to a hut of sorts by surviving members of the Wallasey group.
It was here that Dave teamed up with Ginger Cain to explore a new route in Cwm Pennant. Dave took a nasty fall and spent some time in hospital recovering but by now he had a partner, Lillian and they lived in a renovated cottage in Llanberis. Dave then trained as diesel mechanic, fitted out a bare hull sailing yacht and with Lillian circumnavigated west about with a stay in outback Australia. on the way.
When he got back he set up a marine diesel service agency in Caernarvon. My last communication with Dave was a few years ago; he was concerned that his repeat of Great Wall was being discredited because he preplaced the gear in the top section. Well that’s exactly what Pete Crew did on the first ascent.
My memory (admittedly dodgy!) is that the stub of the bolt was somewhere on the wall above the overlap on The Boldest. Didn't somebody say that Crew was trying to get a peg in, where he was, in the photograph? (Can't remember seeing a peg there but it's a very long time ago.)
Suede Wall, FA Geoff Birtles, Chris Jackson, May 1966. It's on the Main Cliff of Gogarth.
Wow - thank you so much for coming on here. That's what's so fantastic about social media in general and this place in particular. You can have a shared 'conversation' which would rarely be possible otherwise. (The downside is obviously the keyboard warriors/idiots but thankfully they've kept out of this, so far. Don't want to tempt fate, though!)
I'd never heard anything about Dave Yates' repeat of Great Wall being discredited - but am not in the Welsh scene. If his ascent was like for like with Crew's, re preplaced gear in the top section, then how could anyone rightly criticise it?
I remember having to scrutinise that ragged crack in the top section to get a decent wire. And even then, I wasn't keen on lobbing on it. Even with modern gear, it ain't a clip-up! I know somone who went 60 feet off the top pitch. When I was gearing up at the bottom, someone kindly informed me that, the day before, someone else had gone 120 feet off the route (top of the ragged crack?) and just missed the deck. Nor really what you want to hear!
So having something (threaded pebbles?) in the top crack seems prudent for the day. If you went up, found absolutely nothing and lobbed, you'd die.
> I can vaguely remember an early 1970s article in Mountain detailing an epic on the Walker Spur
I am very much enjoying this thread.
It would be great if anybody with a 'Mountain' collection could somehow make that article available here. Thanks.
I haven't found it yet but I think it's in Mountain # 7. It was - if memory serves - the occasion on which two German climbers, veterans of the 1966 Eiger Direct team, were hit by rockfall while bivouacked low on the face; Karl Golikow suffered a broken leg and Jörg Lehne was killed.
16 climbers of various nationalities were trapped in a violent storm below the Red Tower on the Walker Spur.
Anxious groups gathered in the Bar National and a leading French climber was heard to remark, “A leader will emerge.”
Sure enough when the weather improved, a leader did emerge in the shape of Dave Yates, who led the international cordee including Barbier, Holliwell, Barker and Whybrow up the ice encrusted Red Tower.
This was Yates first alpine route.
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