This morning Geoff Birtles informed UKC that British climbing legend Joe Brown had 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.
After World War II, Joe pushed the standards of British rock climbing to new heights, often with his friend Don Whillans. In 1951, Joe made the first ascent of Cemetery Gates (E1) at Dinas Cromlech with Whillans and the following year added Cenotaph Corner. Over in the Peak District, his test pieces include the Unconquerables, Elder Crack and Great Slab.
Further afield, his ascent of Fissure Brown on the West Face of the Aiguille de Blatière was one of the hardest single mountain pitches climbed to that date. In 1955, Brown and climbing partner George Band climbed Kanchenjunga, the third highest mountain in the world. Joe also contributed to new types of climbing protection by creating some of the first 'nuts' by drilling out the thread of nuts and putting a sling through the centre.
Originally a plumber's apprentice and a 'Jack of all trades' in Manchester, Joe moved to Llanberis where he opened a climbing shop in 1966. He was made a CBE in the 2011 New Year Honours for services to rock climbing and mountaineering.
Watch a film of Joe climbing Cemetery Gates with the late Don Whillans