I started climbing in 1978 while attending St. David’s College in Llandudno, North Wales. I was 15 years old. We had a climbing club and would go out Wednesday and Saturday afternoons. If the weather was good we would make it to Llanberis Pass in Snowdonia or local cliffs such as the limestone of Craig y Forwyn.
I fell in love with the freedom climbing gave—the danger, the adrenaline and the physical side of trying to achieve something new. I also liked the fact there was no finish line, no score at the end of the game. It was as if you could never lose. Climbing at its essence is an individual sport, there’s no crowd to cheer—it’s just you up there in your own private battle.
Within a year I was a climbing junkie and absolutely hooked. I spent all my break time finding traverses on the limestone walls of the school buildings, imagining I was out on the cliffs. I aspired to be like the famous climbers I had seen in the magazines, people like Mark Hudon, Max Jones, John Gill, Ray Jardine, John Bachar and Ron Kauk. Sometimes I would wear a headband and baggy white trousers like the Yosemite Stonemasters. A poster of Bachar in white painter’s pants on Midnight Lightning is seared into my memory.
I wasn’t a great climber. I could climb 5.8 and had seconded a couple of 5.9s. Most notable was my lead of Ivy Sepulchre (5.9), my first HVS (hard very severe). Ron Fawcett, an early British rock star and another of my heroes, was on the crack that day filming a new route he had done, the ultra-classic Lord of the Flies (E6 6a/5.12a R). As he left the crag he turned and looked at me leading the route. I was so excited—Ron had seen me climb. The next time I did Ivy Sepulchre was four years later when I down-soloed it after I had soloed up Right Wall (E5 6a /5.11+).