Joe Brown

R Joe Brown making short work of his own route Tensor (E2 6a), Tremadog. Joe first climbed this in 1964 using his self-imposed limit of two points of aid.

“I was always into adventure when I was little. Four of us used to mess around together, playing around in bombed-out houses in the war, or getting the bus out to Hayfield to do some scrambling into caves or playing in the rivers. Then, one day in 1946, we went up to Kinder Downfall. We always carried some rope with us for swings and things. History records that this was my mum’s washing line but it wasn’t: it was nicked from a council road works and my mother said she wouldn’t trust it for the washing. I took the rope, actually coiled round my shoulder, and climbed up the Downfall by an easy route then threw the rope down for the others. And that was it for me. The fantastic feeling that I had from doing that one climb was so exciting that from then on all the other messing about I’d done disappeared. All I cared about was climbing. It was a feeling like nothing else I’d ever had.”

“The Rock and Ice started off as little groups of two or three people who got on and who would meet up in Manchester, at the skating rink in Levenshulme, or the Palais Dance Hall. We formed a very close bond. Eventually, in the early 50s, someone said we should form a club. I didn’t agree. Once you have a club, you have rules. Then someone will break the rules and they’ll have to go. And we all got on so well I couldn’t see the point of a club. But still, a club happened, and that was the Rock and Ice. There was Slim Sorrell, Nat Allen, Ray and Pete Grennall, Don Roscoe, Eric Price, Don Whillans, Fred Gough, Joe ‘Morty’ Smith and a few others. A half a dozen at most. Great people, and any of those people who are still alive today is still a really good friend of mine. We all had different strengths. Don had incredibly strong arms and upper body; Ron Moseley could do more pull-ups than

"All I cared about was climbing. It was a feeling like nothing else I’d ever had."


anyone, yet he was a commercial artist sat behind a desk all day; I worked really hard for eight hours every day so I had incredible stamina and could hang round; Don was strong but he was incredibly agile and gymnastic. I was walking down the street with him once and he sprang up onto the top of a pillar box. And that was from standing, not running. I’d have thought that impossible if I hadn’t seen it. But it was Morty Smith who stood out. Morty could do as many press-ups with someone sat on his back as I could do without. He was incredibly physically talented and we always thought that he was going to do the big breakthrough in climbing. But that never happened. We were camping at the Grochan and he borrowed a combination motorcycle and sidecar to go and see his girlfriend in Ogwen. As he was passing Plas y Brenin he lost control, crashed and smashed his femur. And that was him out of the game.”

“I was pretty fit from work. Up and down ladders, building chimneys, slating roofs, always carrying as much up the ladder as you possibly could each time, fitting fireplaces by yourself that weigh four hundredweight, carrying baths up flights of stairs. I had no fat, all muscle. And you didn’t have any easy weeks, so yes, I was fit.”


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