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Joe Brown


“If I ever get together with the people from the Rock and Ice, and we start to reminisce, the thing we always come back to is climbing in bad weather on Cloggy. It was so memorable, and we used to do it all the time. I’ve climbed when it’s been iced up or when waterfalls were streaming over the cliff. You’d be up there in December, wearing socks, fingers numb, scrabbling up Drainpipe Crack in a torrential downpour, drenched to the skin.”


“The big change wasn’t training; it was protection that worked and ropes that didn’t break under bodyweight. Suddenly people were climbing all the hard routes. When people started drilling nuts out to make threaded nuts, I thought that was a bigger cheat than standing in a sling. Compared to the skill of finding and threading a pebble, it brings the standard right down. It was cheating, making the climb easier. In fact I think that every new development that has come along since has taken something away.


Climbing is about doing something that tests you. If you make something that lets you avoid that test then what’s been gained? You’ve not changed, you’ve cheated. But then again I’m not bothered about that. Everyone does it for their own reasons and if you can get as much pleasure out of it as I’ve had then you’re lucky, however you’ve done it.”


R Joe leading Rat Race (E3), Gogarth Main Cliff; he made the first ascent of the final pitch in 1966.


P Joe below Cloggy - one of his favourite stomping grounds.


P Joe Brown stopping just short of the summit of Kangchenjunga, after making its first ascent on 25 May 1955 with George Band.


“I first tried Cenotaph Corner in Christmas 1948; it was the biggest plum in the Pass. I knew the score and was not at all stressed. I got as far as the niche, and up to that point I’d placed about five pegs, not being aware that there was anything wrong with that. But that’s when I dropped the hammer on my second’s head and I didn’t do it that time. I tried it again in 1952, this time with only two pegs. I got a perfect sling runner round a chockstone, and did it. The top corner was soaking and me feet were squelching in wet moss and I thought I was coming off. That’s one time when I was frightened.”


44 | CLIMB. WALK. JOIN.


PHOTO: JOHN CLEARE.


PHOTO: JOHN CLEARE.


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