Box of Blood E7 6b/c, Craig Dorys © Ray Wood
Nick is a ball of energy, constantly on the move, climbing, running, training, yet always up for some good quality banter; a day at the crag with him is guaranteed fun and never less than uneventful.
He started climbing in 1993 while working as a Physical Education instructor in the prison service. This was a tough job, but it did leave Nick well placed to deal with the harshness of modern alpine climbing and ultimately propelled him forward into an extraordinary climbing lifestyle. Nick gave up the prison service in 2003, by which time he was already fully immersed in the climbing scene.
When not away on expeditions Nick bases himself in North Wales. The location suits his preference for exciting traditional routes and he has amassed an impressive head count of E7s, especially on the North Stack wall at Gogarth. He has also climbed several new routes in the area, including All the Pretty Horses E6 6b on the Equestrian Walls at Porthllechog and Blood Meridian E6 6a on the infamous Stigmata Buttress at Craig Dorys.
In 2011 he made the first ascent of Frumious Bandersnatch E7 6c at Rhoscolyn and then managed to repeat Stevie Haston’s notorious Melody, a heart stoppingly serious HXS/E9 at Craig Dorys. He has subsequently repeated other serious routes here such as Box of Blood E7 6b/c.
Nick is no slouch when it comes to winter climbing either. In 2006 he climbed the first ascents of Cracking Up IX 9 and Traversty VIII 8 on Clogwyn Du, while north of the border he made the first ascent of Avenging Angel VII 8 on Ben Nevis. In the recent strong winter seasons he has made quite an impact both in Wales and in Scotland, with a string of first ascents and hard repeats.
Crème de Violette IX,9 on Beinn Eighe © Tim Neill
A partnership with Guy Robertson has proved particularly fruitful – highlights for this formidable team include the first ascent of Godzilla IX 8 on Beinn Bhan, the second ascent of Mort IX 9 and first ascent of Nevermore X 10 both on Lochnagar. In February 2014 Nick climbed Crème de Violette IX 9 on Beinn Eighe with Tim Neill, describing it as “one of the most sustained and fulfilling outings ever.”
Nick has also spent a lot of time playing on the steep icefalls around the world, ticking off numerous WI 6 routes, such as Sea of Vapours in Bow Valley in Canada and Dame du Lac near Morzine in France. In early 2013 he climbed a slew of impressive thin ice routes in New Hampshire and a trip to the Canadian Rockies with Greg Boswell at the end of the year saw Nick climb some excellent mixed routes, including the thin trad protected crack, Victoria’s Secret Deviation M7++, Rocket Man VI M7+ WI5+, Man Yoga M8 and The Maul M7.
Yet it is on the bigger routes were Nick has really shown his class. His alpine record is exceptional, particularly in the Chamonix valley where he climbed the first ascent of Border Line ED3, VII 8 on the Sans Nom and the first free ascent of Omega ED3, VIII 8 on the Petites Jorasses, as well as a whole host of repeats such as Beyond Good and Evil ED3 on the north face of the Pelerin.
Nick has been on over 20 expeditions to places as far flung as Peru, Nepal, Pakistan and India, bagging many first ascents including Fear and Loathing ED3 VII 6+ A2 on Jirishanca in Peru, Central Buttress Direct ED2 VII 7 on Quitaraju in Peru, and in a 5 day alpine-style push the ED+ Central Spur of Chang Himal in Nepal. In 2012 he made a rare repeat of the Slovak Direct (WI6 M6+ A2) route on the 6194m high Denali in Alaska with Andy Houseman.
Cure for a Sick Mind VII/VIII 8 Lochnagar © Will Simm
And despite what you’ve read here Nick’s life is not all climbing; he still finds time for writing, albeit mostly focussed on his favourite pastime. Check out one of his articles at www.ukclimbing.com.
In 2012 his first book was published; Echoes: One Climber's Hard Road to Freedom was shortlisted for the Boardman tasker prize, it has even launched Nick into the broader realm of mainstream media, as evidenced by his appearance on Midweek, the popular BBC Radio 4 show.
Nick also writes an entertaining and regularly updated blog with musings on his latest adventures, be it on the crag or up a big mountain in a faraway country; check it out here.
“My climbing is dictated by the seasons and my motivation. If it's cold I wear gloves and several jackets and climb ice or go out in the hills… if it's warm I wear shorts, a chalk bag and go climb rock… And if the bird restrictions are off I go climb cheese and talc and slither in guano at Gogarth.”