Rock Climbers in Action in Snowdonia

10 December, 2015
A characteristic situation in the Llanberis Pass - on Brant. © John Cleare

Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the much-loved book, Rock Climbers in Action in Snowdonia, by John Cleare and Tony Smythe. A new edition has also just been published, so it's fitting that John will be giving a presentation at the 2016 Llanberis Mountain Film Festival (LLAMFF) on behalf of DMM. [UPDATE 8.2.15: Due to unforeseen circumstances John is unable to appear at LLAMFF].

John's talk on the evening of March 5th, Rocking the Sixties in Snowdonia, will cover what he says was: "…an especially interesting era in British climbing history - the final period when the leading activists were still disorganised 'weekenders' who trained on beer, smoked twenty-a-day, drove like furies and thought it was all a big laugh."

It will also be a chance to get a signed copy of the new edition of Rock Climbers in Action in Snowdonia. It's been given a new lay-out and many of the photographs that 'got away' because there simply wasn't enough room, have now been included alongside the original inspiring 39 black-and-white images.

The monochrome portrayal of climbers wearing woolly jumpers and PAs, peg hammer dangling from their waist belt while running it out with minimal protection, have come to define the gritty romance of cragging in that era. As one of the captions says: "You go, you commit yourself and it's the big effort that counts."

Brown and Crew on Rat Race, an early Gogarth discovery. © John CleareThe original text by Tony Smythe remains unchanged, and gives a fascinating insight into the hard routes of the day, many of which like Cenotaph Corner, Vector and Cloggy's Great Wall are today's classics.

Over the years this book has earned itself an almost cult status and the first edition by Secker & Warburg in good condition is a highly valued rarity. Steve Dean, writing in the 2006/7 Climbers' Club Journal, describes the book as: "...the publication of the first really modern book about climbing in Britain."

Ken Wilson, who was very much on the scene at the time, said: "There was something in the air in the sixties. Everyone had a spring in their step. The climbing world reflected it like everything else. John was in the right place at the right time to capture it."

It was a time when hawser-laid ropes, steel carabiners and threaded machine nuts for protection were still being used. And more importantly than any new Beatles album, Gogarth was about to be discovered by climbers, while Pete Crew appeared in the Observer magazine as 'the new Joe Brown' and climbing's first 'pop-icon'. Times were a-changin'.

The new edition of Rock Climbers in Action in Snowdonia can be purchased on-line (using credit/debit card) direct from the printers at www.francisfrith.com in hardback at £25, or paperback at £20, plus £3.50 post and packing.

Rock Climbers in Action in Snowdonia