Charlie is an extremely gifted climber, endlessly enthusiastic and eclectic in his taste. Trad climbing is where his heart lies, but he has also excelled in many different aspects of the climbing game.
He was born in London in 1973 and aged 11 was introduced to the outdoor lifestyle when his father, who grew up in the Peak District, took him up Snowdon.
“I immediately fell in love with the mountains. Every school holiday we would go walking in the mountains, but dad wasn’t into climbing at all, so it wasn’t until 1988 when I was 15, that I started climbing at the Sobell Centre indoor wall in north London. Inspired by seeing [Johnny Dawes’ seminal climbing film] Stone Monkey on Channel 4 I would go every day after school and traverse in the corridor on the brick edges, and try and emulate Johnny leaping about, (without much success).”
Charlie’s initial forays onto rock revolved around top roping on the grit, but his first proper lead was Christmas Curry (HS 4a) at Tremadog in 1989. Soon enough Charlie reached the E2 standard. And then with a school friend, Mark Campbell, he began to push his grade higher, branching out from trad routes into sport climbing. Doing Empire of the Sun (7b) (or E6 6b as it was then) at Anstey’s Cove was a massive step up.
In 1992 he was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylytis, an auto immune type of Arthritis that affects the spine, neck, ribcage and hips. Walking was painful, but after several months it calmed down a bit and in early 1993 a seven week trip to Buoux, where he met climbers such as Nic Sellars, lead to some major breakthroughs. Despite never taking rest days or applying any sort of conventional tactics he climbed two 8as (including the classic Rêve de Papillon) and came very close to completing Chouca (8a+). Once back home he started a long term battle with Ken Palmer’s fierce test piece, Tuppence (8b) at Anstey’s Cove.
The next few years Charlie spent living in Sheffield, not turning up to University and absorbing himself in the cellar training scene. Despite getting (predictably) injured he did manage to redpoint Chimes of Freedom (8a+) at Raven Tor and get a few good ticks on the grit, routes such as: Benign Lives (E6 6b) and Narcissus (E6 6b) at Curbar, and the fourth ascent of Messiah (E6/7) 6c at Burbage.
Disillusioned with the intensity of the Sheffield scene Charlie moved back to London and started work as a freelance ‘Runner’ in the film industry. He gave up climbing for a year and a half and focused on progressing up the work ladder to become a Camera Technician.
When he started climbing again Charlie went back to basics, ticking classic trad routes in Pembroke, North Wales and the Peak:
“This was when I got into headpointing properly. My first E7 was Master’s Edge at Millstone and then I did Gaia (E8 6c) at Black Rocks and End of the Affair (E8 6b) at Curbar in 1997 (just before the Hard Grit film I think). These were really significant ascents for me, as I never thought I’d be able to do the things I’d first seen on Stone Monkey, but in the end they felt pretty easy after tope rope practice and even a bit of an anticlimax.”
In 1999 he went to Sweden with Neil Gresham, Leo Houlding and Patch Hammond and put up a new E7 called The Thin End of the Wedge, and later that year went on to Australia, doing routes like Serpentine (8a) and Punks In The Gym (8b+) at Arapiles, the latter taking him only five days, despite this being his first of the grade!