I was born in Upper Road, Wallington, which is next to Croydon, in October 1949 and moved to Waddon in Croydon where at the age of 4 my parents divorced. I did not want my parents to divorce and did not see any reason why they were. This divorce caused me a great deal of problems throughout my life. Divorce destroys children's lives in most cases, parents putting their self interest before their children.
At the age of four onwards, I was 'shipped', by myself, between London and Manchester each School holiday, traveling overnight by coach and getting a taxi to Salford or waiting to meet my father in Victoria Coach Station. Although I moved to live in Salford when I was seven, this continued until I reached the age of 11 or 12 when I moved to Llanberis.
When I was ten years old my mother took me camping in the field behind the Wool Mill in Capel Curig, North Wales where we met this 'hard climber' with desperate tales of hanging on for dear life in the Pyranees by one finger with icy cold water dripping on his numbing digits, ready to plummet to certain death. Finally, giving in to my pestering, he took me to some nearby outcrops, tied the rope around my chest and I climbed into the pursuit that dominated my life. The Woollen Mill later became Brennands climbing shop which is now part of the Joe Brown empire. Brennand is mentioned in the Ogwen guide books as he did a first ascent of a route on Bochlwyd Buttress.
While camping at Capel Curig I bought a 'real' bow and arrows from a sports shop in Bangor. The same sunny evening, I saw a rabbit in the field and decided to become a great white hunter. Arrow loaded, string fully drawn, I chased this brown mini kangeroo as it run behind an outcrop of rock. Seconds later, like the rewind on a video, I was seen reversing my steps. There was the biggest horned beast I had ever seen behind the rocks, a Pyranees Mountain Goat with massive sabres on its head. These were introduced into North Wales to eat the grass off cliff ledges in order to deter the sheep from getting stuck on them prior to becoming a bouncy ball of wool with an earthward bound plummet! Later in life I had many meetings with these on my way to school from Blaen y Nant.
On returning to Manchester, Mother joined The Manchester Gritstone Climbing Club and the Rucksack Club in order that I would have someone to climb with. I later became honorary member of The Karabiner Club and The London Sandstone.
It was one weekend in the winter of 1963 when I should have been climbing with Graham West that changed my life. Graham ( Gray West ) was killed in a freak avalanche in Chew Valley, above Oldham, Manchester along with Michael Roberts. It was only due to the fact that Barry and 'Mangrove' from the London Sandstone Club paid us an unexpected visit in Salford that weekend that saved my life.
Shortly after this incident ( February 1963 ) my mother and I went to stay with a friend, Roy Brown, from The Manchester Gritstone Club who was working as a mountaineering instructor with the Mountaineering Association, at Hafod Uchaf, Llanberis. My mother and I lived in a tent outside Hafod Uchaf during the hard winter of '63.
Spider Penman, Ron Mosely, Big Dave ( Burnell? ), Geoff Arkless and Breda Boyle ( later Arkless ) all lived and worked at Hafod Uchaf. ( Hafod = house; Uchaf = high ) Keith Peel ( Murgatroyd ) was one of the people who was introduced to the early Welsh scene by an MA course. Sadly, Murgatroyd passed away July 2002.
Mother and I moved our tent further down Capel Goch ( Red Chapel ) Road to the Youth Hostel which was run by Mrs. Lees, mother of Johnny Lees, mountaineer and RAF Rescue team leader - RAF Valley.
The education authority caught up with me and my climbing holiday was brought to an abrupt end. I was sent to the local school, Ysgol Brynrefail, in Llanrug where like a caged animal I could see the mountains out of the classroom window. The mountains where I longed to spend each minute of the day.
The authorities then found that I was living in a tent and threatened to put me in a home. The locals from the Dolbadarn Hotel, Llanberis, came to our rescue and found us a cottage in Nant Peris owned by Chris Paterson, a climbing instructor working at Bettws y Coed ( Church in the Woods ). We run Cwm y Wrach ( Hollow of the Witches ) as a backpackers or bunkhouse as it was then. Cwm y Wrach is where Eric Jones and Gordon Reece stayed with us when they visited to climb mid-week. Eric and Gordon both worked at Cautaulds in Fflint and had three days off during the week as part of their shift system. Sadly, Gordon died shortly after marrying a local girl from Llanberis and having a son. Eric eventually bought Bwlch y Moch ( Pass of the Pigs ) farmhouse, cafe and filling station at Tremadog. Barry Webb, Tony Howard ( Trolltind Wall ) and the Greenhall brothers are some of the climbers that stayed at Cwm y Wrach during the early 60's.
During this time we became involved with helping the RAF mountain rescue with Max (?) and Taff Tunner together with the Pen y Gwryd rescue team lead by ( Sir ) Christpher Briggs. The Pen y Gwryd ( PYG ) being the base where the Everest Team from 1953 stayed during their training in Snowdonia. Their signatures are on the ceiling in the bar.
Blaen y Nant, an isolated cottage in the middle of the Llanberis Pass was the next home and the only set of walls that I ever felt was home. Blaen y Nant was set in the middle of my playground - the cliffs of the Llanberis Pass where I used to climb in the evenings after school, quite often solo climbing, taking a rope behind me for emergencies or easy abseil desents. No electricity, no gas, no TV, water piped from the stream running alongside and fresh salmon from the river occasionally. Jock Webster moved into Cwm y Wrach.
The back garden was 3000 acres of Snowdon ( Yr Wyddfa ), finest area for bouldering that I have come across in the UK.
Kennedy was assasinated, England won the world cup and I became involved with 'A' Squadron, 22 Special Air Service while I enjoyed life at Blaen y Nant.
At Blaen y Nant we had a steady stream of visitors throughout the year, many stayed for long periods to become part of the Llanberis scene. At one point we had forty people staying over a very wet weekend. Claudybald ( Dave Ruby from Croydon ) turned up via Blaen y Nant. Llanberis was becoming ever more popular and by this time Joe Brown had moved from Whitehall in Derbyshire to Llanberis, an attraction for climbers as strong as the scenery. Joe's attendance at the 'darts corner ' in the Padarn Hotel put it on the map as everyone drunk either at the Pen y Gwryd, Pen y Pass or The Vaynol Arms previously.
We moved to Tan y Dderwen ( Under the Oaks ) the year England won the World Cup, where we stayed until 1972.
Joe started his shop in Menai Hall which was an electrical shop prior to this and was owned by an English family whose son Martin(?), I used to go fishing with. The local provisions store, Foulkes, stocked climbing equipment until Joe's shop was opened.
Wendy's cafe was the social hotspot of North Wales and the climbing world. Gilbert Graver, a retired builder, and his children Yvonne and Brian had moved from England to run the cafe named after Wendy who was the daughter of the Wool Shop owner. Ginger Caine's art shop is where the old Wool Shop was.
There was an English doctor living in Deiniolen until about 1964 - Dr. Dempsey.
After leaving school in 1967, I worked in the Chemical Industry in Runcorn, hitch-hiking home to Llanberis every Friday night and returning to Runcorn on Sunday night for five years until 1972 when we left Tan y Dderwen - a move I have regretted to this day!