We were lucky enough to speak to one of the most highly respected characters from the world of rock climbing. If you’ve never before seen Johnny Dawes scale a rock face, then we recommend you do so immediately - you’re in for a treat. His exciting approach to both the physical and mental sides of climbing have been celebrated ever since his arrival on the scene as a 16 year old. Also, win a climbing session with Johnny Dawes himself (see below for competition details)
Dawes’ famously became the first person to conquer Indian Face, a 160ft-long route which he both conceived and climbed in October 1986. This climb introduced the first E9 grade route into the British grading system, having also previously introduced the first E8 route. Indian Face is found on the Welsh crag of Clogwyn d'ur Arddu and at the time was celebrated as the hardest climb in the world.
Johnny Dawes is by no means a conventional climber. His experimentation with different methods and techniques provides some great viewing, as do his riddle-like musings on his beloved sport.
Image courtesy of Johnny Dawes
Into the Wild: What has been your best experience in the world of climbing?
Johnny: My best climbing experience was in 1987 on Harris in the Outer Hebrides. It was on an 800ft cliff called Sron Ulladale. My friend from Bolton, Paul Pritchard and I went to freeclimb an aid climb* by Doug Scott called 'The Scoop'. For a week we explored the cliff for a line that would go free; just using the rock to pull on, no pegs. (*Aid climbs normally make use of pegs and ropes for safety; in this case Johnny and Paul used no safety equipment)
There was a Golden Eagle that flew level with us, fishermen brought Sea Trout to our cave where we slept and we eventually, only after some rope-cutting falls, managed to climb it: one of the hardest big walls in Great Britain.
Into the Wild: What’s been your scariest experience climbing?
Johnny: My scariest climbing experience was probably on Troll Wall in the Trolltinde valley in Norway. I attempted to solo an 8000ft route but strayed off and had to downclimb and jump a high gap to scree. Although Nelson's Column was scary too, with the prospect of the zinc lightning conductor coming loose...
Into the Wild: What’s the hardest route you’ve completed?
Johnny: The hardest climb I have completed is on the Rainbow Slab in Llanberis Pass. An 8c/ E9 slab called 'The Very Big And The Very Small', which has only ever had two other ascents in 20 years.
Into the Wild: What are your favourite places to climb?
Johnny: My top climbing destinations are Yosemite Valley in California, and the Lleyn peninsula.
Into the Wild: Rock climbing clearly requires specific kit. What goes in your bag for a climbing trip?
Johnny: In my sack when I travel are my smartphone, salad in a Tupperware, keys and cash. I am not a particularly neat person but I have my climbing gear organized very carefully and usually have a favourite book, Dracula by Bram Stoker at the moment... WAAA!
Into the Wild: Any advice for new climbers?
Johnny: My piece of advice, as gold as it is, would be to envisage the easiest shape at the end of the move you are about to do before you do it. Then use that to anticipate the fall as it threatens to unleash itself and imagine how exactly to remedy that.
For your chance to win a free climbing session with Johnny Dawes himself + a copy of Johnny's new book 'Full of Myself', just answer this question:
In our interview with Johnny Dawes, what did Johnny say is the name of the hardest route he has ever completed?
Please send your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org before midday on 7th February when we will randomly select a winning entry.
For more details on this competition, please see our competitions page.