Edwin Drummond (1945 – 2019)

“Under Stanage, a Sunday in late September, 1985.  The air is kaleidoscopic with flies, sifted from the long, rain-bent grass, by sudden sunlight and a combing wind.  Through the car window the ash trees are flocks of hummingbird-green leaves: leaving. A white butterfly totters past, Icarus for a day” (Between the Lines).

He was a bit of a (anti) heroic figure to me.  He wrote his way into, out of, and all around the climbing experience and the life that goes along with it like no-one else has ever done.  I could go and on and on about just how good those stories and poems are.  I’ve been sat reading them again for the million-umpteenth time this evening at home.

Between the Lines, Frankenstein and Linda, A Grace Period, Child Woman Man, The Incubus Hills… and then the poems:

The Black Lake
(LLyn Du’r Arddu)

From the cliff
the lake waits in the cwm
for the crumbs of scree.

Holding back the monarchy of rock,
she gathers the caddis
in her lap, hikers on the skyline,
purple ravens’ wine.

She does the washing when it rains.
Hanging up the clouds for days,
swilling piss-yellow out of the peat,
pelting the sheep,
rinsing the mountains dusty feet.

Our local black hole, a bowl of plums
when the night wind comes

A choppy day: snappy
as a collie, running all over the place
splattering foam. My teeth chatter.
Skin and bone and stone and stars.

After sunset
she bites. The man in the moon
shivers all night.

The buttery look of the sun.
Lukecool by summer, there are Septembers
water won’t melt in her mouth.
Around November
– organpiping icicles –
she runs aground,
a thick, blue porthole
the rain rivets and the wind pounds…

The sun rusts
away. Days like icebergs

Whistling gleaming creaking
cracks, grass bending
wind winching
– a deep, blue roar –
reopening the colliery of the sky,
making the mountains soar

and tremble… Where I look down,
her wavy, young hair, blown
across his cold, bare stone.

(1975 – 1986)

And then there’s the all the groundbreaking first ascents and reckless expeditions up on high.

Wuthering, The Asp, Flute of Hope, Archangel, Banana Finger, Linden (controversially).  A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Great Arete.  The Long Hope Route. The Arch Wall.  NA Wall (solo). T-Rex, The Strand, The Moon, and of course, a Dream of White Horses.

A Dream of White Horses

Palomino in the morning,
as the sun rose higher

they dashed, their manes on fire,
pounding their hooves on the rocks,

And smashed – we were climbing –
sank, broken, foaming…

The wind lashed them back,
combing their matted hair,

swollen green sea mares twenty hands high,
surrounded by herds

of nervous blue stallions,
snorting and champing and trampling

us under, given half the chance.
We stood by – a pitch apart –

watching the rein of our rope,
that led between the last grey overhang,

redden like a vein in the sinking sun,
And breathed again.

Their fire gone,
the black horses were drinking,

and we were thinking of a name…
Nothing had been forced – Then the tide

turned, they surged, rearing
– manes smoking white –

running, running
in the night towards us.



The Bat

Brian Hall, my friend, climbing and business partner in SteepEdge writing about his first film experience recreating the first ascent of The Bat on Ben Nevis. I climbed this famous route on a snatched weekend raid North of the border with an older climbing friend and fell runner from Sheffield, Chas Hird. The weather was perfect and each pitch was demanding enough to feel like the challenge we hoped it would be. Finishing the top pitch in the gloom and rather than face the few hundred feet of Severe climbing to the summit of Carn Dearg, we opted to abseil down Titans Wall. On the second stance, I droppped my belay device and had to do a traditional waist abseil for the first time since I was in Scouts.

Terrifying… Great Memories.

Underneath the Arches

Arch#1 New Mills Viaduct – Sheltered from the driving rain, trying to remember how to climb by crabbing back and forth along the chalky traverse. It’s damp and a little unnerving with big drips threatening to knock out my contact lenses when leaning back, straight armed to shake out the pump from my out-of-condition forearms. Enthusiasm and the psyche is low for rock climbing. The weather is awful and the grim outdoor gyms of Raven Tor and The Cornice the only venues available. I’m not in the mood for dangling around trying moves on other peoples warmups.


Arch#2 MOSI, Manchester. Bjork. The stage is surrounded with Heath Robinson-esque musical contraptions. Bouncing along to a bassline generated by a Tesla coil; strange oriental strings on ginourmous pendulums; a beautiful Icelandic girls choir. Bjork the entertainer in a huge red Afro wig. Tremendous.

Arch#3 the San Siro Italy, uncomfortably watching Robbie Williams having a what appears to be a bi-polar breakdown in front of 75000 people.

Listening to: EMA, Off!, James Blake, Tek 9, Gatto Fritto.
Reading: Hitch22, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (in Cheshire/Scouse by S Armitage), Phil Baker’s Bio of AOS, Dan John.


Sat in the car in the lay-by above Cheedale waiting for Martin, waiting for the rain to stop and wondering when motivation is going to come back.

To climb well you’ve got to try hard. Try hard and enjoy it and I don’t seem to be able to do either at the moment. I’m either tired or just not able to get out due to work, the weather or other commitments. I’d rather poke my eyes out than go climb indoors.

I should probably quit for a bit or at least sack off clipping bolts and go up to the mountains for some adventure. Greasing around down Cheedale on routes that are too hard, even the ones I’ve done before is just not fun.

(I wrote this yesterday evening on the phone before heading down the Wye Valley on the longest day of the Summer. It was better than I’d anticipated….. )