The term ‘legend’ can be a frequently overused term, but when applied to the likes of Joe Brown, the word almost doesn’t go far enough. We’re saddened to hear that climbing pioneer and legend Joe Brown has passed away peacefully at his home in Llanberis at the age of 89.
Joe first gained notoriety in the climbing scene during the 1940s and 50s, when modern climbing techniques and protection first began to be developed (Joe was one of the first to take nuts from railway sleepers, to use them as climbing protection). His first ascent lists are peppered with three star classic routes that even to this day are a real challenge for climbers.
Joe was frequently joined on his trad climbing assaults with the late climbing hard man Don Whillans and together the pair established classic routes including Brown’s Eliminate and Great Slab on Froggatt Edge, The Left Unconquerable at Stanage and the stunning Cenotaph Corner at Dinas Cromlech.
After cutting their teeth on the Peak and Snowdonia rock, Brown, Whillans and other members of the Rock and Ice Climbing Club turned their attention towards Alpine adventures, taking on some of the toughest climbs of their generation in the Alps and The Greater Ranges, including the first ascent of the third highest mountain in the world, Kangchenjunga and the technical Muztagh Tower in the Karakoram.
I was brought up on Peak District grit during my teenage years and many of Joe’s now test-piece climbs (that he amazingly managed to establish in just a pair of plimsoles, with minimal protection) will forever be engraved in my memory. This will be true for a generation of climbers who have had the pleasure of attempting Joe and Don’s breathtaking ascents. You’ll be missed, Joe.