A legendary climbing partnership conceived on The Roaches

A FAMOUS climbing partnership, conceived on a rock face in the Staffordshire Moorlands, is recalled following the recent death of Joe Brown CBE, an outstanding pioneer of rock climbing during the 1950s and early 1960s.

It was on a rocky outcrop on The Roaches, a few miles out of Leek, that Brown met fellow Mancunian and rock climber Don Whillans at the beginning of the 50s. Both went on to achieve great heights fearlessly tackling mountain ranges across the world.

The story goes that when Brown's climbing partner failed to follow up a new route on a Roaches rock face, Whillans asked if he could try - and subsequently led the second pitch of Brown's new route, which became known as 'Matinee."

This marked the start of apprentice plumber Whillans' climbing career with Brown in 1951.

Together with his early climbing partner, Brown - who died in April this year - was one of a new breed of British post-war climbers from working class backgrounds. This in stark contrast to the upper and middle class professionals who had dominated the sport up to the Second World War.

Some of Brown's fearless climbs were televised and he assisted with mountaineering scenes in several films.

Originally a plumber’s apprentice, from Manchester, Brown took the British climbing world by storm after the Second World War.

In the 50s and 60s, his dazzling performance on rock pushed British climbing standards and, in 1955, he climbed Kanchenjunga: the third highest mountain in the world.

Whillans, from Salford, in Manchester, died in 1985, and has a lasting legacy on The Roaches, where Rockhall Cottage is known as 'The Don Whillans Memorial Hut' in his honour.

* LASAR Radio presenter Derek Walker, a former rock climber, has met both Brown and Whillans in the past on The Roaches and got to know both well. He will be giving a humorous account his conversations with what were two interesting working class characters on his 'Cheddleton Chat' show on Friday, June 19, between 2pm and 4pm. Picture: Regarded by many as Britain's greatest all-round climber, Joe Brown who died in April.


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