mardi 12 novembre 2013

Loud and proud!

You'd hear a load roar as a super bike arrived at the car park at the top of Pex Hill. A tall, slim figure clad in black motor cycle leathers, would step through a gap in the railings and announce his arrival by letting out a humongous belch. Every head would turn to look at him as he nonchalantly down soloed The Dateline, a tricky 5c finger crack, with his helmet in the crook of his elbow. Of course, I'm talkng about the legendary Phil Davidson.

On another occasion, we were walking down the main street in Llandudno, when I felt an urge to burp. I let it out loud and proud, which we always did. Phil was suitably impressed, but only until I apologised to the two appalled ladies walking towards us. After that he was very un-impressed!

I first met Phil in the glorious summer of 1976. There was a heat wave that summer and water was rationed. But, more importantly, the crags in Wales were all dry and the routes were all for the taking. John Roberts, Pete White, Brian Jones and I were regulars at Humphrey's Barn in Nant Peris. We used to spend Saturday nights there after a great day's climbing and a lot of beer in The Padarn in Llanberis. Phil used to turn up with his equally talented climbing partner, Gaz Healey. We used to call them the "Psychos" because they did such outrageous climbs and rode their motor bikes always at full throttle. Other regulars at Humphrey's were Andy Sharp and Steve Lewis from South Wales and Mike Griffiths and Sandy Dobie, like us from North Wales.
18 year old Phil Davidson making the 5th ascent of Right Wall in 1977 (photo Gavin Peat)

Our paths crossed many times on the crags. Phil quickly worked his way through all the classic hard routes and made a name for himself when he did the 5th ascent of Right Wall in 1977 with nonchalant ease. From that moment on he become well known for making incredible on-sight ascents and amazing solos. (When Phil soloed Right Wall, in 1984, he hadn't done it during the intervening 7 years!)
Phil Davidson soloing Right Wall in 1984
I got to know Phil really well, when Elaine and I moved to the St Helens area in 1980. We became good friends and we climbed together for many years. My favourite memory goes like this:

Elaine and I had just returned from a two week holiday in Corfu in 1982, spent chilling out on beaches, eating too much and doing no exercise. We just happened to see Ron Fawcett, on the TV that evening, climbing "Sardine" at Raven Tor. As soon as the programme finished the phone rang. I knew instinctively that it was Phil and what he had in mind for tomorrow! Sure enough, it was him on the other end of the line and he confirmed my dreadful suspicion, he wanted to go to Raven Tor. He absolutely strolled up Sardine, as usual. I was dragged up it and then lowered down into the nettles in my shorts (he was too busy chatting away with Jerry Moffatt to notice).
Phil strolling up Sardine on-sight in 1982

Between 1982 and 1984, Phil was probably one of the best climbers in the world. He was one of the first climbers to look carefully at his diet and used to eat a couple of tomatoes, whilst we'd tuck into fish and chips on the way home from the crag. Secretly he used to do loads of sit ups, press ups and pull ups and was the most supple person I have ever known. (I wonder if he can still do the box splits or stand against a wall and touch the wall above his head with his toes on one foot?) As a result, he had an incredible physique that we all envied!
Phil making short work of L'Obsession at Malham during his comeback year in 1990

Then Phil just quit climbing when he went to I M Marsh College to become a teacher in 1984. He applied the same dedication to white water canoeing and became very well respected for his skill and bravery on the flooded Welsh rivers. Later on he became an accomplished saxophone player and more recently took up clay pigeon shooting (of all things).

Phil got back into climbing in 1990, making a very good comeback of course. However the sport had changed a lot in the intervening six years. Everybody was into sport climbing; this involved dogging and rehearsing moves. Despite Phil always having preferred to climb on-sight, he embraced the new red-point ethic and ticked most of the classic 7c's and 7c+'s at Malham, Kilnsey and Gordale. But the magic 8a grade proved elusive for him, he tried desperately to finish Zoolook, but kept forgetting the exact sequence necessary to achieve success.
The dude on his Ducati 900SS (photo by Steve Foxley)

Phil has always been into motor bikes and has been the lucky owner of all sorts over the years. His gleaming Ducati 900SS used to be kept in his parents back entrance hall until he finally got his own house. His helmet and leathers matched the black and gold on the bike, apart from his boots (as seen above). He regularly wore out the outside edge of his boots due to banking so low on corners at fast speeds. I remember the soles were held on with red duct tape!

Phil has always skied immaculately, he still canoes horrendous rivers (especially when they're in flood), he still enjoys playing the sax and is still very keen on climbing. Recently Phil has been receiving justified respect for working his way through the desperate (and very bold) routes at Nesscliffe. I'm very happy to add that whatever he's doing, he's still doing it loud and proud. Good on yer, mate!

Footnote: I just happened to read through this today and noticed a few things that needed improving or adding. So I've edited it and hopefully it's better now. (Mike 23/10/18.)

2 commentaires:

  1. Just happened across this, and I'm enjoying having a read. Some names from my past there! I climbed with Sandy for a season or so, he cut down and 'bent' me some old alpine walking axes so we could attempt to ice climb with them. Is Brian Owen the guy from Old Colwyn? I used to climb with him regularly for a while, round 1979 / 1980. After that, I mainly used to get dragged up stuff by Stu Cathcart, with whom I worked at Ellis Brigham, before he left to start his own business. I haven't climbed in many a year, but I make up for it fell running, skiing and all that stuff. I think I remember you, but you were more like 'friends of friends' if that makes sense. It wasn't you that climbed Vector using this new-fangled chalk, but having only ever heard about the stuff, was accidentally using powdered french chalk?

  2. Hi there Mike. Sorry for the very late reply, I only just saw your message. Yes, I do remember you from way, way back in the late 70's. Amazing. Yes, Brian Jones is the guy from Old Colwyn. And yes, it was Sandy and i who climbed using French chalk by accident, it must have added on at least a grade!Keep up with fell running and skiing. All the best.