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. Phil was suitably impressed, but only until I apologised to the two appalled ladies walking towards us, after which 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. 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 absolute ease. From that moment 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|
Elaine and I had just returned from a two week holiday in Corfu in 1982. That night we just happened to tune into Ron Fawcett climbing "Sardine" at Raven Tor. As soon as it was finished, the phone rang. I new instinctively that it was Phil and that he wanted to go and do "Sardine" the next day! Sure enough, it was him on the other end of the line and he confirmed my dreadful suspicion. He walked up it and I was dragged up it. He was too busy chatting away with Jerry Moffatt to notice that he lowered me (wearing shorts) into the nettles that used to be at the foot of the crag.
|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 developed a great reputation for his daring. Later on he became an accomplished saxophone player and more recently took up clay pigeon shooting of all things!
Phil did make a good comeback for a brief spell in 1990. The sport had changed in the intervening six years. Everybody was sport climbing; dogging and rehearsing moves. He ticked most of the classic 7c's and 7c+'s at Malham, Kilnsey and Gordale. But 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 still skis immaculately, canoes horrendous rivers in flood, plays his sax and is sometimes seen climbing too. And he'll be doing them all loud and proud. Good on yer, mate!