Neil Gresham is one of the world’s best-known all round climbers, who has performed at a high level in every discipline from Deep Water Soloing to sport, ice and traditional for over two decades.
In the UK he made the third ascent of Indian Face (E9 6c) in 1995 and the second ascent of Equilibrium (E10 7a) in 2001, both which were widely regarded as the hardest of their genre in the world at the time.
His Pembroke Deep Water Solo, Olympiad 8b is the toughest in Britain and remains unrepeated. As well as pioneering first ascents internationally he has also put up new sport routes on some of the UK’s premiere limestone crags, such as Sabotage 8c+ at Malham Cove in 2016. Neil has also been at the forefront of the development of coaching and writes training articles for Climb and Rock & Ice magazine.
How did you first get into climbing?
Having gained a love for the outdoors in my early teens whilst backpacking in Snowdonia with my Father, we decided to visit some sandstone outcrops near Tunbridge Wells to try our hands at climbing. I didn’t enjoy school sports but this was something completely different and I was hooked immediately. Indoor climbing walls were primitive and few in number at the time, so it was frustrating being an obsessed climber during my school days in London; but I hung in there until I was old enough to go to Sheffield University and after that there was no stopping me.
If you had to give one piece of advice to someone starting to climb, what would it be?
These days, the default setting for the majority is indoor climbing. It seems that the better climbing walls become, the harder it is to make the break and get outside. Climbing on rock requires effort and motivation but that’s the whole point and the reason why the rewards are so great. Try to experience as many different climbing areas and styles as possible and don’t narrow down your options too soon. As much as you may love bouldering or sport climbing, you may find that trad or ice climbing takes things to a new level.
What is the most challenging or rewarding expedition/climb you have achieved?
This would still probably be a climb that I did in North Wales in my early twenties called the Indian Face (E9 6c). At the time it was considered to be the most serious rock route in the UK and possibly the world. I was persuaded to try it by the visionary top trad climber, Nick Dixon, who ended up becoming something of an angel of death to me. Plucking up the courage to lead this route was one of the biggest moments of my life and as soon as I started climbing I realised that I was wildly out of my depth. However, I had no choice but to continue and I still consider myself to be very lucky to be able to tell the tale. I certainly wouldn’t recommend pushing your limits to this degree to anyone, but in hindsight I feel that many subsequent judgments in the mountains were based on the lessons I learnt on this magnificent but terrifying climb.
What are your aspirations for 2018?
Every climber likes to keep their plans close to their chest, through fear of being held to them (or in some cases, others jumping in first). For me there are no big projects or secrets this year but my main objective is to get back into trad climbing, having spent the last three years focusing on sport climbing. I’ve also been really enjoying my winter climbing and am just back from a fantastic trip to a remote region in Norway called Eidfjord. I think the reason I still love climbing so much is because I’m constantly changing disciplines and mixing things up.
The Variant 37 has accompanied me on all my toughest climbs in recent years. This is the ultimate year-round climbing pack, which knows no limits regardless of the season or situation. It is supremely intuitive to use and in winter, the buckles are a breeze with gloves and I’m constantly using the external gear attachment systems, especially the Compression Shield front pocket for stashing crampons, snow shoes or a shovel.
For spring-summer mountain cragging or sport climbing, the telescopic lid and rope carrying system enables you to load your ropes up securely, whilst the side compression facilities keep it streamline on those rare days when it’s under-filled. But above all else, this pack seems to dissolve onto your back as you load it up and the deluxe comfort really comes into it’s own at the end of those long days.VIEW THE VARIANT SERIES
- Indian Face E9 6c, N.Wales, UK (3rd ascent) 1995
- Meshuga E9 6c, Peak District, UK (2nd ascent) 1999
- Equilibrium, E10 7a, Peak District UK (2nd ascent) 2001
- Boiling Point E8 6b, Itatiaia, Brazil (1st ascent) 2001
- Rise and Shine WI 7, Kandersteg, Switzerland 2002
- Mr Freeze WI6, Iceland (1st ascent) 2008
- Olympiad 8b, Pembroke, UK’S hardest DWS (1st ascent) 2012
- Spitfire WI 6, Lyngen Alpes, Norway (1st ascent) 2014
- Freakshow 8c, Kilnsey, UK (1st ascent) 2015
- Sabotage 8c+, Malham, UK (1st ascent) 2016