Lakeland Activist Q&A: Rob Greenwood

We talk to the climbers racking up in the valleys, roosting in the crags, and reliving their ascents in the pubs of the Lakes this summer. This week we have the ever-enthusiastic Rob Greenwood.


Name, Age, Main activity when not climbing;

Rob Greenwood, 33, thinking about climbing 😉


Your favourite lake District Route and why?

This is an impossible question to answer, so I’m going to answer with a curveball: a route I haven’t actually done. Fast and Furious at Dove Crag has long been on my to-do list, but for reasons unknown I’ve never made it up there. Seeing as one of my favourite things in this world is visiting new places I think this loosely qualifies as answering the question, but I’ll admit it’s quite tenuous…


What does finding a true trad partner feel like?

When I started climbing I climbed with anyone and everyone, but that’s changed in recent years and I tend to climb with quite a select crew. When you’re climbing with the right person/people everything flows, there’s no friction, and things are just easy Walk-ins seem short and the chat just flows, but most of all there’s a whole lot of fun and laughter.


What climbs keep you awake at night?

I’ve been up to Scafell a lot of times, but every time I’ve skirted around the main event – Ringwraith. There’s only so long you can put these things off for and I’ve put it off for as long as I can, hence it keeps coming back to me – I need to climb this route. Knowing people like Tom Briggs and Ged Desforges (two very accomplished trad climbers) have fallen off the top pitch certainly adds to the intimidation, so it just requires me to get on it, stop worrying about it, and see what happens.


What’s your worst climbing habit?

I’m always in a rush. Whilst I’d love to say ‘I embrace the moment’ I do, I just like to embrace it quickly, then embrace the next one – hence there’s not much time chilling at the top of a crag and this can drive some climbing partners a little crazy (although most have just got used to it).


What’s your most treasured piece of kit?

My guidebooks I guess, as they’re the key to it all. Open a guide an it’s impossible not to be inspired.


Which notable climbers would you invite to your dream crag day out?

Stephen Reid, the owner of Needle Sports, has been asking me to head up to Pillar with him for years but we’ve never quite managed to get the dates together for it – as such I’d ask him. Stephen may not be known to a younger generation of climbers but he’s a total legend: he’s ticked Hard Rock, he’s edited guidebooks for the FRCC, and he’s currently working on a large historical tribute to Pillar (hence wanting to go up there). Over the years I’ve admired his passion and interest for climbing, its history, and its heritage. He’s also a complete all-rounder both in summer and winter, and whilst he may not be a superstar in terms of big numbers he’s someone that’s lived and breathed it – there’s a lot to admire in that.


What about the current state of climbing makes you unhappy?

I could probably go off on a negative diatribe here, but that wouldn’t be good for me so I’ll talk about something that made me happy instead. A month or so ago I was lucky enough to be camped up at Scafell, where we did – amongst other things – Central Buttress right at the end of the day, in the evening sun, with two good friends. I reckon we were the twelfth party up the route that day, which is incredible. I thought people were saying trad was dead and that nobody climbs in the Lakes, yet here we are with parties all over the crag, enjoying themselves, and making the most of this wonderful weather we’ve been having. The future is bright…


What’s the most important lesson trad has taught you?

Generally speaking people worry about routes, their reputation, and how it’s going to be far too much beforehand. I used to use the phrase ‘going for a look’ to dispel the tension and generally speaking it worked, because as soon as I stepped onto the rock I was engaged in something real rather than worrying about something imagined. That said, I’m still as guilty as the next when it comes to over-thinking the next route – take Ringwraith for example!


To what do you owe your climbing mentors?

A belay…


What’s the worst climb you’ve ever done?

This is a tough call, because I’ve always thought there’s pleasure to be had in climbing poor routes. Even the worst routes usually have something about them. Still, if I’d have to choose one it wouldn’t actually be in the Lakes, it would be in the Himalayas, where Jack Geldard and I tried to climb a new route on Peak 41. It was horrendous and led to me abseiling off a bulldog hammered into a tottering ridge of shale. Still, horrific though this experience was it did remind me just how good trad climbing in the UK is, and I’ve basically been a full-time rock climber (as opposed to ice/winter climber) ever since.


What single thing would improve the quality of your climbing?

Taking a few moments out to actually sit back, relax, and watch the sunset. Rushing is great, it gets lots done, but you do miss out on the finer details as a result. Penny – my partner – is always good at reminding me of this and I think/hope I’ve got better at it over the years.


Tell us a lake district secret?

‘Lakes E4’ basically means E5, although maybe this isn’t that much of a secret?


If you could bring something of climbings past back to life, what would it be?

The past is ingrained within the routes, so if you want a piece of it just go do them. Kern Knotts Crack is a good example of this, as it provides something of a shock even to the modern leader (it’s no pushover at VS…) and yet it received its first ascent courtesy of O.G. Jones in 1897, which is – as you’re there thrutching up this horrific cleft – utterly obscene.


What does the future of climbing hold for you?

This is something I think about a lot. Climbing has consumed so much of my life, and will no doubt continue to do so, but things do change. Take performance for example, as there’s going to be a day when I can no longer perform to the standard I used to. If climbing hard is all that climbing means to you then you’re basically in a cul-de-sac; if climbing means something else, something more, then there’s countless days out just waiting to be had – they just might not consist of multiple extremes!