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Posted on January 03 2015

With our 2015 lecture series released let’s look back and see what one of our customers sent us as a review of our first ever lecture with Eric Jones:

Eric Jones review

There was huge anticipation amongst the large audience of climbers as they waited to welcome the gentleman Stephen Venables described as ‘one of the finest postwar British climbers.’

This was a rare lecture given by Eric Jones in support of the charity Climbers Against Cancer. 

Eric Jones was born in North Wales in 1935. He was a farmer’s son and as soon as he was able, helped with the milking and the harvest. He describes his childhood as hard but happy. 

One of his most vivid and lasting memories of primary school was a visit from the climber Charles Evans and two Sherpas. He listened intently to the stories Charles Evans had to tell but like all the other children he was fascinated by the Sherpas who had come from a 'distant land.’ He remembers they wore red ribbons in their hair like the girls in his school.

Eric Jones left school at fifteen. His father had been unwell and Eric was needed to run the farm. 

Eric’s father died when he was eighteen and he and his family left the farm. He was called up to complete his National Service becoming a Military Policeman for three years.

After leaving the army Eric took a regular job which for the first time gave him an opportunity to follow an interest. He worked  nights and weekends leaving him free to climb during the days. Eric and his friend Gordon Rees started to explore the hills and mountains of Wales and became enthralled by the tiny figures they saw crawling over the walls. They knew this was something they had to follow and went to a local Mountain School where they were taught the basics. 

They could not wait to climb. Climbing quickly became the passion in their lives.

Eventually Gordon discovered another passion, a pretty young woman, and Eric found that he had become a solo climber. This was a magical time. Eric found such freedom in this dangerous form of climbing. He completed lots of solo routes locally and then headed for the Alps.

During 1969 Eric made a solo ascent of the Bonatti Pillar on the Aquille Dru near Chamonix. But he remembers that this could easily have been his last solo climb! He took a fall onto a ledge. He felt he was beyond his point of balance and was sure he would fall 2000 feet. Somehow he regained his balance. He was badly shaken, and was still composing himself when Leo Dickinson and Brian Molyneux reached the same point on the climb. 

They suggested that Eric should rope up with them and enjoy the 800 feet to the summit. Eric thanked them but completed the climb solo.

These were exciting times for Eric Jones, but when he returned to Wales he was met with the devastating news that his best climbing friend Gordon Rees had lung cancer. This was so hard for him to believe. Gordon was such a fit, strong man. Surely he would fight the disease and recover. Sadly, Gordon Rees died.

This awful, unexpected event changed Eric’s attitude to life. He resolved that as we only live once we must find adventure as often as we can. And find adventure he did.

Eric Jones climbed with Reinhold Messner and Peter Habeler on Everest during the greatest adventure of their lives. He reached the South Col and filmed Messner and Habeler as they returned from the summit. He had hoped to reach the summit without oxygen himself but frostbite meant that this was not possible. He made the first British solo ascent of the Eiger which was filmed by his good friend Leo Dickinson. Eric clearly remembered hanging around on The White Spider for one and a half hours while he waited for the helicopter to come to film his progress! He base jumped from the Eiger. He flew over Everest in a hot air balloon. He sky dived down the East Face of Cerro Torre and base jumped from Angel Falls. While describing this base jump, he actually seemed to be almost as impressed as the audience as we watched one of the scariest pieces of adventure filming ever seen, set to the powerful tones of Carmina Burana. It was almost too much for the 'brave’ climber beside me who hid behind their hands as Eric shot towards the wall of the falls.

Not content with the Angel Falls’ jump, which was recorded for the documentary The Man Who Jumped To Earth, Eric base jumped into The Cave of Swallows in Mexico which was recorded for the documentary The Man Who Jumped Beneath The Earth.

Eric Jones has taken every opportunity to push excitement in life to the limit. And he continues to do so.

Today he runs the Eric Jones’ Cafe with his family in Tremadog. He makes time to climb or cycle almost every day.

Photographs around the walls of the cafe tell a little about the amazing adventures enjoyed by this humble man.

When asked if he ever had hair, he swiftly replied,

'Oh yes. It used to be like yours!' 

When asked what his next adventure was going to be, he replied,

'Retirement! My body won’t allow it any more … but I am going climbing in Patagonia soon!’

When asked about an autobiography, he replied,

'Oh yes, and it will be written in Welsh!’

Mr Jones thanked us all for joining him in a celebration of 'fifty years of doing stupid and silly things!’

Most of us will never solo climb the Eiger. Most of us will never travel in a hot air balloon over Everest.

But most of us can change some small thing in our lives to make them more exciting, and to allow some time for adventure.

What a remarkable gentleman!  

This was an inspiring evening in support of Climbers Against Cancer.


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