Andy Earl is three times British Bouldering Champion and currently ranked second in Europe. He’s equally at home on the scary sandstone of his beloved Northumberland as he is on the World Cup circuit. Our intrepid reporter Graeme Alderson, NE correspondent tracked him down.
As the son of Northumberland legend John Earl were you destined to climb?
Yep. I first got dragged out at the tender age of four and I’ve been a climber ever since. It was a harsh upbringing, climbing with my dad and the likes of Bob and Tommy Smith, always being told how crap I was!
How long before you were treated as an equal?
I suppose I was about 16/17 before I started burning my dad off, a combination of him getting old (John is now the proud owner of a false hip) and me getting better. But I had to get considerably better before they started treating me as equal.
Aside from being locked into climbing by your genes, what else do you get out of it?
It’s a weird blend of the sporting aspect, the travelling and the mix of people. Climbing seems to bring together a greater assortment of folk from different backgrounds than any other sport I know; we used to go out with a real mix of people from roofers to barristers.
Which aspects do you enjoy the most?
Having been climbing for 25-plus years I obviously grew up with trad, and I still do a bit [Editor’s note: new E7’s & E8’s in Northumberland is more than “a bit”] but my main focus is bouldering and competitions at the moment. I like euro sport climbing but have neutral views about big walling, mountain routes etc, mainly because I haven’t really tried them yet.
Any major epics?
Steve Roberts and I were trying to get onto the Diamond on The Little Orme, it all went a bit pear shaped, we abbed in and had been told it would be an easy walk out. But the tide came in and we had to swim for it - my main memory is Steve’s plaintive cries of, “don’t leave me, I’m really scared,” as I swam off. We thought we were going to die.
How do you see climbing progressing?
People are so much stronger these days due to the bouldering explosion, and once this really transfers to trad I think you’ll see some massive leaps, like V15 above dodgy gear. Sport climbing is becoming more about fitness, with routes of 30-40m becoming the norm - few routes have really hard moves, just lots and lots and lots of hard moves. Strangely though the leading comps are becoming more bouldering power orientated as the routes aren’t normally that long, only 15-20m.
Fave problem, route, and crag?
I couldn’t narrow a best problem down to less than a 100 or so - there are so many good ones everywhere. Kaiser Bill at Bowden Doors is the best route in the world, and Kyloe-In-The-Woods would be my desert island crag, but Switzerland has to be my desert island country. Perhaps South Africa is better but that’s the one place I’ve never been that I’d love to visit. That and Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean but that’s another story.
One last question, who’s your hero.
It’s got to be my dad - after all he is my major sponsor.
Andy is also sponsored by Scarpa, E9, Rockworks, and Camp. Find out more at www.andrewearl.co.uk.
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