Peak Performance: a true history from the Kelly gang

Posted by Tony Ryan on 03/09/2012
Peter Harding, on the first ascent of Black Rocks' Promontory Traverse, July 1945. Photo: Ernie Phillips

A team of well-known climbers and historians have come together to complete a manuscript of the history of Peak District rock climbing left incomplete by the tragically early death of activist Giles Barker.

From J.W. Puttrell in the 1890s to Steve McClure in the 2000s, the Peak District has been a crucible of hard climbing since the sport began. Welsh Rock and Cumbrian Rock by Trevor Jones and Geoff Milburn were perhaps two parts of an obvious trilogy, and its long-awaited completion – the story of the Peak – has become one of the largest gaps  in climbing writing.

Think of it as The Return of the King for climbers.

The celebrated High Peak, by Eric Byne and Geoffrey Sutton, covered events to the early 1960s. Since then, of course, climbing in general and the Peak in particular has changed almost out of recognition.

Although the sheer scale of cataloguing Peak climbing history is probably too great for any one person, inevitably people tried. For 10 years, Giles Barker painstakingly compiled a series of interviews with leading climbers. These formed the substance of a book which he entitled Peak Performance.

Sadly Giles was killed in a caving accident in 1992. His manuscript, which reached the 1980s, remained incomplete.

In late 2010 Phil Kelly received permission from the Barker family to complete and extend Giles’s manuscript into the 2000s. Assembling a team of writers including Percy Bishton, Chris Hardy, Graham Hoey, Mark Pretty, Jon Read, Mick Ward, Andi Turner and others, this team are finally bringing Giles’s dream to fruition. The project is proud to have Ron Fawcett as its patron.

Peak Performance will be published in October 2013. It will feature the exploits of climbers from J.W. Puttrell, H.M. Kelly, Frank Elliott and Arthur Birtwistle to post-war luminaries like Peter Harding, Joe Brown and Don Whillans and on to the heroes of the modern era: John Allen, Steve Bancroft, Jerry Moffatt, Ben Moon, Johnny Dawes, Steve McClure and many, many more.

It also offers accounts of the climbing scene, the routes, the competition and the partnerships, often in the  words of the climbers themselves.

Inevitably, of course, the cutting edge routes of one generation become classics for later generations. For active and armchair climbers alike, reading the genesis of their favourite grit and limestone routes will prove utterly fascinating.

As Giles Barker contributed the major part of Peak Performance, it is only fair that profits from Peak Performance be divided equally between the Barker family with the balance going to the Mountain Heritage Trust. The paper and audio archives of Giles Barker are now held within the collections of the Trust.

Everybody who has pledged support, whether by contributing chapters, photographs, interviews or research material is doing so entirely free of charge. In this way, Giles’s memory will be honoured and thousands of climbers will benefit from his 10 years of rigorous research.

Now available here

If you would like to be kept informed on the progress of Peak Performance project you can sign up to the mailing list 
 



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Anonymous User
11/09/2012
I climbed with Giles on many occasions and knew him and his family well. I remember his massive enthusiasm for Peak Rock and especially Stanage. His ability to solo HVS in wellies is a particular memory. Hence I think it is fantastic that his legacy is being brought to life. Brilliant!!! -- Nigel Shaw
Anonymous User
22/09/2012
This is fantastic news. Giles and I were climbing partners while he was in Bangor completing his PGCE, and I was always impressed by his enthusiasm for the historical record of our climbing past. I'm delighted that his manuscript will be finished by this great team and I look forward to reading the book when it is published. Thank you to everyone involved in bringing this project to its proper conclusion.
Andy Newton

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