Jimmy Jewell (climber)

Philip "Jimmy" Jewell (1953 – 31 October 1987) was a British rock climber who was active during the 1970s and 1980s, and who was known as an eminent solo climber.

Jimmy Jewell
Jimmy Jewell under the East Buttress of Sca Fell, January 1977.jpg
Personal information
Full namePhilip Jewell
Main disciplineSolo climbing
Other disciplinesMountaineering, Alpinism
South Wales
Died31 October 1987
Notable ascentsThe Axe E4 6a (solo, 1987), The Boldest Direct E3 (solo, 1987), Great Wall E4 6a (Second solo, 1987), Left Wall E2 5c (solo, 1987), Yankee Doodle E2 5b (solo, 1987)
Famous partnershipsJoe Brown (climber), Stevie Haston, Jon de Montjoye


Jewell was born in South Wales and spent much of his childhood in Ferndale, where he probably first honed his skills climbing in small quarries, a common pastime amongst his friends. He moved with his family to Birmingham, England while still a child. His father had worked in the South Wales Coalfield, but moved to Birmingham in search of better employment. Despite his Welsh origins Jewell spoke with an adopted Midlands accent.

Jewell was a member of the Birmingham Cave and Crag Club, with whom he had his first experience of climbing in 1972. On first approaching the club he was taken to Llanberis by club members Graham Wales and Mick Moss. On that trip he was taken up Direct (Very Severe) on Dinas Mot. On the final pitch he couldn't make the moves, but amazed the other two by climbing the rope, hand over hand. Eighteen months later he led Cenotaph Corner on Dinas Cromlech.[1]

On 16 April 1978 he made the first ascent of The Flytrap at Gogarth, along with Joe Brown and D. Cuthbertson.

Jewell featured in Total Control, a video of classic 1980s UK climbing made by Alun Hughes, a Welsh film maker.[2] Hughes filmed him climbing "Left Wall" (E2 5C) at Dinas Cromlech and for the purposes of the film Jewell soloed the same route six times, using exactly the same moves and chalking in the same places. This amounted to an astonishing 800 ft of climbing. [3] Even more impressive was his solo ascent of the hard and committing T-Rex at Gogarth (E3).

An iconic climbing image, taken by Paul Williams shortly before Jewell's death, featured Jewell doing an early-morning solo ascent of "The Axe" (E4 6a) on Clogwyn Du'r Arddu, Snowdon. This picture became a popular poster, as well as featuring on the cover of the 1989 Clogwyn Du'r Arddu guidebook.[4]

The Climbers' Club Journal said of Jewell:

"In April 1987, starting at 12.30pm, he climbed five E2s and three E3s, about 1,000 metres of Extreme climbing plus the equivalent amount of descent, walked the five kilometres back to his car, and was back in Llanberis drinking tea in 'Pete's Eats' by 4.30! A few weeks later he was back, soloed The Boldest Direct (E3) on sight, and made the second solo of Great Wall (E4 6a) to warm up. He then astounded everyone by proceeding to solo the loose hanging arete of The Axe – E4 6a and one [of] the most exposed and 'out there' routes that can be imagined. Who can forget the magical photo on the cover of the Cloggy guidebook that remains a tribute to Jimmy?"[5]


Jewell died on 31 October 1987 while returning to his climbing club hut, via what would for him have normally been an easy climb, known as Poor Man's Peuterey (Severe) at Tremadog, North Wales. Soloing the route in trainers, he slipped and fell to his death.[6] He is buried at Bangor New Cemetery in North Wales.[7]

Jewell climbing Silly Arete, Tremadog


The largest meal on offer at Pete's Eats, a climbing cafe in Llanberis, North Wales, is called a "Big Jim" in his honour. The meal came about after he asked for a "full breakfast", the staff misunderstood his Birmingham accent thinking he had asked for "four breakfasts", Jewell ate the resulting order.[8]


"I may not be able to pull on the smallest of holds, but those I can pull on I can pull on all day long."[9]

"All you need is chalk and balls, man – it's the purest way to cruise."[3]


  1. ^ B. Waine, "Big Jim", Birmingham Cave and Crag Journal, November 2012.
  2. ^ "Filmography", alhughes.tv. Accessed 1 January 2014.
  3. ^ a b Colin Wells, Who's Who in British Climbing, The Climbing Company Ltd, 2008. ISBN 9780955660108.
  4. ^ Paul Williams, Clogwyn Du'r Arddu, The Climbers' Club, 1989. ISBN 0901601438.
  5. ^ Al Churcher, "Two Is One Too Many", Climbers' Club Journal, 1991, p. 123., climbers-club.co.uk. Accessed 1 January 2014.
  6. ^ Mountain magazine, Issue 119.
  7. ^ "Philip Jim Jewell", billiongraves.com. Accessed 1 January 2014.
  8. ^ "Pete's Eats, Snowdonia, Wales", bbc.co.uk. Accessed 1 January 2014.
  9. ^ "Climbing Quotes", gdargaud.net. Accessed 1 January 2014.

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