Where it all began…

For the many of you who don’t believe I was ever little…here is proof! My mum managed to unearth some old photos of me back in the early days of my climbing. Here I am on my first ever rock route, Ordinary Route on Idwal Slabs in North Wales, aged 2!

Jesse aged 2, Ordinary Route, North Wales
Jesse aged 2 and his Dad at the base of Ordinary Route, North Wales
Ordinary Route, Idwal, aged 2
Jesse and his Dad on Ordinary Route, Idwal Slabs, aged 2.

Molly assures me that my parents had very good taste in climbing attire and that the trousers I’m wearing need to come back into fashion. She is searching on the internet for a pair in mens size large. By the description, I’m not so sure…

My Dad was a keen climber and taught me to climb when I was little. I began climbing outside. Indoor walls were not nearly as prevalent as they are today, or as good either. While my sight was extremely poor even back then, it was considerably better than it is now. We’d go away quite regularly on weekend trips, here I am aged 4 climbing in the Gower.

Gower, Jesse age 4
Jesse, aged 4, climbing in the Gower

I learnt all the rope skills required to be safe and also how to climb the rope using prussik loops if I were ever to get stuck. The next pictures shows me practising this technique, aged 6…it isn’t that I have just been abandoned, honest!

Cornwall aged 6, prussiking practise
Jesse practising his prussiking technique to climb up the rope.

I learned to lead trad routes while I was at school too, aged about 11. My sight back then was just about good enough for me to see the pieces of protection and to be able to get good placements that I was happy with. Lots of practise and experience also helped with the confidence. I was able to lead up to a reasonable level.

Jesse learning to lead
Jesse learning to lead in Cornwall

I only really had one incident when I was younger, it was in Fall Bay (ironic crag name!) in the Gower, South Wales. We’d had a BBQ on the beach and I had gone for some bouldering. It was dark, and I can’t see in the dark, I had a headtorch on. I climbed to the top of a short wall. At the top, I turned around to look back down, and as I couldn’t see the edge properly, over balanced and fell head first to the sand below. The metal plate in the headtorch I was wearing sliced my forehead open and I slightly compressed my spine. I was helicoptered to hospital and was very disappointed that I was not allowed up off the spineboard during the flight! I still have a Harry Potter esque scar on my forehead today and clearly no sense was knocked into me.

Jesse after accident
Jesse bandaged up after the incident

As well as climbing in the UK, we would also have annual trips to Fontainebleu in France, a bouldering Mecca! My dad and his friends were old school and it was possibly before bouldering mats were widely available, so all you had was a bar beer towel to wipe your feet on and hopefully a group of attentive spotters.

Font beer mat
Bouldering at Fontainebleu with a beer mat

I remember my dad buying me a basic rack of climbing gear for my 18th birthday, before I went to Bath to begin university.

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