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Andy Earl


Andy competing at the 2006 World Cup. Picture by Steve Crowe of Andrew Earl.


Andrew Earl - On top of the World by Steve Crowe
When three times British Bouldering Champion Andy Earl won the fourth round of the IFSC Bouldering World Cup at La Reunion in 2007 he was on top of the world but his most difficult challenge was yet to come, learning to talk and walk again.

Andy first started climbing with us in Northumberland in the early Nineties. He was 14, prior to that it was only an annual birthday treat and much against his mam's wishes. He already had a homemade fingerboard in his garage which he used regularly. It was about 3ft by 2ft with a few footholds screwed to the garage wall. It wasn't long before he could do moves on grips that I simply couldn’t hold. “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!” Andrew. During 1993 John and Andy, Bob Smith, Karin Magog and myself revisited and redeveloped Whiteheugh. During this time Andy made the impressive first ascent a new E5 but it was not without incident hence the name Bones Don't Bounce. Soon enough he was out in The County every weekend, bouldering in all seasons and in all weathers with an impressive repeat of Pete Kirton’s Pockets Traverse 7C under his belt by January 1995. “I suppose I was about 16/17 before I started burning my dad off, a combination of him getting older and me getting better, but I had to get considerably better before they started treating me as an equal.” Andy.

The early nineties also saw the indoor competition scene start to develop. Both Andy and Karin started with a few Yorkshire based leading comps, which were held on temporary climbing walls. Soon the rest of the Saturday squad were persuaded to take part in the Northern Indoor Bouldering League (NIBL) which ran for a few years. Andy and Karin both entered the National Leading Comps. However, it was in the bouldering comps where Andy started to excel. “I found the leading comps particularly frustrating because you only get one chance.” Andy. Bendcrete built the Berghaus Wall in 1991 for Newcastle City Council at a cost of £100k; they got their investment back in 18 months. Andy started some serious training with his good friend Mike Rudden as soon as the Berghaus Wall opened and Andy finally got his investment back in the 2003/4 season as British Bouldering Champion. Mike Rudden remembers climbing with Andy during the early 1990s.




"There was a gang of us who climbed a lot together in the 1990's - myself, Andy, Dan Smith (Boza 1), William Cleaver (Boza 2), Richard Duffy and Neil Anderson (Fat Lad). Climbing was important but so was the banter. We'd be bouldering and the banter would often follow a regular pattern:
1. Boulder problem attempted by gang.
2. Andy would send it.
3. The rest of us would carry on trying to do it.
4. Andy would be only too pleased to ask us why we were not "pulling harder"?
Out of the hundreds of occasions we all climbed together, only once or twice did the boot end up on the other foot. One such occasion was with Born Lippy (font 7c at the time) at Bowden. Boza 1 and I could do it pretty easily but Andy always seemed to have real troubles on the slopers and heel hooks, his body would just sort of sag resulting in failure. This pleased us no end - "Andy - why you not pulling harder we'd say". This of course was like a red rag to a bull, so off Andy went and decided to do something about his weak core. Two weeks of front levers and candlestick training sorted out this defect, Andy was no longer 'saggy'!" Mike Rudden

Throughout the 1990s Karin and I joined Andy and John for regular visits to the Yorkshire Limestone where the tough Soft Option at Kilnsey became Andy’s first sport 8a. His hardest sports climbing redpoint was Dalliance 8b+ also at Kilnsey. Andy was now a regular on the “Cream Team” Easter sport climbing trips and during the 1998 trip to Spain he flashed the short but very explosive La Cara Que No Miente 8a+ at Siurana. His ascent was significant enough to make the Scarpa advert on the rear of the 1998 Rockfax guide to Costa Daurada. His dad remembers an early visit to Trollers Gill "I was belaying a very young Andrew who was climbing Haslam at Trollers Gill. He was at the crux which is about 4 bolts up. He pulled the rope to clip the bolt but realised he was too pumped dropped the rope, jumped off and at the same time shouted take which I frantically did and managed to stop him but not until his feet were at head height. I am sure he still thinks his long fall was my fault" John Earl

Andy Earl Flashing La Cara Que No Miente 8a+ on the rear cover of the Costa Daurada climbig guide book

For a few years the four of us all climbed and trained together on a Monday and Wednesday evenings. Initially the focus had been on repeating classic trad routes in The County but this later changed to bouldering and we were all heavily involved when Rothley and Shaftoe saw a massive surge of development in the mid to late nineties. At Rothley, Andy's early first ascents included Well Hard Problem 7A+ on John's Wall. Meanwhile at Shaftoe there are really too many to mention but two stand out from this early period: Power is Nothing Without Control 7C and of course Purely Belter 8A. Andy's first attempt to climb the blank wall left of Incipient Crack on the Font boulder came with a big grade only for his dad to quickly repeat it with a Surprising Solution (an undercut hand jam) and a swift downgrade to 7A! So Andy followed up a little further left again with Purely Belter which Andy insists is 8A if climbed correctly.


Andy Earl climbing Masterclass E7 at Rothley photo by Steve Crowe
Andy enjoyed an amazing run of form which started in 2000 with the first ascents of Masterclass and Masterblaster Arête two poorly protected E7’s at Rothley and The Young an extremely bold E8 challenge at Callaly that waited 10 years for a repeat by Dan Varian. Chris Graham compares the differing beta used by Andy and Dan "Having seen Andy on it, he was certainly playing to his bone-crushing finger strength by making a cross through to opposing, shallow pockets and moving up from there whereas Dan ended up making a long move from one of these holds and could just get his fingers onto the poor sloper above. After matching on this, it's a series of tenuous, balancy moves on some weird looking 'pancake' features to the top."

During a trip to The Frankenjura with Mike Rudden, Andy made a very rare onsight of The Bastard 10-/10 (8a+). This short and powerful route was put up by Jerry Moffat in 1989. "I couldn't do the hard move, much to his surprise and obvious disgust!" Mike Rudden

Andy Earl climbing and route setting at Sunderland Wall photo by Steve Crowe

I retired in December 2001 to concentrate on my climbing, photography and route setting. We did a lot of route setting together for Andy’s sponsor Rockworks. We set the original routes at Sunderland Wall when it opened in 2003 and then along with Chris Graham we continued setting together with new routes going up every week until Andy left to build his own successful wall Climb Newcastle in Byker. Before his Rockworks sponsorship deal Andy had worked for Entreprise to help build the popular outdoor boulder at Whickham Thorns. He was also involved in setting the Scarpa hardcore circuit at The Works. “Yesterday me and Springer popped down to Climbing Works. Meeting up with Percy the aim was to set a hard circuit for men and women 10 problems each. Sounds easy, well check out what happened here.” Andy.

Andy Earl climbing The Prow E9 at Kyloe in the Woods  photo by Steve Crowe

In April 2003 Karin and I got the call to go to Kyloe In with my cameras, and Karin’s new bouldering mat. Along with Rich Duffy we watched in awe as Andy coolly climbed the blank looking arête of The Prow E9. In October 2003 we all gathered again this time at Back Bowden Doors when Karin spotted and belayed while I photographed Andy climbing the seemingly blank wall of The Dark Side E9. There was a moment of panic when Andy ended up with his wrong hand in a crucial hold so that his only runner was now on the wrong side of his harness. His hand was also in the runner placement! Stuffing the cam in the next best placement Andy freestyled it to the top, much to our relief. "When I eventually got a call from Andrew to say he had succeeded the relief was tremendous. As a climber I knew how serious these routes were and right at the cutting edge " John Earl. The crags in The County have suffered at the hands of increasing traffic, even the hardest routes have been affected. Not long after Andrews ascent of The Bitch 8A+ at Back Bowden Doors the hold on the lip which was a smear when he did it became a finger jug. Despite this it still went on to frustrate many strong climbers until his good friend Martin Smith got the second ascent in 2006.


Andy Earl bouldering The Bitch 8A+ at Back Bowden Doors  photo by Steve Crowe


Noel Craine had been based in Newcastle and often joined us during the development of Rothley and Shaftoe and when he returned to North Wales he was involved in the resurgent interest to develop the boulders around Llanberis. Andy, Chris Graham and myself enjoyed a great weekend bouldering in North Wales in October 2003 ticking off many of the new classics despite some indifferent weather.. Personally I enjoyed Porth Ysgo the best. Proper blocks, strong lines, unusual rock and sunshine! The highlights included Jerry's Roof 7C, Tide of Dreams 7C and Lou Ferrino 7C+.
Andy Earl climbing Rock Attrocity 7C+  photo by Steve Crowe

(See more photos of our weekend bouldering in North Wales here.)

In January 2004 Andy enjoyed a short trip away from home which meant that he went two days without climbing or training for the first time in years. The next day he went to Kyloe in the Woods and made the second ascent of Monk Life 8B+, it still ranks as one of Andy's hardest and best ascents. "Andy's involvement in Monk Life ended up being the reason I did it. I'd been trying jumping straight up to a crappy pocket. Andy showed me the way and it was to jump further out left to a better hold, obvious really. Once I knew this method it didn't take long." Malcolm Smith.


Andy Earl climbing Monk File 8B+ at Kyloe in the Woods photo by Steve Crowe


I must admit I was a little disappointed when Andy climbed Endless Flight Direct E8 at Great Wanney in July 2004 because it made my slightly less direct start appear superfluous. I have tried Andy's start and it involves unprotected Font 7C+ compression climbing directly above a sturdy fence. Too hard, too serious for me!


Andy Earl climbing Endless Flight Direct E8 7a at Great Wanney photo by Steve Crowe


Around the same time Andy added two thin crimpy 8A’s at Bowden Doors, Growlers and Antihydral. He repeated them so that I could take some photographs. Andy usually graded his new boulder problems but he never graded any of his routes. (The Prow he gave highball 8A.) As the Northumberland guidebook editor that was left for me to decide!


Andy Earl climbingAntihydral 8A at Bowden Doors photo by Steve Crowe

I was recovering from knee surgery in January 2005 when I got the opportunity to join Andy for a bouldering trip to Cresciano and Chironico in Ticino. It was a strong team which included Ian Vickers, Gaz Parry, Jamie Cassidy and Percy Bishton, I was there just to take photos but I did take my rock shoes with me. There was soon much to photograph, so many impressive problems getting dispatched in super quick time. Unfortunately Andy had a bad cold but he still came away with some impressive ascents including Dreamtime Standing 8A+ and Soucoupe LH 7C+.

Andy Earl bouldering at Cresciano in 2005. Photo © Steve Crowe

In November 2006, Andy made two very significant ascents in the space of one week. The third ascent of Cypher 8B at Slipstones, then the following week he made the fifth ascent of The Ace 8B at Stanage.

Andy Earl climbing Cypher 8B at Slipstones. Photo © Steve Crowe

2007 saw many first ascents climbed and many hard problems ticked. Andy returned from a short trip to Switzerland with two 8B ticks Vecchio Lane and High Spirit, then he and Chris Graham spent three days trying the outrageous prow just left of The Plumber at Ravensheugh. Andy quickly followed by Chris climbed The Magician an unprotected E7 7a or highball 8A. Andy commented "The name came after Chris proposed a possible sequence and I asked him if he thought I was an effing magician." Andrew. The first ground up ascent of Careless Torque 8A at Stanage stands out as does the quick ascent of High Fidelity 8B at Caley."Anyway so we get to Caley, Andy brushes the holds and sets off, not expecting to get too far on his first go. Undoubtedly inspired by my awesome spotting ability he waltzed straight past the crux to top it out first try.” Chris Graham. Andy describes his trip to Parisella's “Clyde 8A+ after some good beta off Gaz Parry I did it pretty quick, nice problem. Then I did Trigger Cut 7C+ first go, then it took me a couple of attempts to do Halfway House 8A+. Then I tried Director's Cut (8B), which I would hope to get done by the end of the summer but it’s a bit of a pain with the 5 hours driving to get to the cave, but all the same nice day.”  However I think Andy was especially pleased with the ascents of Sloppy Ploppin 7C+, Vorsprung Durch Technik 8A and of course Blood Sports 8B on his home patch at Shaftoe. Suz and Andy enjoyed a fun summer trip to Targasonne in 2008 where Andy collected an impressive tick list: Nazgul 7C 2nd go, Clem rit 7C, Sing while you may (du fond) 8A 2nd go, I shot Sarzonazy 8A Flash, Psoas Hole 8A+, Tarite de demonologie 7C Flash, La beaute de la chose 7C+ 2nd go, La beaute de la chose (da) 8A+ Flash, Black bloc 7C 2nd Go, Black bloc 8A Flash, Orgasm Machine 7C+ (a jump), Flagellun Daemonium 7C (another jump).

Andy Earl and Malcolm Smith climbing The Ace at Stanage Plantation.  Photo © Steve Crowe

In June 2008 Andy, Chris Graham and Darren Stevenson signed the lease for the Old Pool at Byker, Newcastle. Close friends Andy Long and Rob Lambey were drafted in to build the wall. Climb Newcastle opened on the 23rd October 2008 and continues to be the most successful indoor wall in the northeast. Enjoying a break from work, their 2009 Rocklands Trip was great. Suz Dudink (Andy’s partner) did her first 8A+ Tea with Elmarie and Andy did loads of hard problems quickly up to 8B including Armed Response 8B and Green Mamba 8B.

Looking back, I can remember I was in Preston back in 2004 to watch Andy and Karin competing at the final round of the British Bouldering Championships when Graeme Alderson was explaining to Andrew that parts of the bouldering wall were just paper mache and must not be kicked! Anyway Andy beat Malcolm Smith in the final to become British Bouldering Champion and the wall remained undamaged. Andy retained the title for three consecutive years from 2003 until 2006. Perhaps his proudest moment was taking second place, against a very strong field, in the 2004 European Championship at Lecco, Italy. Third place in the World Cup at Fiera di Primiero in Italy followed in 2005, before finally standing on the podium for first place in the fourth round of the 2007 World Cup at La Reunion. “I went to La Reunion to compete in the 4th round of the World Cup, I found temps of around 26 in the night and up to 38 in the day, it took some time to get used to. I qualified for the semi finals and then qualified for the final in first place by doing 4 blocs in 4 attempts. I thought that things could only get worse. In the final I felt good, doing all the blocs up to the last bloc. This left me in second place before the last bloc with Killien and Jerome having done the last bloc I was in the position where if I did the last bloc I would win and if I took a walk up Henman Hill I would end up out of it in 4th place. Well to cut a long story short, I came out to the last bloc, focused and somehow I flashed it, all my friends in the crowd went crazy. What a feeling having competed for 4 years, I have finally achieved what I had always wanted.”  Andy was camping in a small tent after winning at La Reunion and he didn’t know what to do with the trophy other than to carry it everywhere he went!

What happened in Alnwick could never have been anticipated but how Andrew pushed himself throughout all the rehab was not unexpected. Following 5 weeks treatment in the Royal Victoria Infirmary's Neurology Unit, Andy spent a further 9 months in the excellent care of the dedicated staff at Walkergate Park Centre for Neurorehabilitation and Neuropsychiatry. The more determined Andy was to complete all his therapy the more challenges the staff at Walkergate found to set him! "Andy had to relearn everything, even the simplest things like swallowing, holding up his head, and making a sound." Suz. The story of Andy's recovery from his massive brain aneurysm is best described by Suz Dudink and Nick Brown in the digital feature on UK Climbing: In the Bubble. 

As I write this final paragraph I am still aching from another tough workout at Climb Newcastle. I could only manage about half of the problems on the new circuit which was set as usual by Andy, Suzan and Chris. I found this set especially tough but Andy's words of encouragement are still ringing in my ears "Pull harder!"



Andy Earl in his E9 tee shirt. Photo © Steve Crowe

E9 (The County Climbing Company)
Andy was sponsored by E9 and Beta Climbing from 2004. He liked the brand so much he wanted to import E9 products himself. The County Climbing Company Ltd was formed in September 2006 by Andrew Earl and John Earl. Based in Newcastle it is the sole importer into the UK of E9 clothes and accessories. "Like most things that have happened in my life it was more a reaction to a situation. I had already retired and Andrew was sponsored by E9 and loving the brand when Beta Climbing decided not to import into the UK. We thought we would look into the possibility of setting up a company to take on the franchise. Simon Berry of Beta Climbing provided us with advice and information and because of Andrew's relationship with Mauro Calibani the owner of E9 was prepared to trust this embryo company with his product." John Earl

Andy Earl and Marlcom Smith discussng Scapra climbing shoes. Photo © Steve Crowe

Scarpa UK (Mountain Boot Company)
It is over 21 years since Andy joined Scarpa UK.
" I recruited Andy as soon as we formed The Mountain Boot Company in January 1995. Andy was the ultimate sponsored hero. He was "the brand", he would do anything we asked of him with a smile. He helped us test and design products, he sold to shops, he helped us recruit other athletes including the likes of Malcolm Smith, he even drove forklifts ( badly) in our warehouse!. Andy has been and continues to be a massive contributor to the growth of the Scarpa climbing brand in the UK. His black and white view of life always made it easy to understand his view. His testing and feedback was invaluable and fun!. A great shoe would be stroked and purred at, a bad one could be thrown an enormous distance!. Despite the tragedy that hit Andy, we are still so privileged to enjoy his input as a customer and partner, but above all as a friend" Steve Roberts Scarpa UK/Mountain Boot Company

Andy Earl on the first ascent of The Dark Side at Back Bowden Doors 2003. Photo © Steve Crowe


Climb Newcastle (www.climbnewcastle.com)

Following the fantastic success of his popular indoor bouldering business at Climb Newcastle Andy and his team have plans to open an new centre during the autumn of 2017. Both centres will run side by side with complementary activities and events. The Valley will be twice the size of the existing centre and Andy promises that "The Valley will be a bouldering centre of the highest calibre, we will include all the state of the art features that you would expect from a modern indoor climbing business."



An Impressive Ticklist - The Highlights


Bones Don't Bounce E5 Whiteheaugh 1993 first ascent  
Soft Option 8a Kilnsey 1994   First 8a was no soft option
The Pockets Traverse 7C Back Bowden Doors 1995   see page 57 No Nobler County
La Cara Que No Miente 8a+ Siurana 1998 Flashed Rear cover of the 1998 Costa Daurada Guide
Learning to Fly 7C Kyloe Out 1999   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExtsjSer27E
Masterblaster Arete E7 Rothley Crag 2000    
Masterclass E7 Rothley Crag 2000    
Power is Nothing Without Control 7C Shaftoe 2000 first ascent  
Purely Belter 8A Shaftoe 2000 first ascent https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bPUwDmyzlQ
The Young E8 Callaly 2000 first ascent https://vimeo.com/46230928
Desperado 8A+ Gimmerknowle 2001 first ascent  
The Bastard 8a+ The Frankenjura 2001 onsight 10-/10 (A rare onsight of this very short powerful route that was put up by Jerry Moffat in 1989)
The Prow E9 Kyloe in the Woods 2003 first ascent https://vimeo.com/42206160
Lou Ferrino 7C+ Parisella's Cave 2003    
Patch's Arete 7C+ Porth Ysgo 2003    
Rock Attrocity 7C Parisella's Cave 2003    
The Dark Side E9 Back Bowden Doors 2003 first ascent  
Tide of Dreams 7C Porth Ysgo 2003    
Crocodile Arete E7 Ravensheugh 2003 first ascent  
The Ayes Have It E8 Raven's Crag 2003 first ascent  
The Bitch 8A+ Back Bowden Doors 2003 first ascent  
Antihydral 8A Bowden Doors 2004 first ascent  
Growlers 8A Bowden Doors 2004 first ascent  
Monk Life 8B+ Kyloe in the Woods 2004 second ascent https://vimeo.com/36735169
Endless Flight Direct E8 Great Wanney 2004 first ascent Unprotected Font 7C+ start above the fence!
European Championships   Lecco, Italy 2004 Second Place  
British Bouldering Championships     2004   Three times British Bouldering Champion 2003-06
Dalliance 8b+ Kilnsey, Yorkshire 2004    
Dreamtime Standing 8A+ Cresciano and Chironico 2005    
Soucoupe LH 7C+ Chironico 2005    
World Cup   Fiera di Primiero, Italy 2005 Third Place  
I Want You Bad 8A Varazze 2006   Friction Magazine
Cypher 8B Slipstones 2006 third ascent The week before The Ace
The Ace 8B Stanage 2006 5th ascent The week after Cypher
Marilyn Monroe 8A Swiss 2007    
The Magician E7 Ravensheugh 2007 first ascent https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTEHsmAabKE
Vecchio Leone 8B Swiss 2007    
High Spirit 8B Swiss 2007    
Black Bloc 8A Targasonne 2007    
I Shot Sarzonazy 8A Targasonne 2007 Flash  
La beaute de la chose (assis) 8A+ Targasonne 2007    
Psoas Hole 8A Targasonne 2007    
Careless Torque 8A Stanage 2007 Ground up http://www.ukclimbing.com/news/item.php?id=33955
Appartenance 7C Fontainebleau 2007   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KogGZKEcR_k
Check Out Me Pipes 7C+ Ravensheugh 2007   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoGNOIEK1FM
Never Never Land 8A Fontainebleau 2007   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=97wFdJ-uz7E
Penfold 7B+ Ravensheugh 2007   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9nwIhXHHzFM
Tigre and Dragon 8A Fontainebleau 2007   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjU8JEw477w
Verdict 8A Fontainebleau 2007    
Clyde 8A+ Parisella's Cave 2007    
Halfway House 8A+ Parisella's Cave 2007    
Trigger Cut 7C+ Parisella's Cave 2007 first go  
Blood Sport 8B Shaftoe 2007 first ascent  
World Cup   La Reunion 2007 First Place 4th Round Winner
High Fidelity 8B Caley 2007 Third Ascent https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PdG26UwP1YA
Les Beaux Quartiers 8A Fontainebleau 2007   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snkbGZ9pSfU
Unknown Name 8B Swiss 2007   The results of five days in three Swiss bouldering areas
Unknown Name 8B Swiss 2007   2 8b, 1 8a+ 1 8a and a couple of 7cs so not a bad trip.
Unknown Name 8A+ Swiss 2007    
Unknown Name 8A Swiss 2007    
Unknown Name 7C Swiss 2007    
Unknown Name 7C Swiss 2007    
Vorsprung Durch Technik 8A Shaftoe 2007   The powerful sit start to Central Wall.
Sloppy Ploppin 7C+ Shaftoe 2007    
Roadside new 8a 8A Shaftoe 2008   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=utR8zI13dSo
Northern Territory 7C+ Kyloe Out 2008 first ascent  
Mello 8A 8A Mello 2008   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mp7B8ypFBBM
3° cane 8A Chironico 2008   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bX2XMKNdJE0
Komilator 8A Chironico 2008   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F1vlTI1tik8
New problem left of Blood Sport 8A? Shaftoe 2008 first ascent new problem left of Blood Sports with a jump start.
Unknown Name 7C+ Above Earl Crag 2008 flashed  
Unknown Name 8A Above Earl Crag 2008    
Arc Royal 8A+ Queen's Crag 2009    
Armed Response 8B Rocklands, SA 2009    
Green Mamba 8B Rocklands, SA 2009   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=euVCxs9jdyE
Jeux sans Frontières 7C Hangman Rock 2009   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DT_BthtBBfE


Andy Earl and all the team bouldering at Cresciano in 2005. Photo © Steve Crowe

(See more pictures of our 2005 trip to Cresciano and Crironico here.)


Links and References:

Cresciano and Crironico pictures

Climbing Competition Pictures

Bouldering in North Wales pictures