Mike Green, an expat British climber in the UAE, died in February.
Though my time in the region overlapped with Mike’s for less than a year, we climbed often together and had kept in regular contact until very recently. I regarded him as a good friend. The background to his death can be interpreted in a way that diminishes Mike’s memory so I will not dwell on it. Let’s just say that it is always troubling to discover how little we sometimes know about people we think we know well.
Mike moved to the UAE for work in late 2011. I first met him at a park in Abu Dhabi where he was slack-lining with his sister and some other friends. Two things struck me immediately: he had some extraordinary muscles – I reckoned I could climb 9a if he would lend his shoulders – yet despite his bulk he seemed remarkably adept at the dainty art of walking the line.
Over time I realised this was characteristic of Mike: once something grabbed his interest then he would obsess over it until it was mastered, whether it naturally-suited him or not. The range of these interests was almost surreal. Whilst chatting on the long drives, that are the curse of Abu Dhabi climbers, some fresh fragment of Mike’s past would often emerge. He had been an MMA fighter, for which he had built himself up to 90Kg. He had been what the Japanese call an “otaku”, staying at home for weeks on end immersed in online video games. Very recently he got serious about photography, producing stunning results quickly, apparently without effort. A public gallery he assembled is here.
I believe he had only been climbing for about a year prior to coming to the UAE, mostly at indoor walls or areas close to London like Portland. Our first day out together was at Wonderwall, with Theo Giani. For some reason, we were focused on repeating Hot Rats, a brutally thin 7a slab route, with old-school spaced bolts on cheese-grater rock. To my total surprise, though the grade was beyond his limit at the time, Mike offered to lead the route, and gave it his best shot. I was deeply impressed, not least as I had backed off the route some years before; it’s scary.
Mike was making steady progress through the grades when I left the UAE in July 2012 and had done almost all the sport routes in the region up to ~7b by the end of last year. Also some spectacular deep water soloing; his determination and indestructible physique being a good fit for DWS. Though respectable for most people, it was clear from correspondence with Mike that he wanted to raise his level much further, and it seemed he was as focused on that objective as anything in his life. I always assumed it was only a matter of time before he was climbing harder than all of us.
Mike’s family have set up a page at muchloved.com, for people to share memories of him.