Posts Tagged ‘people’

Mike Green

Friday, February 21st, 2014


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, for people to share memories of him.

Damian Cook’s article about UAE climbing

Monday, June 4th, 2012

I made a low-quality scan of this vintage article by Damian Cook from On the Edge magazine (1999? 2000?) a few years ago. I have finally got around to turning it into a PDF and uploading it.

Worth reading: “Carrots and Magic in the UAE“.

A few cultural notes:
- “Crispin” refers to Crispin Waddy, a legendary British trad climber and DWS pioneer, also from Dorset like the Cook brothers.
- “XS” is a no-longer-used British climbing grade.
- “Wurzel Gummidge” was a living scarecrow in a British children’s TV show from the 1970s.

the Columbian Slapper

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Dan Cieszynski, visiting the UAE from the UK for a vertical access contract in Abu Dhabi, has accumulated an impressive tick list over the last few weeks, culminating in the first ascent of the Columbian Slapper project at Tawiyan. He has given it F7b+. It took him several tries spread over two visits. The route extends the warmup pitch, Laundry Service, over a juggy roof to a dynamic boulder problem launching off very slopey holds to the finish ledge.

From UAE Climbing

Dan’s other ticks include: third ascent of Acquiescence E4 at Shady Circus, with Aiden Laffey; second ascent of Tradistan Incursion E4 at Nearside; third ascent of Echo Beach F7c at Tawiyan; fourth (AFAIK) ascent of Tadaima F7b at Hatta; third clean ascent of Jebel Jebel F6b+ at Tawiyan (the guidebook cover …) plus onsights of all the other routes at Tawiyan!

This is highly embarrassing for the rest of us. Fortunately his employers are ending his contract early and sending him to China …

The wisdom of Antoine Fabre

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

In the brief history of UAE rock climbing, Antoine is the chossaneer’s chossaneer. Aside from a wide range of bold ascents of tall tottering features in the guidebook’s region, he also did some meaningful ascents in “proper” Oman, such as the first one day ascent of the French Pillar of Misht (Dan Donovan and I made the second or third). I corresponded with Antoine briefly about some confusion over the line of one of his routes at Shady Circus. It rapidly became clear that he wasn’t someone who dwelt excessively in the past … nor took climbing too seriously:

“It was about 10 years ago. So I might be slightly wrong about the details of the line on the photograph …. As a geologist I know that the past is fading away, rocks are being eroded and washed into the sea, whatever we do in our short lives has little importance, except of course: playing music, drinking good wines and f***ing girls ….”

The late great Damian Cook

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

I have nothing much to do at the moment – the book should be printed tomorrow and Saturday – so I thought I would upload some animated GIFs of Damian Cook bouldering that I have had for a while. I couldn’t use them in the book as they are too low-res. They were originally in a draft online guide that Damian put together but never published.

As many people will know, Damian drowned in Mallorca in 2004. He was based in Abu Dhabi from 1998-2002 and was essentially the first person (with his brother Dominic) to bolt sport routes in the region. After Dominic left, he developed the boulders in Wadi Khab Shamis almost entirely by himself. Before he was in the UAE, Damian and his brothers were amongst the first DWS pioneers, on the Dorset coast of England. Their “Into the Blue” guide from 1996 remains a cult classic in the UK.

Days Don’t Get Better (V7?)

Damo’s Traverse (V7?)

I don’t think either of these problems have had proper repeats. Both look very good.

February 2010 UPDATE: since I wrote this a few people have done Damo’s Traverse and consider it a bit of a path! My impression is that this may be due to a higher level of gravel in the base than before … I think Damian started further left.