Patch Hammond has remained a bit of an enigma in the climbing world. If you flick through the magazines from the late 1990s you’ll see a scruffy youth with an impressive climbing CV – onsighting E6 and E7 in North Wales and climbing with the likes of Tim Emmett, Neil Gresham and Leo Houlding.
In the last episode we heard from Leo about their ascent of El Niño on El Capitan – Leo’s first big wall. Patch and Leo had travelled to Yosemite together, but while Leo was socialising at Camp Four and becoming part of the Yosemite scene it was Patch who was heading off trying to get better at the style of climbing there.
Patch met Ben Bransby for the first time in the valley. Encouraged by the Huber brothers the two of them set out to repeat Free Rider – the same route featured in Free Solo with Alex Honnold. They set off from the base of the wall to attempt it ground up, with no experience and borrowed gear and made an impressive effort. They didn’t quite manage to free climb the route, but put in what was at the time the most impressive British attempt on El Capitan.
Under the wing of the Hubers, Patch talked Leo into attempting El Niño, telling him that he’d already done a 5.13a pitch and was convinced Leo would stand a chance of onsighting 5.13b. Plus the route would suit them – no crack climbing on this one, slabs and adventure climbing exactly like they’d been training on in the slate quarries and at Gogarth.
Patch’s memories of those years climbing revolve around the community he became a part of, and the mentors who guided him. He still seems in awe of the fact that he could be a part of this scene where everyone was a hero to him. He didn’t seem to realise that maybe he was one of them too.
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