Entity Type:
Cunningham, John (1927-1980)
Cunningham, John (1927-1980)
Cunningham was one of the truly tough characters of British climbing - the kind of man who gave the Creag Dhu their reputation as working-class psychos. The former welder was brought up on the uncompromising code of Clydeside shipyard workers, Cunningham was also a champion wrestler who was famous for his ‘mean streak’. On rock, he was a natural who could perform at top standards without really training and many consider him the Scottish equivalent of Joe Brown and Don Whillans during the late 40s and 50s. He climbed the first 'Extreme' route in Scotland in 1947 (Gallows Route, Buachaille) and produced a succession of hard routes throughout the following decade. Surprisingly perhaps, for a Scot, he took to winter climbing comparatively late in his career, but immediately made major technical advances. His use of ice daggers on Hell’s Lum’s The Chancer (V) in 1969, is often held up as a prescient pointer to the way steep ice would be tackled in the succeeding decade using drooped picks. Although he was peerless on the rock or ice face, or when he had an opponent in a headlock, Cunningham was curiously inelegant in other athletic pursuits. In particular, he was a poor swimmer and this would sadly lead to his downfall when he was snatched from a low-level traverse at Gogarth and swept out to sea.
Standout climbs: Creag Dhu Wall (S), Tremadog, Guerdon Grooves (HVS), Buachaille, Carnivore (E3), Creag a Bhancair, Hammer (HVS), Agony (E2), Etive Slabs, The Chancer (V), Salamader (IV), Devil’s Delight (V), Hell’s Lum

Biographical information is kindly supplied by Colin Wells.
2006-08-06 00:00:00
Maxine Willett
Access Points:
Cunningham, John (1927-1980)