||To many, the appearance on the climbing scene in the mid-80s of Bolton back-street boy Pritchard came as a breath of fresh air. Here was someone who appeared to be recapturing the romantic adventurousness of British climbing, bucking the boring obsession with micro-routes and sports climbing while at the same time not sacrificing technical levels of difficulty. On Welsh slate, a combination of neck and ability helped him to play a major role in prolonging the routing boom of the 80s. His reputation was cemented, however, when he transferred his skills to the crumbling walls of Anglesey’s sea-cliffs, where he made some extraordinarily worrying and hard routes in situations of Alpine seriousness. Unlike many of his peers, who single-mindedly sought the dubious benefits of career-plan sponsorship, Pritchard seemed happy to accept any remunerative crumbs that came his way as a bonus by-product of his largely ‘amateur’ activities. Instead he felt impelled to put adventure pure and simple at the top of his personal agenda, and it is this, as well as his ability and laid back personality, which has helped maintain the high regard and respect shown him by the normally hypercritical climbing community. Pritchard followed his rock-climbing exploits by embracing Scottish winter climbing and also transferred his high-standard crag climbing skills to the big mountains, expeditioning to big walls in Patagonia, Baffin Island, the Karakorum and Himalaya. All this hectic activity was not without price. Accidents and poor health dogged Pritchard, making his continuing drive and enthusiasm all the more remarkable. Firstly he fell to earth at Gogarth’s Wen Zawn, surviving the fall but almost drowning in a rock pool. Then came an impressive winter fall in Scotland which resulted in more hospitalisation. There followed a bout of a mysterious ME-type disease and on top of all this, he continued to suffer from altitude sickness on most of his Greater Ranges expeditions. By any standards, surviving all that lot would be a major achievement. Sadly, there was to be an even greater trial to come. After a blue riband year which had seen him make a full recovery and emerge triumphant with the Boardman-Tasker Mountaineering Literature Prize for his autobiographical book Deep Play, a loose rock detached itself from a Tasmanian sea-stack while he was at its base. His head took a direct hit and the terrible injury he sustained as a result has provided him with the biggest challenge of his life yet, but judging by his reaction to the calamity, and his powerful second book written in response, he is one of the few people capable of rising to it.
Further reading: Deep Play, Paul Pritchard, Baton Wicks, 1997; The Totem Pole, Paul Pritchard, Constable, 1999
||Biographical information is kindly supplied by Colin Wells.|