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Thomson, James Merriman Archer (1863-1912)
Thomson, James Merriman Archer  (1863-1912)
Bangor schoolmaster Archer Thomson was one of the first Victorian pioneer rock climbers to break out of the illusory security of the gullies (where he had already raised standards of technical difficulty considerably) and onto the exciting exposure of the open faces of Welsh rock. On the rugged Snowdonian peaks of Tryfan and Lliwedd, he pointed the way ahead for rock climbing with a score of new routes. He became renowned for his cool ability to stand in contemplative balance on the tiniest of rugosities, all the while puffing away on his curly Meerschaum and spying the next sequence of moves. However, Thomson also returned on occasion to his atavistic roots, climbing the mega-classic Great Gully of Carneddau mountain Craig yr Ysfa and the nasty Black Cleft of the Llanberis Pass cliff off Dinas Mot. Another remarkable one-off was his ascent of the iced-up Devils Kitchen in 1895, in which he utilised a hatchet from Ogwen Cottage as a de facto ice-axe. The route is now considered a Grade V winter climb – one of the harder ratings! The inquisitive Thomson is also credited with ‘discovering’ many famous Welsh climbing cliffs; Idwal Slabs, Glyder Fawr, Clogwyn y Person, Cyrn Las, Ysgolion Duon… the list reads like it has come out of a ‘best of’ compilation guidebook. Talking of which, Thomson was responsible for helping to co-write the earliest modern pocket-sized guidebook with Arthur Andrews (1909) which covered climbs on the large cliff of Lliwedd.
Standout climbs: Liwedd: East Gully; Elliptical Route; Central Route; Bracket Gully; Route II; Direct Route; The Cracks; Horned Crag Route; Gridle Traverse; The Great Chimney; Avalanche Route; Red Wall Finish; West Wall of Great Chimney; Rocker Route; Three Pinnacle Route; Child’s Face.
Further reading: The Mountain Men, Alan Hankinson. Heinemann, 1977; Hold the Heights, Walt Unsworth. Hodder & Stoughton, 1993.

Biographical information is kindly supplied by Colin Wells.
2006-08-06 00:00:00
Maxine Willett
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Thomson, James Merriman Archer (1863-1912)