Entity Type:
Waller, Ivan Mark (1906-1996)
Waller, Ivan Mark (1906-1996)
Waller appeared to be determined to prove wrong the famous axiom: ‘There’s old climbers and bold climbers – but no old bold climbers’. He continued climbing into his dotage at a standard well above that achieved by many in their prime and retained a boyish enthusiasm for all things mountaineering right to his last breath. This insatiable lust for life was all the more remarkable given that he was hardly making up for lost time: his earlier years were also jam-packed with incidents and adventure. A born tinkerer, he was often to be found with his head under a bonnet and covered in oil, and much preferred motorbikes to cars, even into his 70s (a trait inherited from his mother who was one of Britain’s first women motorcyclists). Waller was no stranger to racing four-wheeled vehicles, however, winning the Irish Grand Prix in 1932 in his Alvis Silver Eagle and coming a creditable eleventh in the Le Mans 24-hour race in early 1940. In the early 30s, Waller began prospecting new routes in the Lakes and North Wales in the company of such luminaries as Colin Kirkus and Jack Longland. He was second on the rope on the first ascent of the then-cutting edge Mickledore Grooves (VS, 4c) on Scafell in 1930, and in 1927 had led the classic Belle Vue Bastion (VS, 4b) high on Tryfan, to the accompaniment of a gramophone record playing from the Terrace on the North Buttress. He was that cool. In terms of surviving misadventure, Waller seems to have led a charmed life. He fell from the notorious Flake Crack of Scafell’s Central Buttress, and got away without serious injury. During the war, while parachuting out of a crippled aircraft, his parachute got caught on the tail and started dragging him down after it. He crawled along the fuselage to untangle it and successfully completed the bail-out, the only one of five crew members to survive. The adventures continued after the war, climbing and skiing all over Britain and the Alps. In 1951 he became the first person to dare jump over Helvellyn’s cornice and ski the steep slopes to Red Tarn. In later years you simply couldn’t keep the old boy down. After retirement he walked all the Lakeland 2000-ft peaks, traversed all the 3000ers in a day, did the Scottish 4000ers in a day, polished off the Munros. He did the Cuillin ridge when he was 70 (the same year he took up artificial climbing) and carried on climbing to mild extreme standard on occasion. He famously repeated his route Bell Vue Bastion when he was 79, and also made a first winter ascent of a Lakes snow gully in 1987 when he was 80.
Standout climbs: Bell Vue Bastion, Tryfan, Snowdonia; Fallen Block Crack, Clogwyn y Ddisgl; Lone Tree Groove (1st solo ascent).
Further reading: Welsh Rock, Trevor Jones & Geoff Milburn, 1987; Helyg, Geoff Milburn, Climbers’ Club, 1985.
Biographical information is kindly supplied by Colin Wells.
2006-08-06 00:00:00
Maxine Willett
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Waller, Ivan Mark (1906-1996)