British Climbing Pioneer Joe Brown Dies

Joe Brown. Photo: Eryl Crump

British climber and mountaineer Joe Brown died last night at the age of 89. From the late 1940s to the 1960s, Brown — often alongside the well-known but younger Don Whillans — pioneered outstanding new climbs across Britain. Besides immeasurably pushing local rock climbing standards, Brown left his mark in the Alps and Himalaya.

Standout climbs include the first ascent of Kanchenjunga (8,586m) in 1955 with George Band, and the first ascents of Karakorum prizes Muztagh Tower (7,276m) in 1956 and Trango Tower in 1976 (6,236m).

Brown in 1963. Photo: Daily Mirror

In the UK and Europe, his fame grew to such an extent that the Post Office supposedly delivered letters to him addressed only by his press-given moniker: “Human Fly, UK”.

Swathes of British climbers paid tribute to Brown on social media today, including Alan Hinkes, who said: “RIP Joe Brown, great rock-climber, mountaineer, fly fisherman, raconteur, lovely man. Hard as nails. Wicked sense of humour. Possibly world’s greatest rock climber & superb mountaineer.”

Not one to take himself too seriously, Brown once poked fun at his legendary status among climbers with the unforgettable caption, “Bandy-legged, teeth like tombstones and hands like bunches of bananas.” Photo: Joe Brown


About the Author

Ash Routen

Ash Routen

Ash is an outdoor and adventure writer from the UK. He juggles a day job as a public health scientist with a second career in outdoor writing.

His words have featured in national newspapers, international magazines, and on various websites. Major bylines include Financial Times, Daily Telegraph, Porsche, Outside Magazine, Rock and Ice, and Red Bull.

He holds two degrees in Exercise and Health Sciences, and a PhD in Public Health.

His areas of expertise are polar expeditions, mountaineering, hiking, and adventure travel. In his spare time Ash enjoys going on small independent sledding expeditions, outdoor photography, and reading adventure literature.

Read more at or follow Ash via @ashrouten on Twitter and Instagram.

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