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 Routen is an outdoor and adventure writer from the UK specialising in adventurous travel and expeditions, such as mountaineering, polar travel, and ocean crossings. Ash juggles a day job as a public health scientist with this second career in outdoor writing.

His words have featured in national newspapers, national and international outdoor and adventure magazines, and various websites. Bylines include Financial Times, Daily Telegraph, Outside Magazine, Rock and Ice, and Red Bull.

Alongside writing, Ash also spends some time undertaking his own adventures, and completed a 640 km foot crossing of a frozen Lake Baikal in 2018. His next arctic journey is a 700 km trek along the coast of Baffin Island in Canada.


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