Jamming – with Simon Marley

Most of you will have met Simon at a Quickdraw outing at some time. He resembles the stereotypical climber, weatherbeaten with woolly hat, but most importantly of all he has a beard,  a prerequisite for any true mountaineer survivalist explorer; a beard not of the hipster variety, but, rather, a true grizzly.  I’ve personally witnessed him erect a six man tent, single handed, quicker than a Bosi brother climbs a speed wall. That’s the calibre of the man.


Now, through an elite climbers’ ropevine I heard a tale of Simon’s climbing prowess back in the very early eighties, a prowess which led to his “secret” moniker : The King of the Jammers. In my capacity as Quickdraw board member I felt obliged to ask him if he would share his story with the club. I suggested a “the King and I” scenario, The March of the Siamese Children,  starring Simon as Yul Brynner with the children sitting around, cross legged, but he would have none of it, he is far too modest for that as you will soon find out. Instead, he suggested we rendezvous at the cafeteria at EICA, Ratho, one chilly December early Sunday morning, so he could utilise myself as a medium.

It was so cold that Sunday morning, that Simon had dressed his faithful Golden Retriever, Grylls, in a tartan dog-coat whilst he had donned a Stone Island reversible Artic insulated jacket, the one with the goggles. They looked dapper. I was shivering.

Inside the venue we opted for latte. Two latte, one each. We sat in a quiet corner and Simon told his tale, the frozen latte froth on his multicoloured whiskers twinkling like fairy lights:

“It was back in 1981 and the place to climb was Dumbarton. Well, attempt to climb, no one had got any higher than the graffiti which read : BUZ DUMBY YOUTH SQUAD. I think it was June and it was the football close season so I’d parked my camper van in Dumbarton FC’S car park which was adjacent to the crag and was staying for a week. It was day 4 and I had made no progress. I nipped down to the corner shop to pick up some milk and the Daily Record, on the way back I passed a bored Weedgie on a street corner. Suddenly, I had a vision, three scrabble tiles juggled in my mind, J A and M. Eureka !, it was like a strawberry or similar soft fruit had fallen on my head, I needed to jam. Have you been to Dumby” he asked?”

“I have indeed” , I replied. “I went last year, ambled through the hole in the fence, past the skull and crossbone danger of death signs and onto the “beach”. It was remarkable, a juxtaposition of Lowry’s Matchstick Men, the last few pages of Golding’s, Lord of the Flies, and the final scenes of the original Planet of the Apes movie with the cave and human fossils”.

Simon nodded and continued:

“So I went back to the crag, raced up to the graffiti, found a fissure, inserted my fist vertically then twisted it horizontally, like a key in a lock. Then I pulled my body up a couple of inches, got another hold, a left handed jam, looked down and my Scarpas were well above BUZ. Then I topped it, went back to the van, read the Record, then the next day I discovered an even harder  route which branched out from the original. The first  was later to be climbed by Dave Cuthbertson in 1983, graded E8 6c and named Requiem, the second took until 2006 to be topped, this time by Dave McLeod and named Rhapsody.

I briefly interjected:  “So, you topped them first Simon, utilising the hand jam, and took no credit, you didn’t even name them?”

“That’s correct” said Simon, downing the last of his latte, “it’s as simple as that”.

Three other quickdraw fathers and myself went out with our children to try Simon’s technique. Our brave quartet of Buffalo Soldiers simultaneously attempted a jam, their Wails curiously forming a harmonious melody:

“No hand jam, no cry”.


A big hand for Simon Marley from all at Quickdraw.



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