Barry McGuigan plays the piano on Snowdon

© Rob Johnson
Barry McGuigan plays piano on Snowdon
I spend a lot of time walking up and down mountains, it goes with the job really. I tend to have a client pace and a play pace. The client pace is perhaps best described as an Alpine plod. That's not because the clients are slow but simply because I need to be able to talk whilst I walk and of course keep it going all day every day. It also means that I can slow down the super fit! My play pace is usually quicker because the walk is usually a means to an end, a charge in to the foot of a climb. The charge is probably no more than an hour or two, perhaps 3 in winter.

I recently spent a couple of days with a small team of 4 clients who wanted to complete the Welsh 3000 ft summits over 2 days. One member of the team was former professional boxer Barry McGuigan. During his career, McGuigan fought at a number of venues in both parts of Ireland and in Great Britain. He attracted an enormous and loyal following in the mid-1980s, particularly to the King's Hall in Belfast which he normally packed to the rafters. He started his professional boxing career on May 10, 1981, beating Selwyn Bell by a knock-out in two rounds in Dublin. In 1985, McGuigan met former world Featherweight champion Juan Laporte and won by a decision after ten rounds. Following one more win, he finally got his world title try when the WBA world featherweight champion, Eusebio Pedroza of Panama, came to London to put his title on the line at Loftus Road football stadium. McGuigan became the champion by dropping Pedroza in round seven and winning a unanimous fifteen-round decision in a fight refereed by hall of fame referee Stanley Christodoulou.

More than 20 years on and I was wondering what to expect. Leaving Pen y Pass car park early in the morning I could see that he still worked out. Within 20 minutes I could see he was bloody fit! Thankfully I could still maintain my Alpine Plod, for the sake of my other clients of course, whilst pointing at things for Barry to charge off to and wait at whilst we caught him up. As we neared the finger stone at the top of the Miners track we were greeted by the entertaining sight of the Llanberis mountain rescue team installing a piano near the summit for a recital by Bryn Terfel later in the day. Barry entertained the workers to the delight of the assembled photographers before we headed over Garnedd Ugain and along Crib Goch. This was Barry's first taste of scrambling but the other 3 were all experienced and we enjoyed having the ridge almost to ourselves.

Barry McGuigan Scrambling
I kept to my Alpine plod as we made out way down to the Llanberis Pass and back up the other side to the summit of Elidr Fawr in the heat of the midday sun. I managed to keep Barry in earshot long enough to discuss the merits of heart rate monitors. Barry was firmly of the opinion I should wear one. He felt that the statistics would be useful in determining how fit people needed to be to achieve certain objectives and could be used to rate entry requirements to courses. He was also sure it would help with training to maximise performance in the mountains. It made me realise how different we as mountaineers still are to performance athletes. The Don Whillans approach to training is still widely accepted as the norm, not that I explained that to Barry!

It was getting late in the day as we headed over Y Garn and blisters in the party meant that we were not going to bag the Glyders that day so we headed down via Cwm Idwal after more than 13 hours, 7000 feet of ascent and 22km of plodding with intermittent bursts to keep up with McGuigan.

The following day we decided to forget the Carneddua and have a scrambling day up the Gribin Ridge onto Glyder Fawr. Barry's years of skipping obviously stood him in good stead as he and the others made light work of the ridge. We looked at movement skills, risk assessment and control and then we headed over to the Cantilever stone for a quick chin up competition and chest puffing exercise.

By the end of the two days I had managed to get across the principle of the Alpine plod, but here is a man who has spent his life pushing hard to achieve the next goal so why should he be any different in the mountains? Meet me at the big rock on the skyline then!

You can see more photo's at Rob's own site:

For more information

Support UKH

As climbers we strive to make UKHillwalking the kind of website we would love to visit, with the most up-to-date news, diverse and interesting articles, comprehensive gear reviews, breathtaking photographs and a vast and useful logbook system. As a result, an incredible community has formed around the site - we’ve provided the framework but it’s you who make the website what it is today. If you appreciate the content we offer then you can help us by becoming an official UKH Supporter. This can be a one-off single annual payment or a more substantial payment paid monthly or yearly which includes full access to Rockfax Digital and discounts on Rockfax print publications.

If you appreciate UKHillwalking then please help us by becoming a UKH Supporter.

UKH Supporter

  • Support the website we all know and love
  • Access to a year's subscription to Rockfax Digital.
  • Plus 30% off Rockfax guidebooks
  • Plus Show your support - UKH Supporter badge on your profile and forum posts
UKC/UKH/Rockfax logo

27 Jun, 2008
'The Llanberis Mountain Rescue team installing a piano for Bryn Terfel...' I do hope they got one hell of a donation for that!
27 Jun, 2008
Could have been worse, they might have had to carry the man himself up there!
27 Jun, 2008
Great article.
27 Jun, 2008
Its interesting in so much as someone so obviously capable and fit as Barry McGuigan feels that they need a guide for hillwalking - I guess we (well, those of us with red sock tendencies) take a lot of hill craft for granted and it is daunting to those not brought up with it.
1 Jul, 2008
Good article. Anyone else struggling to get the link to work? "You can see more photo's at Rob's own site: "
More Comments
Loading Notifications...
Facebook Twitter Copy Email