John Ewbank - RIP


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Trad climber
Topic Author's Original Post - Dec 12, 2013 - 11:17am PT
The legendary Australian climber John Ewbank recently passed away in New York December 2. A memorial service will be held on December 15 at 2:00 p.m. at Riverdale-on-Hudson Funeral Home, 6110 Riverdale Avenue, Bronx, NY 10471.

I never met John personally but he was my inspiration in the late 60's. His signature cliff Mt. Piddington in the Blue Mountains was the destination at the time to hone crack climbing skills we later found essential to develop Frog Buttress in Queensland.

John enjoyed the Gunks, especially Millbrook, and we tried to meet up there but somehow that never happened. By then music was his main passion. The photo of John below was kindly forwarded to me by Stéphane Pennequin, who is still searching for the elusive Ewbank Crackers for his Corsican Nut Museum.

More information is posted on Chockstone, the Victorian climbers forum:

Here is a link to John's music site:

Jamb on, John!

Ted Cais
Alan Rubin

Dec 12, 2013 - 12:22pm PT
This is very sad news. Though I never met him, I've been aware of his major impact on Australian climbing almost since I started climbing in the mid-'60s. He put up many of Australia's most classic routes, particularly in the Blue Mountains, including the hardest of that era. He also developed the simple, but very effective open-ended grading system that is still in use today, not only across Australia but in South Africa and other areas as well. This past fall I finally had a chance to climb a couple of his routes on Mt. Piddington in the Blue Mountains---definitely fine climbs up striking natural lines. I know that Steve A. climbed with Ewbank during his "prime", so hopefully he can post some personal memories.


Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Dec 12, 2013 - 12:30pm PT
I have read about John, but never really knew much.

It sounds as though he was a major figure indeed.

Condolences to his family and friends.

This was a great comment, from that other forum.
I almost expect that somewhere a cliff crumbled at his passing as a mark of honour, or that DogFace stiffened its resolve to hold itself together better out of respect . . .

Trad climber
Dec 12, 2013 - 12:37pm PT
I met John only once at a party at Rich Romano's house a few years ago. Spent much of the evening talking to him. Great sense of humor and fun to be around. Really sorry to hear this. :-(

Trad climber
Wolfeboro, NH
Dec 12, 2013 - 02:24pm PT
I'm kind of shocked to read this here!

John was a dear friend of mine--one of my closest friends.

I kept in pretty close contact with him, over the years, and climbed with him, up here in N.H. just 2 years ago. He managed to get up some 5.10's,
even thou he hadn't climbed in quite a while.

Back in 1968, John hosted me at his flat, and we spent the week climbing some of his classic climbs in the Blue Mtns., outside of Sydney.

I'll relate a climbing story, when I'm in the mood.

I will miss him.

A long way from where I started
Dec 12, 2013 - 02:58pm PT
Sad news.

I corresponded with him a bunch bitd, and really hoped to meet him one day. Now it ain't gonna happen.

RIP John

Trad climber
Wolfeboro, NH
Dec 12, 2013 - 04:44pm PT
One of John's 1st ascents-1968

The Totem Pole-Tasmania

Social climber
Dec 12, 2013 - 10:21pm PT
hey there say, rockrover... thank you very kindly for sharing this...

i do not know all these folks, and am very happy to learn about them, and how left the story of their climbs, to, all, as part of history, over the years...

as to this, Steve A:

I'm kind of shocked to read this here!

John was a dear friend of mine--one of my closest friends.

oh my, my condolences to you, as to the loss of a dear friend..
and that you did know not get to share more time, later in life...

and, condolences to his family and loved ones...

thank you for sharing the picture, so i can learn this bit, about him...

i have heard and seen a few shares, by other, of this totem pole climb...
and have a huge: wow, to offer... i hope all went well, when he did it...

we don't mind a story, if you ever have time to share...

god bless and prayers at this hard for all those concerned...

A long way from where I started
Dec 13, 2013 - 12:34am PT
In John's memory I've posted a couple of his stories.

"Bouldering With Socrates" is here.

"Ironmongers of the Dreamtime" is here.

Edit: Both of these are long, far longer than what is usually posted on ST, but I think they're worth reading.

Trad climber
Kalispell, Montana
Dec 13, 2013 - 12:47am PT
Enjoyed climbing some of his routes at Piddington. Didn't know he did the FA of The Totem Pole in Tasmania but everywhere I went climbing in Australia he had put up routes.

His grading system might be the best ever devised. So simple, just a number; so generally a 19 is about a 10b, a 14 around 5.7 I think.


Ajaccio, Corsica, France
Dec 13, 2013 - 04:09am PT
I have listened to the song A Two Word Letter (Stark Raving Songs) this morning, again and again. It is one of the most moving songs that I have ever heard…

Goodbye John...


Trad climber
Wolfeboro, NH
Dec 13, 2013 - 06:27am PT

I listened to that song last night. I told him a year ago, that I thought it was his best song. In fact, I often wondered why some of his songs never reached a little more of the main-stream. He told me that he was far more passionate about his music, than he ever was about climbing.

I kind of doubt that, since he was pretty stoked, during that span of time when he was putting in all those routes in Aussie land!

I will never forget the guy.

Did he visit you in Corsica?

Best, Steve

Ajaccio, Corsica, France
Dec 13, 2013 - 07:59am PT
Bonjour Steve,

No, John Ewbank has never visited me in Corsica and, unfortunately, I have never had the pleasure to meet him. We have been in correspondence from October 2005 to recently, at the beginning mainly about his Crackers. Ted Cais and Robert Staszewski helped me a lot to find his address. In fact, John would have loved to speak French and from time to time he included French sentences in his letters to me. It was a game between us, and I was delighted to correct his mistakes and send his letters back to him. In his song Après la Révolution, among a lot of other amazing things, he even mentions the Camembert, a French cheese made in Normandy, where I was born…

When Ted let me know that this incredible character passed away, I had just dropped my traditional greeting card to John in the post…. John demonstrated so much interest in my work on the Nuts’ Story. I did not know that he had such serious health problems. He promised me to create a set of giant Crackers made of wood for the Nuts Museum, as a “Ewbank’s work of art”. I understand better now why this did not happen.


California dreamin' on the farside of the world..
Dec 13, 2013 - 10:21am PT
What a gifted, lovely being.

My condolences to his friends and family.


Trad climber
Chamonix, France
Dec 13, 2013 - 12:35pm PT
Enjoyed climbing some of his routes at Piddington.

Me too. I guess The Janicepts is probably one of the most famous routes in Australia.

Big Wall climber
New South Wales
Dec 13, 2013 - 06:00pm PT
Vale John Ewbank

One of the 'Elder Statesmen' of climbing in Australia, John established several hundred, possibly over a thousand, climbs across the length and breadth of Australia during his hey day in the late 60's and early 70's. And still established major lines in the 90's that had sat untouched in the interim. I was fortunate enough to meet him, climb with him and count him as a good friend over the past several years.

His passing is indeed a tragedy - and the comments from so many people from around the world bears testament to the fact that he willed be sorely missed by many. And his legacy will be remembered every time we tick a Ewbank graded climb . . . .

Vale John, Off Belay . . . .

PS Does anyone have a current contact for Valerie Kennedy?

Ajaccio, Corsica, France
Dec 16, 2013 - 06:07am PT
Greg Child

Dec 17, 2013 - 03:35pm PT

Ajaccio, Corsica, France
Dec 18, 2013 - 09:49am PT
Many, many thanks Greg for sharing this great portrait of John with us.

Trad climber
Wolfeboro, NH
Dec 18, 2013 - 09:54am PT

Thanks for that photo of John.

We, who knew him, know what a loss this is.

I will post another photo today, once I get it scanned.
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