Hot Henry changed climbing!


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Jun 20, 2013 - 08:56pm PT
I'd love to see that footage!! Anyone got a link??

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
Jun 20, 2013 - 09:53pm PT
I had never heard of the incident on Breach Wall, so I looked it up on WIKI:

"In early 1978, Henry and partner Rob Taylor attempted the first ascent of the Breach Wall on Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Taylor fell while leading steep ice, and broke his ankle very badly. The details of what happened following the accident vary depending on which of the two parties is telling the story. Barber's party says that Barber helped Taylor descend; got him to a hospital; and then left to fly back to the United States to keep a speaking commitment. Taylor's party says that Barber abandoned him on the mountain, forcing him to climb down alone with his leg mangled. He somehow reached the rainforest at the base of the mountain and was rescued by local tribesman. Taylor nearly lost his leg at the hospital, and felt abandoned by his partner. After he recovered, Taylor wrote articles and a book painting Barber in a very unflattering light."

I was just wondering if anyone who was there could shed light on exactly what happened.
Mike Bolte

Trad climber
Planet Earth
Jun 20, 2013 - 11:31pm PT
there was a long article by taylor and a quite different take on the situation by henry in an interview a year later.
Rick A

Boulder, Colorado
Jun 21, 2013 - 08:29am PT
I am a friend of Henry and have climbed a bit with him over the years. He was an amazing climber in his prime. He could visit a new climbing area, do the very hardest climbs, then put up his own that were harder. He did that all over the world and I cannot think of anyone who can match that record. They are still talking about his visits to Britain where he impressed the top climbers there not only his climbing, but with his ability to match them pint for pint!

The top performers in any field will always draw criticism and Henry’s brash personality probably contributed to the amount he received. I always found him to be genuine, energetic,and and I had great fun climbing with him.


Social climber
Jun 21, 2013 - 08:56am PT
I have the Rob Taylor article and the Henry Barber interview in 'Mirrors in the Cliffs' (1983). The wiki article is all BS. From Taylor's article titled 'A Breach of Faith' from Mountain 63 (1978), "It is undoubtedly true that I could never of managed to survive the descent on the face if it wasn't for Henry's physical assistance. For this I am immensely grateful." "And although from my point of view, the compassion and supportive insight I desperately needed from him was sorely lacking at this time, no one could have been more efficient in executing our retreat."
After getting Rob off the cliff Henry carried him on his back to a place of shelter, then ran for over 30 hours to get help. Henry said that it was a mistake that he left Rob in Africa but that he left only after he knew he was at the hospital.

Trad climber
Jun 21, 2013 - 09:46am PT
I have climbed with Henry occasionally for 40 years, and after reading Taylor's book, years ago, I concluded that Taylor did a great in-justice to Henry.

Henry realizes that it was a mistake not to return with the rescue team. Taylor did a greater injustice by writing a book, painting Henry as some kind of evil person.

Many of us have made mistakes in our lives which we regret. In the "Touching the Void" incident Yates cut Simpson's rope, and they are both friends to this day.

I have always viewed Taylor as a "cry baby" who in my opinion ought to have accepted the situation and got on with his life, instead of writing a one-sided account of a most unfortunate climbing accident.

Henry, in fact, saved Taylor's life, and I can only guess that Taylor regrets writing the book.


Trad climber
Mt. Rubidoux
Jun 21, 2013 - 10:13am PT
aspendougy........the whole story of the Barber/Taylor incident on Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is detailed in Barber's book, "On Edge: The Life and Climbs of Henry Barber" by Chip Lee. The Breach Wall was described by Reinhold Messner, who did the FA subsequent to the Taylor incident, as the most dangerous mountaineering objective he ever climbed. Well, that's until he attempted the south face of Aconcogua. The story is that Taylor broke his ankle seriously, to the point that it was doubled over against his leg such that he looked down and saw the crampon points on the bottom of his boot pointing back up at him. Barber did a remarkable job of getting Taylor's injury reduced to where the leg was more or less aligned and off the Breach Wall, with great difficulty due to the traversing nature of the lower pitches and back to level ground (rainforest as you put it), at which point Barber ran to get help and arrange for Taylor's evacuation to a hospital. It's at this point that Barber returned to the US to keep a speaking engagement and Taylor begins his ordeal in the Nairobi Hospital, which was complicated by the open fracture, infection due to the open wound and time it took to get Taylor off the mountain and to the hospital, inadequate medical care, etc.. After Barber departs is where the controversy begins, as Barber didn't see Taylor after he left to get help and Taylor felt abandoned, and the two "parties" disagree on the events. The rub is that the two never spoke to one another again, but were the east & west coast sales reps for Chouinard Equipment, Inc. According to accounts by both men, Barber got Taylor down off the wall and Taylor wasn't left to do the Joe Simpson "death crawl," but Taylor felt abandoned all the same.
Incidentally, there were two climbers; Henry Barber and Rob Taylor, not the Barber party and a Taylor party.
All facts aside there are some great moral issues to debate here and more than enough skeletons to be uncovered, but it doesn't change the fact that "Hot Henry" Barber was a great climber and changed climbing forever..
Alan Rubin

Jun 21, 2013 - 11:56am PT
I totally agree with SteveA's comments on this. I knew both Henry and Rob during that time period, and much of the picture that Rob paints in his Mountain article and subsequent book (The Breach) doesn't ring true. Both Rob and Henry were professional climbers at the time, not the "professional" Henry and "amateur" Rob as portrayed in the publications, and they both went to Kilimanjaro to further their "careers". Clearly the partnership that had been so successful the previous winter in Norway had deteriorated in Africa, and they were not seeing eye-to-eye on the climb. But there is no way that Henry "forced" Rob to lead the pitch where the accident occurred. I don't doubt that Rob had his doubt's about continuing while Henry wanted to go on, but Rob could have relinquished the lead, something many of us have done, I'm sure. Even Rob didn't deny the great physical efforts Henry expended in getting them off the mountain safely, his complaints were more about the lack of emotional support. That is likely true,and, if so, unfortunate, but under the pressures of the descent understandable. I think that once Henry got back to civilization and started the rescue, that under the circumstances he would have been a liability if he had returned with the rescue team. He gave them accurate directions to locate Rob, and this they did. Surely Henry should have remained in Africa and been available for Rob at the hospital---this Henry admits, but this failure does not deserve the public hatchet job that Rob gave him in the article and book.

Jun 21, 2013 - 12:32pm PT
Rob Taylor wrote that at the time of the accident their relatiionship was utilitarian - based on how much they could help each other attain climbing goals - and there was no emotional connection. So complaining about lack of emotional support didn't make a lot of sense. His feelings are understandable , of course, because he was under a lot of stress and most of us in that type of situation would like to have a familiar face around, even if it was someone we didn't particulary like or feel close to. He should have waited a bit longer to write the book.
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Jun 21, 2013 - 12:51pm PT
His biography addresses The Breach in painful detail, buy and read the book.

I saw the footage of when he got in trouble free soloing that sea cliff in UK... for some TV show wasn't it? Anyway, its tense. That scene is also detailed in the biography.

Little bit of good friend / hero worship tone to the book but I liked it anyway, fascinating


Nov 15, 2013 - 12:45pm PT
Anyone who hasn't heard Henry's enormocast interview which seems fairly recent should check it out.

Guy was living the dream for a long time. Inspiring stuff!

Henry Barber interview

Nov 15, 2013 - 02:19pm PT
Thanks for the thread guys! Henry Barber is one of my favorite climbers to read about. It just sounds like he nearly outclassed all the world at rock climbing in his prime, as much or more so than any other individual. Reading about his ascents, many of them balls out, is like reading about a magic trick, but it's not magic. It's incredible and makes him almost mythical. Wasn't one of the only places he went that he didn't raise standards (if I remember the article I read) the Elbsandstein on the border of the Chezch Republic and Germany?

Also, I always figured most of the bad stuff said about the guy came down to jealousy. He didn't strike me as one of the 'cool kids'.
Alan Rubin

Nov 15, 2013 - 02:39pm PT
Jammer, Henry was really impressed by the climbing standards in the UK at the time (as well as by the non-climbing aspects of the climbing "lifestyle" of the day). I don't believe that he ever advanced the top climbing standards there, and had alot of catching up to do in the "lifestyle" department---though he put his usual great effort into that as well. While he was very impressed with both the difficulty and boldness of the climbs in Dresden, he and his partners (Wunsch, Hatch) did in fact, help make a stylistic advance in the climbing there. Previously the locals tended to belay at each of the sparse "rings" on the climbs, breaking the routes into multiple short "pitches", while Henry and the others used the rings only as runners, on at least some of the routes they did, creating longer and more sustained pitches. I believe that this later practise has now been accepted as the norm in the area.
Mark Force

Trad climber
Cave Creek, AZ
Nov 15, 2013 - 07:42pm PT
Cool thread. Just for fun check out this video of Henry Barber stylin' up Waverly Wafer barefoot!
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
May 24, 2014 - 04:36pm PT

Ice climber
Pomfert VT
May 25, 2014 - 07:35am PT
No one in their sane mind would have expected Henry to help in the carry out after his run through the jungle. leaveing your partner injured in a 3rd world country however to go do a slide show on how you heroicly rescued him is probobly not the best move. I have read both Taylors and Barbers books. There is no discrepency on weather or not Henry acted the A hole. He proves it by writeing that Taylor was a pussy who never should have been a climber. That and other language are typical bully tactics that do not show good charecter.
The biggest discrepency is undoubtably weather or not the screw held. Henry claims that the screw blew causeing Taylor to deck. Taylor recalls sitting on the ledge with a broken ankle looking up at the screw with the rope still running through it and that Henry dropped him. Henry published a photo in his book with a caption indicateing that it is Taylor moments before he fell. In the photo Taylor looks sketchy. Any expert ice climmber can see that he is moments from comming off. Having put my time in with manuel focus, manuel film advance SLR cameras I feel that it is doubtfull that one can give a good belay and run one of those things at the same time. Given the photo of Taylor sketching and the timeing of that photo taken by Henry I am inclined to believe Taylor that the screw held and he was dropped.

Trad climber
Nov 16, 2014 - 01:29am PT
Picking up on the Breach Wall comment...

"Barber's party says that Barber helped Taylor descend; got him to a hospital; and then left to fly back to the United States to keep a speaking commitment. Taylor's party says that Barber abandoned him on the mountain, forcing him to climb down alone with his leg mangled. He somehow reached the rainforest at the base of the mountain and was rescued by local tribesman. Taylor nearly lost his leg at the hospital, and felt abandoned by his partner. After he recovered, Taylor wrote articles and a book (The Breach, Putnam, 1981) painting Barber in a very unflattering light."

This is the Wiki entry under Henry's name. The myth is growing. Now Taylor rescued himself. Of course Taylor presumably has nothing to do with this, other then setting the ball rolling. It is fun to read the books, but I don't form opinions when there is no way to know what happened. Having been seriously injured outside climbing, all I have to say about that is; "thanks for the lift to the hospital, you saved my life."
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