The Villain: The life of Don Whillans

Home Forum Chat Forum The Villain: The life of Don Whillans

Viewing 21 posts - 1 through 21 (of 21 total)
  • The Villain: The life of Don Whillans
  • Biography by Jim Perrin. Started a slow, got stuck but then it really got going and I could not put it down. Very well researched and written. And what an incredible life, if a bit short and soured at the end. Recommended if you are interested in some background to British climbing culture.

    It is a great book.
    Try Joe Browns book next if you enjoyed Dons. Jerry moffats is good too as is Johnny Dawes’s.


    Premier Icon Rusty Spanner


    It’s a wonderful book.

    Not a nice man, all in all.

    Bloke who cuts my hair used to be one of his drinking buddies. 😯
    Tells a story of him turning up to a pub in Calderdale en route to South America. His entire luggage consisted of a placcy bag containing a bottle of Whisky and a change of underwear. 😀

    Have you tried ‘The Hard Years’ by Joe Brown?
    Gives another side to man and his achievements, but from a different perspective.

    Favourite picture is this one:

    If looks could kill…….. 😀


    He was a hard bugger. And not too nice with a drink in him. Battering that copper that pulled him for drink driving.

    Premier Icon boxelder

    Suffered from vertigo.

    Legend of a man if not a little short tempered!!

    Premier Icon Rusty Spanner

    You can take the lad out of Salford………… 🙂


    It is told that it took 5 policemen to arrest him.
    4 to hold him down and 1 to hit him.

    Premier Icon boxelder

    Clint Eastwood wore a Whillans harness in the Eiger sanction, and after one long fall stunt, apparently asked “which side Mr Whillans dressed on”

    Great design, until you fell.

    🙂 Whillans idea of a sit harness rather than a waist loop or belt, was typical of him: flawed genius. My late wife used one for occasional scrambling/climbing – obviously it was ideal for Women if not for men. I think there was more than one case of a chap losing a testical in a fall.

    Jim puts across that there were really two Whillans’: the caricature who drank, womanised, fought, swore and was racist and lazy when not climbing, and a caring, driven, meticulous and careful (not to mention uber-talented) mountaineer when climbing.

    Ah the golden age!!! Whillans sit harness was my second after the basic troll belt (not allowed anymore but did all my early climbing with the basic belt). Then the old Joe Brown rucksack to make the pair bought from Wasdale Head shop in mid 70s – still going strong today.


    My first harness was a Whillans, still in the back of my outdoor cupboard somewhere. The knack to falling in one was to lay back so the pull is out from the body rather than up into the jewels.


    I went to a book launch and talk by Jim Perrin for The Villain in Manchester Waterstones. As if that wasn’t cool enough I also got to meet John Noaks.

    The scary thing with the WSH was th accidents that happened when people forgot to thread the buckle back through. One army instructors had some new recruits at Scout Crag in Langdale. Abseil rope and safety rope not much use if the harness comes adrift. Horrible (fatal) accident that scared me every time I put my harness on.


    That was a problem with any early climbing belt/harness, my next two harnesses after the whillans required the buckle to be doubled back through. The thing with the whillans is that if you tied in correctly using the top two loops it didn’t matter if the buckle was done up at all. Same could not be said for other designs (eg troll) with the front loop, which has basically become the definitive sit harness design although now with fail safe buckles.

    Try Joe Browns book next if you enjoyed Dons.

    Got to say that I found Joe Brown’s book really tedious.

    The two Dennis Gray books were very good I thought. Deals with the same subject matter.


    I really ought to read Dennis’s books, he was often around the Leeds Uni club meets back in the 90’s and had a few tales to tell of the old days.

    This is such a brilliant picture, I occasionally think of it when grimacing at the collection of goofy summit photos I’ve taken.

    As a slightly disprespectful aside, I’ve somehow settled on ‘Whillans’ as the perfect name for my first dog, just has a great ring to it, nothing to do with the man himself…

    “People ask me why I drink so much. It’s because of a morbid fear of dehydration.”


    Someone I knew was in a climbing hut dormitory making a bit of noise when somebody in a bunk told them to shut up. “Who the F*** are you?” they replied. “Whillans!” came the answer and from then on there wasn’t a squeak. *May be apocryphal*

    …and yes my Whillans harness was responsible for a testicle injury that I have carried all my adult life.


    Whillan’s harness great. Still got my balls!
    Jim Perrin however? Funny bugger.
    Just got the Dawes book from Go Outoors. 10 quid hardback. Good read, took me back to Wales and the good old days.

Viewing 21 posts - 1 through 21 (of 21 total)

The topic ‘The Villain: The life of Don Whillans’ is closed to new replies.