Adventurous pensioner John scaling new heights at the age of 77

A retired port engineer from North Wales is going up in the world again after rediscovering the joys of climbing at the age of 77.

Daring John Marchbanks, a resident of Pendine Park’s Bryn Seiont Newydd care home in Caernarfon, was back in harness for a challenging session scaling an indoor climbing wall in the town.

John has led an adventurous life, enjoying kayaking, skiing and cycling and once crossed the English Chanel in a hot air balloon.

In his younger days John, who hails originally from Kent and lived in Amlwch before moving to Bryn Seiont Newydd, was also a keen climber and conquered cliffs and crags across Britain as well as overseas.

He thought his days of derring do were over after he moved into the care home – but the kind-hearted staff there had other ideas.

They arranged for him renew his mountain climbing skills at the Beacon Climbing Centre on Caernarfon’s Cibyn Industrial Estate.

It’s based at the former former Barcud television studio which now houses the largest indoor climbing centre in North Wales.

Instructor Henry Giles, 25, said: “John was very keen to get going and soon showed he had lost none of the skills. Not only did he recognise the double-eight  knot used to attach the rope to the harness but he also showed good footwork in climbing the wall.

“Climbing is much more than just upper arm strength. The legs are just as important in pushing the body up the face but climbing is like solving a puzzle. You need to work out the next move from handhold to handhold and where to put your feet.”

The rope was kept taut by Henry which meant John was perfectly safe and in no danger of falling. He climbed slowly but surely up the wall before deciding to return to the ground, preferring to climb down rather than just abseil back to the bottom.

“There were no climbing walls in my day, you had to go out and find a cliff or a crag,” said John.

After a short break, John moved to another wall and tried out another route which Henry said was rated at a slightly more difficult level. Once again John showed good footwork and posture as he made his way up the wall.

Over a well-earned cup of tea later, John said he’d enjoyed climbing the walls.”It’s something I’d love to do again,” he said.

Nia Davies Williams, who is also the musician in residence at Bryn Seiont Newydd, said they were delighted to organise the climbing session for John.

She said: “It was wonderful to see him renew his climbing skills. He is very keen to take part in all activities at Bryn Seiont Newydd.

“During the past winter he enjoyed regular indoor cycling sessions and we are looking forward to going cycling in the outdoors when the weather warms up a little.

“Research has shown physical activity improves overall health and reduces the risk of many negative health outcomes and may be effective in improving cognition, independent functioning, and psychological health in older adults.”

According to John, he began climbing while working for the Dover harbour board and he  was soon travelling to places such as Cheddar Gorge in Somerset, Bannau Brycheiniog (then known as the Brecon Beacons), the Peak district and Eryri.

John had an accident when trying to traverse a large cave in Derbyshire where he took a fall, which although not serious concerned him and he moved onto other things, although he still took his children Michael and Amber scrambling up mountains such as Tryfan.

John transferred to Stena Line at Dover and moved to Holyhead around 30 years ago as assistant to the Port engineer. He later became Port Engineer and eventually looking after some of the other Stena ports in the UK but still based in Holyhead.

While living in Amlwch he was able to indulge in his great passion for military vehicles. He owned several over the years including some tanks which he used to show at shows such the Anglesey Show.

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