Who are Needle Sports
Needle Sports is a specialist technical climbing equipment shop based in Keswick in Cumbria in the north of the English Lake District National Park, close to the Scottish border. The shop was founded in 1990 by Stephen Reid and is now a Limited Company (Ltd Co No 7438637). The shop is named after Napes Needle, a famous rock pinnacle in the Lake District.
Needle Sports has always had a policy of only employing experienced climbers so that customers may be sure of speaking to shop staff who understand and are sympathetic to their needs. However the shop is not just about climbing - all our staff are experienced hill-walkers too and much of our stock is as relevant to hill-walking as it is to climbing. In fact we stock just about everything you need for climbing mountains, be it Everest, El Cap or Cat Bells. Of great concern to us is that the shop, whilst offering the best equipment and the best advice available, should not appear elitist, and should provide a welcoming environment for all climbers whatever their experience and ability. We were all beginners once and we never stop learning about the mountains.
Needle Sports was officially opened by Ivan Waller (then aged 83) who was famous for his pre-war partnerships with such climbers as Jack Longland and Colin Kirkus. He seconded the latter on the first ascent of Mickledore Grooves (VS) on the East Buttress of Scafell in 1931. Perhaps his best known route though was his daring first ascent of Belle Vue Bastion (VS) on Tryfan in 1927 when he mentally prepared himself by playing a record on a gramophone on the terrace above the climb! One route of his that should be better known perhaps, is the obscure Waller's Crack (HVS) on Harrison's Stickle in the Lake District which he climbed with Longland ca 1925 and which was one of the hardest routes in the Lake District in its day. The photo shows Ivan cutting the ribbon at the opening of Needle Sports, watched by a youthful Stephen Reid.
Founder and Director
Rock climber, winter climber, alpinist and ski-tourer, Stephen has been on expeditions to the Karakorum, Greenland, Tibet and the Andes. He has established numerous new routes in Wales, the Lakes and Galloway (Southern Scotland), the Staunings Alps of Greenland, and Peru and has had articles and gear reviews published in many of the major UK climbing magazines and journals. He has also written (with Steve Ashton) a guide-book to Lake District Climbing, "100 Classic Climbs in the Lake District", was editor of the FRCC Climbing Guides to the Lake District from 1999 - 2012 and wrote the section on Pillar Rock and Ennerdale for the 2007 Gable & Pillar guide. He also wrote the Galloway Mountains and Dumfries Outcrops sections for the SMC Lowland Outcrops guide.
Born and brought up in Cumbria and has climbed in the Lake District since he was 12. He has also climbed in many other areas of the UK, Europe and the USA. If the Lakes crags are wet he will most likely be heading for Yorkshire limestone - usually Malham or Kilnsey crags. Memorable recent leads include Obsession (7b+ Malham), Song For Europe (7b+ Chapel Head), La Demande (Verdon) and Shaken Not Stirred (E6 6b Iving Crag). Trevor is also a keen boulderer and is pretty handy on a slack line. In his youth before he took up rock climbing he was a champion orienteer. Trevor has contributed many gear reviews to Climb Magazine.
Office Assistant Manager
Jude looks far too young for someone who has been climbing for over a decade. Definitely a rock-chick at heart she has climbed all over the UK and in Spain, France, Australia, Thailand and the USA, but until recently had stayed away from all that cold white stuff unless on her snowboard. However two visits to Rjukan in Norway has left her keen to do more wintery things. Best recent leads include Aphasia, Sergeant Crag Slab (E2, 5b), and Triermain Eliminate, Castle Rock, (E2, 5b).
Matt de Vaal
Shop Assistant Manager
Matt started climbing on the gritstone out crops of the North Yorkshire moors near his home in Wenslydale. He has now been climbing for over 10 years, mainly on rock, but he has been known to wield his ice axes when conditions allow. Matt enjoys long multi-pitch climbs most of all and this has taken him to some of the best free climbing walls in Europe and North America. Matt is one of a small team now working on the next edition of the FRCC Borrowdale guide book (due 2014) and is trying to tick off as many E3 and E4s as the valley has to offer.
Cal has been climbing for many years and worked in outdoor ed for five of them, prior to joining the staff at Needle Sports. He has largely concentrated on trad climbing in the Lakes and Scotland, but also has new routes to his name in such far flung places as Namibia and Zimbabwe and was also involved in developing bouldering areas in the latter country. Other overseas areas he has visited with rockboots and chalkbag (etc) include the USA, France, Spain, Greece, Belgium and Italy.
Emily describes herself as an allrounder. That includes summer and winter climbing, mountaineering and ski-touring all over the world, including the Alps, New Zealand, Australia, America and the Himalayas. Leads up to VS on rock, but as she says says "there's enough VS in the world to last several lifetimes!" Recent highlights include sailing to Greenland as crew with the Rev Bob "in the footsteps of Tilman" Shepton, and making several first ascents in the far north-west. In recent years Em has competed in numerous adventure races and mountain bike events, and even wins on occasion!
Harry Ellis started climbing around 2000 when he was at university but really got hooked when he began work at Derwentwater Youth Hostel. Since then he has climbed all over the UK, though mainly in the Lakes, both in summer and winter, and also in the Alps, the Dolomites and New Zealand. Highlight routes include the Cuillin Ridge Traverse (AD), An Teallach Traverse in Winter (II), Engineer's Slabs (VS) on Great Gable, The Crack (VS) and Whit's End Direct (E1) on Gimmer. In the alps, an ascent of Point de Zinal stands out as being memorable for the atmosphere and views as much as the climbing.
Rick Armitage began climbing "properly" (as he puts it) in 2001, though he had done a little before that in the army. He started on the gritstone outcrops, such as Baildon Bank, Ilkley Quarry, Caley and Almscliffe, around his home town of Farsley, near Leeds, and soon progressed to climbing in the Peak District, Wales, the Lake district and Scotland. Highlight ascents include Great North Road (HVS) at Millstone, Main Wall (S), Cyrn Las, Tophet Wall (HS), Great Gable and Tower Ridge in winter (IV), Ben Nevis. He has also been out to the alps and experienced the usual battles with the weather - routes include the Normal Route on the Miroir d'Argentine (5a+), the North Face (F) of Tête Blanche (3429m) and Cosmiques Arête (PD+) on the Aiguille du Midi (3842m).
International climbing man of mystery. He was too busy dialling in his trade to provide a profile!
Wez Hunter has worked part time for Needle Sports for several periods since leaving Keswick School and continues to do so in between working as a climbing instructor. He is an experienced all-round climber of considerable ability and knowledge.
Zac is a mountaineering instructor with a wealth of experience. His achievements include ascents of two 8000m peaks (Cho Oyo and Everest), Aconcagua and Mount Vinson. He has extensive Scottish winter experience as well as rock climbing all over the UK and numerous mountain marathons and fell races. He has also worked in Greenland for the BBC.