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.

Needle Sports - Owner

Stephen Reid- Founder and Director

Rock climber, winter climber, alpinist and ski-tourer, Stephen has been on expeditions to the Karakorum, Greenland, Tibet, the Andes and South Georgia. 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. In 2019, Stephen retired from working at the shop, though he still maintains the website and owns the business.

Needle Sports - Full Time Staff

Trevor Suddaby - Shop Manager

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 OTE and Climb Magazine.

Jude Osborne - 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 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. Some of his climbing highlights to date include: The Nose and Salathe Wall (5.9, C2), El Captain, Yosemite, USA; Hass/ Brandler (7a+), Cima Grande, Italy; Bouldering in Hampi, India; Multi-pitch ice climbing in Rujkan, Norway; A winter ascent of Botterill’s Slab (V, 6), Scafell, Hell’s Wall (E6 6c F7C+), Bowderstone Crag, Borrowdale. Combined running and soloing in the Borrowdale valley - Little Chamonix, Troutdale Pinnacle and Bowderstone Pinnacle (from Shepherd's Cafe and back again, 1hr 43mins. More recently he has climbed Lurking Fear (C2 F 5.7) and Triple Direct (C2 5.8) both being Big Wall aid routes on El Captain, the Old Man of Hoy (E1 5b), as well a a lot of routes at Squamish, Canada. He has also achieved several personal bests in bouldering, both in the Lakes and on Yorkshire grit.

Emily Brooks - Post Room Assistant Manager

Emily describes herself as an alrounder. 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!

Cal Reid

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.

Rick Armitage

Rick 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 hishome 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). In 2014 Rick had a bad climbing accident which, despite not breaking any bones, put him in a coma for three weeks. He is still recovering from the brain injury it caused and continues to work at Needle Sports.

Who are Needle Sports?
Ben Loveday

Ben Loveday discovered climbing in his early twenties when he went bouldering with friends around his home county of Cheshire. This soon developed into trad climbing and a move to Devon to be an outdoor instructor, which he did for four years, enjoying an abundance of climbing, with personal highlights including Moonraker (HVS 5a) on Berry Head, as well as deep water soloing, and on those occasional wet days, white water kayaking. Since moving to the Lakes (and into retail), Ben is making the most of his climbing whenever possible and days off are largely spent out on the crags; personal highlights so far being Tophet Wall (HS 4b), Prana (E3 5c)  and Eliminate A (VS 4c). He also enjoys climbing in Scotland, Wales and the Peak District, as well as further afield, such as trips to the Costa Blanca for some sunny Spanish sport climbing. On those rare Lake District days of inclement weather, Ben makes full use of his mountain bike.

Who are Needle Sports?
Phil Dowthwaite

Phil Dowthwaite has been climbing over 35 years and in that time from small beginnings at Wharton and Trowbarrow in Lancashire has managed to climb far and wide, ranging from big walls in Yosemite, to the sandstone towers of Saxony, to the sport climbing Mecca of the islands of Kalymnos. As a IFMGA guide he has worked as a guide in the Arctic and Antarctic continents, skied in the Himalayas, and worked extensively in the European Alps. He is still massively keen on trad climbing and loves the Lakes.

Who are Needle Sports?
Ben Wilson

More about our newest recruit soon!

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