Legendary Sheffield climber, businessman and student landlord died in 60ft Peak District rock fall after rope 'pinged' out of harness

A ‘legendary’ Sheffield rock climber and businessman died in a tragic 60ft fall in the Peak District, an inquest was told.

Wednesday, 19th August 2020, 5:00 pm
Updated Wednesday, 19th August 2020, 5:33 pm

John Allen, 61, who was described as ‘Sheffield born and bred’, was climbing with his brother and friends on Stoney West Crag, near Stoney Middleton, on May 18 this year.

He was a very experienced climber who at one time had been among the top three rock climbers in the world and was hailed as ‘The Boss’.

However, an inquest heard the rope which was supporting him as he abseiled down the 60ft rockface ‘pinged’ out of the harness and he fell to the ground, suffering multiple injuries.

John Allen preparing to lead Green Death at Millstone. Photo credit: Geoff Birtles.

Chesterfield coroners’ court heard John was a ‘free spirit’ who had lived in New Zealand before travelling the world, where he developed his love of climbing by abseiling down buildings to inspect them.

By the late 1990s he had returned to Sheffield and began renting out homes to students in the city.

Despite being defrauded of about £1m at one stage, at the time of his death John still owned up to 80 properties, the inquest was told.

A picture taken from the scene by Edale Mountain Rescue Team.

Although John had suffered from depression and was taking medication, close friends described him as a Christian who was ‘anti-suicide’.

He had also suffered a shoulder injury which the hearing was told could have prevented him from becoming the best rock climber in the world.

In the early months of 2020, John had appeared ‘happier than he had done in ages’ and on May 18 was ‘climbing better’ than he had in some time before tragedy struck.

As John abseiled down the limestone rock face, witnesses said his rope ‘pinged’ put of the harness, causing him to fall.

Derbyshire coroner Emma Serrano said: “There is no evidence this is something John wanted to do to himself.

"He was known to be in good spirits and appeared very happy that day, and in the weeks and months preceding his passing.”

The coroner added: “His rope appeared to be in place and then it pinged out of the harness and he fell 60ft.”

A post-mortem report found the cause of death was multiple injuries.

Recording a verdict of accidental death, the coroner expressed her condolences to John’s family.

After his death, tributes in Climber Magazine described John as a ‘climbing legend’.

“John leaves a legacy of amazing routes, many of which date to the early/mid-Seventies when he was the undisputed God of Grit or as some have said: ‘The Boss’.

The magazine said he was a ‘hugely influential’ climber during this period when his gritstone routes ‘set the world ablaze’.

Geoff Birtles, the editor of Crags magazine, once summed up Allen’s climbing ability for Climber magazine by saying: “In his day he was the best climber on gritstone, he had a whole body skill that embodied both technical climbing and movement.”

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