Born Ernest James Perrin in Manchester, England, he now lives in Gwynedd (Wales), from where he contributes articles to the Guardian Country Diary. Before turning to writing, he worked in Cwm Pennant as a shepherd. As a writer, he has made regular contributions to a number of newspapers and climbing magazines. As a climber, he has developed new routes, as well as making solo ascents of a number of established routes.
He has won the Boardman Tasker prize twice, first for Menlove (1985), his biography of John Menlove Edwards, and again as a joint winner (alongside Andy Cave's Learning to Breathe) for The Villain (2005), a biography of Don Whillans.
He has six children by six different partners. His eldest son Will, a talented and well respected climber, died aged 24.
- Menlove: Life of John Menlove Edwards (1993), Ernest Press
- Spirits of Place (1997), Gomer Press
- Mirrors in the Cliffs (ed.) (1999), Bâton Wicks
- River Map (2001), Gomer Press
- Travels with the Flea: and other Eccentric Journeys (2003), In Pinn
- The Villain: The Life of Don Whillans (2005), Hutchinson
- Snowdon: Biography of a Mountain (2006), Gomer Press
- The Climbing Essays (2006), In Pinn
- West: A Journey through the Landscapes of Loss (2010), Atlantic Books
The following are out of print:
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