John Ewbank (climber)

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John Ewbank (1948-December 2, 2013[1]) was and English-born Australian rockclimber. He was born in Yorkshire, England in 1948, but emigrated to Australia at the age of 15.

He is best known for his development of the Ewbank System, used in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa for grading climbs.


Having learned rockclimbing in his native country, he quickly became involved in the fledgling Australian rockclimbing scene, and went on to pioneer hundreds of new routes on crags around the country, particularly in the Blue Mountains in his home state of New South Wales. Many of Ewbank's first ascents are still regarded as classics of Australian climbing such as his climb on Tasmania's Totem Pole or his first free ascent of Janicepts (21) at Mount Piddington which stood as the hardest climb in Australia for many years.[2]


In addition to climbing, Ewbank also established Australia's first rockclimbing magazine, Thrutch.[citation needed]

His most lasting legacy was the development of the Ewbank System, ubiquitous throughout Australia, New Zealand and South Africa for grading climbs. it was an entirely new system, aimed at overcoming the problems at that time with English grades being limited to Extremely Severe, and American (YDS) grades being limited to 5.9. Ewbank proposed an open ended numeric-only grading system starting at 1 and (as at December 2013) extending as high as grade 35 (in Australia) / grade 37 (worldwide).[3]

Later life[edit]

Ewbank retired from active climbing in the early 1970s, though never truly gave it up. He was still involved in putting up major new routes in the Blue Mountains in the 1990s. He was still climbing in 2009, even repeating one of the few free routes on DogFace during his visit to Australia.

He pursued a career in music, releasing 2 albums, with carpentry on the side, while living in New York. John Ewbank can be seen performing his song "Bleeding to Death in America" on YouTube at this address: John was interviewed and recorded by Tuli Kupferberg for Revolting News, his public access TV show in New York, 1993. John's other songs, "Christmas on the Bowery" and "Tango" can be found on YouTube's clairedelune49 channel.

He died in New York City (where he had resided for many years) on December 2, 2013.


  1. ^ "Chockstone". 
  2. ^ "John Ewbank, 1948-Dec. 2, 2013". Retrieved 2013-12-24. 
  3. ^ Poindexter, Joseph (1998). To the summit: fifty mountains that lure, inspire and challenge. Black Dog Publishing. p. 322. ISBN 9781579120412.