Tributes have been flooding in following the death of Herbert ‘Dangly’ Fenn, Norfolk’s best known climber, at the age of 89. A purist, Mr. Fenn continued climbing into his eighties wearing traditional boots, tie, bobble hat and tweed Norfolk jacket.
In a recent interview Mr. Fenn, who never climbed outside his native county, said ‘Whilst I am prepared to accept that there are hills elsewhere that may be slightly higher than those of Norfolk, I believe that the challenges presented by my home county are every bit as difficult, only technically lower. And not as steep.’
Mr. Fenn was never frightened of a challenge, however stiff. In 1950 he was the first person to conquer the Sheringham Bump (189ft) with oxygen. This was followed three years later by his fearless leadership of the team which successfully tackled the notorious Sandringham Incline (126ft), setting a number of records in the process, including the first night-time roped ascent of a Royal Slope. The news thrilled the crowds on the eve of the Coronation but was quickly forgotten the following morning when the news of Hillary and Tensing’s Everest triumph came through, perhaps robbing Fenn of a knighthood.
Sir Chris Bonington was amongst those paying tribute to Mr Fenn. ‘Some people have criticised his lack of global experience but it’s a bit like low flying which is a far greater challenge to a pilot than high flying. Except that low climbing is much easier.’
The cause of Mr. Fenn’s death was still unclear last night. He was believed to have just conquered the slight incline from his shed to his back door but had been determined to complete his ascent up to the bedroom before nightfall. He was found at the foot of the staircase in his cottage; it is thought that a rope may have given way whilst he was ascending the treacherous ‘creaky step’ section of the infamous climb . Tragically it was only three months before the first ever ascent of ‘Great Yarmouth knoll’ by Stannah stairlift.