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The World's Best Outdoor Brands

The World's Best Outdoor Brands

Founded by Siobhan Sheridan and Chris Watts in 1988, former colleagues in the London based outdoor retailer, Alpine Sports, First Ascent is a specialist sales agency and distributor representing a portfolio of the world’s best outdoor brands and equipment. Working closely with these companies is a pleasure. In their respective fields they each produce the highest quality and most innovative equipment and share a passion for their sport and environment.

In 2013 we have started a new chapter in our outdoor lives by launching an online retail business, First Ascent Online Ltd to address the needs of specialist adventurers.

Having started from a flat in London we now enjoy our location in the Derbyshire countryside with the opportunity to run, bike, hike or climb on our doorstep.

All of the employees of First Ascent are active participants in one or more outdoor sports and can not only give first hand advice on the products we represent but also have experience of many of the climbing areas of the UK and the world.

Meet The Team

team member
 

Chris Watts

Managing Director

Founder and managing director, Chris has now worked in the UK outdoor business for over 30 years, graduating from the retail shop floor at Alpine Sports in London, through management and buying experience, to representing some of the world’s most respected outdoor brands with First Ascent.

During this time Chris has maintained an avid enthusiasm for a wide range of activities, all pursued with manic zeal. A strong base of traditional rock climbing led to a period of adventure climbing in the UK both in summer and winter, with many first ascents including sea cliff routes as far apart as Little and Large in North Devon and Clo Mhor Crack on the highest cliff on mainland UK at Cape Wrath.  Ice climbs were a particular passion and led to more first ascents, including The Fuhrer, Pipped at the Post and Cold Corner at Fuar Tholl and Test Department on Liathach. A more esoteric vein of adventure seeking, led to the first ascent of the famous white cliffs of Dover (Dry Ice), with Mick Fowler, followed by Monster Crack at Beachy Head and culminating with Great White Fright at Dover!

Mountaineering trips started memorably with the first ascent of the South East Buttress of Taulliraju in Peru (1982) and near disaster on Bojohagur in Northern Pakistan (1984). 1985 saw a first encounter with Everest including the gear freaks dream of organizing the equipment for Mal Duff’s ‘Pilkington Everest Expedition’. As part of a young and team attempting the NNE Ridge, Chris reached a highpoint just short of 8000 metres before the arrival of the monsoon snow forced the team to abandon the mountain.  Successful trips to Nepal in winter - the first winter and alpine style ascent of Huinchuli with Lindsay Abbots in 1988 and Aksu in Kyrgystan 1995 then part of the Soviet Union were separated by failure on Diran – a winter attempt in 1994 and a wonderful lightning visit to the Canadian Rockies in winter 1990 that saw success on several alpine routes including Mt. Kitchner and Mt.Temple.  In 1997 a second attempt was made on Everest as part of a commercial group reaching the South Col before turning back in the face of deteriorating weather.


 Pressure of work and the arrival of children saw a scaling back of mountaineering during the late 1990’s and early 2000’s but in 2005 Chris resumed his successful partnership with Mick Fowler for a visit to ‘The Matterhorn of Tibet’, Kajacio, in the little known Nyantaglia East mountain range. As ever it was not an expedition without incident but yet again we were successful in making another first ascent together, 23 years after our first.

Before starting climbing, Chris was a cyclist. Ironically he had given up cycling to concentrate on, (do some), studies during his final year at university in London. He joined the college climbing club the next week and cycling took a back seat for a while. Moving out of London to Derbyshire in 1989 coincided with the rise in popularity of mountain biking. In London there was never a problem with finding a car full of climbers willing to go anywhere in the UK for their weekend fix. In Derbyshire it was different. The weather had to be good a couple of hours on Stanage was enough and by then most of Chris’s contemporaries were young parents. Mountain biking has accessible, could be done from home and didn’t need partners. Within a couple of months the seed had taken root, bike(s) had been purchased and the first race was entered. (a NEMBA round at Bosley). Weekday commuting and weekends racing were the new exercise regime! Mountain bike racing lasted until 1996 when Chris and Siobhan finally married. Until then they had been part of ‘Team North Face’ had sponsored the NEMBA race series for several years and both Siobhan and Chris had won bronze medals at the National Championships but the pressure of work had again reared its head - TNF was now big business and a family was planned.

The next wave of cycling mania began innocently enough. Chris had taken to road cycling, a few day rides led to some short tours into Wales, then he received a Christmas present from Siobhan,  a cycle touring holiday to the ‘white villages of Andalucía with Graham Baxter Sporting Tours. A new touring bike was acquired - a Mercian. The holiday was very enjoyable, a precedent had been set and Chris started thumbing through the Graham Baxter brochure looking for more adventures. The next year it was the Raid Pyraneen, the year after the Raid Corsica then the Raid Alpine. Chris fancied doing L’Etape du tour but thought this was big league stuff and more training would be necessary. Having noticed that some of the stronger riders on the ‘raids’ had been from Audax clubs, Chris entered his first audax event in 2005, 200km around the Long Mynd.

The next year Chris rode a full Audax Super Randoneer series (events 200km, 300km, 400km and 600km) including the utterly brilliant Bryan Chapman Memorial ride from Chepstow to Menai Bridge and back. 2007 was Paris-Brest-Paris year - a 1200km ride held every four years - the pinnacle of ambition for long distance cyclists. Having ridden another SR series to qualify, Chris (and Will Stanton, a former colleague at First Ascent) entered. The weather was horrific and the sleep deprivation was severe but years of mountaineering had taught Chris well in the art of suffering and they rolled back into Paris after 89hours. (There is a limit of 90 hours but we were enjoying the atmosphere and several punctures on the final day). To date Chris has completed five consecutive SR series and is planning on riding PBP again later in 2011. He has also ridden (and finished) 3 etapes du tour, La Marmotte, the Maratonna d’les Dolomites and |L’Eroica plus many UK sportives including the Fred Whitton, Dave Lloyd Mega Challenge and the Dragon Ride. Chris now has a time trial bike – he has wild ambitions involving 25 miles and the hour - and competes in cyclo cross races during the winter. He has successfully been consumed by cycling.
team member
 

Siobhan Sheridan

Director

Siobhan has completed events such as the Swiss Alpine Marathon, Semi Raid Reunion, Man vs Horse plus numerous fell races in the UK. Trekking trips include visits to Nepal, Australia, New Zealand, Corsica and more recently Turkey.  Now just as happy taking the children on exciting trips in the Alps or chasing after them on her mountain bike.  Moved onto long distance walking once the running got too hard and has completed a 50 mile day walk around the Derwent Watershed, the Cotswold Way and more recently a good section of the Limestone Way. Siobhan has introduced walking the footpaths of Derbyshire to many of the mums at her childrens school and has taken them on fund raising trips to Snowdon, Ben Nevis and the Yorkshire Three Peaks . Siobhan in a advocate of the OIA Britain on Foot campaign and believes that taking her group of mums around the Peak District is a great way of supporting this initiative.

team member
 

Simon Martin


Website Coordinator

Although it feels like my aches and injuries keep me out of sport more than my relentless motivation keeps me in it, I am yet to convert to birdwatching over climbing and running. I’ve been climbing for over 9 years now and still refuse to get involved with the faf-ridden cold stuff and the monotonous ploding. I like warm days in the Pass, even warmer days in Spain and days filled with horror on the likes of Gogarth and Pembroke. Even with all these wishes I still spend most of my climbing time caressing plastic holds. Since relieving myself of the South and moving to my spiritual home of Sheffield (Henderson’s relish made the perpetual drizzle worth it), I’ve been enjoying fair-weather fell running at every opportunity. Unfortunately, my pride still won’t let me race as I don’t want to be beaten by small children and old men.

team member
 

Maz Heffron

Sales & Warehouse

Maz Heffron is a cyclist, runner and skier with experience of winning a number of MTB races, completing various classic cycle race climbs and getting rescued from high mountain couloirs by a very nice Swiss man in a helicopter. She has ‘enjoyed’ all these experiences and looks forward to many more like them!

team member
 

Chris Watts

Managing Director

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team member
 

Siobhan Sheridan

Director

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team member
 

Simon Martin

Website Coordinator

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team member
 

Maz Heffron

Warehouse & Sales

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