The Joe Brown Shops (Est 1966) and The Climbers Shop (Est 1959)

With over 100 years of retail heritage our shops are incredibly proud to offer a huge choice of clothing and equipment for climbers, mountaineers, hillwalkers and trail runners. Our story was begun by pioneers back in the days when hemp ropes were all the rage. Today, our team are equally passionate about sharing their experience of the products we stock so you don’t have to experience the hard lessons they have already learned. To read about our journey and where we are heading click below….

admin23/03/2010 15:48:58

Capel Curig Betws-Y-Coed LL24 0EN

60th Anniversary “Nuts of Legends” - Launch

   Words by tcsh

   on 07/03/2019 11:10:32



Rock climbing is at the very core of our business so this summer we want to share our passion for the vertical world of the Lake District in a unique treasure hunt where you can search for the “Nuts of Legends”.

Since rock climbing as a sport developed in Wasdale in the 1880’s, Lake District mountains and crags have played a key part in the history our wonderful sport so what better way to celebrate 60 years of selling the finest climbing equipment than by teaming up with our friends at DMM, Scarpa and UK Climbing to offer our customers 60 opportunities to win your own little piece of climbing history. DMM have made us 60 unique Torque Nuts to give away, each one etched with our anniversary logo. You won’t find these for sale in our shops, you won’t find them available on our website, nor will you be able to simply click to enter this particular competition because in the spirit of our founders adventures, we have decided to make this competition a little more……..sporting.




Lakeland climbing legends such as Sir Chris Bonington, Doug Scott, Angela Soper and James McHaffie have added their favourite routes to those we know that our founder Frank Davies and his good friend Joe Brown climbed back in the day. With the help of the FRCC we have a fantastic list of traditional climbs that celebrate the unique and vibrant history of modern rock climbing across the Lake District. The full list will be published on the 29th April offering a wide range of grades and routes and for five months from May through until September a host of climbing legends will be placing the Climbers Shop Anniversary Torque Nuts either at the base or the top of a route on the list. Each nut will have a tag attached to it suggesting what you may want to do next…….

The sixty of you lucky enough to find one of our blue Nuts will be invited to send in a selfie along with the location you found it so that your details can then be entered in a grand draw. The prize will be something that money just can’t buy – a priceless piece of mountain heritage in the form of a framed W Heaton-Cooper image signed by those involved. And if you weren’t lucky enough to find a nut? Then keep searching as our friends at Montane have offered some consolation prizes too!

From 1st May through to the 31st September the hunt is on. Not all Blue Nuts will be in place at the same time so be sure to check routes that you return to. Hints are highly likely to be published on The Climbers Shop social media to help you in your search and updates of routes where nuts have been found will be kept in our Ambleside shop.

Why not make this your summer of trad and take inspiration from some of the greatest British climbers of all time. Tackle some of the world’s greatest lines, climb in the footsteps of legends and learn a profound respect for route descriptions involving words such as “bold” and “intimidating”. Alternatively, visually appreciate the lines of the masters, acquire your blue Torque Nut (if you’re lucky) and climb something well within whatever grade you choose to enjoy the vertical world.

Never climbed outdoors or fancy getting into trad? Make sure you sign up to our newsletter for details on two fantastic opportunities to learn from the best as we team up with British Mountain Guides from the International School of Mountaineering.

The full list of routes is now published below! Grab a guidebook, get planning, join in the fun with #nutsoflegends and enjoy our wonderful sport, safely.


Sponsored by:



Nuts of Legends Routes List


1. Route 1 V Diff Upper Scout Crag

2. The Gordion Knot VS 4c White Ghyll

3. Eliminot E2 5c White Ghyll

4. Laugh Not HVS 5a White Ghyll

5. The Bracken Clock E2 5c Pavey Ark

6. Golden Slipper HVS 5a Pavey Ark

7. Astra E2 5c Pavey Ark

8. Capella E1 5b Pavey Ark

9. Rake End Wall/Rib Pitch VS 5a Pavey Ark

10. Middlefell Buttress via Curtain Wall Diff Raven Crag

11. A Route MS Gimmer Crag

12. Gimmer String E1 5b Gimmer Crag

13. Whitsend Direct E1 5b Gimmer Crag

14. The Crack VS 4c Gimmer Crag

15. Kipling Groove HVS 5a Gimmer Crag

16. Fastburn E2 5b Flat Crags, Bowfell

17. Bowfell Buttress V Diff Bowfell

Dow Crag

18. Eliminate A VS 4c Dow Crag

19. Nimrod E1 5c Dow Crag

20. Tumble E4 5c Dow Crag

21. Murray’s Route S Dow Crag


22. Central Pillar E2 5b Esk Buttress


23. Central Buttress E1 5a Scafell

24. Lost Horizons E4 6b East Buttress, Scafell

25. Lord of The Rings E2 5c East Buttress, Scafell

26. Moss Ghyll Grooves MVS 4c Scafell

27. Jones Route Direct From Lords Rake HS 4a Scafell

28. Botterill’s Slab VS 4c Scafell

29. Saxon E2 5c Scafell

Great Gable

30. Tophet Wall HS The Napes

31. Napes Needle HS The Napes

32. The Buttonhook Route HVS 5a Kern Knotts

33. Engineers Slabs VS 4c Gable Crag


34. New West Route V Diff Pillar Rock

35. The Old West Route M Pillar Rock

36. Walkers Gully MVS 4c Pillar Rock


37. Eagle Front VS 4c Eagle Crag.

38. Dexter Wall VS 4c Grey Crag

39. Samson HVS 5b High Crag


40. Dry Grasp E4 6a Upper Falcon Crag

41. Guillotine E3 5c Reecastle

42. Penal Servitude E5 6b Reecastle

43. Fool’s Paradise VS 4c Gowder Crag

44. Fishers Folly VS 4c Shepherds Crag

45. Little Chamonix V Diff Shepherds Crag

46. Adam, HVS 5a Shepherds Crag

47. Ardus MVS 4b Shepherds Crag

48. Aaros E1 5b Shepherds Crag

49. Troutdale Pinnacle S Black Crag

50. Bleed In Hell E8 6c Bowderstone Crag

51. Bitter Oasis E4 5c Goat Crag

52. Tumbleweed Connection E2 5c Goat Crag

53. Footless Crow E5 6c Goat Crag

54. Gillercombe Buttress S Gillercombe

55. Lakeland Crags Man HVS 5a Sergent Crag, Slabs

56. Corvus Diff Raven Crag

Eastern Crags

57. Dovedale Groove E1 5b Dove Crag, Dovedale

58. The Fang MVS 4a Gouther Crag, Swindale

59. Truss Buttress V Diff Gouther Crag, Swindale

Eden Valley

60. Flasherman VS 4b Armathwaite

Want to know how we chose the routes?

Back in 2016, we wanted to do something utterly unique to mark the 50th anniversary since Val and Joe Brown had opened their shops in Llanberis and Capel Curig. After much discussion, it was decided to mark the event with something never tried before; a competition that required more than today’s current “click to enter” ethos, a competition that would engage with our customers and ignite curiosity – a competition where many lucky winners would find some treasure. “The Hunt For Joes Golden Nuts” was born. Joe was delighted.

Fifty limited edition, Golden DMM Torque nuts were split between some of Joe’s finest first ascents in the Peak District and North Wales and hidden with clues to their location posted on social media. Permission was sought from Sir Chris Bonington to use his photograph of Joe taken while climbing The Old Man of Hoy in 1967 (during the BBC’s first ever outdoor live broadcast) which they both signed. You can see the originals hanging in both of the Joe Brown shops today, but one of the 50 lucky Golden nut winners got to have one to hang on their very own wall.

This year we are celebrating 60 years since Frank Davies opened his doors as the first ever outdoor equipment shop in Ambleside and after the success of Joe’s Golden Nuts we thought we would see if we could make a Lake District based competition even better!

But where to start? The Lake District is renowned as the birthplace of modern rock climbing, littered with thousands of stunning lines across the grades. Hours were spent discussing routes in between serving customers, guidebooks thumbed furiously, historic books on climbing history devoured in a quest to make sense of the hundreds of routes that everyone felt worthy of inclusion. Eventually, we decided that just 60 should be used – but which 60?? Then someone suggested: “What routes did Frank climb?”


Tony Greenbank, an old friend of Frank’s, author and writer for The Guardian patiently went through his old diaries plucking out a list of climbs that he enjoyed with Frank across the years:

“Certainly our best route together was scaling Tophet Wall, the eye-popping “hard severe” up the electrifying screen of rock above Great Hellgate screes. It has an Orion's constellation belt of three twinkling stars denoting absolute quality in the Fell & Rock Climbing Club (FRCC) guidebook for Great Gable. “A magnificent mountain outing,” the guide reads, “winding its way up through very impressive architecture. Probably the best route of its grade in the Lakes.” The FRCC does not bandy such praise lightly. And hear this re the third pitch 130ft up the rock face: “A fantastic pitch! Semi-hand traverse 10 metres rightwards in a sensational position to a crack . . .” “What, climb up there?” exclaimed Frank staring at the impending wall adjacent to where the Peter Whillance and Dave Armstrong were filmed for Border Television climbing the overhanging wall of Incantations in 1985. “Who do you think I am? Joe Brown?”

Only Frank then pipped Tophet Wall when the very same Joe Brown (not yet quite a CBE) came to stay at the Davies residence near Cartmel over a weekend. The “Human Fly” took Frank up 300ft Eliminate “A” on Dow Crag, the one Lakeland “very severe” said by the cognoscenti to be well worth “four stars” (if only). Was Frank made up! He told me Joe Brown hadn't taken the guidebook up the climb to consult en route as craggies usually do. “Think we can see where it goes,” the ex-Mancunian plumber had said laconically.

To paraphrase an extract from the FRCC guide's description of 300ft Eliminate “A”: “One of Britain's greatest routes. It follows a stunning line (up through the overhangs) of “A” Buttress. The climbing is continually interesting and the atmosphere is superb.” Just when all seems lost, a “secret” way leads the climber up through menacing overhangs. Joe Brown told me later in Ambleside's Golden Rule bar that that particular day on Dow with Frank was one of the best he'd had on Lake District rock.

Fools Paradise was another gem. “One of the best climbs in the valley,” says the guide. Very severe, three stars. Lots of ants crawling on Borrowdale's Gowder Crag, but they didn't bite. “Ace route,” I wrote in my diary.

Following this was three-star severe Gillercombe Buttress (“a justly popular route”) up the headwall above one of Lakeland's three Sour Milk Gills. This one tumbles down to the emerald fields of Seathwaite Farm far beneath.

“This magnificent route winds its way up the walls and overlaps of the south buttress” states the FRCC guide describing Troutdale Pinnacle, a route. It ends with a reach at full stretch for a thank-God hold at the very top of Black Crag. Phew again.

Fisher's Folly gave us another buzz. “A fine little climb (featuring a pugnacious roof)” claims the guide. It was one of Frank’s favourites.

The Fang on Gowther Crag, compares well. “A fine steep climb” says the FRCC, a three-star diamond mild very severe. Frank agreed.

The red-tinged final pitch of Little Chamonix, strikes up the impending rock of Shepherd's Crag above a bus stop on the Borrowdale road. Cool. We climbed it with the late Ray McHaffie, father of hotshot James McHaffie who is a British Mountaineering Council ambassador. Mac (Ian McNaught Davis) was recovering from being avalanched 1,000ft on Cust's Gully. During our ascent, Frank broke a rib while helping him. Happy Days.

Finally, though we enjoyed so many fine courses up Lakeland rock, one of the best routes was on Eden Valley sandstone on the banks of the River Eden. Flasherman, a VS up an open-book groove, vertical and unrelenting. Three stars in the guidebook. It was to be our last, and as Frank said, a fitting farewell.”

In addition to the above Tony found diary entries for the enduring classics of Route 1 on Upper Scout Crag, Langdale, Rake End Wall on Pavey Ark, A Route on Gimmer, Adam and Ardus on Shepherd’s, the mighty Corvus and Truss Buttress in quiet Swindale. While most of the routes were established classics, some have since fallen down, access has been revoked from a few, others bolted and re-defined as sport climbs but all were mid-grade. This got us thinking…..

Back in the late nineties, current director Cathy worked at Needlesports with a young Saturday lad named James. Often popping in after school, James lived and breathed climbing and became the first climber to be sponsored by Mountain Works when Cathy and her husband opened their previous company in 2001, distributing brands like Marmot, Simond, Mad Rock, Moon and Zero-G Climbing. A quick explanatory text enquiring after his favourite E graded routes led to a stream of classics from the Lakeland master Mr James McHaffie himself, many of which he enjoyed on his epic solo of 100 Lakeland E1’s in a day back in 2014. He could name plenty more, he assured us, if we needed them:

Lakeland Crags Man Sergeant crag Slabs, Borrowdale

Tumbleweed Connection Goat Crag, Borrowdale

Bitter Oasis Goat Crag, Borrowdale

Golden Slipper Pavey Arc, Langdale

Astra Pavey Arc, Langdale

Tumble Dow Crag, Coniston

Central Buttress Scafell

Lost Horizons Scafell (East Butress)

Gimmer String Gimmer, Langdale

Whitsend Direct Gimmer, Langdale

Dry Grasp Upper Falcon Crag, Borrowdale

Central Pillar Esk Buttress, Eskdale

The list began to take form and a conversation with British Mountain Guide and Director of the International School of Mountaineering, Adrian Nelhams, highlighted yet more significant routes that deserved inclusion. Having climbed in the Lake District for over 30 years, every-one of these gems is worthy of four stars in his esteemed opinion:

Guillotine, Reecastle, Borrowdale

Penal Servitude, Reecastle, Borrowdale

Aaros, Shepherds Crag, Borrowdale

Fastburn, Flat Crags, Langdale

Kipling Groove, Gimmer Crag, Langdale

The Gordian Knot, White Ghyll, Langdale

A bit of a theme was starting to form here – what if we combined the knowledge of the Mountain Leaders and climbers on our staff team with the biggest names in British climbing to create a really meaningful list to showcase a full graded spectrum of traditional Lakeland climbing at it’s very best?

Our climbing mad Marketing Manager Helen, got her thinking cap on to share some of her best days out on Lakeland rock:

Dexter Wall Grey Crag, Buttermere: I remember this route so well, not only for the quality of climbing, but mainly because it was one of my first proper VS leads. Amazing crack and face climbing in a superb situation.

Engineers Slab Gable Crag: A route that took long enough for me to do (mainly because of the high, North facing aspect & classic Lake District weather making it hard to climb a lot of the year…) but my goodness. Great crack climbing on the first followed by awesome bridging up the final chimney. Just excellent.

Samson High Crag: A crag that deserves more traffic. Samson is an incredible one pitch wonder. I just remember having a huge smile on my face all the way up this. Solid at the grade, great rock and situation.

Tophet Wall The Napes: Probably one of the best value HS’s around – it’s no pushover at the grade! A brilliant mountain day out and one of my first mountain routes I climbed. Awesome exposure and interest throughout every pitch.

Eliminate A Dow Crag: Great exposure and interest. A great mountain crag VS to experience without it being too hard at the grade. Just fun!

Eliminate A turned out to be a very important route on the list as we know from Tony Greenbank that both Frank Davies and Joe Brown climbed this spectacularly classic route together. Joe describes his rare trips to the Lakes with the Rock and Ice club in the 40’s and 50’s in his book The Hard Years, recounting a very sporting ascent of Deer Bield Crack (the original has fallen down and the new one is currently very dangerous) accompanied to the tinkling sounds of nails dropping out of their boots. Happily, we have been able to include two of Joe’s few Lakeland first ascents. The first; Laugh Not in White Ghyll is “an excellent and clean line” put up in October 1953 using a tension traverse with R Moseley and T Waghorn. These days it is climbed free with the latest FRCC guide suggesting you enjoy the last moves by “….easily but spectacularly, reach out right to the prominent flat hold from where big jugs lead to the belay ledge. Go on, commit yourself – it’s not as hard or as far as it looks!” Joe later put up Eliminot with J Smith in 1957 earning the characteristic description of “quite tricky with some technical and strenuous moves” in the FRCC guide. A classic product of the Rock and Ice era is Dovedale Groove put up by the legendary Don Whillans with Joe Brown and D Cowan. A point of aid was used on the first ascent but it is now graded E1 5b when climbed freely which may go some way to explain why it defied many attempts to repeat it over the following decade.

Now in his late eighties, Joe’s favourite Lakeland memories are centred around climbing on Scafell and the iconic Central Buttress. The history of this stunning route is well documented and along with Eliminate A was the most popular climb chosen by all of our key route selectors including: Doug Scott, Angela Soper and James McHaffie. Helen talks though the history and character of the route here:

Not many people know that Joe’s wife Val Brown was very much a climber in her own right – regularly hitch hiking from Blackburn to Langdale from the age of 16 to climb in the glory days of the 1940’s. Val remembers one particular outing to Middlefell Buttress which they finished late forcing them to hitch home in a lorry with a couple of other climbers one of whom, Harold Drasdo, became a lifelong friend. You can read more in our history of the Climbers Shop and Joe Browns which describes how the shops were intrinsically linked from the very early days.

Our Ambleside premises is owned by the Frank Davies Trust which Frank formed in the 90’s for the prevention of poverty, advancement of education and lifesaving health improvement. This means that today our rent payment is split among charities that uphold these principles including Doug Scott’s charity Community Action Nepal. So, we thought – why not ask Doug what his favourite routes are too?

His first favourite was the brilliant Eliminate A on Dow which he remembered climbing at Easter 1961 on the very first meet of the Nottingham Climbers' Club. “There were about 20 of us, camping on the Walna Scar Road by the members' scooters, motorbikes and minivans, although most of us hitch-hiked. Between us we climbed nearly all the routes on the Crag to be finally driven off in a snowstorm that made driving out difficult. Of all the climbs I did Eliminate 'A' was a memorable classic which had us finishing on the very summit of Dow Crag.” Doug goes on to recommend Central Buttress of course, and The Crack on that most marvellous of Langdale crags: Gimmer. His final favourite (after North Crag Eliminate, omitted from our list due to its proximity to recent rockfall) is home of the outrageously exposed belay: Troutdale Pinnacle.

An e-mail to Sir Chris Bonington ignited his interest too and after allowing us to take a peek into his very first climbing diaries (he had notes of climbing with Frank Davies in Ogwen from when he was a mere slip of a lad, aged just 17) he agreed with Doug that The Crack on Gimmer was well worthy of our list explaining “it is a brilliant route - varied, interesting direct - a truly wonderful line.” He went on to add Capella up to Jacks Rake on Pavey Arc followed by Golden Slipper: “Immaculate varied climbing taking a superb line.” The magnificent Bill Peascod route Eagle Front on Eagle Crag in Buttermere holds many happy memories: “I did it with him in the 80s when making a film series: Lake Land Rock looking at fifty years of Lakeland climbing and climbers. In his sixties, he led the lot and it is one of the great Lakeland classics. He had an amazing career from going down the pit in his teens, going to Australia and becoming a major artist, returning to Cumbria to paint and climb. We became close friends. It’s a real beauty.” Finally, Lord of the Rings, East Buttress of Scafell. (14 pitches). “A magnificent expedition and a full day outing, a counter girdle of the East Buttress, pitch after pitch of superb climbing of 5a and b. The second pitch which is part of my route, the Holy Ghost, an attempt that Mike Thompson and I made earlier on in the sixties in an attempt on the Girdle which provides the crux at 5c but without Friends and no runners we frightened ourselves so much that we climbed straight out. John Adams and Colin Reid did a magnificent job in pioneering the complete girdle. I repeated it in the seventies with Ron Kenyon and definitely class it as the biggest and best expedition in the Lake District”

With climbing history dominated by men it was fantastic to see The BMC celebrating female climbing pioneers with their 50 Women Who Rock exhibition at Kendal Mountain Film Festival last year. This led us to a lady who has led all the Lake District routes in Classic Rock and Hard Rock and a fair few from Extreme Rock too. After starting to climb in the Lakes in the early 60’s Angela Soper holds a very impressive diary of favourite routes describing Gimmer String as “my first extreme lead with Denise Wilson Pinnacle Club, 1969”. She was part of the first ascent of The Bracken Clock in 1970with the great Allan Austin and Jack Soper”, later to become her husband. Saxon, a magnificent sustained climb, one of the longest in the Lakes is Angela’s last favourite but she did also offer a rather marvellous challenge by sharing that she once soloed Bowfell Buttress, Moss Ghyll Grooves (Scafell), Tophet Wall (Gable), New West (Pillar Rock) all on the same day in the 1970s. Starting from Langdale and finishing at Wasdale Head, she completed all four with two members of the Gritstone Club, which was men only at the time. Any takers…….?

Another, much lesser known climber who is perpetually posting epic dawn and dusk climbing shots is local Instructor and part time staff member James Gibson. In fact, we’re pretty sure that he can teleport as he is quite frequently dangling off a rock face at opposite ends of the country just hours after having put in a full day at the shop. In May 2018, James and his friend Jack Olive climbed all 15 of the Lakeland routes included in Classic Rock in 22 hours 40 minutes, running in between each one. They covered a distance of 32 miles and a height gain of 4,300 meters and a decent of 4,650 meters while managing to stay awake and with total focus! It was a fantastic achievement, with a number of fellow staff members offering support along the way, so we thought it would be fitting to make sure as many of his routes were included as possible: Little Chamonix, their final route, Gillercombe Buttress, Troutdale Pinnacle, Bowfell Buttress, Jones Route Direct, Moss Ghyll Grooves, Napes Needle, Tophet Wall, Murray’s Route and New West Climb.

These additions also tied in nicely with our MD Paul Casey who has also completed all of the classic rock routes but at a slightly more leisurely pace. His all time favourite is Troutdale Pinnacle because it looks so unlikely from the bottom yet offers fantastic varied climbing from the delicate slab traverse to the exposed pinnacle finish. It’s also possible that fond memories of stopping to answer a phone call on the lead across the slab and securing a contract deal for climbing harnesses might also be a factor in this route taking first place, but only just, above Botteril’s Slab on Scafell. “There’s quite bold climbing with great protection and the position you get on the crux offers exhilarating exposure.” Originally climbed in 1903 by Fred Botteril from Leeds, his gripping description in the Yorkshire Ramblers Club Journal of the first ascent includes why he climbed it while holding an ice axe along with how he stopped to remove his hat to a lady in a party watching below! Oh and of course, he climbed it in nailed boots too. Paul’s final addition was the iconic Napes Needle which never seems to get any easier, no matter how many times you climb it. His most memorable trip to the Napes though was as part of a three day mountaineering mini expedition in 1997. “I was with Cathy and the weather wasn’t brilliant so we decided to take in as many scrambles as we could in between Langdale and Wasdale, camping en route. By the time we got to the Napes it was so windy we ditched any ideas of going up the Needle and headed off up Great Gable via Needle Ridge instead. It was a bit challenging with full packs on – I even used a bit of aid!”

The list was now forming nicely but to make absolutely sure we had a well rounded list we needed to highlight pioneering, classic and downright scary routes that have captivated climber’s imaginations and driven the sport into new territory for the past 200 years, we thought it was time to bring in the real experts: The Fell and Rock Climbing Club. Founded in 1906-07 the FRCC has produced definitive climbing guides for the Lake District since 1922 and is currently the oldest and largest rock climbing and mountaineering club in the North of England. With their vast knowledge the following “breakthrough routes” were included:

The Old West Route on Pillar Rock (1826): The first ascending rock climb in the Lake District.

Napes Needle via the Wasdale Crack (1886): Widely accepted as the first rock climb done for the sake of climbing - though this is arguable - but certainly very influential.

Jones Route Direct from Lords Rake – Scafell Crag (1898): The first route to blatantly tackle the open slabs, away from the confines of gullies.

Walker’s Gully on Pillar Rock (1899): A route of the gully epoch giving imposing and atmospheric climbing – calling for techniques seldom seen at climbing walls!

Botteril’s Slab – Scafell Crag (1902): Try this while carrying an ice axe and removing your hat to greet a passing lady while climbing this route!!

Central Buttress – Scafell Crag (1914): Now E1/E3 This was a huge step forward and is still a tremendous tick for climbers now.

The Buttonhook Route – Kern Knotts (1934): Awesome lead by Fred Balcombe who gave up climbing and took up cave diving for more excitement!!

Footless Crow – Goat Crag (1974): This route (now E6) changed the ethos and set the benchmark for all future hard routes in the Lakes.

Bleed In Hell – Bowderstone Crag (1992): Dave Birkett started (!) to make his mark with this stunning E8 route.

So, there we have it; a list of 60 magnificent Lake District climbs bursting with history, climbed by legends, chosen by the greats and showcasing some of the very best traditional climbing that our UNESCO World Heritage site has to offer. The list is by no means definitive but it does offer a broad range of grades for all climbers to enjoy our fantastic sport.

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