He was technically very proficient, but rarely took on the role of leader. An early advocate of bouldering, on the Eckenstein Boulder at Llanberis Pass he taught Archer Thomson the art of balance climbing, according to Geoffrey Winthrop Young. In the Kashmirs, in the 1890s, he conducted bouldering contests for the natives - possibly the first such "formal" competitions ever.
He was a railway engineer for most of his life - well educated, and insufferably arrogant (some said). He was not one to mince words, and a long feud with the Alpine Club caused many of its members to denigrate him. Nevertheless, he was a brilliant technical innovator and laid the foundation, with his love of bouldering, of modern British crag climbing. He is credited with designing the modern crampon and developing a short ice axe, as well as analyzing both knots and nail patterns for climbing boots.