Why I climb
The best advice comes from experience. You know it, we know it. That’s why we spend as much time outdoors as we can. We caught up with Thomas from our Plymouth store, and found out what first attracted him to climbing, and what keeps him coming back.
How did you get into climbing?
I spent a lot of time hillwalking in my teens and started reading lots of mountaineering novels around that time. ‘Touching The Void’, ‘Annapurna’ and ‘Everest: Free To Decide’. Rock climbing seemed like a great way of learning the rope work and technique required for higher aspirations. At the age of seventeen, I went trekking in Ladakh; in the Indian Himalaya. Looking from a high pass across the Karakoram to K2, I realised I needed to climb. I started out at a local climbing wall and ventured outside, fairly soon after. I’ve been hooked ever since!
What kept you coming back?
The diversity of the sport keeps me permanently motivated, there’s something for every season! You could be basking in the sun, beneath Spanish limestone test pieces, one week and climbing Alpine ice-falls the next. But ultimately, it’s the people and places you find yourself in, that keeps me coming back. Adventure builds a great affinity with others.
If you could give one piece of advice to a new climber, what would it be?
Remain open minded, climbing will take you to some amazing destinations!
I had been climbing for about six years when I went on my first sport trip. I got to the chains and re-threading was completely new to me. When I started climbing, I joined a pretty old school club. Trad’ climbing was king. Living in the South-West, I was surrounded by a strong trad ethic. Protection was only placed as you climbed, making use of fissures and features the rock provided.
It wasn’t until I started pushing my grade, that I started experimenting with other styles. Bouldering, dry tooling, competition climbing, deep water soloing. The different areas of climbing complement one another.
What’s been your favourite climbing moment so far?
It’s hard to decide! I think the most memorable routes, are those you have to fight for; real type two fun.
In my first Alpine season, I attempted the Elixier d’Astaroth, on the Grand Capucin (Mont Blanc Massif). Immaculate granite, testing climbing and the isolation of the mountains – a fantastic route!
I spend a few weeks every winter, climbing in Scotland. In 2015, I was staying in The CIC Hut on Ben Nevis. The buttresses were plastered with ice and we climbed solidly for a fortnight. The highlight being Smith’s Route, high on the mountain. Shaking out on the crux pitch, I looked down to my partner; belaying in an Ice cave below, the mountain dropping away beneath his feet. Committing to the moves, we topped out on the summit plateau in a white-out; navigating our way down powder choked gullies, to warm fires and whisky.
Any climbing goals for 2017?
I’m always keen to explore different areas of the UK: Yorkshire, Lundy and The Gower Peninsular are all on my hit list. There’s a new Dartmoor Guide out, which has inspired me to rediscover the moor.
I’ve been cultivating an interest in Ski Mountaineering and am planning to ski the Haute Route (Chamonix to Zermatt), in the spring.
Maybe a trip to Fontainebleau, it’s about time I got myself over there!