“I remember the exact moment I took up climbing,” recalls mountaineer Simon Yates when asked where and when his love for climbing started. “I went on a school trip to the Lake District when I was 15. We camped on the side of Coniston, and did a variety of outdoor activities. The last evening, one of the instructors basically wanted to go climbing. He asked was anyone interested in joining and I stepped in. That was that. The precise moment.”
It’s a journey that took Simon and his friends to Peru where his life changed forever. Recalling the trek which took place thirty-five years ago and resulted in the best-selling story “Touching The Void”, Simon reveals “it does feel very distant now. I think I had just had my twenty-second birthday. I can still remember the details of what went on up the mountain but I don’t see pictures or remember things like what we did sat around at base camp.”
The story still fascinates people all over the world and is taking Simon on a short spoken-word tour later this Autumn. When asked if he gets more nervous standing in front of a crowd or at the base of a mountain range ahead of a climb, Simon admits “Anybody who says they’re totally comfortable standing up in front of a crowd when they do it for the first time isn’t focused. It took a little while to get used to but I’m quite comfortable with it now.”
But why are people still fascinated with the story?
Simon gives his take on this “I think many people don’t really understand the nuts and bolts of what climbing a mountain involves and that’s boring to explain to people. Therefore, if you don’t understand that side of the story then it does become more enthralling but, if you know the mechanics of the rope work and how it all works, you kind of get why things happened.”
Even though his experiences didn’t stop Simon from pursuing a thirty+ year career as a mountaineer, Simon admits “I think the biggest thing I came away with, again, when I look back on this, it’s really neither of us wanting to die. Mountaineering is an unforgiving sport. It can be, you know, terminal. The stakes can be terminal. It’s a very, very brutal way to learn how to make a mistake.”
While it has been over three decades since Simon first took up climbing and, on a well-documented journey that has taken him all over the world, the last eighteen months have forced Simon to curtail his activities but it hasn’t put a stop to his outdoor life. “I’ve been walking a lot and then, over the last year I’ve been climbing as well which has sort of rekindled my love for that as I started as a rock climber,” explains Simon when asked about how challenging the last eighteen months have been before adding “I’ve been able to do some rock climbing with my son which has been really nice.”
Listen to the full conversation here where Simon talks in more detail about his travels and his love of the outdoors then find out how Simon gets on in our mountaineering quiz.
There are still a few dates left of the tour, more details and tickets here