“The mountains are calling and I must go” John Muir
I came to mountains late in life, but now I am an addict.
In the early 90s, when I was nudging 30, I made my first visit to the Lake District, and scaled my first Wainwright: Wansfell. I remember it vividly. The joy of the effort, the seemingly endless views and the feel of a different weather on my face are all etched into my memory. In the intervening years a lot has changed in my life but my passion for mountains has only become stronger.
In 2003 I became a trekking guide for KE Adventure Travel, a well-respected Keswick based company and that’s when the world really opened up for me. Since then I have led more than 70 trips to some pretty wild parts of the planet. Deserts in Jordan, Morocco, Bolivia; forests in Borneo, Malaysia and Kenya; and mountains, well lots of mountains, across five continents. My various Meindl boots have traced routes across the breadth of the Himalayas, from Bhutan to the Karakorams; they have helped to propel me up the highest peaks in Africa and step softly through flower meadows on my ascents to receding Alpine glaciers; and held strong while I breached high passes in the Andes.
I haven’t stood atop too many big summits, but I have cumulatively spent many months at altitudes over 3500 metres. My first lead, nervously taken on I have to admit, was a traverse across the Cordillera Real mountains of Bolivia, in the summer of 2003. What a steep learning curve that was. Three weeks of discovering how to deal with the various ailments and complaints of a trekking group – altitude sickness, twisted ankles, accidental kerosene ingestion – and how to work with unruly , runaway, obstreperous llamas.
It has been experience, over many years, that has taught me how to ‘be’ in the mountains, how to deal with problems and cope when things get tough. For sure I have made mistakes, but I have rarely repeated them. When you do trips of any length at altitude you know that there will be tough days – that goes with the territory. But, while stories of scrapes and difficult times make for good telling, that is not really what sticks. It is said that it is only when you are at the very edge of your comfort zone, or your known horizons, do you feel truly alive; that sensation is what mountain time provides and that is what keeps drawing me back.
I am now fortunate to live in Cumbria, with its access to the Lakeland fells, and I can’t see myself leaving. I couldn’t live in a place that didn’t have mountains: that is where I am at home.