mountain journal 2003
the fistral beach interview

MJ takes a stroll along a breezy Fistral Beach with some friends before chewing over the fat in a Newquay cafe ..only they didn't know about it.

First of I would like to thank you all for taking time to meet up. We have known each other for nigh on 12 years. Perhaps we can use this opportunity to reflect on those times. But let's start by going right back to roots. For those that don't know you when did you start climbing, and what got you interested in it.

Adam | It was really thanks to a coming together of a great group of friends around about the time I was at Sixth Form college. In Cambridge we were separated by many long hours in a mini bus from the nearest climbing, but somehow we managed to climb most weekends. Thanks to Andy Simpson we had a room that was devoted to our activities, it became the centre of our existence. I have always liked a challenge, trying things that were not the norm and pushing my own abilities. All though I had experimented with many other sports before they were known to be extreme it was climbing that provided me with what I was looking for. It was only after that I discovered there was a social side as well..

Nick | Yes, for me that's always been important. Climbing has always provided the opportunity to visit places I would never have been to and with people from diverse backgrounds but sharing the same interests. From the early days I found the pictures in the magazines mysterious and inspirational. I was a kid at the time and didn't know where half of these places were, let alone think I might to find myself in similar situations.

Adam | It was also a good way to attract the chicks, it kept us in trim, and we had good stories..

Colin | Perhaps we can save those for tonight Adam, for my part and since I can remember our family holidays were taken either in Scotland or Wales. From an early age I have been accustomed to going to wild places and exploring nature. Climbing just developed from that really. [chuckles]

I think we will agree that the environment has always been an important factor for all of us but there must have been people who have inspired you in these early days?

Adam | I'm not usually a beard man but my interest has always been in mountaineering and my book shelf reflects that. Of course I have always admired the rock stars of the time, but they seem to come and go so quickly. I would have to pick out Kurt Dimeberger. His achievements were incredible.

Nick | Where can I start, just limiting it to the UK there have been so many inspirational climbers of note. But, if pressed my choice would be Eric Jones; not just for his achievements on the rock, but for who he is as a man. In what other sports can you be served up a cup of tea and a bacon butty by your hero. [snaps biscuit in two]

Colin | Spot on Nick, he is quite a character, and they are top butties. But being a devotee of the shorter more technical routes, my choice would be Johnny. I remember seeing Stone Monkey for the first time. He didn't just climb over the rock he left his signature on it. You don't need to climb the great faces to enjoy climbing, just enjoy the movement. [Excited gesture knocks coffee over Adams newspaper]

All this talk of the early days is sending me dizzy. We are talking of course of the 80's. What do you remember of the climbing fashion at that time?

Nick | Some of the gear around at the time was pretty bad taste. Troll brought out some wacky designs, Calange is another name that springs to mind. I preferred to keep it natural. I was into browns and blues. One thing that was indispensable was a pair of Vaurnet's. I was doing a bit of skiing at the time.

Adam | Tights, bright, colourful tights it must be. They have to be the ultimate symbol of 80's climbing. They were slick, got you noticed and quick to dry.

Colin | I was never into the whole pattern thing but I know a lot of people who were. We have a friend who's mum was pretty handy with a sewing machine. They used to visit Robert Sayle to select material and his mum would then stitch them up. There was never anyone with the same trousers as him at the crag.

MJ | And!

Colin | Ok ok, I must admit there was the occasional bright colour in my wardrobe. For example there was that lime green snap-T.. [topping up Adams coffee]

MJ | [nodding] ... even more memorable for being 2 sizes to large, you could have got a bear in that fleece!

Colin | Yes, but I did save 40 quid.

[Nick laughs - it was he who sold him the oversized garment]

We all thought that Nick was a guiding light in those days.. recount for us now a particular moment that has become irreversibly lodged in your memory

Nick | Well, I'm not one for stories but I remember a day on Tryfan in November a couple of years back. It was, to be precise the 11th, bonfire night. We climbed 6 or 7 routes that day, moving fluidly and climbing the last in darkness. It was cold and the sky was clear with a full moon. From the summit we could see fireworks and bonfires along the valley below. Obviously we were the last on the crag, that's always a great feeling, it was awesome. Then there was the time at Tremadog when Eric jones said he had never seen anyone..

MJ | Sorry Nick, I did ask for just one moment.

Colin | [sighs] Some how Ken and Jim had persuaded me to do a climb on Corrie Shnekta. Truth be known I am not really a snow and ice man, but nevertheless we reached the top without problem, and in good time to get down before dark. However, when we got to the shoulder overlooking Corrie Cas they incredibly decided that it would be good for us to carry on to the summit of Cairngorm. But why? I still don't get it. The climb was done, why create difficulties? Anyway, we reached the top in strong winds and sheltered behind the summit weather station. It was a full white out and getting dark, no in fact it was dark. We descended slowly following the line of the ski tows. I just kept thinking, what are we doing here, we could have been down already!

Adam | A trip to Montserrat. No, not the one about Colin eating 5 courses in as many minutes. Colin and Nick had just climbed a 7 pitch route on one of the taller pillars, the one you can see along the valley from the monastery. The weather had closed in and the mountain was enveloped in cloud so we couldn't gauge their progress. After a bit Ken and myself took the path around the back of the mountain and arrived at the summit just moments after Col and Nick had arrived. You couldn't pay for the look of disappointment on their faces at the sight of us strolling up to greet them!

We have all enjoyed some sweet successes together, but what has been your nemesis, and [asking provocatively] is it to late to overcome it?

Adam | I knew this one was coming! The Tippler E1 5b on Stanage has seemed to slip by. The number of times I traversed the lip only to slump like a sack of potatoes under the final lip.

Nick | [Looking out of the window] Crescent Arete at Stanage, yep. But I will get it, I haven't given up hope yet.

MJ | Stanage again, seems to be a bit of a pattern developing..

Colin | And it continues.. Not to be taken Away, again at Stanage. The start is the hardest move, I can do it, but I have never had the stamina to complete.

I guess we all have at least one, but we are all still invariably drawn back. Where do you think the sport is going, and where is your place in it.

Adam | A new generation of climbers has come through, and this is how it should be. The faces in the magazines are changing, you no longer see Ben Moon on every second page and the girls are starting to give the boys a run for their money. It's true they are doing good things but it is important that they don't forget how things were, why in Britain we have such a great tradition and why the world looks to the UK for direction.

Nick | In a word adventure. You have seen the peak district on a summers weekend crag rage, top ropers versus the purists, guidebook writers bicker amongst themselves, we are running out of space. There is an unexplored world outside of the UK, acres of unclimbed rock because the locals cannot be bothered to walk to them. I predict that there will be a longing for a spirit of solitude, discovery and exploration. Rather than reading the mags people will be writing them. Adam spoke of the tradition, and he is right, the basic activity will never change, but the way we interact as a community is changing. Although I don't spend so much time at the end of a rope these days I am at the sharp end within the industry, shaping it and keeping it true.

Colin | Micro, it's going micro. Modern day man has enough risk in his life. The ice caps are melting, the mountains are falling down, they are relics of a bygone age. There will always be the few pushing their luck to the limit but I prefer control.

When Carroll's' Alice first met the caterpillar it asked her "Who are you?". If you met that very same caterpillar what would you answer?

Colin | Well after I had got over the shock of being spoken to by a creature well known for its innate inability to speak [faking caterpillar motion with his finger on the table] I would reply; I am just like you. We are kindred spirits waiting to mature into something beautiful.

Adam | I'm not sure it would ask me the same question, do I look like an Alice to you? [accentuates double chin in an attempt to look like an Alice]

Nick | We are all individuals, even if we share common interests. To the caterpillar I am a different person than I am to my girlfriend, my family or to you guys sitting here. [looking at Colin's caterpillar] To the caterpillar I would obviously still be Nick, that's my birth-right but I am alien to it like the moon that shines over us. If you try hard enough you can reach out to it, you can touch it, but you can never capture it.

Fantastic, speaking of reaching out, let's take a step forward to the future. Do you have any projects pending?

Nick | The future is yet to be written. From an early age we are given a pen and taught the mechanics of writing. For some people that is enough, they are trapped in the box and the ink runs dry. Chemically the ink that flows from my pen maybe the same as yours but my signature is diverse. From time to time you have to recharge the ink, run it over new textures.[Nick gets up to take a piss]

Colin | I can't separate the future from the here and now. Who know's what I will be doing 10 years time, or even within the next 10 minutes and why should I want to know?, it would just restrict my options. For the past 10 years my time has been devoted to academia. I have lived it and loved it, even if from time to time it has been a temperamental mistress. My goal is to create a synergy between my climbing activity and professional vocations. It's not always easy to balance, but nothing worthwhile ever is. For people like us climbing is basic to human activity, it is futile to separate it from the underlying matrix of life.

Adam | Sure, I have a round the world trip planned. I will be mixing up snow boarding, mountain biking, climbing and kite surfing. Its just a matter of time now. I am very excited.

MJ | Sounds interesting, don't forget to send a postcard, or even better start up a journal!

[Nick sits down]

Adam | Christ!, that was quick.

So we have spoken of the past, the future and some experience. If you could just take one thing away as a souvenir from your years on the end of a rope what would it be?

Colin | Photography, if I can have a passion as my souvenir? Thumbing back through old albums is a rare pleasure on a winters night. It's remarkable how little we have all changed over the years.

Adam | I have quite a collection of found climbing gear. Each piece reminds me of a particular climb or trip. Of course the friends are the most rewarding, they can be a bugger to get out.

Nick | I like to collect rock's. Big ones or small ones. I like to leave them around the room, either on the floor or on the shelf in a semi random way. I like to brush then over my skin, it reminds me of things forgotten, from a different time.

Thanks guys, we covered a lot of ground there and now I would just like to raise a toast to the next 12 years climbing together, Cheers!

[glasses raised]