How it all started
When I first started climbing it was all about the joyful selfish pleasure of it all, the summits only shared with partners - well sometimes shared with no one but myself - the terror of dangerous places, and the thrill of making it back home again, the only proof it really happened; a bag of undeveloped film, and a brain buzzing with stories to tell my mates.
Then, first through my writing, and later through speaking about my climbs, I began to find the excitement of passing on the things I’d seen ‘up there’ to others, finding it almost as thrilling as the climb itself - and sometimes just as terrifying.
Like most climbers I began talking about my trips around the tables of pubs and mountain bars, keeping friends entertained as we waited for storms to pass, psyching ourselves up for climbs to come. Soon I found myself talking not to just my friends but to the room itself, only this time having the prop of a slide projector and screen. Back then I’d probably have one or two slides to cover an entire climb, so learnt early on that words could fill in the blanks - a useful skill many years later when I forgot my slides and had to do a two hour lecture with only a white screen behind me.
Audiences grew, from climbing clubs to climbing walls, from local climbing events to international gigs in places like New Zealand, Canada and the US. Where once there had been an audience of one of two, in the space of five years it grown to thousands.
“You’re so funny, have you ever thought of doing stand up” was something many people asked, and I realised you didn’t have to be a climber to “get it’, so I landed a tour in the Picture House cinema chain, a bit of a crazy idea, a guy standing up next to the screen and talking about his holidays. But it worked. People came, and people laughed at the funny bits and went quiet at the scary bits.
And so in 2006 I took the terrifying step of going main stream, with my first proper UK tour, with my one man show Psychovertical, visiting thirty theaters and telling my strange story, a mash up of soloing the reticent wall in Yosemite, skiing across Greenland and working on Charlie and the Chocolate factory. Many theaters were sold, and by the end of one of the hardest expeditions of my life I told my story to over twenty thousand people.
It had been a long journey from those pubs and mountain bars, but in many just as exciting, scary and ultimately rewarding as the climbs I stand and talk about.