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March 1, 2015

In my new show, rather than just be funny stories of my latest holidays (the last show - Cold Mountain was all about Antarctica in 2014), I thought I’d try something different. And so this tour looks for lessons learnt after 40+ years of climbing, big and small, funny still, but a little deeper than gags about crapping in wag bags (although I’ve them still!). Trying to work out what these lessons are has been revealing, seeing how each lesson often led onto the next, that each lesson - each climb - was being instructive, giving me insights into who I was and what I could be - allowing me to get a grip of who I really am (often while being gripped). The stories range from dropping my boot of the Frendo spur in winter (my first alpine climb), making ten days water last fourteen soloing the Sea of Dreams, battling to survive a winter storm on El Cap, each a lesson in something. I also thought about early lessons, things you see growing up, things you hear or somehow understand. I remember my best friends dad being killed in the Piper Alpha disaster, how with the compensation they could move off the council estate, that people thought them lucky in some way, that they’d won the pools. But remembering his dad, either always away - like offshore workers are - or always at home, I knew - even at that age - that money could not fill the void. Other lessons include my mum refusing to do something criminal, because she had ‘principles’, and was told ‘you’re too poor to have principles’, to which she replied ‘no one’s that poor’ - a line straight out of a Hollywood film about single mums. The last one is one that maybe gives me some understanding of my view of things to this day, and came from a world far from ideal, full of adults and kids you never saw on Terry and June or the Good Life, a world where people had little or nothing at all. I can remember the lesson hitting me as clear as day, as I was kicked in the balls, aged about 10, in a stairwell. It was that kindness is perceived as weakness by people - kids and adults - who feel their only power in this world is their bite, and that in the future your kind heart must be hidden behind bared teeth.

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