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Simon Yates: Climb every mountain

PUBLISHED: 16:08 15 February 2010 | UPDATED: 15:06 20 February 2013

Intrepid climber Simon Yates in action

Intrepid climber Simon Yates in action

The incredible story of how mountaineer Simon Yates was forced to cut his climbing partner free is the subject of the book and award-winning film Touching the Void. Kate Everett spoke to Simon as he continued his lecture tour

The incredible story of how mountaineer Simon Yates was forced to cut his climbing partner free is the subject of the book and award-winning film Touching the Void. Kate Everett spoke to Simon as he continued his lecture tour



Immortalised as 'the climber who cut the rope', Simon Yates has had more than 23 years to reflect on the dramatic events of 1985. Having completed the first ascent of the west face of the Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes, his descent was a solo affair after he was forced to cut his partner Joe Simpson free.


As he explains: 'It was a very long time ago. I was only 21 and all I really remember is hanging on to the rope with a feeling of utter helplessness. There were only two of us out there and once the rope was cut I never thought Joe was coming back so I was completely alone. It was a very difficult situation and there are no written rules, so I dealt with it in the only way I could and concentrated on surviving.'


Coming so close to death at such a young age did not put Simon off mountaineering and he has taken part in expeditions all over the world including climbs in Pakistan, the Alps, the Tien Shan and Patagonia.


'I have since had closer brushes with death than in Peru,' he recounts. 'In 1996 I was climbing a mountain in Pakistan and we were caught in a rock fall. It felt like the air around us was filled with rock, with huge boulders crashing around us and I really thought we would die, but miraculously we all survived relatively unhurt. Of course climbing is a fairly dangerous sport and some of my friends have been injured or killed, but there are plenty of others who have had more close calls than I have, and survived. It's often a matter of luck, but the more experience you have the more you learn.'


Simon's life took its most significant turn so far, when he became a father for the first time. 'People often ask me about the high point of my life,' he says. 'Without a doubt it was the birth of my daughter four years ago, followed by my son who is now two and climbing all over the house at the moment! Having children changes everything, and I am deeply conscious of them, but I reached a balance by my early 30s of what I am prepared to accept in terms of risk, so as a mountaineer I am the same man, but financially I have a family to consider.


'My talk Beyond the Void is an edited version of highs and lows of my life as a mountaineer,' says Simon. 'I have been lucky enough to travel the world and see places that literally no-one has ever seen before and it's an opportunity to share those experiences, along with some amazing images. Like many extreme sports, climbing has some fairly eccentric characters and I have had lots of quirky encounters so it's great to visit Hertfordshire and share the more humorous and bizarre aspects of a mountaineer's life.'


Simon's climbing career is far from over as he still has many challenges to achieve, as he explains, 'If time and finances allowed I would love to go and climb in the Antarctic, but for now I want to carry on sharing my experiences and knowledge of something I am passionate about. It is a shame the UK has so many incredible climbers, but the media only really talks about mountaineering when it involves Everest or when someone is killed. The most significant mountaineer of the last 20 years is a tax man from Nottingham- that shows how much coverage mountaineering gets. He has managed to do all these amazing things in his four weeks annual leave.'


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For more information visit www.speakersfromtheedge.com


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