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Matt helliker (alpinist)

On today’s episode, we have Matt Helliker, and he certainly has a few stories to tell, Matt Helliker’s life has been shaped by mountains and coastlines, from the sea cliffs of Great Britain to Scotland’s winter mountains, the European Alps to the Greater Ranges of the Himalayas, South America and Alaska. Matt has become one of the UK’s most talented and accomplished alpinists, climber and IFMGA mountain guides of his generation, with a long list of challenging and impressive first and repeat ascents to his credit.

Β Today on the podcast, we talk about why he pushes himself to these limits and the sacrifices he has made along the way.

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Transcript of our Conversation

Matt Helliker

[00:00:00] Hello, and welcome to the modern adventurer, just coming up, you know, he come mixing my likes to climbing as well. Yeah, it, it can, it can have certainly sort of some sort of negative effects on other aspects of your life as well in terms of you know, relationships and all of that stuff down the road, because it just makes lots of stuff quite hard because you’re just so focused and driven in terms of what you’re doing.

Yeah. It’s quite, it can be, it can, it, it, it, it’s it’s an amazing thing to be able to do, but it can also then, you know, be not so positive and other aspects

My next guest is Matt. Halakha. One of Britain’s elite alpinists who has pioneered some of the most remarkable climbs around the world [00:01:00] from Alaska to south America. He bases himself in the UK today on the podcast. We talk about some of his expeditions from diet to everything. We talk about some of his amazing moments along the way and how he got started as a mixed climber.

So I am delighted to introduce Matt Helicon to the podcast. Thanks for having me on mate. No worries. Very good to me too. And I mean, you are what Britta, one of Britain’s in a best ALP outness is that we call it openness. Well, openness. Yeah. Openness is a very sort of I think confusing word for some, because people like, well, what is an openness as opposed to a main snare or what climber or, or, or a ski Mountaineer it’s it’s I guess it’s basically all those things combined, I guess.

Yeah, not, not just, not just one thing, but bringing all components of climbing and mountaineering together. And that makes for an openness, I guess. So how did this all start? How did you [00:02:00] first sort of discover rock climbing and this sort of love of it? Well well, I grew up, I grew up on the men that hails down in the Southwest of the UK and which is just south of Bristol and Bristol’s got a very, very vibrant sort of climbing scene.

You know, I mean now there is probably you know, people compare it to Sheffield in terms of where people want to be based as a climber. You know, Bristol’s like the, yeah, the, the chef would have the sight of the, see what I mean. So it’s a very, very good scene down, down this way. And and the climbing, the rock climbing around here, it’s actually curb and it gives you a lot of access to a lot of really, really good rock.

You can be done on the sides coast in an hour and a half. Same up to like the north coast of Devin to Pembroke. You know, you can climb on sea cliffs, you can Boulder on sea cliffs. You have the inline quarries that we have here as well. And also, you know, places like cheddar Gorge, which obviously sort of, you know [00:03:00] more sort of natural limestone gorgeous.

So there’s a really good zone. So actually So actually B to, to start rock climbing. And I was just very fortunate that I grew up here. And I literally find, I guess my feet cliff called split rock. I was known locally as split map for a while. Because basically I’d always be there. As a, as a, as a kid, you know, I started climbing when I was, when I was 12 and you know, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing upstage obviously and convince my, my father that that I did know.

And she’d be pretty trusting thinking a 12 year old knew what they were doing. But he would always come and help me to sort of set up top probes, but spit rock and just do some, just do some climbing up there. And then from, from there, it kind of like, they kind of grew God, this sort of 12 year old, he needs knees better.

Well, yeah, I mean yeah, it’s, it’s kind of strange really in a way. I mean yeah, a lot of trust out, I think. But but no, but [00:04:00] it’s a really, it’s a really cool place to, to start climbing, you know, there, there is a really good diversity of of, of rock types and of styles as well. But I guess I kind of you know, after sort of starting rock climbing you know, I started to feel the flow for that.

And then obviously after that point, I was kind of pretty fixated with the maintenance as well. And and I guess it felt like a natural progression for me to go from sort of what climbing and into, into winter climbing and then from winter climbing to the Alps and then from the Alps to the greater ranges.

And then two, yeah. Then two expeditions and. I think that’s what we touched upon as being an openness is, you know, you, you try to master all of those aspects and then you put it together into one neat package that allows you to go and do some really cool things in the maintains, just bringing all of those, all of those skills together.

And, and, and [00:05:00] certainly you know, from a UK perspective, we’re very, very lucky to have an amazing climbing scene here. You know the as I said earlier, the styles are vast. There’s there, there’s lots of different styles of climbing we can do in the UK. And also from a winter perspective as well.

I mean, you know, we have Scotland and and that as well, I kind of cut my teeth into, into, into winter climbing and and Scotland’s. In terms of mixed climbing, you know, a lot of climb all over the world is, is probably the best mix climbing in the world. Yeah, it’s, it’s on our doorsteps. The only problem with it is it’s very ephemeral.

It’s not always in good condition because from an ethical point of view you know, you have to get the right conditions to be climbing on the cliffs in Scotland. You can’t just go there’s snow on the ground. You can’t just go and scratch and dry, tall, your way up black clefs, you know, they have to rhymed up.

So therefore why me is basically, you know, plat, you know, snow that has frozen onto the rock face to give you that really beautiful [00:06:00] rhymes. Ice effect, and it looks like ice, but it’s just Ryan. And in Scottish winter climbing that you can only climb on these clips when they’re riding. So you need snow, you need the wind in the correct direction for those clips to rhyme up for the cliffs to become into condition from an ethical point of view, to be able to climbing on there.

So so Scotland’s very ephemeral from that point of view, but when you get it, it’s like amazing. I mean, I’ve been up here, I’ve been up to Scotland and I’ve had chips up there where we looked at the forecast that looks like it was good to go. And then yeah. Then a bit warm front comes through and like a promising winter of weeks on end of good climbing can, can change overnight to basically a miserable soggy mess when you can’t even leave the car.

But that’s what really makes it really, really, really rewarding, I guess. And so was this sort of progression from Bristol to Scotland then out to the Alps and then onto some of your bigger worldwide [00:07:00] expeditions? Yeah, I mean I think, I think the thing was, is you know, I, it was a, it was it was a very steep learning curve and I mean, I left school at 16.

I was academically, I was terrible. You know, I was I hated school. And you know, I think, you know, I didn’t really get any GCSE or anything like that, and I certainly didn’t want to do a levels. And yeah, and I just wanted to go climbing and I knew from a very young age, what I wanted to do. And I remember talking to my dad about it and go, and he’s like, son, what do you want to be when you’re older?

I’m like, I want to be a climber. And he’s like, Hmm.

Was it on your cats?

The escape thing where it goes, you’d be really good as like a hotel manager or a bank or something. Just like all these rogue professions, mountain climber was definitely not there. I scrolled and scrolled and scrolled and it wasn’t on that. It wasn’t on that. So So I had to kind of like, you know find my own way with that.

[00:08:00] And I was very fortunate to get some really good sponsors, a young age who, you know, the majority of which I’m, I’m still with NEI. And that’s like a little family thing. For me it feels like my family and my sponsors because yeah, they’ve been with me from my whole journey. And yeah, it just seemed like the natural progression to go from rock to scotch when wouldn’t enter the Alps.

But then, yeah, I mean, I did my first winter season in the outs. I’d never, you know, I, I never had the benefit of doing like sort of ski trips at school. And then my parents never sent me on those. So that’s sort of 16. I went to the Alps and like, yeah, I lived in a in a two-person apartment and we had 14 of us in there.

It was absolutely gross. And you know, we were lying all lying on mattresses and, you know, there was drugs, alcohol, sex, rock, and roll, but I [00:09:00] wasn’t involved in any of that. Unfortunately I would literally just basically have my earplugs in. I would get up first thing in the morning and I skied every single day of that winter to try to teach myself.

And and at that point, It wasn’t to go skiing to be like a free rider or something like that. It was like literally to give me the access into the maintenance because obviously in the Alps, you know, when you go and do some winter albinism, the last thing you want to be doing snow sharing.

I mean, no one wants to snowshoe. I mean, that’s misery. And yeah, so the only access to get into the routes that I really wanted to go and do in winter, the Alps was by ski. And obviously I couldn’t ski at that point. So I was like, well, I’ve get into the lens of ski. And then I need to learn to ski them with a massive pack on we went through some craziness of skiing and climbing boots, which is a complete disaster because, you know you know, you don’t have any sort of flight, you know, front flax, the boots are obviously much, much lower than a ski [00:10:00] boot.

But you know, but we were doing it and we were like combating all the way down. After doing big routes in, in winter light, you know, stacking it every single term with huge packs on your mate having to drag you out of the snow because you couldn’t get up yourself, you know, because you’d fall over so much.

But yeah, and, and, and it was, it was pretty grim living to be honest with you in this apartment. But it really kind of taught me yeah, it, it taught me a lot and And then the following winter wasn’t much better. I mean, I lived in a gallery in Chamonix and I was an, I remember vividly sort of like, you know, I was, I was, I was picking off my camping stone from the garage and I was sleeping under these plastic garden furniture freezing my ass off.

And I remember just thinking this, this is grim, you know, this is actually done, but actually it also sets you up for bivouacs and and it brings that sort of like, you know, sort of I guess a little bit of toughness and you kind of learn to suffer a little [00:11:00] bit, but I learned to suffer in a garage as opposed to on the main stage at that stage, but then it then went forward into the main thing.

I always revert myself back to that cold, miserable minus 30 winter in the garage, on the concrete floor. Yeah, so, no, I mean, yeah, so, so the album is definitely. Something where I kind of took my rock climbing the UK and my Scottish winter climbing in the UK to the Alps. And and to be brutally honest, I mean, the Alps can be hard.

That big day is a big maintains, but in terms of the actual learning and in terms of a venue that really makes you a really good Mountaineer it’s Scotland, because in Scotland, you go out in bad weather, you have to navigate, you’re often wet and cold as opposed to dry cold, which is a lot more easy to manage in the Alps and the Alps.

You generally only go out if there’s blue skies and and Scotland meets you [00:12:00] hard. And I find that previous, you know, that since then rather before a big trip. Well, I’d go on an expedition. I’d always much preferred to spend a period of the preparation in Scotland over the Alps, because it just brings that hardness back and, you know, the walk-ins along you carrying heavy packs, you know, you’ve got to deal with some really sort of inclement weather.

And and I, I don’t think that’s why grace climbers have done so well in the greater ranges over the years because yeah, our, our sort of place where we learn to, or it’s just hard. Yeah. I think when you’re sort of saying that I remember living when I was living in the Alps and came back and as you say, the dry code is completely different to the sort of British code.

I’d always find you go out minus 10 in a t-shirt in the Alps. You lovely. And then you come back and it’d be 12 degrees here. You would be wrapped up freezing cold. It’s [00:13:00] just like that wet wind chill that gets you every time. And in Scotland, living in Scotland, I mean, the weather is just erratic. Yeah.

Yeah. And I, and I did, and I did you know, I could winters in my van in Scotland as well. I mean, Yvonne, I mean, I’ve got a, quite a nice fun night. But but then I had this really sort of rough farm that was just ply lined inside. Didn’t have any heaters. So then, you know, coming back after a big day in the head in Scotland, all your gear, like soaking wet, your ropes got paying and just trying to dry your kits out with the engine on, and then turn the engine off at night and you wake up prison cold.

You put your wet boots back on, you do climbing again, but your ropes are aware your gloves having dry day. Oh, yeah. What was I doing? I mean, it wasn’t, it wasn’t much fun. I mean, it’s like, it’s tight. It’s definitely that whole like type two fun. Yeah. We, we had liver Livia smoker on a couple of episodes back and she was talking about type two fun and how it’s [00:14:00] definitely the best.

It’s where the best stories come from. Yeah. They are. I mean, you know, I mean, I think with albinism, it’s always that, I mean, you’re always, you’re very rarely going, oh, this is sweet. You know, you’re, you’re more going, this is measured. What the hell am I doing? You know, I could be, I could be on some like beautiful sunny, like beach or like some chilled sea cliff climbing or whatever.

But yeah, like, you know, albinism is just hard. It’s not glamorous. You know, it’s But it is incredibly rewarding when you get dying. And and also it’s one of those things where I find you. Yeah, you just literally are never fully kind of over it either because of the fact that, you know, you have this drive to you know, know what’s running next corner, [00:15:00] for example, if you’re kind of doing like a new route, which is really what I’m about, you know, I really enjoy doing, you know, first the sentence because of that whole thing of, yeah.

The unknowing, if you like. Yeah. It’s that sort of fear of, you know, once it’s been done, you know, that the fear factor has gone, it’s completely different, you know, I mean, you know, going repeating routes Is completely different to opening new reads for sure. Because, you know like you say that whole element of doubt, isn’t there as you know, it’s possible.

And if you’re, if you’re climbing quite well and essentially know the people who’ve done that, you’re like, well, I can climb them and the conditions are as good, or if not better, I can totally do this, you know? And and it takes a little bit of the edge out of it. For me, I’m honest. Whereas you know, more recently, I guess I’ve much preferred to, I’ve got a weather window, obviously it’s been very different this year because this whole pandemic, we’re not gonna have to [00:16:00] travel, but in normal years when you know, I’m, I’m, I’m winter climbing.

Yeah. I you know, if I have a weather window, I’d much prefer to go and fail on something new as opposed to go and repeat something that is being climbed. By other people it’s just a much different vibe. And yeah, I, you know, and along with sort of various number of partners, I’ve opened up, you know, many new routes in the mines ins across the world.

And and it’s it’s a really rewarding experience that’s for sure. I think it was Tana who, who sort of said like when he opens up new couloirs or anything, or go somewhere else, as soon as he knows someone has already done that, it just takes all the fun and all the excitement out of it. Is that the sort of feeling you get from opening up new routes.

Definitely. And also, I think the thing is when I’m opening up new routes and I’ve never placed a pole in my life, I mean, there’s [00:17:00] nothing wrong with bolts in the right places and the right context. So for sport climbing, bolts, faulted lines. Awesome. What, after all that I sport climb as well, but in the main scenes I never ever take a Baltic Chet.

You know people do. And I think Brenda Messner was the first person to say, it’s like, you know, it’s, it’s murdering the impossible, you know, when you place a bowl in the mountains, because I’m, I’m, I’m definitely a big believer. And I think this comes a lot from my ethics, winter climbing in Scotland, is that in Scotland, there are no bolts in the maintenance, you know, there’s no fixed anchors.

You know, you’re, you’re, you’re climbing and you’re searching for natural protections. You have your cams, you have your wires. You might have a peg that you can hammer in, but then it gets taken out again. But yeah, so, so, so nothing is actually being left on the mountain. Whereas, you know, if you go and you get to a blank section and then you just get your drill in drill a bowl, it takes that edge out of it.

It [00:18:00] takes that commitment out of it. And also for the, for the, the next person who would come and repeat your route, it then completely takes, takes the edge away because, you know I, I’m a big believer in leaving exactly what you find and then the experience for the next person is going to be close to yours.

You know, I mean, yeah, we we’ve said the new routine once you’ve done it. It takes the element of uncertainty, if it’s possible, how to there for a second essentially, or further down the road, but still, I think the, you know, as long as the experience, the climbing experience and how you protect the climb to make it safe and how you sort of work out how you’re going to get off the routes safely.

You know, if that is still the same as the first person that wasn’t, that’s open it’s, it’s still really, really cool. And and yeah, I think. Far too [00:19:00] many bolts in the maintains placed when they really don’t need to be. You know, I mean, I’ve seen bolts in the mumble Massif range placed next to like perfect crack lines, how you can place a cam and then the second person up can take it out and you’d leave nothing there, but someone’s gone with a drill and guns and put a bolt in.

But again, I think that comes a lot from, you know, our UK ethics of climbing and the ethics in the UK of climbing is, is very real. And, you know, and if you were to basically go against that, I mean, there’s enough people who would properly call you out on it. And and yeah, and for me, it, it, it it’s what keeps the style of climbing really really special.

It’s the whole sort of what do you call it? It’s the sort of slogan for Patagonia, or just leave any footsteps and where I can split train this one. What’s this one it’s slightly leave only [00:20:00] footsteps and take any memories or something on those lines. I mean yeah. It’s yeah, I mean, I’ve been fortunate to be with for almost 25 years now.

So they were one of my first sponsors. And they’ve been, like I said earlier, they’re like a family to me. I work really closely with those guys you know, from the, the, the, the office in Europe to also the people in Ventura in in California as well. And and as an ambassador for Patagonia.

Yeah. I mean, it’s it’s not just about the climbing, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s also about about how you conduct yourself and then your community and You know, I mean, you know, we’re not all activists, but then also at the same time, I think it’s really important for them that you have a passion and you really care about, you know, where you’re at and want to protect those places.

And and also from a, you know from that sort of thing as well, I I’m I’m involved with the product testing. So we get a lot of products that is kind of quite bizarre. [00:21:00] And then they give it to the ambassadors and we take it away and we go, must be, we’re not sure about that. And also that would go back to the forge and they’ll, they’ll adjust it and come back and then eventually it might go to production or it might not.

And, and that whole process of working part again is really, really poor. Like really enjoy that. You know, it’s another aspect of, you know using your experience in the main but other people can then benefit from when it comes from a clothing system point of view or a pack or sleeping bag or something like that.

Your, one of your big trips was in Alaska. What was this sort of purpose behind this trip? Well, I guess it kind of depends. It’s when you mean I’ve been to Alaska many times. But Alaska generally for me is a great place for albinism. I mean, there’s a number of reasons. It’s kind of like, I think someone used to CLO like fast food albinism, you know, you can literally go that, you know, you don’t really need to worry about climatization unless you’re climbing on.

Well, really like [00:22:00] Foraker hunter or Denali, you know, all the other maintains are pretty low altitude, so you can just go and you can just go climbing and gotta to worry about. Yeah. Any altitude issues like you do if you go to the Himalayas, for example and it’s just an amazing venue. I mean, you can literally, you know, the flow, you know, B B be taken in on a on a Bush plane within like three days of leaving the UK and you get dropped in the middle of nowhere and you own that place for yeah.

As long as you want to be a month, five weeks, whatever. And then very stunning, they really lend themselves to climbing. And yeah, and like I said, with the access of the of the Bush plane, it kind of makes things really easy to get in and out and also to go and explore different zones. So if you get dropped in into one, one section of the range and the conditions are very [00:23:00] bad when, I mean conditions, I mean, People might not sort of fully understand when I say conditions is that obviously what we need when we mix climbing is we don’t want too much snow because everything will be buried.

And you just spend forever kind of like digging out everything. We want a form of consolidation in the snowpack from an avalanche point of view something that’s really, really important to make things safe. And also we need to have that sort of melt, freeze buildup on the maintain faces.

So we get that. That ice to form. And and that’s called , it’s kind of a type of ice that you get on the main things that is like very white and it sticks to like rock and it it’s really a very different sort of ice to like a cascade ice. You imagine a cascade ice is very brittle. It shutters when you place an ice ax into it, but our minds in mind tonight is very chewy.

That’s a way of [00:24:00] describing it. And when your ax is going to tonight, it feels absolutely bombed. It doesn’t feel like it’s going to rip through. It doesn’t feel like if it was very, very, very secure. And you know, and, and, but that is also quite a femoral. So therefore, you know, as I said, you need a period of melt freeze for, for that to actually form.

So you need storms, you need high temperatures to melt it. You need to rephrase, you need another storm and you just need that process to keep kicking in and to get these likes sort of these, these ribbons of ice that you see on the maintains that people can then go and they can go and climb up. And obviously the thing with mixed climbing is then linking these ribbons into, into rock sections and then back onto the ice.

And then so that we’re using your rock scales and using your mixed climbing skills. So yeah, so, so that’s the really cool things that, so if the maintenance is not in condition in one, in one zone, because the Alaska range is massive [00:25:00] you can literally, yeah. You know, get on the phone to Paul Roderick, who is our pilot in in Alaska, from tat an awesome guy who will literally yeah.

Basically fly in, pick you up and then take you to a different zone. As I said, because it’s such a huge place, you know, the conditions definitely Berry from one place to another. So I think from a yeah, from, you know, from that point of view, it’s an amazing place to go climbing. You have a lot of possibilities and they’re just like, they’re just incredible maintenance.

They’re like incredible maintenance, you know, like beautiful granite spires and yeah. Sort of interlinked with these like sort of like dripping ribbons of ice. It’s it’s an, it’s an amazing place to climb and you don’t have to worry about altitude. And, and for me, that is one thing. Where, you know, I don’t mind altitude I’m okay.

Altitude. But when you start introducing altitude into the, into the mix, the naturally the [00:26:00] style of how you’re going to climb, or the technicality of how you’re going to climb goes down, because, you know, if you’re climbing at 8,000 meters it’s hard work and it’s more like high altitude walking. I find that quite boring.

If I’m honest, you know, I want to be climbing. I don’t want to be walking in snow. And you know, so for me, if I can find a main maintain that is maybe, I don’t know, six and a half thousand meters maximum. But the actual relief of the face is plus a thousand meters to 2000 meters. Then it means you can climb.

On a really big mixing maintain, but without the altitude issues, but because of that, you can climb really hard technical routes. And that is where I’m, I find things like really interesting. And, and it comes down to that whole thing as well is, you know, [00:27:00] I, I, I like to go to these places where no one’s been, and I mean, I’d hate to be involved in these things where they’re like, I’m only saw pictures of Everest base camp, but recently, I mean, it looked horrific.

I mean, base camp was like two miles long. I mean, you know, and then there’s, there’s, there’s, there’s ropes everywhere that of people that’s footsteps. And yeah, that’s, that’s not for me. That’s not saying it’s not for everyone. And, and everyone should find their own you know, what they find acceptable and the style that they wish to climb in.

And and, and also for me, you know, the style I like to climb at Alpine style. In the mind scenes which I guess up until a while ago, it was quite a modern way of thinking. You know, it used to be years, years ago, they didn’t have this capsule style. So you fixed ropes and you put a camp and then you fixed ropes and you put a camera on and you might come back down the ropes of base camp and recover it.

And you go back up the ropes back, down and back up. But the problem with that obviously is it takes a lot of time. You’re in the danger zone for quite a long period of time. [00:28:00] If there is objective danger what I mean by that is, you know, if they’re avalanche prone slopes, or if there are ice cliffs looming above you, that you don’t want to be hanging around that for long periods of time.

But also I think from a commitment side of things as well, you know, again, I think it was mark Twain, who said, you know, you, you have that commitment to the goal. You know, you have that connection to the grind when there are fixed ropes, you’ve never left the grind. Right. So. I know exactly what it means, you know, and it just takes that level of yeah.

Of edge and, you know being completely off the leash out of it. And Alpine style climbing is basically when it’s just you and your mate at the bottom, got a rucksack. Each you’ve got two ropes. You might have a third rope as a tagline. So you can hold a rucksack between the two of you. But literally you’re just swinging leads, swinging [00:29:00] leads all the way up the mountain, and you’re not having any connections to the grind and you’re not fixing any, any ropes.

And that is for me, like, you know, the way I like to climb because it’s, it feels very comforting. It feels very fluid because you’re always moving. But then also at the same time, there is an element of that that makes it slightly more dangerous, I guess, because you know, things go wrong. Yeah.

You know, you’ve only got two ropes to get down, as opposed to just wrapping down hundreds of meters of fixed rope. But but you just work that I, if it goes wrong, have there been moments where you have come into trouble climbing? Yeah, I think, you know yeah. Yeah. I have I’ve had some, some you know, and I’m not going to lie.

I’ve lost a lot of friends to the maintenance like close friends, you know, and I’m not as difficult. And and yeah, I mean, we all have our, we all have our moments, but but, [00:30:00] but I kind of do see how I climb as it’s very calculated. I’m not reckless. I really plan everything from equipment to line, to the sense to what you’re reading to, you know, all those important things that will keep you going.

And and I think it’s, you know, and it also comes down to the fact of being in those places with the right people as well. And I’ve got like a core group of people that I’ll go on expedition with to climbing the mountains only a very small handful of people. But. It takes a long time to build that rapport, you know, and, you know, with a lot of my mates that we climb, we don’t even need to have a discussion.

You know, it’s, you know, you have that feeling through the rope. If you make them anxious about something, or maybe if you’re a bank it’s just about something. Or if you think we’re [00:31:00] pushing a bit deep here, we might need to take a step back and descend or do you know what, maybe we’re not pushing hard enough or some amount of where this is just like, kind of crack on, you know, you know, there’s something going on, but we just being using the bar vibe, you know, we’re gonna need to step this thing up, you know?

So it’s, it, partners are very, very important. And you know, a good partner will take you to the edge and hope to pull you back again. And you know, and but yeah, I mean, I think to be honest with you, you know, Albinism is a dangerous sport. And there’s always going to be an element of danger.

You never, ever going to take that away. But then also that is something that makes it as as rewarding as what it is. I accept the risks I’ve as I said, I’ve, I’ve gone through that process of losing friends to the main scenes. I know the damage that, that also leaves behind to loved ones. But yeah, it’s, it’s a very it’s a very [00:32:00] crazy thing.

I mean, you know, I’m, I’ve, you know, I’ve done it all my life. I’m, I’m sucked in, you know, I, I feel now that, you know, I’m still quite lucky to be here because I look back at times in my twenties and early thirties where yeah, I was pretty loose at times. And as you get older, you obviously become more experienced and.

A bit more risk averse and try to make the right decisions or try to be less reckless in terms of your route choice. So now if I’m doing it during a trip, you know, it, it really is a thing where we’re like, well, clearly, you know, because we have hard friends that haven’t come back, you know, you do look at the line to make sure objectively that it’s safe, you know, and maybe if it’s not safe, then you’ll just go, do you know what, mate, let’s look at this mountain instead, Surrey, there’s lots of mountains and, you know, I’d hate to being hit on the head by something, you know, or something like that.

So yeah, but it’s, you know, I mean but I think, you know, I think it can be a bit of a bad rap sometimes in terms of [00:33:00] people thinking that it’s, it’s, it’s really dangerous. And I think a lot of it, if I’m honest as well, right. I mean, we see it in the press sometimes on the news about Everest, the light, it gets very much bad press and glorified from that side of things.

But climbers who are in the signs, maybe egotistical, but climates who are really pushing hard in the mountains. There are few accidents because they are very in tuned to what they’re doing and they’re talented. It’s the people who are less experienced that can put a vibrant cross that what we’re doing is, is dangerous, even though it is dangerous, but we just manage, manage the risks better.

Yeah. I think, you know, people listening might sort of question about like, you know, what drives you to risk your life for doing this? But as you say, the experience of [00:34:00] professionals. It’s very, I mean, I imagine like most are completely control, control freaks in their environment. They know exactly the sort of snow pack they’d sort of dig away at it.

And it’s when you say a sort of bad rap, it’s the people, you know, Jay blogs from down the road can pay a hundred thousand to go and climb Mount Everest, having never climbed before. And so he pays a hundred thousand and he can just go up with all the oxygen and they basically sort of force him up, but the sort of, and he’s never climbed, but he just sort of wants to climb Mount Everest because it’s the coolest mountain in the world.

And so I sort of imagined that your, what you do is more of a sort of sense of discovery. It’s a sense of fulfillment and you are very controlled in what you do. You can’t always. Things will always happen, but in terms of what you do, it’s always [00:35:00] about minimizing risk. Exactly. And I think for sure, you know, I mean, I would never you know, I can’t compare myself to you know, these people paying all this money to go and do the big mines in the Himalayas, you know, guided, I mean, it’s complete, it’s a completely different thing.

If you were to put those people in the environments that we’re climbing in, I mean, they wouldn’t be able to pull a move off the grain. Yeah. You know what I mean? So it’s a very, very different thing and it’s and it does frustrate me sometimes where people go like, yeah. You know, I mentioned it, I do all this and this and this.

You’re like, mm it’s a completely different ball game. It’s completely different, you know? And yeah, so I think, but I think, you know, it’s I think you’re right. I mean, it, yeah, it is, it is just a very calculated thing, but I guess, yeah, I am a control freak. I mean, it’s funny, you know, like I see what I’m doing is [00:36:00] safe.

I hate flying. I hate flying. I, I, I get really scared flying, ridiculous, you know, and everyone’s like looking at me, you know, but I mean, I hate flying because I’m not in control. You know, I’d much rather have a go myself upfront as opposed to rely on someone else, right. You’re in a tree achieve out of your control.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. In the mindset, you know, I feel that I have a huge element of control with me and also with, with the experience of my partner as well, like they gel together, you know? And yeah. And so yeah, I, yes. From that side of things, you know, I am but then also it, you know you know, in, in, in having to, in, in, in, in committing my life to climbing as well yeah, it, it can, it can have certainly sort of some sort of negative effects on other aspects of your life as well in terms of relationships and all that stuff down the road, because it just makes lots of stuff quite hard because you’re just so focused and driven in [00:37:00] terms of what you’re doing.

So, yeah, it was quite, it, it can be, it can be, it’s a, it’s an amazing thing to be able to do, but it can also then, you know, be. Not so positive and other aspects was Ben Sanders. He sort of described it as sort of place to having like cocaine a drug problem. It’s sort of so addictive, but you don’t really know what it’s like.

It’s, you know, has all the capacity to burn all your money. It has to ruin every relationship, but there’s something about living life on the edge or doing something you love, like what you do that has that sort of capacity, which people can’t really understand exactly. I mean, it’s an absolute passion and and if I didn’t call him, I mean, I look at people and go, if you climb, what, what, what did you do?

Like, you know, what do you do in your life? You know? And obviously there’s much more of the things in climbing. But for me in my life, it’s [00:38:00] kind of. The be all and end all. And it always has been all my life. And you know, I’ve missed out probably on a lot of core stuff and a lot of cool experiences because of the fact that I’m so driven and passionate about the single thing.

But I think that is where also being like an orang climber. Who’s actually really quite challenging, quite interesting because you know, I’m not just a winter climber. I’m not just a rock climber. I’m at all combined. And that’s also very cool because you also get to like move with the seasons, you know?

So like when, when the Bach seasons over, I’m not pining because I’ve got to wait the whole winter to go rock climbing again. You know, I’ve got to travel to places to do that instead or whatever is that right? Okay. Winter’s on. And now I’ve got my skis on, I’m going to go winter climbing. And then when, when, when the winter seasons over, why I’m back onto what climbing and bouldering and.

Tried climbing and doing trips away doing that instead. And [00:39:00] I think having, you know, I think if I was just focused on one aspect of climbing, let’s just say I was just a Boulder. You know, I think it would feel less less jeez at my time less. But because I’m trying to do everything, it’s like a full time commitment, you know?

And, and obviously the thing with that as well is that from a trading point of view, it makes things very difficult because all the training for each aspect is also very, very different. You know, just because you’re maybe doing individual like sport climbing, well, It doesn’t mean you’re going to transfer that fitness into the maintenance.

Well, because you’re in the mind scenes, you know, you need a lot more cardio work. Whereas when you’re a sport climbing, you don’t see don’t really do any much or much cardio. It’s all just weight management stuff, but then yeah. Then you’d go into the winter season and you can’t even get to the mindset because you’re knackered, but your fingers are like strong as hell, you know?

And you know, and [00:40:00] you’re climbing really well and you’re really lean. But so yeah, the transfer from each different aspect of climbing can be a nightmare. And that for me is one thing that I really, you know, suffered because I’m, I’m on this thing at the moment. I just really want to climb like top-end in all aspects and I can be found I do more or less anyway, but I’ve set myself these goals in terms of what I want to do with that.

And So at the moment I’m climbing quite well, but yeah, if I was to then go straight back into the mountains now, You know, I’ll be climbing well, but yeah, I would be like suffering big time, you know, from a cardio point of view. But the good thing is that obviously that comes back because I have a high base because I’ve done it all my life, but it just means that just means adapting.

And and yeah, and like for my expeditions next year, you know, I’ll, I’ll, I’ll at least have a winter to spring board into an expedition. And so you’re going a bit more [00:41:00] sort, the ski and 19 fitness, as opposed to just what fitness is, what I’m doing at the moment, because the training that goes into your expedition is phenomenal in terms of your diet, because you from, from sort of five, 10 years ago, your, you sort of moved from diet to diet, and now you’re a much more sort of plant-based.

Have you sort of found the sort of transfer from a normal everyday diet to the more plant-based sports focused. Yeah. I mean I mean, I find food fascinating and all of that, that goes with it. So yeah, I mean, I was B I was vegetarian for many, many years, 20 years, and then the last six years I’ve been vegan.

And and the reason I chose to be vegan was for a number of reasons from an environmental point of view my carbon footprint was pretty big because of the fact that I was flying on expeditions and [00:42:00] trying driver a van, you know, and all that sort of stuff. So I was trying to like curb my carbon footprint.

So I try and do the right thing from, from that side of things, but also from animal welfare point of view as well. I love animals. Dogs, especially love dogs. I, I became vegan provision, but also I really wanted to kind of like see how I could do it from a yeah, from a health performance side of things as well.

And I’ve tried to do it the right way. I mean, I, I supplements a lot like. Vitamin D B12. I take some beats aniline, which is stuff that you get from meat normally, which kind of helps and sort of car insurance type stuff. And I, I’m really kind of careful with the amounts diets. Although at the moment I’m kind of like, because of this phase of training I’m in, at the moment, which is come that base phase where you just basically build muscle.

I literally been like in sort of this, this sort of calorie calorie surplus for the whole winter. And [00:43:00] then I’m climbing heavy at the moment because of muscle mass, but then as the season goes on, want to get closer to my work projects, then I’ll start to cut a little bit and then I’ll go in sort of closer color calorie deficit and just lose a little bit to then send and then come back up then.

So says like sort of fighting weight again. But I, I, you know, But I I’ve also done it wrong as well, you know? I mean, I like, I feel a lot better and stronger now eating as opposed to when I was just always on, about trying to stay light. I mean, I’m 77 kg at the moment. I mean, last year at this time I was like 71.

And I know I can get my weight back down to lot. It’s not level just by losing muscle mass which I probably will do for a project later in the autumn. But then obviously it’s a fine line between cutting and being liked and sending it’s a fine line between [00:44:00] that and going too far down into like potentially having like an eating disorder because climbing, you know, climbing whether people like it or not is, is It’s a strength to weight ratio sport.

If you’re lighter, you’re column harder. I mean, I’m sorry. It’s how it works, you know? But then you have to make sure that, you know, that you see keep that element of of robustness I would say. And and I got injured. I, I blew an aid to pulley and my finger when I was going really, really well last year like a bad rupture.

And I think it was because I was so low in terms of sort of calories that my tendons are probably getting weaker. And I think I probably blew my tendon because of, because of my diet, as opposed to doing anything wrong. So so yeah, so all of that, I find quite fascinating. And again, you know, if you were to then put that context into optimism yeah.

You need to eat loads because, you know, it’s, it’s more, you know, I mean, there’s no point [00:45:00] in being. Really skinny and then for a big trip to the mountains, because you’ll have no reserve. But then yeah, you don’t really want that reserve when you’re trying to do perform a drop climbing. So it’s you know, but I, I also find very fascinating how your body adapts and how you can change your body.

I mean, my body is very responsive to training, I guess, into, and so what I eat, I know if I be in badly, I hate myself for it. And I just feel terrible. Or I know if I’ve been eating the right things and well, and there’s a very good book actually called thrive which is Brendan. Greasier something like that.

I think his name is Brendan Breezer, who was a triathlete and he did a, and he’s a vegan. He did a cookbook it’s called thrive. I think it’s called energy, something, tribe, energy living or something like that. And energy performance. And that’s a very good cookbook. And I use that quite a lot for cooking because he comes at it from a marketing [00:46:00] point of view in terms of what vegans actually need to try to keep obviously performance.

But it can be a challenge. I mean, you know, I’m in my van at the moment all the time and trying to cook, you know, I do cook well, I eat really well and I am very particular. But you know, it’s not always so easy on like two hope.

Well, Matt, it’s been absolutely amazing sort of hearing about all the stuff you’ve been getting up to. There’s a part of the share where we asked the same five questions to each guest each week with the first being on your trips or expedition, what’s the one thing that you always, what sort of gadget do you always take with you?

It has to be my music. It’s gotta be my I love music. So I’d always need my, my AirPod probably it’d be my AirPods for my music and obviously I need my phone as well [00:47:00] for that. Downloaded music. I’ve done that before I go on an expedition, had all my tunes lined up. Flew onto somewhere and I’m like, I’m not downloading anything and has no views.

That was brutal. Yeah, no, I mean, I love the music. I love my I’m very, you know, in terms of genres, I love my hip hop, 11 drum and bass. Yeah, I, if you missed the, I said at the moment, I’m, I’m less than a lots of Drake. And yeah, so basically a lot of UK sort of like little of UK hip hop as well, I’m really into the moment, you know, sort of gangster rap. I kind of like, I call it the pipeline, like poked calling, quite motivating.

And but occasionally I do go back, I revert back to my old scores or rage against the machine and so presale and stuff like that, you know? But I love like chasing status and you know, if I want a bit of dance a bit dead, my sometimes stuff like that, you know? But yeah, no, I. So music is my motivation man, for sure.

And if I’m training, I don’t have music. I may as well not train. Yeah, it’s a, it’s a [00:48:00] big thing. It’s a big part of my life actually. Yeah. I’m ruining my ears. I’m sure that, what about your favorite adventure or travel book? My adventure my favorite book is pretty easy. I’m not a great reader to be fair.

But there’s one book that I’ve had as my motivational Bible for years. And there’s a climber American climber called Mark’s whites, who from you know, I’ve met mark and I don’t have heroes, but he’s very motivating to me. He’s close to one for me. And he has a book called kiss or kill. And it’s yeah, it’s Kissel kale, the story of a serial climber and he’s an American alpinists he gave up climbing years ago, but his writing and his style is incredibly motivating and I see very much parallels in his life to [00:49:00] my life.

And I have to say, and in terms of reading that book over and over again, it’s definitely helped me from a life journey point of view as well. So yeah, read that book. It’s really, really cool. Why are, why are these adventures important to you? Adventure is important to me because I mean, there’s a number of reasons.

It’s, it’s obviously there’s the, the satisfaction that you get from adventure and the unknown. And I think that is something that I think everyone should experience in their lives, but also from a human element as well from the the friendships that you build with people in these environments.

And and it definitely gives you a, a very close bond with people that you go climbing with. And it doesn’t have to be an epic trip. It doesn’t have to be this epic storm or whatever for you to kind of have this sort of like this bond. It can just be a subtle experience. It can be just a [00:50:00] sunrise.

It can be a bit of a whack. It can be a pitch of climbing that was the most memorable thing ever, or it can be, you know, getting up a Boulder problem in the wet where you’re both properly going for it and giving each other loads of like motivation and got the tunes going and. It’s those things that I think is, is what’s really important.

What about this sort of favorite adventure quote? I have got one, but I’m trying to think about it and I and actually it’s it’s it’s it’s actually a mark Twain quote and I wish I could flip the phone up and find it, but I can’t, but it’s along the lines of I’m going to get this so wrong, but it’s along the lines of like it would be very

it would be very upsetting if you basically didn’t like to be very upset and they didn’t basically go for [00:51:00] what you really dream. About doing and then being alive to kind of look back and knowing that you never did. If that makes sense, that’s not the exact quote, but it’s along those lines, it’s the idea of regret what-if exactly.

And, and I have in my life, like, no I I’ve always had no no regret and and I think, you know, I made the decisions that I’ve made for the right reason at the right time. And and, and, and I think it’s also kind of a big, you know, with that quote is a very much a thing of, you know, making sure you do take those opportunities when they arise, if they feel like you should.

And Because, yeah. I mean, regret would be a horrible thing. So yeah, you’ve got to charge. Yeah, I think I remember [00:52:00] seeing some horrifics stat of people in like an old people’s home and regrets that they had. And usually it’s always, I wish I had gone for this or gone for that. It’s always the things they didn’t do rather than the things they did do.

Yeah, exactly. And I think that’s when we can all learn from that, you know? And and I think particularly with this whole last year that everyone’s had has been really, really tough. I think a lot of people have probably been given that kick up the ass that they need to go. Do you know what actually.

Wow. That’s a year that’s gone so quick. I need to, I need to get on with this, you know, and I need to take all these opportunities that are coming to me to make my life more fulfilling and to yeah, and, and to not be that person who turns down opportunity because they feel they should when actually deep down is something that they really [00:53:00] want.

Yeah. I agree with that. I think I imagine a lot of people were sort of, what’s the word sort of walking like zombies day-to-day in every teen and then suddenly the pandemic hit and they were like, whoa, what just happened? What it, five, 10, 20 years just go. Been doing the same thing. Exactly. People listening are always keen to travel and go on these sort of grand expeditions.

What’s the one thing you would recommend for people wanting to get started and what you do, I think to to find a mentor to be inspired by, by someone in particular that you can that you can follow to yeah, just to kind of give you and help you with that ambition. I think certainly it’s important particularly when the mountains are involved to become [00:54:00] proficient.

In the main sense to not become a liability. I mean, I’ve never caught a rescue helicopter in my life. Yeah, I’ve known some people who’ve called 20 because of the, probably because of that decisions, you know? And so I think, you know, I would say if you want to get into it, I mean, there’s loads of people out there.

I mean, I’m also a mountain guide. I’m like MJ mountain guide. So I also take people climbing and skiing and you know yeah. And mountain airing. So I would say, you know, maybe invest in some time with a guide or with an instructor to go, to learn the appropriate techniques, to kind of make yourself feel more comfortable in the environment.

And also being comfortable in an environment also means also just putting yourself in that environment. I mean, it’s even, I now, even I’ve been in the mountains all my life, if I’ve been out of them for a while, it it’ll take me a couple of trips back into them to kind of feel completely [00:55:00] in tune. So again, you know, if you’re going to go and do this, like once a year, you know, and go to the Alps, maybe go Scotland first for like a couple of weekends, just get yourself in the vibe and in tune with the mountains.

So you can feel them and know what’s going on. As opposed to just go there and just jump into something. But I certainly think, you know, getting experience with good people is a real game changer. And yeah, and, and there’s also like the mastermind sensors in the UK, like Plaza, Brennan, Glenmore lodge.

They do loads of courses. If you don’t want to hire a private guide to do that, you can join a bigger group, which also then obviously is great because you also meet like-minded people who also wants to go and do the same things as you. And there are some charities that actually pay for people to actually go and do these things as well.

You can find them online and you can find them through the positive on a website. Yeah. You know, young people who want to go to the [00:56:00] Alps, but one that experience and yeah, there’s a charity that will help fund those trips and then guides. And then there’s also, that’s one thing is that, you know, it’s, it’s finding your crew as well.

That’s really important. And the people that you want to be that you want to be doing this with people that you’re happy to share time and space with Because, yeah. I mean, I would never do a trip with someone who wasn’t close to me because as I said, the human element of climbing is just as important as the physical one.

So yeah. So basically go and get loads of experience from the right people. Very nice. Finally, what are you doing now and how can people follow your adventures in the future? Well now I am I’m sort of in the UK at the moment for obvious reasons. But so yeah, I’m, I’m basically focused on some what projects throughout the summer, some track plumbing projects and some support client projects, but a bouldering.

And then I’ll then, [00:57:00] you know, wait until the winter again and then get back into the main centers and help aneurysm and. And all that stuff went to climbing again when the season comes rained. And then we’re planning an expedition for next year. So the Himalayas there’s ability, the best way to to follow me is probably through my Instagram.

I have a website which I updates like once a year. But yeah, probably for like a live feed, if you like, of, of what’s going on and where I put all my media, it’s probably through Instagram. And that’s just much underscore how clicker I’m sure you can link me in on that one. And yeah, so that’s probably the best way of Yeah, of keeping in touch and also you know, in normal years I do lecture circuits as well.

And yeah, and I do lectures, we do films at film festivals. So yeah, you can always say I’d love for, you know, sort of people are always interested. I like to think I’m an approachable guy. So if you ever see me at any of these film festivals or or [00:58:00] come and see my lectures yeah, come and say hi and or drop me a, or drop me a DM.

And if I can help in any way I can with any questions that people may have then yeah, I’ll do my best. I’m not, I’m not, I probably won’t get back straight away because my admin is shocking. I mean, I literally struggled to sort of apply to about one email a day. But but I will get back to you.

Believe me, I will get back. Well, Matt, it’s been an absolute pleasure listening to your stories and can’t thank you enough for coming on. Your Instagram and website will be in the description below and yeah, it’s just been fascinating. Hearing all about it all, mate. Well, thanks for having me on and yeah, I look forward to hearing hearing the rest of your, of your podcast series.

You’re doing a great job. That is it for today. Thank you so much for watching and I hope you got something out of it. If you did hit that like button and subscribe, if you haven’t already, and I will see you in the next video.

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