This is part three of a series of posts all about the turning points in my climbing career. From single moves to huge time spans, these are the events that shaped me into the climber and person i am today.
I’ll be posting a new one every few days so keep an eye on the blog for the latest or, if not, they will appear in one beast of an article at the end of the series. Feel free to comment and let me know of some of your own highlights, i’d greatly enjoy hearing some of your own.
They say your school years are the best years of your life. Well mine were shit. The best year of my life followed a slightly obscure path after the death of my Grandmother.
With Grandma on her deathbed, her youngest son, now living in Thunder Bay, Canada, came to pay his respects. Not I nor my cousins had ever met him and so, while tinged with some sadness, this event became a golden opportunity to forge a friendship with a distant relative.
In a weird way, i think it rekindled the relationship between my Uncle Andrew and my father and our two families kept in touch, predominantly through Skype. Before long, i’d managed (somehow, through the generosity of the family) to fenagle myself a plane ticket to Canada.
Not content to wait for my summer trip, in March i made my now-annual pilgrimage to Fontainebleau, this time in the company of good friend Mike Pinches. Mike is a similarly sociable guy and on day one, at Cul de Chien, we made friends with a Canadian couple and a Swedish couple. Plans with Steve and MC were made to hook up in June, as they lived about an hour north of my intended destination of Vancouver, and Facebook details were shared with Fredrik and Karin. We then went on to have a stunning week – my best to that point in the forest.
Canada was, as was hoped, the trip of a lifetime and to date, the only excursion out of Europe. Two weeks helped to forge a lifetime friendship and i will always be indebted to Simon for his kindness and generosity. While hard ticks didn’t happen, the experience was unforgettable and this in itself would easily make the list. The reason it hasn’t is what happened ten weeks after my return.
With two foreign trips already in the bag that year, and one of them to the other side of the world, i was quite content to stay in the UK for my Autumn week off, and was planning to go back to the Lakes for a bit of a tour. With a week to go, i had a look at the long term forecast and it did not look good.
Now love Facebook or hate it, it has it’s uses and i put a post on asking for suggestions for suitable destinations at short notice. Soon, there was a reply from Fredrik, championing his local area, more in jest i suspect in hindsight.
I got home on the Tuesday and frantically messaged him to ask if he was serious. Wednesday, without hearing a reply, i sent another message to say i hoped so as i’d just booked my flights. Thursday i packed, Friday i left and Saturday afternoon, i arrived to a slightly shocked Swede and five days of bouldering bliss.
It spawned what has become a tradition: an exchange, if you will, with one of us visiting the other annually, taking it in turns, with the fifth visit due later this year. In 2014 i even had the privilege to attend their wedding.
The latter trip would also easily make the list on it’s own but the fact that all three landed inside the same calender year (if you’ll pardon the hypocrisy from the opening paragraphs in the intro) combine to make 2011 the one i will always remember.