The coffee’s hissing and percolating on the gas next to me and the strong aroma fills Andy’s base camp. Looking out the window and up to the Chamonix Aiguilles, you feel connected and inspired as the same time.
You don’t lose that connection with the mountains, it’s always here, ingrained in the woodwork and the whole fabric of the place. Climbing guides and mountaineering books covering every square inch of the globe, painting and art books by the likes of John Ruskin, Sculpting books, AAC Journals, AC Journals, boxes bursting with dog eared maps, sketch drawings and route descriptions/topos just fill every available space. The place is bursting with energy and enthusiasm drawing me into it with a new lease of life and enthusiasm.
Every climbing guide I pick up is well thumbed with corners of pages folded back. I skim over pen written notes Andy’s made, a first solo winter ascent he’d done in say 1980 or a new route idea and a possible new line, penned in on a photo with notes attached. Postcards, photo’s and drawings he’s taken or drawn, slipped into pages of these books all held together by elastic or just wedged in amongst each other. You can’t help but be totally inspired. I sit down in front of the fire and make my own notes and plans for climbs/new routes in the future.
I’m sure Andy’s painting and sculpting feeds from his climbing and time spent in the mountains. As I pull out notebooks with ‘Patagonia’, ‘Nepal’ or some other far flung mountainous place hand written on the spines, I find his diaries. Not a diary written with words and dates, but an account of a trip through drawings. People I guess he’s met, mountains he’s seen or maybe climbed, campsites, tea houses anything along his journey that has maybe inspired him or help tell the story of his trip.
There’s none of life’s clutter here, you don’t need it, just books to read and time to think, write, draw and make plans. If you’re not doing any of that then the stereo’s on full volume or you’re asleep!!
Chatting to Andy about absolutely anything always gets back to some aspect of climbing or maybe a piece he’s sculpting at his studio down the road. His knowledge of climbing and passion about the tiniest aspect and his own personal drive and direction leaves you feeling totally inspired to do and know more.
I say all this because every time I come here I leave understanding more about myself and even more determined about my direction and what’s important about life. Sounds a little mellow dramatic I know but that’s how it is.
It’s like when I’m away in Kyrgyzstan, meeting the local people and climbing in the great wilderness of the Tien Shan, climbing new peaks/routes, exploring new areas and having some great adventures. Canada, Alaska or coming out to the Alps in winter as I am now and exploring new ice lines maybe only formed for the first time or climbing existing lines which always form differently. The ice constantly changes, temperature affected and the snow hazards around and above the routes make the climbing experience so absorbing and with few people around climbing these frozen waterfalls it’s totally inspiring.
I visited Slovenija before Christmas and had a week mixed climbing in the Julian Alps around Triglav National Park. We had a fantastic time, sure the climbing was hard, climbing mixed routes on big limestone faces but along with the people we met we came home totally inspired and re energised.
Everybody’s good at something and it’s very rewarding for anybody to find out what that something is and be good at it, whatever it may be. But it’s also important to learn new things and be pushed out of your comfort zone a little and it’s then I feel that you’ll find the rewards climbing and the mountains has to offer. It’s not just about sticking your little toe in and feeling the temperature or just ticking a box or mountain, it’s about spending time in the mountains and unearthing what both the mountains and climbing really have to offer and enjoying the riches that brings.
Climbing challenges you in every way, both physically and mentally, allows you to experience new areas, countries, cultures, make new friends and build relationships, find out more about yourself and question what’s important. The very nature of climbing/mountaineering strips back the many layers of onion peel and exposes the real you and gives you life changing experiences like nothing else.
Carving you own furrow is always hard when more often than not, you’re going against societies norm but the life fulfilment at the end of it makes it all the more worthwhile.
Remember that you won’t be remembered for the things you wished you’d have done and nobody remembers all of life’s expensive clutter, they’ll remember you as a person, what inspired you and what you did with your life and all the adventures along the way.