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ALMOST falling to his death didn’t put Simon Yates off mountaineering.
In fact, 30 years after the near fatal experience, he is still a very active exploratory climber and guide making several expeditions to the mountains each year.
In June 1985 Simon was making his way down from climbing on the 6,344 metre high Siula Grande in Peru at night tied to rope with his partner Joe Simpson.
But suddenly Joe fell off the ridge of an ice cliff and broke his leg and was left dangling on the rope 50 metres below.
Sharing his experience with an audience at Fort William’s Nevis Centre last week, Simon, 52, said: ‘No-one was going to come and help us. I had a big feeling of panic for some time. I eventually calmed down and started to lower Joe down the mountain. It was a big knock back when I found out he had a broken leg. It got more difficult with the weather deteriorating and storms coming.
‘I couldn’t figure out what to do. Sooner or later I was going to get pulled off the mountain and fall to my death. I remembered I had a knife with me and the situation presented itself. I cut the rope. The next morning I had to find out what happened to Joe. I was forced to abseil and was convinced that Joe was dead at the bottom.
‘I managed to reach base camp. I was somewhat surprised when three days later Joe crawled into camp. Miraculously he had landed on snow. He was on death’s door and needed to be in hospital.’
Simon’s decision to cut the rope saved both their lives. Joe went on to write about the experience in the book Touching the Void, which was later made into a film, turning both climbers into household names.
Simon said: ‘You would think it would have put me off climbing, but not a bit, I’m very driven. Within a few weeks I went back to the Alps.
‘I spent winters in Scotland teaching ice climbing and in the summer went to Pakistan, which has the largest and impressive mountains in the world.’
Growing up in Leicestershire, Simon learned to climb as a rock climber when he went to college in Sheffield.
He’s been to the mountains of central Asia and big wall climbing on the Central tower of Paine in Chile.
Even when Simon had his children, Maisy and Lewis, he took them on his expeditions when they were little.
Recently, he has become drawn to remoteness and has made numerous first ascents in Greenland, Tierra del Fuego and the Wrangell St Elias Ranges on the Alaskan-Yukon border.
There was also an ill-fated journey to Antarctica last year. Simon, who has his own mountaineering business, added: ‘It was amazing to be there and see the mountains. The problem was you couldn’t get to them as the glaciers came straight into the ocean.
‘We eventually found a mountain we could be dropped off at in a little bay.
‘We were on it when a rock fell on the leg of my climbing partner, Andy Parkin, and he passed out with the pain.
‘Unfortunately, we had come all the way to the Antarctic and we had to do a rescue.’
F13simonyates_My Mountain Life talk
Simon Yates gave a talk, My Mountain Life, at the Nevis Centre and had copies of his books with him.