Shropshire Star

Mountaineer Simon Yates says cutting the rope to release his "Touching the Void" climbing partner was the only decision left to him

"Where you scared? "

NORTH COPYRIGHT SHROPSHIRE STAR STEVE LEATH 22/09/2022..Pic at Ellesmere College where explorer, mountaineer: Simon Yates, was visiting to talk to pupils. Pictured with pupils: Lukasz Galazka 17 and Poppy Coe 14..

Climber Simon Yates one of the two men whose near death experience was the subject of the Touching the Void film, says the question from a Shropshire student was the most telling he had ever been asked.

Now 59, Simon, has gone on to conquer some of the hardest climbs in the world, charted is his books, such as Climbing the Wall and The Wild Within. His talk at Ellesmere College on Thursday was the first in a 21 date British tour.

It was in 1985 that the mountaineer and climbing partner Joe Simpson, both in their 20s, were attempting to be the first to summit the peak of Siula Grande in Peru.

They achieved the top but on the way down disaster struck.

Joe broke his leg and Simon was left to try to lower him down the mountain. In a blizzard and in darkness they found themselves in an impossible situation.

Joe was dangling over a cliff edge with Simon hanging onto the rope.

Knowing he could not hang onto Joe any longer, he was forced to take the decision to cut the rope.

Miraculously both men survived. Joe fell into a crevasse and was able, with a broken leg, to crawl back to base camp.

Simon has been asked many, many questions since about that decision.

"It was the only decision I could take," he said.

"I had been trying to find a solution and this was the only solution.

"I knew I couldn't go on holding the rope forever - it was a desperate situation. Cutting the rope with my knife was a very practical decision. As it turned out it was a smart decision as it saved both our lives."

Despite the experience, Simon was back on the mountains within weeks and has continued to climb mountains, across the world, writing books about his experiences.

"Was I scared - do I get scared - that was a really good question from a student," he said.

"Anyone who does adventure sports has to face fear. But you have to rationalise that fear. The natural instinct is to be afraid but then you can freeze and become completely ineffective.

"You are continually making risk assessments in your brain."

"But you have to know when the risks are such that you have to walk away."

"I have undertaken 75 mountain expeditions and it is such a positive thing in my life. I do it because it is reconnecting with nature, something so many of us do, whether it is climbing mountains, taking your dog for a walk or being in the garden.

"The view that I get from a summit is something most people will never get to see and sometimes a view no-one has ever seen before."

Before his evening talk at Ellesmere College, Simon gave a completely different presentation - to art students, about how to turn your passion into a profession.

Writing books, he said, had meant he could make a living and still enjoy climbing.

"It was like going back to school. I had a scientific education background and I had to learn to write."

The headmaster at Ellesmere College, Brendan Wignall, said it was wonderful to be about to welcome Simon to the town.

"Sport and outdoor pursuits is part of the ethos of the college. We have a very active Cadet Force and Duke of Edinburgh scheme and each year a group of students go on an ice climbing expedition in Scotland.

"We see our students work together, grow in confidence and learn about resilience."

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