Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Birthdays and Heroes

Well last week another year clicked by. On Saturday I was at a nephew's wedding, the sort of occasion when you meet distant family that you haven't seen for years. Jan and I re-acquainted with many of our own generation; nice people, sensible souls who don't spend their spare time running hills, climbing rocks and ski-ing real snow. Sometimes of a morning when the first trip downstairs hasn't been great I wonder if I should join them. Plenty of people to ask if you're really sure you want to be doing this sort of thing nowadays. 

But we are who we are; the experiences we've had mould us, and so long as the good times outnumber the less good we'll keep coming back for more and be thankful that we can. We're not short of role models. Like Marco Olmo winning the UTMB outright at 59.  Joe Brown and Chris Bonington climbing in their seventies better than I ever did at any age. Joss Naylor seemingly running on forever.
These are the superstars of course, but less well known and often even more inspirational stories abound. In 1977 I was prompted to start a climbing diary (which I still keep up) by reading an article in the old "Climber and Rambler" magazine about a guy called Ivan Waller, who "had kept a meticulously accurate climbing diary since 1923" and at the time was still climbing. I kept the diary but didn't come across any other reference to Ivan until many years later when I browsed then bought a little book by Ronald Turnbull called "The Book of the Bivvy", which contains the following passage:

Once there was a man called Ivan Waller. In 1931 he climbed behind Colin Kirkus on a seriously overhanging route called Mickledore Grooves in the days when falling off generally meant death, or severe injury if you were really lucky.

What happens to mountaineers as they get older? They just turn into older mountaineers. At the age of 70 Ivan turned to the Munros and climbed 140 of them in two years to become Munroist number 207. Three years later he backpacked across Scotland in the Ultimate Challenge event. Still in his seventies he completed the 45 mile walk of the Lakeland 3000ft peaks in a day, and climbed Tower Ridge in winter conditions without causing the slightest anxiety to my cousin, who was his companion. He also traversed the Cuillin Ridge twice, the second time escorting an older companion. He considered the Corbetts: "This may be beyond my span because I still have more than 160 to do at 81 years of age  -  but a man can try".

Way to go. I'll now put this subject away until August 2011.


Brian Mc said...

You'll slow down a bit no doubt and probably start thinking everything was better years ago, but there's no reason to go sedentary. Keep running young Coles, keep running!

Subversive Runner said...

Great blog post, mate. Good luck in the UTMB this year....just heard a story about Mike Mason and a poof!!!! You may wish to mention it to him....

Mike Mason said...

Best of luck Andy see you next week.

ps don't mention the scurrilous rumour