10 things I Would Tell My Younger Self.

Looking back on the last 10 years of climbing and skiing I realise how much I’ve learnt and how much I’ve grown in that time.  Sometimes mentors are hard to come by and although I don’t claim to have all the answers I have made my fair share of mistakes for better or worse.  Here are 10 things I would’ve told my younger self 10 years ago, which I hope might help some younger wannabe mountain dudes and dudettes on the their mountain quests. Hopefully to do even better than I have with their mountain careers!

  1.  Get your Money Right.  This is perhaps the crux of most young people that are really psyched to go into the mountains.  I would’ve told the 19-year-old me to get a half decent professions like Rope Access, Sports massage or Building skills. Something that you can easily dip in and out of that also gives you a good quantity of money for a short space of time.  Something quite restful is also ideal because you can rest while your making money. This is something I’ve only just managed to get right. Something I regret not getting right sooner as i’ve missed opportunities. I would say its more about having a positive attitude to getting money rather than worrying when you next get some. Having to work to pay for my activities makes me appreciate them a lot more.
  2. A positive mental attitude leads the way with everything. There will be hard times, their will be times when you want to give up.  There are always obstacles to overcome but the mind leads the way with everything. Set a positive mental attitude and success with anything will be easier.
  3. Set goals. Although I have always had goals I’ve never been as good as some people in setting short, medium and long term goals and sticking to them. This is a tricky skill to master and not something you can learn overnight. Setting goals that are achievable with a timeframe is actually hard but actioning them and going back to them is harder.  Not having to worry about cash flow helps a lot with setting goals as you can stop the money from getting in the way of what you want to achieve. Have a way of writing down your goals, either on a piece of paper or on your computer so you can see them everyday.  Go back, review them and make new ones every few weeks or months. Master this and you’ll be on your way to a successful mountain career.
  4. Do an avalanche course. And I don’t mean a free lecture or cheap lecture.  I certainly hadn’t learnt that much about avalanches my first couple of seasons skiing in Chamonix.  However if I can tell the young fresh faced me one piece of advice before going to the alps for the first time it would be get some avalanche (and crevasse rescue) training pronto. It seems pretty obvious but you wouldn’t believe how many folk go off piste skiing and winter climbing without knowing about avalanche dangers and how to deal with them. Ask your loved ones to pay for it, I’m pretty sure they will!
  5. Don’t let your ambition blind you.  Decision-making in the mountains is one of the trickiest things to learn when you’re young or new to the big mountain enviroment.  You don’t know the risks and you think or feel you are invincible.  Learn your trade in the smaller mountains first. Make some mistakes in a relatively safe environment, but above all don’t let the now or short term goals stand in the way of coming home safe everyday.  Don’t fall into heuristic traps (if you don’t know what they are then look it up). The mountain, the snow, the ice and the rock will be there in the future. YOU have to be ready for it, not the other way round.
  6. Everyday is a school day. Strive to learn something every day whatever the flavour. Building belays, Snow science, History, New areas, Techniques, Weather, Languages, Equipment…the list could go on.  There is so much to learn so there are no excuses for not learning something new everyday.
  7. Be honest and open about what you’ve done.  Alpinism and big mountain skiing is based around honesty and trust.  That means no lying or bullshitting anyone, ever. I’ve always tried to be clear about what I’ve done and how, that’s just in my nature. Any time I have been false its come back to bite me.
  8. Actively seek help and advice.  There’s plenty of people who have been around the block a few times and I’m sure if you send an email you’ll get a response about a question or query you have.  Even if you don’t what’s the harm in trying? Try and surround yourself with those who are more knowledgeable and more experienced and listen to what they have to say. they are your most valuable resource.  Surprise, surprise you don’t know everything.
  9. Look after your body. It is your single greatest tool. Feed it well, Stretch it well and keep it hydrated. Look after chronic injuries and do everything you can to get back quicker from acute ones. More often than not, those who go to the mountains often tend to be too hard on their bodies.  Learn to take rest and learn to listen to when you’re feeling rundown.  A stuffy nose or sore throat can quickly develop into a chest infection or worse if you don’t take the time to properly recover. A few days of resting is better than weeks of not being able to get off the couch.
  10. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Above all make sure you have fun and don’t take yourself or what you have done in the mountains too seriously.  Obviously skiing and climbing are dangerous activities so care and attention is required when doing them. However relationships, friends and fun should be the most important things about your life in the mountains.

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