As of June, Sophie and I will be in Chamonix. In part, as preparation for the Alpine Coast to Coast but, also, to realise a dream I’ve held for the last few years:

My Alpine Apprenticeship

My discovery and love of the outdoors only 5 years ago has always left me feeling like a latecomer to the party. Like everyone is more experienced than me, climbing better than me, and knows more than I do. I’ve often daydreamed of alternate worlds where I came to visit the Alps with friends in my teens, cut my teeth before I had to even shave, and had that alpine apprenticeship that everyone else seems to have had.

An amazing climb from last year, the North Face of the Tour Ronde

An amazing climb from last year, the North Face of the Tour Ronde

I know this isn’t true. I know that there are more beginners out there, late starters, and people just generally taking it easy in the hills than aspiring Ueli Stecks. But still. I feel I’ve missed out and it has been on my mind for a long time. I feel that now is the right time for me to commit to my alpine apprenticeship.

Now is my time

Now is the right time for me to focus on what it is to be an alpinist and get the mileage in to start gaining the the broad and comprehensive skills that you need to survive in remote areas, in extreme environments. I have learned a lot over the last few years but, as with languages or anything complex, the more you learn the more you realise you don’t know. And I want to know more.

I have been training hard in London to make sure that my physical fitness is not the thing holding me back and that I can focus on the joy of climbing and exploring the wonderful Europeans Alps. To learn the most, and to enjoy the areas the most, I need to climb as much as possible with as many people as possible.

As a friend recently told me:

‘You need to become a climbing whore. Climb with anyone and everyone.”

It also came with a sage warning – “Be safe, you don’t know who you’re really climbing with until it’s too late”.

This excited but scared me. The idea of climbing with unknown and random people sounded brilliant, I could try out dozens of climbing partnerships in the quest of finding that magic ‘brotherhood of the rope’ and that partner who I just sync with. But what about the warning? This is an interesting thought – I might set off on a route with a confident and competent climber, but when the shit hits the fan, they might crumble like wet sandstone and fall to pieces. We’ll then be stuck somewhere I’d rather not be stuck with a gibbering wreck.

Graham, an incredible climbing partner from last year

Graham, an incredible climbing partner from last year

Can I handle that? Can I take on the responsibility for the both of us?

This self discovery is one of my key goals with climbing more, to learn more about myself in these environments and to see how I handle the situations I’ll end up in.

By climbing as much as possible and with so many different people, I hope to gain not just a better understanding of myself but to become a safer and technically more competent alpinist. To build on that feeling of belonging in the mountains and to see where that confidence can take me. Can I hold my own on any of the great north face routes such as the Walker Spur on the Grandes Jorasses, the North Couloir of the Drus, or even the mighty 1938 route on the Eiger?

Maybe. There is only one way to find out!

I can’t wait to get out there. To wake up knowing I can set off up routes with so much history, right on my doorstep. To test myself both physically and mentally and to come back refreshed, re-energised, and reinvigorated.

Charley Radcliffe, Aspiring Alpinist

Charley Radcliffe, Aspiring Alpinist

To make all of this come true I need a few things. Some I’ve got sorted but one is still needed. You. I would love to meet out there and go climbing. Whether you’re just getting started and want to go rock climbing at one of the local crags, or want to get on one of the easier alpine routes, I’m your man. Or if you’re a more experienced climber aiming to check out something a little steeper and more committing, all the way through to some of you who may be really pushing the boundaries of modern alpinism:

I’m your man!

All I can promise in return for coming climbing with you is a sense of humour, a shed load of enthusiasm, and, I hope, a strong pair of hands.

by Charley Radcliffe

5 Responses to “Starting my Alpine Climbing Apprenticeship in Chamonix”

  1. Sophie Radcliffe

    Now is your time! I can remember my alpine apprenticeship course, how clueless I was and how big my dreams for the mountains were. This is going to be a completely different type of alpine apprenticeship than a 5 day beginner course. In the words of Dr Suess: |Today is your day, your mountain is waiting, so get on your way”. Go for it!


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