When I first thought of doing some interviews on my blog, I brainstormed a few people that I thought would be interesting to fire some questions at. High on the list were Dave Pickford and Tim Emmett, two characters from the land of England.
Dave is an accomplished climber, photographer and currently is the editor of Climb Magazine. Dave’s interests include Porsches, sea-cliffs, poetry, photography and travel. He is one of the most interesting guys I’ve ever hung out with. A couple years back, a group of us were pondering our options in the south of Spain after a savage rainstorm. We were taking care of a horse named Joseph, who didn’t like us too much, and liked the rain even less than he liked us. In between drying out Joseph’s horse-coat, Dave introduced us to Georgian chant-music, and often recited poetry. The chips were clearly down. But Dave, ever the optimist, said that we should “get some beer, and just have it!” So we went to the crag, and did just that.
Dave is a forward-thinker, and perpetually interested in a variety of different things. He will be here this summer and I can’t wait to climb some granite with him.
Below are some questions with the man himself.
Climbing and travelling. Intrinsically linked?
There’s no question for me that climbing and travelling are deeply linked. Climbing is an adventurous extension of the special curiosity which led humans to populate the entire land surface of our planet. And climbing’s also a way of reconnecting of that old, old human experience of being completely lost in a wild place and then finding your way out, making your way back to the tribe. Whilst we may travel to climb, all the time, we also climb in order to travel to places inaccessible to the large majority of people in the Western world. In that respect, and in many others, I consider myself very lucky to be a climber.
Can you describe one moment when you were scared?
I’ve been scared a lot of times over the course of my climbing life. But I guess dealing with fear is just something I’ve become accustomed to. I don’t seek out dangerous climbs as I once did, but I’m glad that I can deal with risk effectively. Climbing often seems like really hard work for people who have trouble dealing with risk. Just recently, Tim Emmett and I did this little new route on our local sea cliffs of Pembrokeshire in Wales. It was an afterthought, an escape route from a harder line we were looking at. There was about 30 metres of great 5.10+ dihedral climbing, then the rock turned to baked mud with large limestone blocks stuck in it for the last 6 or 7 metres. It took me about twenty minutes to do the last 4 or 5 metres, raining debris down past Tim all the time, shifting my weight all the time like an insect trying not to break the surface tension. Then on the last move – a mantelshelf on a collapsing, ovehung ledge – both my footholds disintegrated at the same time. I thought that if the ledge collapses too, which it very well could, then I’d be in for a 25 metre fall down a slabby corner. I sort of rolled over the top somehow, and when Tim arrives we laughed about it. It’s funny how fear produces these very powerful effects in your body. It’s like a massive drug rush, all that adrenaline. And it’s highly addictive, particularly for young guys. I’m glad I don’t feel the need for a monster adrenaline fix every week these days like I did when I was 20 or 25! But I’m also glad I’ve not lost that core ability to deal with risk and fear.
What are you reading right now?
I’ve been re-reading David Hinton’s beautiful recent translations of the wilderness poetry of ancient China. The collection is called ‘Mountain Home’. Hinton concentrates on representing the so-called ‘rivers and mountains tradition’, which is arguably the earliest literary engagement with wilderness in human history. It’s powerful stuff.
What do the seacliffs of England mean to you? I remember you telling me how special of a place they are. Can you elaborate?
English and Welsh sea cliffs are my Ithaca, the place I always think of when I’m away on a trip and think of home. The sea cliffs of Britain contain by far the greatest collection of climbs in the British Isles, and they are a never ending source of adventure, both for repeating established classics and pioneering new climbs. I love climbing new routes, and there are literally thousands of brilliant new climbs still to be done on British sea cliffs. Many are in the harder grades, above 5.12+, which is very exciting for the next generation of British trad climbers.
What is one area that you haven’t visited yet, but would like to. And why?
There are a lot of places I’ve not been to and would love to visit. I’d really like to climb a new route on the Tepuis of Giuana – the whole Gran Sabana strikes me as one of the world’s best places for full-blown adventure rock climbing. And I’d love to go back to the Himalayas, somewhere in the Pakistan Karakoram this time, and do a big new rock route with some really solid, hard climbing that finishes high up – say at around 5500 – 6000 metres. One of the most extraordinary things about climbing as a sport is the range of its inspirational possibilities. I’ll continue to be inspired by climbing in all its forms until I die. There’s no question about that.