Winter in Europe has arrived big time,but its this time of year that a part of my mind always turn towards one of my closest friends and my reason for wanting to be in the mountains. These thoughts happen every time winter rolls around and I will mention it a lot, but its something that has not only affected my life greatly but is also something that everyone who has a passion for the mountains should take the time to think about. Its only in the last year that I have reached the point where I can talk about it. It still devastates me and it always will, but I feel strongly that it should be spoken about.
Tom Chesters, a person hard to put into words. I met him on my first winter season and we were close ever since, I still remember the random phone calls I would get from Tom which would undoubtedly contain high levels of banter. He was a person that had an appetite for adventure and for pushing his physical and mental limits further then anyone else. Whether it be running the La Plagne 6000D with no training or studying for his PHD, he never sat still......unless it was to watch Tottenham loose......sorry Tom
At a time when I felt a bit lost, Tom(and everyone I have met on my winters) had a profound effect on me. He(and they) showed me there is nothing wrong in doing what makes you happy......it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks as long as you are still pushing yourself and living to the fullest. The worst thing we can do as people is to become stagnant.
Tom was my hero and someone I looked up to.
On the 20th January 2013 I got a phone call saying Tom and 3 others had been killed in an avalanche in Glencoe, Scotland. My world suddenly got smaller.
I cant really remember what that day felt like, its a blur, but I do remember being angry at everything and anything. The realisation that I would never get that random phone call from him again was heartbreaking and was met with years of uncontrolable emotions.
Tom was an experienced mountaineer with many ascents around the alps and that is the backbone of this blog post. Im not going to get into the details of that day, there is a BBC documentary called 'Wild winter, Surviving Avalanches' which details that and other incidents that year in Scotland.
We are in an age now where technology is taking over. There are many innovations in mountain safety but knowledge is still key. ABS bags are fantastic, but there are too many people who use them to justify doing something stupid, they think that because they are wearing the bag that no harm can come to them.This is wrong!
The key to mountain safety is your judgement, to have the balls to not do something as it doest feel right. To take in your surroundings and process that into risk analysis.
As with Toms accident though, sometimes there is nothing you can do..........unfortunately an element of luck does come into play.
So as the winter is now in full force, remember to learn and soak up as much information as you can about your surroundings and take inspiration from the amazing people in this industry as they are some of the most interesting and motivational people you are likely to meet.