Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The folks who live on the hill




Times shot of Tom Price on the summit of Glaramara on his 90th birthday

I’ve just heard about Tom Price passing away aged 94. For those unfamiliar with this unassuming character, Denis Grey writes a short biography of his friend on the BMC site.  Tom Price always seemed a fascinating figure from a bygone age. Someone for whom the mountains stood as an overarching source of inspiration behind a wide range of activities which extended beyond the simple act of climbing them. 

I saw the picture of TP (above) on the summit of Glanarma near his Lake District home on his 90th birthday and wondered if I might ever find myself in that fortunate position? To have lived a long and healthy life and still be able to reach a mountain top in my ninties? Unlikely I would say. How many people even reach 90 never mind reach that venerable age and still be fit and well enough to engage in an activity like mountain walking?

I read years ago that the average life expectancy of a member  the UK’s Fell and Rock club is 88. That’s way above average UK stats. Allowing for the fact that a climbing club is bound to lose some of its members through accidents then that figure is more impressive still. Of course there will be social factors behind those statistics. A member of a club like the Fell and Rock or The Climbers Club is more likely to be middle class and statistically, those from a higher socio-economic groups are more conversant with the benefits of exercise, eating well, not smoking or boozing to excess etc. I expect you would find similar stats in any club which attracts a middle class membership.

It’s a sorry fact that the better off you are the longer you are likely to live.
When I started climbing in the 80’s I was in an unofficial group of in the main, working class climbers who called themselves ‘The Clwyd Hard Bastards’ ! Actually, this was intended to be ironic for none of us were particularly ‘hard’ when it came to climbing at a high standard. As working class lads-and it was a 100% male set up- there was an overwhelming appreciation of junk food, booze, fags and a certain banned narcotic. I rarely smoked but liked a pint and was known to succumb to the odd pasty and bacon butty....rock and roll ehh!

It struck me the other day, I was the only one left out of around 15 CHB’s who still climbed. No one has died yet but work, divorce, re-location and new interests from Tai Chi to Deep Sea fishing has whittled away at this once irreverent band of brothers. One or two old cohorts have suffered health problems as well, so it’s fair to say that it’s unlikely that there will ever be a Bradford Lads style reunion

David Craig penned a moving piece about giving up climbing after succumbing to various health problems which had accelerated as he approached his ninth decade. At the Corrie of The Black Raven. I suppose that unlike Tom Price, David’s climbing trajectory will be by far the most common path for most of us. As The Specials once sang..’Enjoy yourself...it’s later than you think’ !


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