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Example 4: Keeping north Londoners up to date with arts and culture

While working for the Times Series of local newspapers in north London, I wrote and edited the arts section that appeared weekly across several of the papers. Often this involved interviewing high profile figures, from comedians to politicians to philosophers. The aim was to inform readers about the events these luminaries were doing in the local area. Below is an article I wrote about an event with mountaineer Simon Yates.

A peak performance

Simon Yates is best known as the man forced to cut the rope holding his climbing partner on a Peruvian mountain in 1985, a story captured in the film Touching the Void. MIRIAM CRAIG talks to the mountaineer.

Simon Yates isn’t sure how many of his friends have died while mountaineering.

‘Probably a dozen, or something like that,’ he says. ‘I’ve got a healthy respect for the risks. But I plan to stay around. I like lots of other things as well as mountaineering, so I don’t want to go just yet, that’s for sure.’

His own injuries have been no more serious than torn ligaments and frostbitten toes. A climbing accident many years ago, however, left his regular climbing partner Andy Parkin with only one good leg and an elbow fused at a right-angle.

Yates, 45, has just returned from a month-long climbing trip to Tierra del Fuego, an archipelago off the South American mainland. In January he was in Argentina; in April, Greenland.

He had his first climbing experience on a school trip to the Lake District at the age of 14. A friend’s older brother was a climber, so the two younger boys tagged along, then started doing weekend expeditions on their own. When he was 19, he went on his first mountaineering trip to the Alps.

He says: ‘I’m drawn to wild places and you get those in abundance in mountains. I find mountains the most beautiful places in the world. Being in and amongst them gives me enormous pleasure.’

Even his ill-fated trip with Joe Simpson up Peru’s Siula Grande was not enough to put him off. When Simpson broke his leg, Yates tried to lower him down the mountain, but was eventually forced to choose between losing his own life and letting Simpson fall to his death. He did let Simpson fall, but amazingly, both survived.

He says: ‘It was inexperience. We were both exhausted because we hadn’t been looking after ourselves. That’s the most important part of mountaineering: putting your gloves on at the right time, not getting cold, drinking enough, eating enough, finding shelter early enough, before it gets dark.

‘If you don’t do these things right, day after day, you get exhausted and are much more likely to make mistakes.’

Of the friends who were not so lucky, Yates says: ‘It’s sad, but at the same time, I’m a positive person. I’d hope that if I was killed on a mountain, people would think at least I’d died doing something I like doing. Ultimately we’re all going to die. To go through life without knowing what you’re capable of is sadder than dying doing something you love.’

Yates will give an illustrated talk about the highs and lows of his mountaineering career at the Wyllyotts Centre on Sunday at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £12 (concessions £11) and are available from the box office on 01707 645005.


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