Simon Yates

By Deegan, Paul | Geographical, March 2006 | Go to article overview

Simon Yates


Deegan, Paul, Geographical


Simon Yates is a mountaineer who first came to prominence following an incident in 1985 when his climbing partner, Joe Simpson, broke his leg and then fell into a crevasse during their descent of Siula Grande in Peru. Simpson's book about their ordeal, Touching The Void, thrust both climbers into the public eye. Yates has also written two books about his mountaineering experiences, and he now guides clients on climbing expeditions to the Greater Ranges

Do you feel that the climbing sequences in Touching the Void accurately reflected the kind of technical climbing required on Siula Grande?

A lot of the close-up reconstruction scenes for Void were filmed in the Alps with two actors. I wasn't involved with that side of the film, but I thought that the climbing was very well done. I think that it represented what is involved in climbing mountains better than most other mainstream mountaineering movies.

Did you have any problems with the film?

I did think that the film was economical with my side of the story. And the statement that I returned home to face criticism from many people in the British climbing community was somewhat wide of the truth. What actually happened was that when we got back, we spoke to a national newspaper and they did a bit of a hatchet job on me. Not surprisingly, a few people got upset with me. But that was very short-lived because Joe published an article in High magazine. Once people in the climbing community read Joe's story, I never had any problems from them.

Do you think that Void's popularity has helped or hindered you in your quest to earn a living from guiding and associated activities such as writing and lecturing?

I don't think I would have got a book contract so easily. But I might have gone on to write anyway. Writing was a way of making sense of it all. After a while, climbing loses some of its meaning. When you start mountaineering, you are going to fascinating new places and lots of exciting new things are happening. But that learning curve peaks and then, in a way, you are looking for something else in order to grow and develop as a person. Writing is one way you can do that. Guiding is another.

You've been leading commercial expeditions to 6,000-metre peaks such as Ama Dablam and Aconcagua for many years. Do you feel that it's possible for 8,000-metre peaks to be guided?

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