Me!Me!Me! Footprint of a Runner

Mick Fowler

Age 66, Family Wife (Nicki) two adult children, Tess 31 and Alec 28 Works as: Retired taxman. Ambassador for Berghaus and for Braun Medical
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Tell us a bit about your climbing career?

Ooh er – that’s tricky to summarise. My widowed father introduced me to the hills and as a young man I became obsessed with climbing up steep bits of rock and ice. My preference was always for adventurous multi-pitch climbs and together with like-minded friends I established quite a few summer and winter first ascents throughout the UK. I was particularly attracted to eye catching objectives such as ice streaks, sea stacks, chalk cliffs and big remote sea cliffs. Further afield, after an introduction from my father, I climbed extensively in the Alps and, for the last 40 years, have made a greater range trip (usually to the Himalaya) more or less every year.

Favourite climb?

Locally that has to be Debauchery on High Tor. I climb it every year and never tire of doing so. We are very lucky to have one of the UK’s finest limestone crags right on our doorstep.

Author of climbing books, born in London, what prompted your move to Derbyshire?

I was working for the tax office in London in the early 1990s and when they moved specialist jobs to Nottingham I jumped on the bandwagon. The opportunity came at a perfect time for us as Tess, our eldest, had just been born and it was obvious that the lifestyle of working all week and climbing all weekend couldn’t really continue. We were not really town people anyway and moving to an area closer to the countryside and outdoor activities just seemed the obvious thing to do. We have never looked back.

I heard you used to drive from London to Scotland on a weekend, do some climbing and drive home on Sunday night? Tell us about a typical such weekend.

It was mainly in the 1980s which was a time when there were lots of eye-catching unclimbed winter lines in the north west of Scotland. There was a very active group of keen winter climbers in London at that time. Eleven consecutive weekends to Scotland was our record. It was about 630 miles each way to the north-west but as we shared the driving that was only about 160 miles each. We would leave London at about 7pm, arrive at around 4-5am and start walking straight away. Often we wouldn’t arrive back in London until 7am or so on the Monday – just in time to go straight into the office. I couldn’t do that now. Must be getting old.

What is your favourite meal?

My wife’s roast celeriac dish is particularly pleasing.

Stiff drink or herbal tea?

Either. Or both.

Presumably running helps with your climbing, in what way?

Absolutely. I took up running to keep me fit for greater range climbing and it has made a significant difference. I still get laughed at for my slow walking pace but not quite as much as used to be the case.

Other interests?

Caving, canyoning, hill walking, dog walking, relaxing. Generally chilling in the outdoors. Increasingly I am also getting quite good at just chilling at home.

What has been your most rewarding challenge?

This year so far it has been completing the Wadsworth Trog having been timed out twice before – in 2014 and 2022. Overall it would be a multi-day first ascent of an eye catching line in the Greater Ranges. I have been lucky enough to have climbed quite a few over the years but my first Karakoram success on the Golden Pillar of Spantik (7027m) in Pakistan, stands out as particularly rewarding.

What are the 4 main attributes you need to be a successful Himalayan mountaineer?

• Strong motivation/determination/willpower.
• A good level of physical fitness.
• Ability to remain calm and make good decisions when it’s all going wrong
• Technical ability

Forget the Bucket List, name one thing you never want to do before you die?

Endure a beach holiday in Dubai.

You must have a scary climbing story to tell?

Falling in a crevasse in Xinjiang, China, in 2010 was pretty scary. I fell through a very small hole and was hanging free with water pouring over me from huge icicles above. It was quite dark down there and the rope had cut deeply into overhanging eaves such that prussicking up the rope was impractical. Sorting myself out (removing snow-shoes, putting crampons on etc.) so I could climb out up the smooth walls of the crevasse was memorably scary. An experience I would rather not repeat.

What is your favourite place in the World?

Scotland as place to visit. And Matlock is not a bad place to live.

Who/what inspired you to take up climbing?

My father in the first place but then a wonderful group of enthusiastic friends.

Next challenge?

The north face of Patkhor (6083m) in the Rushan Pamir range in Tajikistan. I have never been to that part of the world, it sounds culturally interesting, most mountaineers will never have heard of it and we are extremely unlikely to meet any other climbers. Just the way I like it.

Favourite film?Podcast?Book?

I tend not to be a book or film person but of late I am a great fan of the British Scandal podcasts by Matt Ford and Alice Levine. They have kept me awake on many a long drive.

What is your worst habit?

Naturally I don’t think I have any but my wife tells me it is rubbing my nails together. I don’t know what she is talking about.

Advice for youngsters wanting to take up climbing?

Take it gradually. Learn the techniques and take time to enjoy building up experience, confidence and ability. A lot of young people achieve a high standard on climbing walls and then want to move straight on to hard climbs outdoors. I think they miss out on a lot doing that. And it can be dangerous too.

Do you have any ideas which Matlock AC could incorporate to improve the club?

I haven’t been a member for long so that’s a tricky one. It seems a very active, helpful and supportive club. I have racked my brain to try and give a helpful answer to this question but at the moment the only answer I can give is a rather unhelpful – ‘No’. Sorry!