We got the rare opportunity to interview one of the world’s most famous climbers, who is also a mentor, adventurer and well sought-after speaker.
Editor: Thanks so much for chatting with us, Tim. We know your schedule is tight and do appreciate your time.
Tim Emmett: Hi guys!
Editor: Tim you’re a professional extreme sports athlete and TV presenter and have appeared on many BBC programs. You worked with the design team of the company Mountain Hardwear and design team and captured the first ascent of Helmcken Falls, Canada in 2012. This was perhaps the most famous ice climb in the world.
You also established some of the hardest rock climbs in Cuba, Mongolia and Wales. You’re author, speaker and former Wingsuit B.A.S.E. jumper…an all-around, multi-talented athlete and motivator.
With a stellar resume like that, what have you been working on lately? Looks like you just got back home to the UK.
Tim Emmett: I’ve just got back from a Canadian Rockies mixed climbing trip with the Slovenian Ice guru Klemen Premrl! And now on a lecture tour in the UK, seeing friends and doing some climbing too if the weather lets us.
Editor: When and where did you go climbing for the very first time in your life? Who taught you to climb and how old were you?
Tim Emmett: I started climbing at school when I was 15 down in Somerset, UK. Chris Henshall, my geography teacher was a huge influence on my climbing and showed me the way. I loved getting out of school and into the countryside, climbing up rocks, and enjoying the outdoor playground.
Editor: What did that first climb feel like? First climbs are so special, one never forgets them.
Tim Emmett: You’re absolutely right, my first climb was very memorable! I top roped a 30ft piece of polished limestone; a route called Salome graded ‘Very Difficult’. It was so exhilarating being high off the ground on a steep face, the feeling I got when I reached the top was fabulous, so stoked. I knew from that moment on I wanted to be a climber.
Editor: Let’s chat about you and Ueli Steck…where are you guys headed for your speaker series and what will you be talking about (for those of us in the US who can’t be there but want to know!)?
Tim Emmett: Ueli fractured his leg last week skiing, so he’s recovering at home. I have been doing a series of talks in North Wales and the Lake District. Ueli joined me for one of them on Skype, and was able to answer lots of questions that the crowd asked him. It worked really well, in fact Ueli looked like a king on the screen! We are doing another one in the Peak District at Outside on Saturday 14th.
Both are very popular places for people that love the outdoors. (The lakes is the first real climbing trip I went on, for a week. I got a bus up there with a friend and we hitched hiked to get around between the crags and camped at night. It was so fun and the weather was pretty good too). I’m talking about lessons I have learnt throughout my life adventuring in climbing, alpinism and wing suit flying. Ueli is talking about some of his latest adventure and doing an open questions and answers for the crowd.
Editor: When did you first meet Ueli?
Tim Emmett: I first met Ueli at Mountain Hardwear when he was designing his new range of superlight products with them. I haven’t climbed with him yet so looking forward to it when we get the chance.
Editor: What are your views on risk management when climbing? The Everest tragedies shook a lot of folks. What’s your POV on that?
Tim Emmett: Risk management for climbing is a very personal thing; also the mountains are a dangerous place. There are many factors not in your control, even when you prepare well. I have many friends that have died out of misfortune rather than making mistakes and poor decisions.
My first Alpine climb was a route called Beyond Good and Evil in Chamonix. I did it with Sue Knott, we did it in good style but not fast. Abseiling down at night a serac broke off maybe a 1000 feet above us and came down into the gully we were about to abseil into. If we we’re a little faster we would have been killed for sure. The mountains are alive and they do what they want. You can use your skills to guide you through. There are some risks you can reduce but many you can’t.
Editor: You’ve been doing a whole lot of fabulous ice climbing and mixed test pieces lately. What was Jimmy Skidrig M11 on Pigeon Mountain like?
Tim Emmett: Thanks, it’s an amazing place up there. The walk up to the cliff is remote and serene. We saw some paw prints the size of a dinner plate 3 hours into the hike, which added to the excitement. The route itself is one of the few hard mixed routes that starts and finishes on ice. The final pitch up the headwall to the ice is spectacular, a real endurance test.
* Having considered doing the route at 10.30 pm the night before on advice from Raphael Slawinski we hadn’t seen the topo. I arrived at a belay just below the ice where the angle eases thinking this was the end of the crux pitch. Climbing in a three we decided to abseil from there. It transpires that the route continues to the ice and then climbs it for another 20M giving a massive 70m pitch. I guess we’ll have to go back to finish that one off.
Editor: And then there was Nophobia (M10), Hydrophobia and Cryophobia…and Musashi in the Cineplex in the Icefields Parkway (M12) all superb climbs from the shots I saw. Your personal favorite?
Tim Emmett: Nophobia was a brilliant experience in another stunning setting, but I think my favourite has to be Cryophobia. It’s the coolest line and climbing on the ice is technical and absolutely superb. I really enjoy doing mixed climbs that have a combination of rock and also technical ice. Seeing as Nophobia and Jimmy Skinrig were mainly rock, Cryophobia is the one.
One thing I really noticed from this trip is how much Spray On Top stands out from the crowd, in relation to the other testpieces in the Rockies. Being at Helmcken with the falls behind you and climbing on a combination of wild, very steep ice, and a crux mixed pitch too - it’s outstanding! Also it’s the only route we climbed that is totally natural. There are no modifications to any holds, this in itself seems to be a rare quality in the modern era.
Editor: Would you agree or disagree that most mixed climbs are vertical to slightly over-hanging? What’s your expert opinion?
Tim Emmett: Mixed climbs can be all sorts of angles; it really depends on the grade. The harder it is the steeper it gets. I don’t think most of them are slightly overhanging. More vertical or less steep but I haven’t done them all so I can’t say that with conviction!
Editor: Here’s an important and emotionally deep question that not many climbers are able to answer. I ask every climber the same question when I interviewed them.
Why do you climb, Tim? In a spiritual (nature is so spiritual and pure) or philosophical sense, what does it give you?
How has climbing become a part of you?
Tim Emmett: Climbing puts me in touch with nature and my inner self. It’s like a form of mediation or yoga that focuses the mind. Also the more I expose myself to climbs with consequence the stronger and more memorable the experience. In an ironic way it stimulates my senses and the importance of being alive.
Editor: What are your thoughts on the preservation of nature and climate change? It directly affects your profession, which is why I asked.
Tim Emmett: With all the travelling I do, I am somewhat of a hypocrite for my views on the preservation of nature and climate control. I’m a zoologist and I love nature. I drive a small car, only put enough water in the kettle for what’s needed and turn lights and heating off in the house when I can.
My dream is to live in a house which is totally self sufficient with a wind turbine, solar panels and geothermal heating. With a garden full of vegetables and a few pigs and chickens! And also go hunting so I can catch my own meat for the family and fill the freezer for the year! One on One, Organic!
When Katie, my wife reads this she’s going to be over the moon, she’s being trying to turn me into a redneck for ages ha ha!
Editor: She is definitely amazing! Okay, switching gears for a bit…Let’s talk about relaxing stuff like music, movies and books…when you have a little time to yourself and your beautiful family, what kind of books do you read and what kind of music do you enjoy?
Tim Emmett: I must say I’m not a big reader, although I love hanging out with Rocco and reading books with him. Most of the books I read are on expeditions waiting for good weather. I love watching movies with Rocco under my arm and Katie by my side. I wonder what Rocco thinks about it!
The first film he ever saw was McConkey. It was so inspirational and sad at the same time. It might have been one of the contributing factors for me to stop wingsuit BASE actually, I just realised that now. As for music, I enjoy both kinds, Country and Western.
Editor: Very cool answers! Your fans really enjoy how you share images of your family, as some of your fans have families as well – it builds a great connection. It’s so refreshing seeing you and your beautiful and super-talented wife Katie encourage and empower each other. And of course, Rocco should definitely have his own fan club! How does it feel to have a sweet and supportive family to come home to after all these fabulous forays into the wild? Must be lovely!
Tim Emmett: Wow, some lovely words, thank you Vera. It’s amazing actually, Katie is a superstar and I must say I can’t wait to go on more adventures with them, especially Rocco as he is growing up. It’s going to be so much fun introducing him to the World, I hope he enjoys it!
One thing that I am sure lots of people can resonate with is, that when I am away I think about my family a lot and there is a huge draw to see them and hang out with them. Also I think it helps me to make good decisions, I have many friends that are no longer here and I am really keen to stick around for as long as I can.
Editor: And you shall! Many blessings to you, Katie and Rocco. Thanks for talking to us, Tim. Drop by and keep us posted on your next phenomenal adventure!
Tim Emmett: Thanks a lot, it’s been great speaking with you.
Interview conducted by Vera Kaikobad L. Ac.
Editor of the Facebook Page: 'An Interview With'.
Editor-in-Chief of ClimbSkiBoulderMagazine.com
Interview © Vera Kaikobad L. Ac.
All images © of the designated photographer and used with Tim's written permission.
Sponsors: Mountain Hardwear, Black Diamond, Scarpa, Adidas Eyewear, GoPro, Edelweiss, JuicePlus+, RaEnergy.
Official blog/website: http://www.timemmett.com/
Climber Bio: On his first Himalayan trip in 2006 with Ian Parnell, Tim climbed a new route on the East Face on Kedar Dome (6840M) free, in Super Alpine style, and nominated for the Piolet D'Or (climbing’s equivalent to the Oscars). Tim achieved podium position 4 times at the World Ice Climbing Championships. He has both the hardest Sport climb and Deep Water Solo in the Caribbean. In 2010 Tim made the first ascent of Muy Caliente the first E10 in Wales. Tim enjoys many other sports including Skiing, Snow Boarding, Free Diving, Skeleton, Bobsleigh, Kite Boarding, Mountain Biking and Heli Boarding.
Tim is the Patron of the Charity “Breathtakers”. He graduated with Marine Zoology and has great interest in Nutrition and Training.
* Many of the holds have been enhanced in someway to enable the route to be possible. Such is the nature of mixed climbing on soft rock that holds break all the time, as a result the first ascentionist may choose to enhance holds to secure the way for others.
On the Cover:
Cover date: March 11th, 2015