WRITTEN BY ANNE ENSOLL & TONY ROBINSON
Richard Bryant is our "oldest" client - he first came on a course as a present for his 40th birthday, twenty years ago. For several years now he has brought a group from his archery club for a couple of days rock climbing in September. At first it was a couple of days of single pitch climbing, then it became one day single pitch and one day multi-pitch, and for the last few years it has been two days of multi-pitch climbing. Tony Robinson is a regular with the group, and this is his transformation story in his own words.
I’m 44, work in the City of London, and sit behind a desk from 7am to 5pm. I have two teenage children and when I’m not at work I’m usually ferrying them from one activity to another. Due to this sedentary lifestyle I was a little overweight and pretty unfit.
With a group of friends I have been making an annual pilgrimage to Ambleside in the Lake District for about a decade. This trip started off with a single day of top rope climbing with maybe some abseiling in the afternoon. We would all stay in a B&B and eat/drink in the Unicorn in Ambleside. At this point the beer, food and camaraderie were the main reason for the trip north.
We had been using Chris more or less from our first trip and were impressed with how he could always get the best out of everyone. More often than not we would come home from a day of climbing amazed that we managed to climb some impossible route that Chris shinned up in wellies or ancient trainers.
Approximately seven years ago the climbing started to become the focus of the trip and the rest secondary. We started hiring two guides for two days; Chris (obviously) and for the last five years, John Kettle. The first time we attempted lead climbing is one of the highlights, as too are some of the scrambling routes we have done (Jack’s Rake, Pinnacle Ridge). Chris and John always bring out the best in everyone, pushing and cajoling to get the best out of the day and everyone present.
The days out with Chris prompted me to attempt the Three Peaks challenge. Coming from London we did the route in reverse and after conquering Snowdon we set off up Scafell Pike. Half way up I realised I was nowhere near as fit as I had thought I was and the odd lunchtime 5km run wasn’t cutting it anymore. Unfortunately my knees were done and I never made it up Ben Nevis.
On the next trip to the Lakes, I was talking to Chris, who had already instilled in us all his “Heel-Ball-Toe” doctrine, and he suggested a more “Toe-Heel-Ball-Toe” approach to a descent with knees bent. Oh, and losing a bit of weight might help. A throwaway comment from a man who weighs 10 stone! But with still sore knees and carrying about two stone too much weight that particular year’s trip to the Lakes was more strenuous than most.
So I decided a lifestyle change was needed. I still have to be in the office from 7am to 5pm, but I now go to the gym much more regularly. I’m never going to be a body builder, but four sessions a week working on legs, stamina and general fitness has genuinely helped. I’ve joined a local indoor climbing wall and have also changed my diet. I no longer eat bread for lunch, sticking to salad instead; I drink less alcohol and avoid sugary food and drinks. Over a six month period I lost over a stone and a half, which has stayed off for two years. I lapse occasionally, but generally avoid the office birthday donuts and feel fitter and healthier than I have for years.
The real proof in the pudding is that the last two outings with Chris and John have been the best ever. I’m physically more capable, don’t tire as quickly and am less sore and exhausted on day two. Obviously part of this improvement is due to (I hope) improved technique, but a lot has to do with carrying less weight and a higher level of fitness. A throwaway comment from Chris and my desire to get more out of our brief climbing weekends has improved my health levels. Lunch can be dull and I get hungry, but to get to the top of Pavey Ark or Little Chamonix and the first thought to be of the view and not catching my breath more than makes up for it.