By Julia Bevan, 6.2 Houseparent and Teacher of English
Before half term, British recreational mountaineer David Potter visited Bedales to demonstrate climbing gear for both rock and mountain climbing to my Block 4 English elective group, who have been studying Mountains of the Mind by Robert McFarlane, The Living Mountain by Nan Shepherd and Touching the Void by Joe Simpson.
Meeting in the Sam Banks Pavilion, students gathered in a circle and listened as David – who first climbed in South America and whose love of the natural world has led him into work within climate change – spoke about the kit laid out in front of them. They were fascinated as they held crampons and ice axes and learnt when they might need to use a snow anchor, held karabiners and watched how to clip themselves correctly to a rope.
After David’s visit, students reflected on the experience.
Zeb Jay said: “David does mountaineering because he likes being outside, having an amazing experience with his mates. He eats tinned and packaged food, like on Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) expeditions. He first climbed a mountain after university and it is an amazing life skill, which his family also profits from. Mountaineering is all about risk – if you have a good sense of risk you are guaranteed to be a good mountaineer.”
Orson Farley said: “I learnt that the big reason for mountaineering is getting into the depths and corners of landscapes. You can look at a mountain and maybe even hike up a bit of it, but to really understand it is to mountaineer. I’ve learnt about food and sources of energy. You have to have a high calorie count in order to function.”
Seb Stewart commented: “I learnt that in life great things take time – you can’t just run head first into climbing K2 or Everest, you start small and work your way to greatness with the support of your friends and people you trust. You don’t need to read The Top of the World just to be a successful climber. The kit used by mountaineers is so small and detailed that one may wonder how such a small thing supports such a massive thing – that being your life, and the wellbeing of your family.”
Margot Gwyer: “I learnt that you have to have masses of trust between you and the person you are climbing with. You have to listen to each other and work as a team always.”
Jack Bowdery: “Safety is the main concern in climbing. I learnt how much kit you need to bring and use. Climbing is always a risk.”
Gordon Thistleton-Smith: “I learnt that walking, hiking, climbing and mountaineering are all different levels of the spectrum of being in the environment.”