I've never written about this in a public forum before except in the initial aftermath to share my grief on facebook with friends and family. Out of respect to Phil and his family I'm not going to go into what happened that day other than to say that we were on the first day of a DWS trip and he never made it back out of the water.
Nearly 2 years later I've been able to take a step back and think about it without a gut-wrenching feeling of grief and guilt and the thing that surprised me on waking up this morning is that the mere thought of giving up climbing never occurred to me.
The more I thought about it the more I realised that climbing has a lot to answer for in my life. In short climbing has been responsible for meeting my wife, my choice of career, losing/leaving my job (on more than one occasion), an emotional meltdown, the loss of a friend, at least in part for getting a rubbish degree, constant crushing disappointment at failing to achieve targets I set myself, nearly bankrupted me and my family (at least on one occasion) and 18 months of constant, mind-numbing dull ache in my elbow joints.
Yet for all the ups (wife, job etc) and downs (money, only getting a 3rd etc) one thing has remained constant; my undying, unrelenting love for the ridiculous pursuit of trying to get up a piece of rock. And sometimes they aren't even real rocks, a lot of the time they're bits of resin bolted to ply board, what the hell am I doing?!
So what's it all about and why do we do it?
I finish with the two most poignant photo's, one of Phil and I on the walk into Gimmer, our favorite crag to climb on together, the perfect mix of great rock and superb routes on a truly adventurous crag but that comes with a pub at the bottom.
The second is a photo from a few days ago when Nicki and I took Phoebe to Brimham to have her first genuine climbing trip to the grit, she climbed better than I expected and managed a mod and the hard Vdiff Cyclops on top rope.
I know it won't always be a straight forward route, life will throw it's little cruxes at us, but climbing is inextricably entwined with not just my past but my very existence and looking at Phoebe now I'm proud and excited to see it continuing on into the future.