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with Stefan Nestler

Paul Ramsden: “Climbing style is everything”

Paul Ramsden

He is anything but a self-promoter. Paul Ramsden does not belong to the group of extreme climbers who are out to market themselves and want to be constantly in the spotlight. Though he certainly deserves it – the list of his first ascents in the Himalayas is long. In fall 2016, for example, the British, together with his compatriot Nick Bullock, succeeded to climb for the first time through the extremely demanding North Face of the 7,046 meter high Nyainqentangla South in Tibet. For this performance, they were recently awarded the Piolet d’Or. It was already the fourth time that Ramsden received the “Oscar of the Climbers”. And this is despite the fact that the 48-year-old is not a professional climber. He earns his living as a self-employed occupational hygienist who advises companies and furnishes expert reports.

Paul, you are a non-professional climber, you have a job and family. What is your motivation to set off year by year to remote mountain areas in the Himalayas to tackle unclimbed mountains, walls or ridges?

I love the mountains, it’s as simple as that. But as I don’t live or work in the mountains this maintains my enthusiasm for when I do visit them. Strangely with family and work commitments I find it more difficult to go climbing for weekends throughout the year than I do to go on an expedition once a year.

Summit selfie of Paul (l.) with Nick Bullock (r.)

What does real adventure means in your view?

Real adventure is not knowing the outcome, if success is in doubt you are having an adventure. However, for me adventure is so tied up with climbing style that the questions are inseparable. The British climbing tradition has always been like this.

How important is it for you to climb in pure style?

Style is everything, without good style climbing becomes a meaningless physical activity. For me good style is climbing in a pure alpine style, small team, no bolts, no fixed ropes, no outside support.

How many risks are you willing to take?

I try really hard to reduce the risks to a minimum. I am very selective about my route choices, always considering objective hazards and the means of descent. The risk assessment in my head is a constant process and difficult to describe but I have turned back on many routes.

The route on Nyainqentangla South East

What is your secret of success?

I don’t know to be honest. I suppose it’s a combination of experience, judgement and climbing in a style that suits my abilities and temperament.

You have climbed for many years very successfully with Mick Fowler, now with Nick Bullock. Which criteria has a perfect team partner to meet?

The perfect climbing partner is safety conscious, has a good sense of humour (The British sense of humour helps a lot on the mountain) but is still prepared to commit to the max when the need arises.

Mick was diagnosed with cancer this year. What did you feel when you heard it?

This was a real blow and a total surprise as he appeared to be very healthy and has always seems indestructible to me. He has just finished his treatment and hopeful all will be well. It does make you think about the future though and consider all the things you haven’t done yet.

Piolet d’Or winners Ramsden (l.) and Mick Fowler

You were awarded the Piolet d’Or, the “Oscar of the climbers”, four times, you’re the record winner (along with Marko Prezelj). Does this mean anything to you?

While it’s very pleasant to be recognised by you peers it has virtually no impact on my life. As a non professional, part time climber, I don’t really need sponsorship or publicity. However I do support the Piolet D’Or as a tool for promoting good ethics and style in mountaineering.

Is there already a climbing goal that you have set for next year?

Yes, I am going on another expedition in 2018 with Nick Bullock. I like to keep objectives secret though!


14. December 2017 | 12:21