Avoiding the Headlines on 21st February, 2024
by John Alcock

Event Details

Imagine hanging from a vertical pillar of ice, your arms dangling from the thin blades of a pair of ice axes and your feet precariously supported by two sharp crampon points. Perhaps a cloud of spindrift is blasting down your neck and your fingers and toes are going numb with cold. Welcome to the esoteric world of ice climbing.

For nearly half a century John Alcock has enjoyed ice climbing around the world- from the narrow gullies and Arctic weather of Ben Nevis in Scotland, to frigid free-hanging ice falls in Europe and North America, to the commitment of ski-in, ski-out routes on Mont Blanc. John's lecture will explore the challenges involved in a hostile environment where, in many cases, the climber simply can't afford to fall. In particular he'll explain why he has climbed many of the routes alone, without ropes and how close this has brought him to disaster.

John will explain how his parents' willingness to let him wander the Scottish mountain on his own from his early teens developed self-reliance and confidence, even if it meant not always being honest about the mistakes that he made or the epics he endured. He will describe the experience of attempting some of the South West's most adventurous rock climbs, cut-off on lonely sea cliffs, sometimes swimming to escape and how it helped prepare him for the rigors of the mountains.

John has combined his passion for climbing with a demanding career as a broadcast journalist. He will compare the at times terrifying experience of being under fire in wars zones like Sarajevo with the risks involved in climbing. He'll look at how the sometimes addictive thrill of war reporting matches that of his climbing adventures.

John has never climbed for money or fame. He climbs for the love of the challenge, the joy of the movement and the beauty of his surroundings. Several friends have died climbing, but John is as keen as ever although he continues to ask himself: "Is it worth the risk?"

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John Alcock

Climbing is in John Alcock's bood. His parents had met climbing and introduced him to the sport on the cliffs of South Wales when he was just 9 years old. They trusted him to an extent that is hard to imagine today. By the age of 11 he was creating new climbs. At the age of 12 he was leading parties of scouts across the Brecon Beacons. After moving to Glasgow when he was 13, John's paren...

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