By Steve Chadwick
I started climbing as a teenager, not knowing what I was doing, along with other equally incompetent callow youths. We had falls but didn’t die and learnt fast. Strong climbing partnerships were made, with the likes of Kieth Myhill, a fine climber of his generation and someone of such skill that I was lucky to have shared his rope for many climbs and first ascents, in the UK, Alps and Arctic mountains.
Horizons expanded and mountain ambitions grew. When compatriots were going to the Himalayas, I became fixated on Arctic Greenland making expeditions there between 1971 and 1975. The highlight being leading the 1973 East Greenland expedition which succeeded in making the first ascent of the 2,000m southeast face of Ingolfsjeld, which at the alpine grade of EDsup, with 63 pitches, climbed over four days, it still remains one of the longest and most difficult arctic faces climbed thus far. To date, it remains unrepeated.
Moving to Scotland to be near mountains, with various partners I made around 150 first ascents, also making several multi day solo winter ski crossings of Scottish mountains. Enjoyed summer solo running of long mountain ridges. Was a member of a Highlands Mountain Rescue team, along with which came many highs and lows. Rescuing folk, but often finding bodies.
Along the way I have lost many good friends to high standard alpine climbing, and I miss them all. Looking back, I can see I was very lucky to have survived mountain face falls, being run down by an iceberg, rock and ice avalanches passing very close. Hanging onto small mountain ledges during long cold nights, praying for the dawn, and not to die.
Amidst this was my work as an engineer, which took me to many parts of the world. Much of Europe, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, South Korea, Brunei, Sarawak, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Yemen and Bahrain. Also working for 18 years on North Sea oil rigs and platforms.
Another passion was music, and wherever I went I took my guitar and joined in many expat bands singing and playing lead acoustic guitar. With my long-suffering wife Morag, who was often left alone for long periods, we brought up three fine children, a girl and two boys.
Somewhere in there I qualified as a Summer and Winter Mountain leader.
My time in Nigeria was interesting as 261 expats were kidnapped in the space of three years. I was a voluntary representative of the British High Commission for this troubled area of southern Nigeria, and sometimes found myself talking with kidnappers, trying to keep them calm, whilst they were psyched up on drugs and or alcohol. Which they always took when bolstering their courage to get ready for a kidnapping. As soon as the professional negotiating team were on the scene, my role dropped out. I was tear gassed three times, shot at once, and had two assassination threats.
I loved researching writing and wrote a history of the Loch Ewe WWII convoys to Russia.
When I retired to Somerset West I began a fascination with our local mountains being hike Master for the Gantouw Hike Club from 2018 to 2021. After eight years of research, I had compiled a comprehensive knowledge of the hills around the Helderberg and wrote my guide to the Helderberg & Hottentots Holland Mountain Rim.
The guide contains carefully researched narratives of the history and legends of the mountains, including the most detailed yet story of the old 'Gantouw' wagon pass. The book also describes caves where you may find shelter in the storm; the story of local rock art, and an addendum detailing the first compilation of rock climbs on the mountains of the Rim. It was a labour of love.
As a member of four PAAC’s (Protected Area Advisory Committees) I am a passionate believer in the right of access to our mountain tops and is part of a pressure group which campaigns for the reopening of trails currently closed by CapeNature. Currently I am a CoCT certified snake catch and release person, Sir Lowry’s Pass Fire Warden, 'Operations' lead for Sir Lowry’s Pass Farm Watch and campaigner against the use of hunting dog packs on our mountain sides.
I follow these words I read somewhere.
“You should go to your grave with your body being a worn-out husk; used to the maximum, with batteries fully drained. Having experienced to the maximum all you possibly could along the way.” Amen!
The stories within him suggest yet another book waiting to be written, do you agree?