Game of Ghosts

I laughed when I first read Joe Simpson’s This Game of Ghost, as it seemed inconceivable to me that I would loose friends in the mountains. I am useless at remembering dates (It took me two months to get my bin out on the right day despite many iCal alarms), and often it is only Facebook that reminds me of the tragedy I have shared with friends over the years.

Today is one such day, a day when in 2010 a friend was taken by an avalanche on the Buchaile Etive Mor. I always remember Chris from hanging out with him in Llanberis when he worked for Mountain Ventures. He fitted in well to the carnage of the late 1990s in Llanberis.

I also remember him from the winter of 2005. I had just left my job at the Beacon and was going to start work at Plas Y Brenin. I took a month off to head to Scotland and do my Winter ML training. The evening I finished in the Beacon, I drove up over night and was found in the Car Park in the morning by Chris who preceded to drag into the Norries.

I then spent a couple of weeks heading out to various places with him and others. The Lliatach Traverse in Torridon really stands out as one of the best winter days out I have ever had in Scotland, as we had near alpine conditions and Chris company was perfect as ever. A few days later we returned to Torridon to attempt Middle Triple Buttress.

As I approached the start of the route I was wading through deep snow, when just feet away from perfect plastic ice my whole world started moving and as I fought to stay on the top of the avalanche. Chris shout across at me “its OK, I’ve got you”. As the snow drove itself into a boulder field I came to a stop partly buried.

Five years later Chris was not so lucky and was swept away in an Avalanche and taken from us. I had not planned anything special today as I had forgotten it was this day in 2010 that he left us. But today I headed to the beacon for a climb and then out to catch the last of yesterdays swell. I am sure Chris would enthuisatically agree that was a good use of my time.

Chris’ friends and family set up the Chris Walker Memorial Trust┬áthat both funds expeditions to the greater ranges, avalanche training for instructors and mountain guides and a free off piste skiing course.

Chris was the first friend I lost to climbing, sadly more have followed him and as I get older you start to understand that this really is a Game of Ghosts as Simpson put it.

Sometimes it is awful, I have just got in from a great surf and seen on the news that two climbers are thought to be caught in an avalanche of Ben Nevis. My thoughts instantly start to wonder who I know up there, among all the guides, instructors and climbers I know who are north of the border. Even if I don’t know the climbers, they are still brothers or sisters in arms. We can only hope for happy outcome.

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