You been touring around the country as a 'stand up mountaineer'. What do you love about touring and have there been any stand-out moments?
Eating all those pots of M&S couscous while sleeping in my car… (a lot of bivvy skills can be applied to touring and vice versa). During my current tour, getting stuck on Stornaway and having to cancel a sell-out gig was a lowpoint… And then driving from Skye to Glasgow when exhausted saw me having to sleep at the Fort William McDonald’s to avoid crashing!
Along with many other big wall climbs, you've done El Capitan 29 times. What pushes you to achieve what you have?
I’ve not updated my website and think it’s more now, but I’ve lost count! What drives me? I think I was always scared of an ordinary life, maybe because looking back at it, my childhood was quite a damaged one. If you grow up uncomfortable and on edge emotionally often that’s what feels normal, and so normal life always terrified me as I felt something bad was just around the corner (so why not just go and find it instead?)
Your award-winning book Psychovertical talks about your childhood and struggle with dyslexia. Do you meet many fans in similar situations?
I’ve met many people of all ages who took a lot of inspiration from that book, both what it said as well as the fact someone like me could actually write it! I’m still proud of it as I was really clueless!
In 2012, you took your then 13 year old daughter Ella up El Capitan. What do you think an adventure like this taught her, and how can other young people be encouraged to connect with the natural world in such a raw way?
I think it taught her that it’s not hard to be brave when – in payment – you receive one of the greatest moments of your life. I applied this to my climbing for twenty years and only got as far as mountain tops, but it was only when I started to apply it to my real life that life turned around in a profound and wonderful way.
Sometimes you spend weeks on the mountains before reaching your goal. What are your three essential pieces of equipment?
An MP3 Player like an iPod classic with a lot of music on it as well as audio books, films and TV shows. This can help pass the time, help you depressurise and keep a team happy (I’ve had 3 people sat in their sleeping bags night after night watching Mighty Boosh on a monitor the size of a match box). Plus the right music at the right movement can be the soundtrack to something you’ll never ever forget. I always look after my feet so warm boots are a must, plus missing toes makes fitting rock boots a pain in the ass... And I always carry one of those Light My Fire flints as they’ll light your stove no matter how cold, wet and windy it is. It’s saved my life many many times!
What was the most challenging climb you've done, and what was the biggest lesson you took from it?
Probably soloing The Sea of Dreams last year. It took me 14 days instead of the 10 I’d planned so I ended up very short of water and the climbing was very hard (ended up being the fourth solo ascent since it was put up in 1978!)
If you had to spend a day in Scotland climbing, where would you go and why?
I’ve sea kayaked more in Scotland than actually climbed I think (been round Cape Wrath, got dumped out at Sandwood Bay!) so I love the remote coves and beaches (kayaking to and then around Eigg was memorable). But it probably has to be that old classic the Ben, as it has so much history and quality of climbing.