As someone who is new to bouldering, I've thought of many an excuse to not go higher or try harder routes. Likewise, I've heard many more excuses from friends who refuse to try climbing at all. The list of reasons usually run from fear to lack of strength, all of which are understandable. They are all also possible to overcome. But what if something bigger is standing in your way? What if a physical disability looks like it may make climbing impossible? Well, as Mountaineer Jamie Andrew has proved, you can overcome that, too.
Passionate about life in the mountains, Jamie was climbing in the Alps when he was unexpectedly caught in a storm. He was finally rescued after 4 days in the freezing cold but had lost his climbing partner and his hands and feet to frostbite. Refusing to accept that this was the end of his climbing career, just a couple of years later, Jamie was back in Chamonix climbing again. He kindly agreed to answer a few questions.
1. After losing your hands and feet to frostbite in a 7-day storm, you were handed a pretty valid excuse to never climb again, what made you decide to start again?
I have always been passionate about climbing. It's what makes me the person I am. I knew as I lay in my hospital bed that if I could, I would climb again.
2. What's the thing that motivates you the most?
Achieving successes, whether they be big successes, or small ones. Setting a goal, working hard, and then reaching that goal, is a huge motivator.
3. You have an appetite for the seemingly impossible, please tell us a few of the challenges you've completed.
I've climbed many mountains around the world, including Kilimanjaro as part of an all disabled team, run several marathons, one Iron Man (one is enough!), sailed across the North Sea with an all amputee crew, mountain marathons, skied, got my kids to do their homework before dinner.
4. You helped organise Scotland's first paraclimb competition, which encouraged people with a whole range of disabilities to try climbing, how do you go about motivating and inspiring others to push their boundaries?
Mostly I lead by example. I figure if that people see that I can climb, even without hands and feet, then they might believe that they can climb too. And of course they can!
5. Everyone has their bad days, how do you talk yourself out of the dark moments?
I have my friends and family, my wife Anna. Everyone needs the support and security of those closest to them to see them through the hard times.
6. You're keen to throw out all misconceptions and prove the only limitations are set by yourself, is there anything you're scared of?
Heights, small spaces, the dark, spiders, deep water, failure. The same things as everybody really. But I know that if I confront those fears that in reality they are never as bad as I expect. Taking that leap of faith is what I have learned to do and hope to encourage others to do also.
7. What new challenges are you setting your sights on?
I am hoping to climb the Matterhorn. It is the most iconic of alpine mountains. This year is the 150th anniversary of its first ascent and it still commands a lot of respect from mountaineers to this day.
8. What's the worst excuse you've heard?
Read more about Jamie's inspirational story and future challenges here. Discover more inspiring stories and some motivation during No Excuses month on the Gymbox blog.