A FAMOUS climber whose death-defying Peruvian adventure was immortalised in the film Touching The Void, has returned to Lutterworth to give a talk at his old school.
Originally from Croft, former Lutterworth Grammar School pupil Simon Yates (45) shot to prominence when the tale of his and climbing partner Joe Simpson's survival on 21,500ft Peruvian mountain Siula Grande was recounted in a book by Mr Simpson in 1998 and made into the film in 2003.
It describes the physical and subsequent psychological trauma of the ultimate 'him or me'
scenario, when Mr Yates was forced to cut a rope attaching him to Mr Simpson, who was hanging, injured, over a ledge and slowly dragging Mr Yates with him.
He told the Grammar School pupils: "I didn't know what to do. I'm in this terrible stalemate situation, where sooner or later I'm going to be hauled off the mountain.
"After about two-and-a-half hours I made the decision to cut the rope."
Amazingly, Mr Simpson survived. He fell into a crevasse, before crawling out of its base, and back to camp with a broken leg.
Mr Yates said: "I told the base camp manager by radio that he was dead. As you can imagine, I was a bit surprised to see Joe parked up three days later."
For a man whose life-death decision divided the climbing community, he was remarkably lighthearted about the experience – and even laughed about the nickname "Slasher" he was labeled with.
He spoke of their first climb together up Mont Blanc a few years before.
He said: "We climbed without ropes because my crampons kept falling off and Joe refused to climb roped to me. We worked on the principle that one death is better than two.
"Later Joe then collapsed on the South side of Mont Blanc but by the evening he was much better. It was sun stroke I think."
The first climb of Siula Grande ever attempted in 1995 was only one of many dramatic global peaks scaled in a 20 year career – beginning with a Lutterworth Grammar School outwardbound trip to the Lake District.
He said: "I went to Coniston Water when I was 14.
"I really enjoyed the rock climbing and my brother's best friend at school was a rock climber so we climbed Huncote Quarry, Beacon Hill, and the odd railway viaduct.
"No offence, but the only thing you can do in Leicestershire if you want to climb seriously is to escape."
Despite having spent days climbing glass smooth towers of rock – even sleeping in storm- tossed cradles attached to them – he has only had vertigo twice.
Once, at the top of a wedge- shaped peak narrow enough to straddle thousands of feet above cloud-swathed Alpine Meadows, and once.....in Paris.
He said: "The only other place it has ever happened was at the Pompidou Centre when I was on the French lager the night before."