Glasgow-based photographer and filmmaker Euan Ryan has documented para-climbers on the Eiger, climbing with autism, and the mental healing that climbing can offer. He also suffers from Crohn's disease, a painful and sometimes debilitating inflammatory bowel condition.
Finding Our Way podcast champions diverse outdoor voices and is proudly sponsored by Berghaus.
How do you choose your filming projects?
I'm interested in the people that do climbing, because climbing is such a strange sport! For the most part, you’re climbing a route up a rock face to an arbitrary point, sometimes not even the summit, and there are easier ways to do it. You're pushing not just the physical but your mental capabilities. But trying to figure out why some people take that to the next level, putting themselves in real danger or perhaps trying to gain something out of climbing that I never thought about, like helping with a mental health challenge, that's what draws me.
How do you manage your chronic illness with such a demanding job and hobby?
I’m very lucky that my Crohn's disease is under control and managed by my medication, which is the kind of stuff they give to transplant patients to stop their body rejecting organs. I take oral medication, I also self inject. There are some people who really struggle to get any kind of management from their medication or from lifestyle changes, or have to go through surgery to have sections of bowel removed. However, I know people with stoma bags who say it was the best thing that ever happened to them because it gave them a quality of life back. Not all disabilities are visible – I don’t think you’d know I had anything going on just to look at me. But sometimes I really need to use the disabled, accessible toilet. And we need to be frank about ‘poo issues’ when it's appropriate. For me, getting diagnosed took a bit of time because I was embarrassed. I was skeletal, couldn’t walk to school, was falling asleep in classes and would sob with pain. I ended up in hospital for weeks.
You filmed Robbie Phillips and Willis Morris on the Eiger, climbing the route Paciencia...
Being a climber and mountaineer certainly helps when it comes to recceing and setting up for filming, keeping yourself safe and in check. You can always tell when climbing has been filmed by a non-climber! But the North Face of the Eiger is a horrible place to be, it really is. It's raining rocks. In the summer the ice at the top of the mountain is melting and releasing rocks the size of fridges. It got too scary, so I bailed. A brick-sized rock scuffed past me and clipped my camera, and I went, 'Yeah, I'm done with this now!' I gave them some go pros and then abseiled back down to the train tunnel and got a train down to town and got a beer!
Has becoming a parent changed your attitude to risk?
I don’t think so. I enjoy trad climbing within my ability and I still do a lot sport climbing. I've been climbing for so long that I like to think that I know where my limits are. Obviously accidents happen. But when you’re driving a car, accidents happen. If you live your life avoiding any kind of risk then you're not setting a very good example to your kids, are you?
What does climbing mean to you?
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Crohns and Colitis Website
Meet our guests from Season 1:
Rehna Yaseen: Free kit, ‘BAME’ and inspiring young South Asians
Euan Ryan: Making films, climbing and hidden disabilities
Bonita Norris: Everest, ethics and disordered eating
Rob Mitchell: Cake, maps, and gay, bi- & trans lads outdoors
Cherelle Harding: Urban community, reggae and rolling down hills
Stu Skinner: Deserts, jungles and mental health training
Finding Our Way is sponsored by Berghaus, and hosted by BMC walking ambassador Mary-Ann Ochota and expedition leader and equity champion Cress Allwood. Our editor is Chris Stone.
Get involved with the conversation by sharing your thoughts on the BMC Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #FindingOurWay.
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Finding Our Way is the new BMC podcast where our guests are as diverse as the outdoors should be.
Hosted by BMC Hillwalking Ambassador and TV Broadcaster Mary-Ann Ochota and Expedition Leader and equity champion Cress Allwood, the podcasts aims to diversify the people we normally hear talking about the outdoors, celebrate their stories and shine a light on their insights.
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