Alpine tricks of the trade: Rob Greenwood interview

Posted by Becky McGovern on 02/04/2013
Photo: Sam Van Brempt

Are you hoping to head to the Alps this year? We interviewed Rob Greenwood (alpine climber) to find out what he has gained from his alpine exploits.

Rob is an accomplished all round climber and has had many alpine adventures.  Recently we held a competition on Facebook asking which one question you would ask an alpine expert.  Here are Rob's answers to the top ten questions:

Why do people move together on steep non glaciated snow? When it’s un-protectable and not too difficult to climb, could one person actually hold the fall when their partner slips without a belay?
In short the answer is speed: moving together saves time, saving time means saving weight, and carrying less stuff makes things easier. Obviously there is an associated risk of moving together this way and it is difficult to give a definite yes/no answer as to whether a fall could be held as there are so many factors at play. My advice would be only to enter such an environment after you feel like you and your climbing partner have the relevant competency and experience to do so. At the end of the day it comes down to judgement - if it doesn't feel right, don't do it.

The BMC Alpine Essentials DVD has a whole chapter on moving together. Where there are no running belays for the rope to go through, as on steep snow, then climbers would be best to have a short length of tight rope between them.

If you had to spend a week in a snow cave in bad weather conditions wishing you were out on the hill, who would you rather spend it with: Hazel Findlay or Niall Grimes?
Although I wouldn't wish such an event on anyone, I think I would choose Hazel (sorry Hazel...). Having climbed with her before I can honestly say that I have never seen someone put so much effort into achieving a goal (hence the reason she is so good). With that sort of dedication I would feel inspired to quit moaning and get out of the snow-hole fresh with enthusiasm for life.

Who do you think would win in a fight: Nessy or Jaws?
Nessy - she (or he) lives in a Scottish Loch, there is no way that California could breed anything anywhere near as hard.

Which bad habits are deal breakers when choosing a partner?
Long term addiction to hyper-strength coffee.

Half ropes or full ropes for a team of two?
Over the past few years I have favoured some of the super-light modern single ropes that are now available (e.g. Mammut Serenity 8.9mm, Beal Joker 9.1mm, DMM New Breed 9.4mm), these tend to offer the best of both worlds in terms of weight vs. durability.

Imagine you are a middle aged, overweight climber who last went to the Alps 15 years ago, and who is now regularly terrified on VSs.  Where would you go to recapture the Alpine spirit this summer without killing yourself, and which routes would you choose?
Let's throw in a curve-ball: how about doing some Via Ferrata in the Dolomites? Although not technically 'alpinism' it is fun way of getting out into the mountains without the associated fear of falling rocks or disappearing into crevasses. It also has the added benefit of the worlds best coffee, a nice selection of red wine, and a mean pizza - what more could you possibly ask for?!

Do you enjoy spooning?
Most certainly, I vividly recall spooning UKC Chief Editor Jack Geldard whilst descending the Matterhorn. We had just climbed the North Face via the Schmid Route and it had taken a little longer than expected (doesn't it always), stopping off at the Salvay Hut we huddled together underneath five blankets. It would suffice to say that spooning another man takes a little getting used to, but being warm doesn't - we slept so well we didn't even hear the alarm the following morning!

If you could have a coffee with any climber of the past who would it be?
Having worked at Joe Brown's Shop for several years I have already had a cup of tea with the great man himself, but if it were to be a cup of coffee I'd go for Italian climbing legend Walter Bonatti - a truly inspirational figure.

How does a skint person afford it? I’ve been saving up to go to Zermatt for 4 years and still can’t afford it!
My first recommendation would be to avoid Zermatt as it is arguably one of the most expensive places to climb in the whole of the Alps, the neighbouring Saastal is significantly cheaper and has a superb array of 4000m peaks to go at.

What is your favourite piece of alpine gear?
Easy - my Mountain Equipment Citadel Jacket. After years of winter climbing I have come to the conclusion that being cold isn't actually that much fun, if you are warm the chances are that you'll enjoy the whole experience that bit more (or maybe I'm just getting soft).

Thanks Rob!

 


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