Tim Emmett talks climbing his hardest ice route, hardest rock route and winning his first international competition post-40. What's his secret? Diet and fatherhood.
I moved to Canada because I met my wife, and two things about England hit me every time I come back here. Firstly, the traffic is shocking. And secondly, it's the aura that’s created by having a lot of people in a small area. It's really unique, the way in which people interact and the intensity of conversation here. I really like this.
Has my life changed since I became a dad? Yes, I’ve really upped my game! I recently climbed my hardest ice route, Interstellar Spice at Helmcken Falls in Canada (WI 12); my hardest rock route, Captain America in Squamish (F8c); and won my first international competition, the dry tooling event Red Bull White Cliffs. I’m still trying to climb an 8c+ though.
Interstellar Spice was probably the best climbing experience I’ve ever had: it’s a sensory overload. Visually it’s magnificent and physically I was right at the limit – really pumped but trying to stay relaxed and focused on efficiency because as soon as you start thinking, you make mistakes. And psychologically I really had to draw on everything I’ve learnt in my climbing.
Edelweiss made us a 200m rope because we wanted to climb Interstellar Spice in one pitch so we didn’t interrupt the flow of the route. When you're trying to clip the last few bolts and you’ve climbed so far to get there it really adds to the aura. It heightens your attention. It takes maybe an hour and a half to climb and it’s an amazing journey.
Helmcken Falls – it's a bit different because it's bolted, but when you’ve been ice climbing there other places just aren’t the same any more. It's ridiculously overhanging and gymnastic, whereas normal ice climbing is shuffling around on vertical walls. I think it’s the future of hard ice climbing.
Carrying on an adventurous life as a parent is all about efficiency. It made me realise how much extra time I had before. Of course you have to clip off a few things that you would have done in the past. You prioritise.
Flying around clouds with your mates in a wingsuit at sunset: when I think through the best experiences of my life, the ones that come to mind first usually involve flying. I stopped BASE jumping but I’m still really up for jumping out of helicopters and planes.
When I started BASE jumping the fatality statistics were about 20%. For me this was different and turned out to be about 40%. I used to think that if I used discipline, experience and researched as much as I could so I understood the sport fully, I wouldn’t be one of the statistics. When I realised this wasn’t the case it took the fun away. Each time I jumped I thought: "Is this going to be it?"
I had a really close call on a jump in the Vampire Spires in the Northwest Territories. My lines got twisted so I was flying into this boulder field backwards. It was like knowing a car accident is about to happen but having no control. Soon after that, Sean Leary, the friend I was jumping with died. Then I became a father. Then I quit.
When you’re doing something like BASE jumping or soloing, you react to your body rather than your thoughts because your thoughts often take too long. The focus required really brings you into the present. It’s all about the here and now with these incredible moments of clarity.
It’s easier to achieve a state of flow like that if there is a higher risk of consequence because it channels your focus with such intensity. We’ve got so many different sensory receptors in our body – light, touch, hearing – there’s no way your mind can process all those things so it filters out whatever's not a priority. When your parachute opens: boom. But you don’t hear it. When base jumping or soloing, you go into a state of 99% unconsciousness.
My number one advice to anyone just out of university, or wondering whether to quit a job that they don’t enjoy would be: go and see what’s out there. We’re living in a time when we can travel relatively cheaply – who knows how long that will last. And there are a lot of different ways to make money, 9-5 is just one of them. Follow the Darwinian theory of evolution. Keep your ear to the ground and be ready to adapt.
Apart from adventure and travel, diet is really important to me. I think if you eat like a pro as well as train like one it has a big effect. I avoid gluten and dairy, eat loads of plants and take fruit and veg capsules. Instead of thinking in protein, carbohydrates and fats, I focus on micro-nutrients: phytonutrients, enzymes, amino acids. I’ve founded Team Elevate: a group of like-minded healthcare pros and athletes who help people to achieve cellular health and dietary excellence.
There’s a huge shift in perception going on. Being healthy is really trendy now: look at Adam Ondra, he’s drinking protein shakes. At his age people I knew were eating chocolate. At the White Cliffs event, Red Bull told me they’ve had to change their marketing dramatically because 18-24 year-olds just don’t go out and get drunk as much as they used to.
What’s next for me? I’m going to France to do a climb called the Rose and the Vampire. It’s iconic, and lots of my friends have tried it with varying success. I’ve only got four days and it’s supposed to be the hardest 8b in the world.
WATCH: Ice climbing in Iceland on BMC TV
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