Although I had reached relative high altitude the previous year on Kilimanjaro in Africa, to get anywhere in the game of high altitude mountaineering, I realized that I needed some serious technical training. Enrolling on a mountaineering course in the French Alps in 1985 seemed to fit the bill.
As well as scaring myself to death on vertical rock faces, overhanging ice climbs and falling into crevasses, I also summited some of the Alps iconic peaks including Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn. This was not expedition mountaineering as most climbs lasted 2 days – hike up to a hut or camp one afternoon, up well before dawn the next morning to climb by the light of a headtorch, summit at first light and back down to drink beer by the swimming pool in the valley by lunchtime.
As well as making new friends and cementing old friendships, I learned the valuable lessons of when and when not to climb. Running water is a bad sign in the mountains as it heralds melting glaciers and icefalls. It you hear it in the middle of the night, it is agood time to get back in the sleeping bag and wait for another day!