14 Mar Jerry Moffatt – VIDEO
How did you start climbing, and why you became such a climbing addict?
JM: Addicted to climbing? Yes! I’ve started at school, when I was fifteen, and we had a climbing club, and all my friends were climbing… and that’s how i first started climbing
Then something clicked and you decided to become the strongest. How did it happen?
JM: Slowly… I mean, I’ve started at school… of course, all my best friends were climbing and naturally I wanted to be better than my friends, and I quickly became better than them, and then I wanted to be the best in Wales, and I became the best in Wales, and then I though I want to be the best under 16 in the country, and me and my friends said, "Hey, we’re the best under 16 in the country!". Then you get to seventeen, eighteen and you want to be as good as the best climbers in England, and when you think that you’re good the same you want to be even better then them, and then, of course, you wanna be the best in the world.
It goes in stages, really, when I started I didn’t think "I wanna be the best in the world" immediately.
[It] takes a lot of motivation, to do that.
JM: Yes, but when you see good results, the motivation comes much easier, whereas if you’re training and you’re not improving you can very quickly become demoralized. If you’re improving quickly you just become more motivated.
What did you learn from your climbing career?
JM: I’ve met a lot of very interesting people, and I learned how to have fun, I learn about about traveling. One of the other thing you learn is when you’re injured and things are not going well, you’re down, you learn to be indifferent of that and try to be happy. So, it’s not all about success or doing hard routes, there is a time you’re not doing hard routes or achieving your goals.
How was climbing when you started to do it? And how do you deem what climbing has become?
JM: Well, when I started climbing you never saw people climbing with chalk, there was no climbing walls, and I started climbing in big leather walking boots for the first year… so now, people, from the first time they go climbing, they have proper boots, they have chalk, and it’s much safer. We never had bolts, when I started. So it’s changed a lot.
What’s the relationship between risk and climbing? You’ve mentioned that it has become safer.
JM: When I started there were no bolts, and you could only do trad climbing, which has obviously no bolts, and a little bit more danger in it. Now you have a choice: you can climb with bolts, you can climb on indoor climbing walls, or you can climb trad routes. but when I started you couldn’t climb with bolts, and you couldn’t climb indoor. There was no choice, and it was just a little bit more dangerous. I think it’s becoming… it’s better, now, because it’s more accessible, and it’s safer.
[How is] Your relationship with the feeling of anxiety, or being scared, feeling fear?
JM: I loved them. I can only say that I was addicted. Addicted for a long time to do dangerous things. I used to drive my motorbike flat-out to the cliff, go soloing on the hard routes and then drive back to the house flat-out on the motorbike. I craved it all the time, I used to take my motorbike without thinking "I’m gonna get crashed", everything was flat-out: the driving, the climbing, and I did that for a long time.
I still like excitement, but I couldn’t do that right now: I would just be too terrified.
In your book you mention your life on a shoestring-budget, let’s say, and your relation with money, which has been very… complicated, let’s say.
JM: When I started I had only fifteen pounds – like sixteen euros – a week. That’s because I was on unemployment, and I tried to live off on it. And I also tried to save money, I think I had a budget of… I think one euro a day. I’d buy rice, and I’d eat stewed rice, and ate very bad food, and then in Mid-Eighties sponsorships started to come along and I saw I could do some money. Not so much, I really didn’t want to earn money, my main goal was to be able to go climbing every day without working, and I never considered to get a job, and even sometimes when people sponsored me, I just thought I wanted to go climbing, which has always been fantastic.
Basically, you did a lot of climbing on crags, and walls… Have you ever considered something like exploration, like, let’s say, very big walls in very secluded places?
JM: Yes, but when I was… I think I was nineteen… a very good friend of mine went to Chamonix, and we were joking with him the day before he left, "Oh, you’re going to get killed, there", and unfortunately he was hit by an avalanche the first day and died. So, at nineteen I just made a conscious decision that I just didn’t want to risk my life on bad weather. I think that if I’m gonna die, that must be out of my own mistake, and not for bad weather coming in. And so, even if it’s tempting to go on an expedition, I think it’s just too dangerous, and I’ve made that conscious decision not to do it.
In your lectures, what do you try to communicate to people?
JM: I try to get people motivated, to get them inspired to travel, have fun with the climbing and try a new sport, to go out. I mean, I’m not saying "Go out and be the best!", but "Go out, and travel, and try to climb as hard as you can".
Tell us a reason why we should read your book!
JM: Hopefully I like to thin that it inspires people. Some people, when they read the book, said that it motivated them to go out and climb harder. And for me, I don’t earn the money from the book, I’ve already done very much money, and I don’t care if it doesn’t send many copies, but probably I like when i hear that people who read it, who took the time to do that, enjoy the book. The response that I had is that people really enjoyed it, and that’s fantastic.
For me it’s more important to get to the top than getting to the top nicely and stylish. You can have a very efficient technique, but it doesn’t matter what it looks like. I’d much rather see somebody [who’s] shaking, and scraping, and just getting up something hard then somebody who climbs smoothly and does something easier. I’d rather see somebody nearly falling at every move, and still getting to the top.