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Memories of Our Joe

May 4, 2020 8:49:51 PM / by Oliver Millington

Memories of our Joe

There are plenty of places where you’ll be able to see about the news, see speculations as to the what, where and when. I only care about the who.

Yesterday, I, and a group of friends around me that I am very fond of lost a great friend, Joe Smith, in Glen Coe.

Joe, our first 'sponsored athlete' reviewing a pair of shoes he hadn't yet managed to wear through.

Joe, our first ‘sponsored athlete’ reviewing a pair of shoes he hadn’t yet managed to wear through.

I met Joe, best pronounced in a strong Lancashire accent, when he first came to Fort William on a Mountain Leader training course. He was looking at making the move, and going for a “Career in’outdoors” and we got on well as the only two climbers on the course. One week later, and a few pitches of climbing squeezed in on the evenings, I was waving bye to Joe, not really expecting to see him, or the map I’d lent him with a good ridge he could do on the way home, again.

But, for anyone that knew Joe, they’d know that this was pretty unfair an expectation.

No sooner than a week had passed, when Joe called out of the blue – just for a chat. I didn’t really know what to do. Blokes just don’t phone each other for a chat these days, do they?

Long story short, after a few weekend climbing raids, Joe went for it and made the move. In my granted, limited, years of climbing, I’ve not met anyone in the sport that has been so keen, and grabbed the bull by the horns quite so forcefully as Joe. This may be due to Joe’s background working with cattle, mind, but he brought north with him an awful lot of psyche. That’s probably why two years ago, I spent my 24th birthday trudging up a seldom climbed hill on the Ardnamurchan peninsula, struggling to keep up with Joe who had smelled Ice – needless to say there wasn’t any, but he just had to check. And again the next day for good measure, and again the day after that when we got the climbers Gondola aiming to have a go at Morwind – no ice there either.

That year, Joe’s climbing came on massively, as he found numerous partners and got out climbing every day he could, in between the odd jobs he was getting as a newly qualified Mountain Leader and working on the Jacobite steam train.  His climbing ability quickly surpassed mine, and he furiously ticked off climbs all over Scotland, making pretty much everything look horribly easy, usually with toes sticking out the end of his climbing shoes.

Recently, myself & Naomi have been looking at taking part in the Patagonian Expedition race, and we worked out that Joe was to be the fourth member of our team. Now, when pitched with that sort of idea, most people want to know something about what they’re signing up for, the enormity of the challenge, the hours of training required, but not Joe. Joe wanted to know whether we could move it forward a year and whether I’d pay for his flight. Cheeky git, he’s still got my map too.

Joe, I don’t want to start talking about flowers and all that, it’s not really what guys in their 20’s do, is it. But I’m glad you rang for a chat, and I’m gutted you aren’t going to be around for the opening. I’ll miss you mate.

Oliver Millington

Written by Oliver Millington