Journalism: Touching the Void between Education & Inspiration

Extended version of a brief news report printed in the Southern Daily Echo. This version was not printed. The interview was arranged & executed myself. 

From a traumatic alpine accident to teaching teenagers: Simon Yates visits a Southampton school.

In light of the recent curriculum change, a Hampshire school is planning a more innovative approach to the new English Literature text Touching the Void this summer. Mountaineer Simon Yates, “the man who cut the rope” has been invited to give a motivational speech to year 10 and 11 students.

Through a placement at the Southern Daily Echo newspaper I was able to gain an interview with him, and a fascinating insight into his motivation to spark interest in a hall full of teenagers. The book documents his fateful descent from the Peruvian Andes with climbing partner Joe Simpson – and what better way to grab the attention of five hundred 15 year olds than a first-hand account?

When the expedition left Simpson with a broken leg and suspended helplessly 150ft above a deep crevasse, tragedy ensued. Too far down to communicate with his partner through the severe snowstorm, the situation became impossible and grew steadily worse as the weather closed in. His only knowledge of the situation was the dead weight at the end of the 300ft rope. Eventually Yates was left no choice but to cut the rope and save his own life.

Speaking about the miraculous survival of his partner after a treacherous drop and a harrowing three days to follow, his passion is unwavering as he showed back in the Alps just a few weeks later. Yet, Yates’ tale is one of controversy, grief and friendship and one which will surely captivate his young audience.

“A book’s just a book” he says, “It’s nice to be in a position to inspire people to step away from the computer screen”.  He goes on to say that the book “throws up a lot of questions” and he feels there is much importance in sharing their answers with an insightful interpretation of what actually happened.

His climbing career began aged fourteen when a school trip took him rock climbing in the Lake District, kick starting his self-proclaimed teenage obsession. He started climbing alone at a crag by the river where he lived, encouraged by his best friend’s older brother.

He went on to gather an impressive extreme sports career, including eleven visits to the Pakistani Karakoram, the first ascents to peaks in the Chilean Tierra de Fuego, the South West Face of Hispar Sar and up the West Face of Mount Alverstone on the Alaskan-Yukon border.  He also joined the first British ascent of Khan Tengri in Kazakhstan as well as sailing and wall climbing expeditions such as Patagonia and Baffin Island in the Central Tower of Paine in Chile.

Although his love for mountaineering has by no means extinguished he feels it is more his “attitude towards risk-taking that is changing” now that work and family commitments have overtaken as priorities.  Instead he is endeavouring in an expedition company and continues to spread inspiration as a successful author and speaker at the company Speakers on the Edge.


His recent tour The Wild Within is intended to use unique audio-visuals in an entertaining theatre talk that he hopes will “take people to places which, in all likelihood they won’t get to go to themselves”.

If you would like to find out more about these talks please follow the link below to access dates and locations of The Wild Within tour, named after his third book released this March. His other publications include Against the Wall and The Flame of Adventure both of which were shortlisted for awards.

Simon Yates will inevitably provide the school a fantastic motivational role model for exam-focused students to relate and aspire towards with all too real life experience to shock and awe.



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