Glamour or not so glamour…. – Steve Johnstone

Glamour, or not so Glamour….


Where to start? I’m currently in France, Champagny, sitting with a small glass of red wine. I’ve just been climbing in the 4th Ice World Cup series. I just thought I would write a wee post as I’ve been a bit absent. What should I write about? The series? Places of qualifying? Well I will write about that later. What I thought I would write about is the glamorous and none glamorous side of competing, and where to start?

Well I’ll start with a guy I’ve named Space Face Snotter Heid, SFSH for short. I noticed SFSH within a hour of being in the air on a very cramped Easyjet flight. Just as I was admiring that the orange on my Phantom Guide boots matched the Easyjet interior. I seen it. At first I couldn’t look, almost like the same awkwardness that you have when a guy is having trouble fishing out his wee man at the urinals right next to you (sorry girls, not sure of a equivalent). After a few minutes I think that maybe I have not seen what I thought. I turned and look to see a man, with his finger, so far up his nose he must have been touching his brain. This disgusting activity was at full pace, and didn’t look like it was going to stop. His face was motionless as he was in a day dream. I tried not to gag as the imagine of a snotter tyrolean from finger to nostril entered my mind. This soon washed away when I realized that I only had 15 minutes left on the flight. I let out a loud sigh of discussed, only to see that it hadn’t broken the day dream of Space Face Snotter Heid.

‘Cabin crew, prepare for landing’


So after the airports, the snotters, the money, the loosely made plans, and anything else that will pop up regardless. Lets go climbing! Well I say climbing. In competitions climbing is and isn’t measured on height and length of day. This does depend on who you are, HeeYong Park (world champion) will have a climbing day. He will qualify, then cruise through semi finals, and with a shake of his slightly pumped arm, climb to the top of the final route. For me, a meer mortal. I can wait in isolation for up to 4 hours, after wondering when and how much to warm up. When you eat and drink, when to take a piss. No, I’m not a four year old, and no I don’t need my mummy. But this is what Isolation can reduce you to. Why, god knows. Maybe the feeling of uncertainty? And after all that, I climb. Well as far as I can. Is it enough to get into the semi finals? No. So what now? A lot of waiting around actually. Standing there watching some people run up a route you fought so hard on. Thinking about where you went wrong, how to do better, and not spit your dummy.


So why do I do it? I could save my money and take a nice long trip to Vietnam and do some deep water soloing, if I could swim. Well in everything thing we do, we do it with a balance. The good and the bad, or maybe some kind of a silver lining in a dark cloud.

This all sounds a bit dome and gloom otherwise, but if I told you that this morning I was sharping my ice axes bathed in sunshine. I was sitting on a balcony looking out to snow capped mountains in the French alps watching the clouds roll in and out. The night before, I was invited to someone’s parents house where I got a bed, fondue, wine, and home made moonshine! In the morning after breakfast and lunch, that someone (Stephanie Maureau, world champ) showed us the way to Champagny. I have never meet Stephanie properly before, and this is what she does for me. Then after getting to registration, I was meet by a room of people that I have meet before, maybe only a few times. But they will go out of their way to say hi.


Climbing in competitions isn’t about first ascents, it’s not about the epic photo with the back dropped of mountains. Its something a little more simpler than that. Its about pushing yourself, learning about different styles and cultures. Its about being pat of a very weird and funny family of competitors. Seeing new places, and ending up in random ones! Yes you can get that from a trip to the greater ranges or where ever, and in a way, its kind of the same.  You just end up doing what you prefer.  Competitions isn’t all about standing around in airports, and for people like myself, it isn’t about the fame.

There is a massive side of competing that look very none glamorous, and there is another side. A side that could be seen as glamour, but really, it’s more about a bunch of people from all around the world trying their best in a strange and sometimes surreal places, and with the photo’s of the superstars and smiling faces. You could easily missed the hard ships of what it takes to get there. Being on the road can be hard, spending money you don’t really have can be harder. Not to mention the training you’ve done to get there, when people are bagging the first winter route of the season and you feel bad because you didn’t put in a 4 hour training day in Newtyle. And with that, I think, this is what bring us weird funny people closer.


I’m off to Italy for next weekend, where I can go through all of this again. And you know what? I can’t wait. I promise to write up about the series soon. Especially Saas Fee!

In the mean time, enjoy what ever climbing your doing and be safe.




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