Shortly after September 11, 2001, David Hamilton phoned me up with an intriguing proposal. He was organising a private club expedition to Iran. Fearing problems visiting a country that in many people’s minds is associated with religious fanaticism and anti-US flag burning, he was worried that participants would drop out. If that happened, the trip might become unviable. To counter this, he suggested, “You are the sort of person I know, that would think it fun to go skiing in Iran, aren’t you Bruce?”
He was right. Possibly because David knew me from when there was a civil war in Georgia, hyperinflation in Russia and I was doing a ski season in the Caucasus.
On the trip to Iran, I discovered that many of the Alpine Ski Club members were quite a few years older than me. But given that I was working 60 hours a week, and had very little time to go the gym, the 50, 60 and even 70-year-olds could crack on at a fair pace. Even if I had been going to the gym, it might not have done much good. Half an hour in the gym a couple of times a week is no match for someone who is semi-retired and has already done 8 weeks of ski touring in the year. So I tended to find myself towards the back of the group.
The skiing was fun – but the group dynamic was what made the trip a great success. I remember stopping off on the motorway to find garden gnomes for sale, being constantly asked if we knew David Beckham and visiting the Ayatolla’s mausoleum where fanatics were self-flagellating themselves (which didn’t look like my idea of fun).
I noticed that the personality type of people who climb mountains in odd places, is also the personality type who have done other notable activities. Not just professional success, but there might be a fun story from someone about a high-speed gun-fight on the motorway between Sao Paolo and Rio D’Janiero, that they were involved in.
Back at work, I reflected that this type of mindset was far more aspirational than the senior people I saw around me working in front of spreadsheets for hours, constant pressure from colleagues, clients and management while trying to juggle family obligations too.
In fact, I wondered if it might become a new trend. The older generation looking for fresh challenges and mountains to climb, might decide against an austerely self-sufficient expedition to Antarctica and instead try working at a large investment bank in The City. I doubt it though – because the latter is really no one’s idea of fun.
Last updated on 8th January 2021