Rob Matheson

Name: Rob Matheson

D.O.B: 13/06/1950

Hometown: South Lakes

Sport: Trad climbing

Maybe one of the UK’s longest serving ‘trad’ men having established many wide ranging ‘extremes’ over 7 decades, including the “Extreme Rock” classics of Holocaust, Cruel Sister, Grand Alliance, Shere Khan and Lubyanka.

First started with my Dad back in 1957 with hemp ropes, nailed boots, no runners and no knowledge. I have witnessed at first hand the changes, and sometimes controversies, within the climbing world and the emergence of the different disciplines and specialities. The journey through the E grades is a complex one and learning to cope with the "danger zone” will always deter the less adventurous, no matter how athletic or skilled.

I get a real buzz from doing routes today that I couldn’t do years ago, and drawing on that mental strength and experience to help counter the inevitable physical decline. Recently my first ascent of Scarface E6 on the amazing Cam crag at Wasdale Screes, was particularly satisfying and pleasing to see that it is already establishing classic status. The older climber can still aspire to the realms beyond!

Get to know Rob

What are you working on? What are your goals for the future?

Always looking for new challenges. Indoors is new to me and so quite refreshing to pit myself against ridiculous angles and holds. Not an end in itself but the training is helping me to maintain those higher E grades.

Exploring unclimbed lines still gives me that magic excitement of discovery and, over recent years, climbing with my son Craig has opened up the most amazing routes in the highest of grades, culminating in his ascent of the stunning Hard Cheese E10. This supporting role has also motivated me to modify my technique on steep rock and challenge myself to improve. Overall I just want to keep fit and healthy, and if I could inspire others, to push beyond that comfort zone, it would be great.

Why do you climb? What do you love about climbing?

I have climbed for a variety of reasons depending on life’s circumstances at the time. When you’re young, you just love going out with your Dad, and he took me to the mountain crags. The seeds were set. As a teenager you meet like minded mates and you go out for an adventure and a good time. And your horizons open up to climb in more distant lands. Then with your own family you sometimes climb just to get out, and then the world of work creates the ‘weekend warrior’.

I climb to escape into myself, when nothing else matters except to pull through those critical 'moments in time', which you created by your own actions. I’m committed now! Only then do you find out about yourself!

Which Scarpa shoe is your favourite?

Climb on your feet: feel your feet: silent feet: all familiar statements. I always rammed my feet into the common last of early climbing shoes and with many like-minded climbers was in agony most of the time. The best boots are those that fit your feet and being new to Scarpa I was amazed at how comfortable a precise fitting shoe could be. Lasts for every foot shape and design for every circumstance.

I love the feel of the Chimera and edging power of the Boostic and for an overall trad shoe the Instinct Lace takes some beating. Maybe the idea of classifying shoes for Trad, Sport, Bouldering or Indoor is only a rough guide. What matters to me is the fit. No matter how weak or strong you are your feet are your passport to success.

Tell us about your best day climbing?

Getting up before first light, to arrive at Scafell’s East Buttress to catch the glorious morning sun. It maybe to complete a challenging project or first ascent, or just doing loads of routes. Sitting there with that shared inner glow, sipping your tea, and just looking out. Into the silence. Into the privilege of just being there. And leaving; feeling totally exhausted, as you descend into the valley darkness. Great days!

What do you do away from your sport?

When you lose your drive and enthusiasm it is time to change. I have had spells away from climbing through the years: All competitive of course — squash, windsurfing, skiing, potholing, cycling to mention a few. But climbing is in my soul and I have always returned. Older and weaker but an opportunity to re-focus and drive forward. Variety is healthy for the mind and body, especially when you’re obsessive like most climbers are.

Where is your #NoPlacetooFar?

Away from the crowds! One of the beauties of trad climbing today! Yosemite and The Alps hold special memories from the 70’s, but alas these places have changed for ever and for me there is no going back.

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