Interview by Melanie Windridge
The well-known guide, backcountry skier and writer Rob Collister recently stepped down as vice president of the Club and chair of its Environmental Group. Here he discusses his life, his passion for the mountains and his fears for the future of the natural world.
How did you get into climbing and skiing?
No one else in my family was interested in mountains. I had a privileged education – public school and Cambridge – but my parents crippled themselves financially educating their four children and there was no money left for school ski trips. I had to pay for myself. My first climbs were in the Cuillin on a school camp but I didn’t start climbing regularly until I left school and went up to Cambridge. Then, as now, I loved controlled, precise movement, the sense of space and exposure, the satisfaction of managing risk in potentially dangerous situations and the extraordinary places it allows one to get to, things accessible to all climbers whatever their grade. I was not very talented, did not enjoy frightening myself but was competent enough to get by on most things in the Alps.
My first Alpine season was nearly my last. We had two unplanned bivis in three routes and I nearly died when an abseil anchor failed on a retreat. On the other hand, I found that I was well suited to the long sustained effort required in the Alps and enjoyed long hut walks that others hated, an attribute I discovered was even more useful when I got to the Hindu Kush in my second long vacation in 1968.