Joe Smith

The Oban Times - - News -

Climber, Kin­lochleven

Died Glen­coe Satur­day Jan­uary 16.

I met Joe, best pro­nounced in a strong Lan­cashire ac­cent, when he first came to Fort Wil­liam on a Moun­tain Leader train­ing course. He was look­ing at mak­ing the move, and go­ing for a ‘ca­reer in out­doors’ and we got on well as the only two climbers on the course.

One week later, and a few pitches of climb­ing squeezed in on the evenings, I was wav­ing bye to Joe, not re­ally ex­pect­ing to see him, or the map I’d lent him with a good ridge he could do on the way home, again.

But, for any­one that knew Joe, they’d know that this was pretty un­fair an ex­pec­ta­tion.

No sooner than a week had passed, when Joe called out of the blue – just for a chat. I didn’t re­ally know what to do. Blokes just don’t phone each other for a chat th­ese days, do they?

Long story short, af­ter a few week­end climb­ing raids, Joe went for it and made the move. In my granted, lim­ited, years of climb­ing, I’ve not met any­one in the sport that has been so keen, and grabbed the bull by the horns quite so force­fully as Joe. This may be due to Joe’s back­ground work­ing with cat­tle, mind, but he brought north with him an aw­ful lot of psy­che.

That’s prob­a­bly why two years ago I spent my 24th birth­day trudg­ing up a sel­dom- climbed hill on the Ard­na­mur­chan penin­sula, strug­gling to keep up with Joe who had smelled ice – need­less to say there wasn’t any, but he just had to check. And again the next day for good mea­sure, and again the day af­ter that when we got the climbers’ gon­dola aim­ing to have a go at Mor­wind – no ice there ei­ther.

That year, Joe’s climb­ing came on mas­sively as he found nu­mer­ous part­ners and got out climb­ing ev­ery day he could, in be­tween the odd jobs he was get­ting as a newly qual­i­fied Moun­tain Leader and work­ing on the Ja­co­bite steam train.

His climb­ing abil­ity quickly sur­passed mine, and he fu­ri­ously ticked off climbs all over Scot­land, mak­ing pretty much ev­ery­thing look hor­ri­bly easy, usu­ally with toes stick­ing out the end of his climb­ing shoes.

Re­cently, my­self and Naomi have been look­ing at tak­ing part in the Patag­o­nian Ex­pe­di­tion race, and we worked out that Joe was to be the fourth mem­ber of our team. Now, when pitched with that sort of idea, most peo­ple want to know some­thing about what they’re sign­ing up for, the enor­mity of the chal­lenge, the hours of train­ing re­quired, but not Joe.

Joe wanted to know whether we could move it for­ward a year and whether I’d pay for his flight. Cheeky git, he’s still got my map too.

Joe, I don’t want to start talk­ing about flow­ers and all that, it’s not re­ally what guys in their 20s do, is it. But I’m glad you rang for a chat, and I’m gut­ted you aren’t go­ing to be around for the open­ing. I’ll miss you mate.

Oliver Milling­ton

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