We first met Tim at Shepherd’s Crag in the Lake District’s Borrowdale. The crag holds a lot of significance as one of the venerable elder statesmen to the UK Climbing scene. Climbers have been flocking to the site of classic routes such as ‘Little Chamonix’ since before the National Parks came into being, and it seemed the ideal spot to test some kit and reflect on how such lofty ambitions can be initiated from such a bucolic setting.
Down the road from his home and BnB business in Keswick, Shepherd's Crag has been if not the catalyst for - then certainly the propagation point of - many important transitions in his life. Most notably he climbed here on the morning of his wedding to wife Ali.
So it was a fitting place to learn more about the man who hopes to make history this spring and take the first few steps towards another beneficial and supportive partnership. To Tim, the steep slopes of the Khumbu represent an obsession initially ignited on his first expedition to the area summiting Mount Everest via its North Face in 2005.
“ I’d often been asked whether I was interested in Everest and quite frankly it had never appealed to me. And then I heard about an expedition that some of my friends were putting together to go. It was going to be a low key trip – just a bunch of mates and a few Climbing Sherpas along with a trip doctor.
We all had a huge amount of experience above 6000m and it really showed. I realised that if I was going to join a trip on Everest then that would be how I would like to do it ."
"It was just a bunch of mates having a great time on a really big hill. A bit like the old style of ‘expeditioning’. That was when I found out that I am pretty good at altitude, and my love affair with Everest began.”
Since then he has summited the tallest mountain in the world 6 times, amongst numerous other high-altitude peaks. All from the humble beginning of his local crag.
Project 321 marks the culmination of this ‘love affair’, and there are few who are up to the task. However, a lot has happened over the past 14 years that give Tim more than a strong chance of making history, and it all started here.
There is something about this approach that makes UK mountaineering quite a special anomaly. Unlike the other hotbeds of alpinism on the continent, our top athletes' origins are often more modest. Despite this, mountaineers such as Tim are capable of performing incredible feats in one of the most hostile and technically difficult environments on the planet. All from the humble beginnings of what Wordsworth penned "...The loveliest spot that man hath found."