I’ve been climbing for almost as long as I can remember. I started at the age of ten and by my early teens I was hitching at weekends to the Lake District and living in Wall End Barn as one of the Langdale boys. I joined the RAF Mountain Rescue in 1960 at Kinloss in Scotland. It was a great apprenticeship. On demob I became a climbing instructor at the Outward Bound School near Fort William.
In 1967 I got the chance to go to Antarctica as a dog driver and guide to scientists and spent the next two and a half years travelling thousands of miles with my dogs. I returned hitch-hiking through South America and ended up with a short spell in a Uruguayan geol as a suspect terrorist.
In 1970 I started a small guiding business which reincarnated into a chain of climbing shops called Nevisport. During this period I was going on climbing expeditions all over the world and skiing during the winter. A short time later my partner and I started the Nevis Range Ski Company and I became its first MD in 1989.
The first warning of trouble ahead started with what I thought to be a groin strain. Before long I was having difficulty stepping onto a pavement and was on the NHS waiting list for a standard hip replacement. My surgeon said that the operation would stop the pain and that I would be OK for gentle hill walking and climbing but under no circumstances was I to continue with my skiing.
- “Lots of people ski at Nevis Range with artificial hips,” I said in consternation.
- “Yes but I know you, Ian – you’ll wear it out in no time!”
As MD of a ski company I was devastated and assumed that this was the end of the road, and my job. There seemed little alternative so I remained on the waiting list.
Luckily I noticed an article in the newspaper interviewing a man who had his hip relined in Birmingham and who afterwards had regained his title as a judo champion. On impulse I wrote to the Birmingham hospital and was sent information about the McMinn hips and I took a flier and went down to see Derek McMinn himself. By now I was in my late fifties and a very worried man.
- “You’re older than many of the people we do,” he said. “But you’re in good shape and I’m sure I can help you.”
- “What about the skiing?” I asked.
- “Your leg will be stronger than it was in the first place,” he said. “You’ll be fine.”
I was sold!
So I kept my job. For the last thirteen years I have continued life as before. I still live in Fort William and climb almost every week and still get away on expeditions. I try to spend a month climbing in Yosemite Valley in the States each Autumn and although am now in my seventieth year feel I have plenty more to go!
Since having the resurfacings I have seldom given much thought to my hips and never feel like a man who has had them replaced. They’re bloody marvellous!