Jerry Gore Interview
Following some fantastic stories from adventurers, climbers, and dirtbags from all over the globe we were lucky enough to meet one of the true all time great romantics for the hills and mountains…. Jerry Gore. Jerry’s life has been full of pretty much everything from lightening bolts to remote expeditions to charity work and everything in between. It’s no wonder he has such a great story to tell.
We caught up with him to ask a few questions on Buffalo Systems, life, loss and adventures. An extract from the interview is below.
How did you first get into climbing?
When I was 10, I saw a lecture at my primary school by an ex. Para called John Ridgway. I subsequently applied to go on his outward-bound course at Ardmore at the top of Scotland. I did all the usual activities like sailing, wild camping and canoeing but the one I really enjoyed was abseiling off a sea cliff into a boat. I was hooked!
When did you first hear about Buffalo Systems?
When I was in the Royal Marines in the mid 1980’s. I had just finished 16 months of officer training in the Royal Marines. I was a troop commander at 45 Commando and was enjoying my first deployment – a full winter in Arctic Norway. My troop comprised 30 men all fresh from the Falklands war. It was a winter full of humility and humbleness for me as I had to learn how to lead men who were all vastly more experienced than I was. Based near Narvik, operating in the mountains in daily temperatures well below zero, I had an in-depth course in outdoor equipment; my week was divided into thirds – a third on exercise out in the mountains, a third doing Biathlon XC ski training and competing, and a third ice climbing on local waterfalls at the weekend. The standard service issue of woollen shirt and jumper did not really cut it in -30C conditions. But the issue was that it was a dry cold, and very windy. I was loaned a friend’ green Buffalo smock top. Through the deployment it was put to the test in freezing, windy conditions where body sweat could be a real problem. My Buffalo “shirt” worked brilliantly and by the end of the winter I was hooked. Of course, my mates in the RAF MRT’s already knew about it. And they would wear nothing else to combat the ravages of a Scottish winter storm.
What’s been the most memorable place you have explored?
Baffin Island. So good I went there twice!
What was your preferred Buffalo Systems Garment?
Buffalo HA salopettes with a buffalo Big Face shirt on top.
How did the Buffalo gear stand up to being struck by lightning after your five-day ascent in the Bugaboos?
Very well actually. I remember Warren Hollinger, my partner, getting lots of burn holes in his Patagonia clothing, but the pertex outer of my Buffalo did not seem to be that badly affected. We got struck at around 20.00hrs at 3,000m. on an isolated peak in the Bugaboo range of the Canadian Rockies. My Buffalo suit kept me warm and alive until we reached our van 4 days later.
What’s three items would you take onto a deserted island and why?
A knife, a Buffalo mountain shirt in green (camouflage – you never know whose out there!) and a lot of insulin!
What are your favourite climbing areas in the UK ?
Gogarth, Pembrokeshire and the Torridon Hills.
What advice would you give to youngsters getting started with climbing adventures?
Go out and scramble over rocks, at beaches, in the Peaks, Dartmoor etc. If you like moving over stone go out scrambling in Snowdonia, the Lakes or Scotland. Then, if you like that do an indoor rock-climbing course, learn the basics of belaying and leading. Then go and start with leading mods and diffs and build from there. But DO NOT start with indoor climbing. Research shows that generally those who start in doors stay indoors. Climbing indoors is great. But the feeling you can get from succeeding on leading a trad climb at your max level is simply the best ever! Rock or ice – it is just so much more than succeeding on a hard, indoor bolt project. For me anyway. The feeling I got after topping out on The Cad or other hard trad routes onsite was just amazing. I did 22 years of onsite trad leading in the UK. Now having done 17 years of redpoint and onsite bolt climbing in Europe I know which gives more satisfaction. But THE most important point is that climbing funnily enough is about climbing. Whether indoors or outdoors, V. Diff or Fr. 9a, climbing is about movement and it is better to move a little than not at all. Don’t contemplate, just climb!
You suffered on many an expedition over the years, how would you describe the sensation you feel when completing an objective or summiting a peak?
I love it but it is not the best sensation topping out. I love every aspect of climbing – the organisation, the preparation, the calm before you launch, the ascent, and the summit. I even enjoy the descent……sometimes! But the summit is normally a stressful time – photos, checking gear and team, organising abseils, and getting prepared for the most dangerous section of any mountain climb. So, the emotions at the top are often short lived. It is all about the bar stories after, and the parties and festivals and lectures following any successful climb when you REALLY live and celebrate the experience. For me now, using my climbs to raise money for the children with Type 1 Diabetes that we support, through my charity Action4Diabetics, the big satisfaction comes when the money starts rolling in; I begin to appreciate how many innocent young lives have been saved. That gives a huge feeling of satisfaction and also deep contentment, an emotion many climbers don’t seek or understand as they are too occupied in attaining the next summit or objective. And there are always plenty of those.
And finally, Jerry, have you any words of wisdom to the climber within?
Climb for yourself. Enjoy the process and the journey and the passion. And continually look for opportunities to experience it. Climbing has taught me that in general, here in the West, we overvalue life. We are frightened about death. Our death, the death of our loved ones etc. We are so preoccupied trying to stay safe that we have stopped actually living, taking risks and getting the most out of our lives. We have become obsessed with passive rather than active enjoyment. So, we gain our enjoyment through watching others perform. That is fine except for me active enjoyment gives so much more. But it is harder and riskier to create your own enjoyment and fun.
My first climbing friend died when I was 22yrs. and as I got into hard alpinism in the early 80’s I started to think I would be lucky if I made 30. Then I never thought I would make 40. But I did not dwell on this, instead I chose adventure and real living, whether it was at work, at home with my family or in my climbing adventures. My attitude has always been to live each day as if it was really important. Maybe not your last but one of your last. No Monday morning blues, no time for long-term depression, no time for self-pity. Just life and living and action.
Now at 58, having lost more than 15 friends to climbing, I am still sure about one thing. And that is climbing, and the world’s wild places are what I really enjoy. They heal most hurts, and they calm most troubled minds. Buffalo has allowed me to indulge my most extreme climbing dreams, and to experience some of the most savage environments on the planet. So, I would just like to say a BIG THANK YOU to Hamish Hamilton, the creator of this amazing kit, for consistently putting a big fat smile across my weary face.
Jerry is now a director of AlpBase – A outdoor and adventure guilding company based in one of the most stunning mountain areas in Europe the Ecrins.
For more information on the accommodation or courses they run please click through on the link below.