My dad was in the army for over 30 years. He joined up in 1945, missed the end of the war and never saw real active service during his long career. He travelled the world, much like I did a generation later, except I had a rope and he had a rifle. During my dad’s travels, Europe witnessed the longest period of peace in its history. I got to use my rope a lot more than my dad used his rifle. Those days are sadly now over.
I started climbing when the Cold War was very much at its height and the one thing that always struck me as a ray of hope was the UIAA, the international body looking after climbing, and more significantly its membership. All the climbing countries were members, we all got on and it was just obvious that we were no different from them – as a global species our values, hopes and dreams were very much the same as the Russian climbers, the South African climbers, the Chinese climbers and even the French climbers (at a push).
I know climbing won’t fix the world, and this horrible, horrible invasion of Ukraine – a country that only last week was ordering copies of our climbing books – has plunged its people into terrible dark days. But part of me hopes climbing might once again show the world it can always be a better place.
What can we do? We can donate to our local foodbank that makes refugees so welcome; we can watch the news, shake our heads and, more importantly, act and think globally. We can stay in contact with climbers, runners, cyclists, hikers and swimmers around the world and share our values and listen to their values. It won’t stop the idiots but it will share love. And we know the only thing that beats hate is love.