Trails, Tribulations and Tornados

By Ben Ritchie

After years of living ‘The Van Life’, teaching climbing and kayaking, I recently moved to the Peak district, it was time to settle down, to buy a house and get the dreaded REAL JOB (as my mother would say). The problem with real jobs, I found, is that they're few and far between. Especially if you want to work with the kind of people that understand what the difference is between gritstone and limestone!

This prompted me to ring around a few outdoor shops, in the vain hope of finding a company (within driving distance) that had a vacancy I could fill. I knew a few people that worked at Alpkit and knew that it was a pretty relaxed environment. Low and behold they were looking for a “Customer Support Hero”. Shortly after Christmas, I met with the team for a very informal interview, and a week later the job was mine! “HOORAY! I might be able to pay my mortgage!” I thought.

I was expecting the various riggers of office life. The endless cups of tea, the fact that I'm not being rained on all the time etc. What I wasn't prepared for were the ‘additional benefits’ I could expect while working for the company. “What's that? I can borrow a tent? Any tent? Errrr, I’ll take that one!” (points dubiously at a small red bag tucked away in a corner)

And with that I was off to Wales, despite a truly dismal weather forecast, Lliwedd was on my radar. Id never climbed there before, and had seen it from afar on various trips up Snowdon.

The Friday night was spent driving over and sleeping in the trusty paddlewaggon, and as dawn broke, I was off! It rained a bit in the morning, and by the time I reached the wall it was torrential. “there’s no climbing today” I thought, so decided to go on an impromptu wander around Yr Aaron. As darkness Started to set I thought, “better put the tent up, I've never put it up before and itcould be a little tricky!” however 5 minutes later my borrowed Kangri stood in all its glory, my castle for the night! I was worried that the ‘inner first’ design would be a problem, but as it turns out, by the time I was in, it was lovely and dry.

Thanks to my terrible packing skills, dinner consisted of some pasta (without any sauce, as I’d forgotten it) and some juniper berries and stag horn moss for a bit of gin/mushroom taste.

The wind, by this point, was starting to pick up and whip around the small cwm I had based myself in. So, I battened down the hatches and prepared for a relatively breezy night. However breezy was nowhere near adequate to describe the hurricane that battered the tent from all angles. Around 3 am I decided it was time to nav back to the van (if it hadn't been blown away), and I would wait for the first sign of weakness from the tent and I'd be off!

However, that sign of weakness never came. As morning broke the sun was shining and the view was unparalleled. How I had managed to put the tent in such a beautiful place I have no idea. But as I sat there with a lukewarm cup of coffee, I knew that I owed the sense of awe and wonder that filled my soul to one thing, and one thing only.. That Kangri.

And that is why I'm proud to work for Alpkit. I've only been here a few weeks, and I've already gone nice places, and done good things.

P.S the van was still alive after the storm, but I'm sure it had moved a couple of car parking spaces!

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