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Nick Bullock tells us...

Hi Nick Bullock, first of all, we at BOREAL would like to congratulate you on you on your excellent trajectory, it’s most impressive! We are proud to have you in our team.

We’d like to ask you a few questions, for all the climbing community who follow us in social media to get to know you better.

You started off climbing as you were working as a fitness instructor at a maximum security prison. How did this influence you? Did you like it before, or did you start liking it because of your work?

I trained to be a fitness instructor within the Prison Service in 1991/2, this is almost where I first found climbing, because I had been rock climbing once before when I was a teenager at school. Three weeks of the PE Instructor training course was spent in North Wales, rock climbing, walking, scrambling, completing awards, this is when my passion for the hills was woken, and in particular my interest for climbing. 

As soon as I qualified as a PE Instructor I knew I wanted to become a climber and participate in all of its genres; on rock, ice, in the Scottish hills in winter and the bigger mountain ranges like the Alps and the Himalayas.

Working in a prison certainly influenced me, it made me appreciate how easy life could be taken away and how difficult life could be. To be involved and know the stories of some people inside a prison made me determined to take chances and attempt to use my life constructively. 

There was also another aspect of experiencing life inside a prison which benefitted my climbing and that was however bad as it gets on a mountain, it cannot be compared to how bad or stressful it can become inside a prison, which conditioned me for the mountains well.     
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In 2003 you left your job. What made you leave it to take on climbing full time? Did it scare you when you made this “risky” move? Did your loved ones support you?

Ever since discovering that there are certain people who appear to muddle through life climbing full time, I wanted to experience this for myself and try to climb in as many places as my savings and small income would allow. After working fifteen years, full time in a prison, I had paid my mortgage on my house, meaning I could rent it for a small income. Many people work all their lives to pay for their home and I managed to do this, which gave me a certain amount of confidence and something to fall back, should things not work out. There was never any doubt I would make this jump, although I did find it terrifying to give up a well-paid job and all of the security that goes with a guaranteed income and go, ‘no fixed abode’ without any idea where it would end and where my life would go. In some way I still find it scary but, to a point, things have worked and I definitely know I made the correct decision. 

I was not young when I found climbing, in fact I was about twenty-eight years old when I started to climb properly, so when I gave up work in the prison, at the age of thirty seven, I was an adult and able to make my own choices and know what I wanted, or at least hope I knew what I wanted, so having my parents support, was not something that had an influence on my decision. I was not married or in a relationship, so that did not factor in my decision either.     

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Now we’d like to know how you prepare for your challenges. Tell us briefly how you prepare when you're about to face a new goal.

I don’t use any particular scientifically proven formula, if I’m attempting to rock climb what for me are difficult routes I just go climbing with some training indoors and if I’m preparing for an expedition I concentrate more on cardio workouts, running, cycling, circuit training. Before going on an expedition I also drink more wine and eat pizza, expeditions can be hard, having a nice time before pays dividends!  

You’ve travelled the world: Peru, Nepal, Pakistan, Tibet, Alaska or India. Which expedition out of the more than 20 you’ve made has been the toughest for you? Is there a time for fun within an adventure? Please tell us an anecdote which comes to mind. Which challenge is the most memorable and which one would you like to tackle for the first time?

After twenty-three expeditions, it’s almost impossible to pick one that was more difficult or stands out. Jirishanca in Peru was an experience that remains in the forefront of my mind for many of the wrong reasons, although climbing with Al Powell and feeling completely reliant on another person is, for me, one of the reasons to do this almost pointless activity and there were times on Jirishanca we were very reliant on each other. 

Two years earlier, also with Al and in Peru, we made the first ascent of a route on the south face of Quitaraju in the Cordillera Blanca. We set off for a twenty-four-hour single push with no food, water, gas or bivy gear and got off the mountain three days later. This climb ranks as one of the most out there experiences for me, but almost no one has heard of this climb which I find amusing. In these times of self-promotion climbers appear to continually throw themselves at climbs and hills that have a reputation, forgoing the unknown for a status symbol.

Climbing the Slovak Direct on Denali with Andy Houseman was a big step into the unknown and tested the both of us as the weather became unsettled the morning we began the climb. Also with Andy, but in Nepal, while attempting an unclimbed summit on Peak 41, having all of our gear robbed from basecamp was not the best! 

One of the best and most enjoyable expeditions was also with Andy where we climbed the first ascent of the North Face of Chang Himal near Kangchenjunger in Nepal. This expedition was one of the few that absolutely everything went right and ended up with a new route on a pointy summit. The eight day walk out with just Budhi, our cook and friend, and Andy, through a quiet part of Nepal, was so peaceful and one of the most relaxed I have been. 

There is always time for fun, if I’m not having fun it’s time to give up and find something else. I’ve never climbed in Patagonia, I would like to go there some day, but the popularity and ease of it all puts me off a little, so I will probably never go.  

As for BOREAL, what do you think of our products? What, in your experience is the best shoe and why? 

I like that Boreal is an individual company started from a small family business and still remains true to their beliefs. I also like the fact that Boreal is a Spanish company making products in Spain employing local people. There is too much big business out there where individuals are forgotten about and the products being made lose track of where they came from. 

Best shoe? Dhama for rock and Stetind for alpine, both great products that do the job well. 

Last but not least, we would like to know what keeps you going at this frantic and dangerous rhythm for so many years.

Ha,ha, I’m not sure I do keep going at any frantic pace. There appear to be many younger climbers who have more to prove with much more energy than me. I’ll just keep plodding until I can’t plod any longer and drinking wine in the time between climbs. 

Warmest wishes and the best of luck in your next projects.