Tom Ballard (United Kingdom)
Tom Ballard – climber, first person ever to solo climb all six major north faces of the Alps in one winter – Presentation day of BanskoFilmFest 2015 – 28 November, 19:00h., Big Hall, Culture Center “N. Vapcarov”, Bansko
Tom Ballard will present also the film – “TOM”, Spain, 2015, Angel Esteban, Elena Goatelli, 68’), BanskoFilmFest 2015 – official program.
Tom Ballard was born in the Peak District of England in 1988 before moving to the Highlands of Scotland in 1995. Here he went to school in the sight and smell of Britain’s highest mountain – Ben Nevis 4406 ft. He has never had any other wish or thought than to be a climber.
What sets him apart from his peers is the pure simple enjoyment and satisfaction he finds in being on his own. As the mood takes from boulders to alpine faces he enjoys it all. At the moment he seems most content and happiest in solo alpinism. Although mixed climbing runs it a close second. A creative climber he gains quiet satisfaction in either creating new routes or making free ascents of climbs that formerly used aid.
Mixed climbing suits both his temperament and physique. Besides his own creations at Nellembalm, Val Udai, Uschenen, Grotta Prinoth and Eptigen, he has climbed Vertical Limit M12 and made the second ascents of Spiderman M13, Superman 13+, and Ironman M14+.
He particularly took to the airy style of the Dolomites where he has enjoyed over 160 routes, most of them solo. During the winter season of 2013 on the Catinaccio he was definitely pleased with his first ascent of the 1960 aid classic into Via Olimpia – Going for Gold as an F8a free climb. To balance out the ‘sport style’ he also added a new route; Just Like a Pill VIII+/IX- ,a ‘trad or adventure style’, route at the right-hand side of the East Face.
Tom learnt to ski and snowboard in the ephemeral winters of the Scottish Highlands strapping on his first skis at five and a snowboard as seven year old. Where as long as the grass and heather is white; it must be the ski season. Gullies and couloirs are to his taste whether in Les Ecrins, Val di Fassa or the Bernese Oberland he enjoys all aspects of this winter wonder world whether it be ski extreme or freeride or old fashioned ski alpine! Call them what you may.
The Bernese Oberland and the North Face of the Eiger are the mountains he learnt his alpine craft on. Where amongst others he made the first solo ascents of The North Pillar Direct and Locherspiel. Later he free-climbed the The North Pillar Direct as Solitaire F6c+. The forgotten North Face of the Agassizhorn 3953m gave him a new route 600m If Ghengis Can, We Can ED Wi4 M5 and he made most probably the first solo of the uber classic Tillman – Welzenbach on the North Face of the Gross Fiescherhorn 4048.8m!
He has climbed and descended over a 110 alpine climbs mostly alone.
The 26-year-old has become the first person ever to solo climb all six major north faces of the Alps in one winter. In his first full newspaper interview since completing the feat, he says he climbs to escape – just like his famous mother Alison Hargreaves, who died on K2. In the last winter season (2014/ 2015) Tom Ballard was picking his way down the western flank of the Eiger in what should have been his greatest moment. The 26-year-old had just become the first person ever to successfully solo climb all six major north faces of the Alps in one winter season – the last is known in climbing circles as the Wall of Death.
On the descent, Ballard started noticing pieces of helmet scattered among the rocks and snow. Then, he saw the body of a male off-piste skier, slightly older than him, who had fallen and smashed his skull open on an exposed rock. He was already dead, but it took the helicopter an hour to winch his body off the mountain.
“It was the first time I’ve seen a body on the mountains,” says Ballard. “That put a dampener on the whole thing. It served to remind me that I was very lucky to be able to go up and down safely. At any time the mountains can take our lives from us. It’s a very cruel world, you know.”
Ballard admits he is a man of few words and when he does speak, for his first full newspaper interview since completing the climb, it is with cool understatement – both on his triumph, which is being described as one of the greatest feats in mountaineering history, and the tragedy which has long accompanied him.
band; Pink Floyd, book Seven Pillars of Wisdom, foods; pasta and chocolate, drink; water, approach shoe; Vitamin, rock shoe; Instinct, alpine boot; Phantom 6000, ski boot; Rush, and quotation “All men dream: But not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.” (T.E. Lawrence.)