Loz is one of the most audacious climbers among my climber friends in terms of how much one stretches his ability against all odds. He has been suffering from the incurable disease pulmonary hypertension all these recent years, to which he finally succumbed. Only the permanent treatment is heart-lung transplant. Loz sought the possibility for it, but in the end his consultant and he decided not at least for time being, as I heard.
Because of his conditions, he is extremely short-breathed to the extent he can’t board long-haul flights without supplementary oxygen bottles. Unsurprisingly, any approach to climbing, particularly anything that involves slight uphill — that is, most crags — is very hard for him.
I have talked with Loz about breathing during climbing. We all know it is common for climbers to get short-breathed or stop breathing momentarily at a hard or stressful exposed move. Climbing is definitely a mental sport. But Loz can’t afford to have such luxury. It is unfathomable for me how hard and challenging climbing is for him. In fact while I was climbing in the Andes at high altitude, I was thinking of Loz, guessing it would be close to how he would feel every time he climbs, except I can get my breath back once I have descended to lower ground whereas he does not have such an escape.
In another occasion, I have talked to Loz about jamming. Hand-jam, especially thumb-down, is my favourite rest (and I heard so is for Alex Honnold), and I thought Loz might appreciate it, given rest during climbing is all the more important for him. I found he could not use overhead hand-jam or similar for rest, because a raised arm means harder work on the heart. That is hard luck… But he found undercling jam would work. In a way his disability may have made (or forced) him to have good and creative technique!
Loz didn’t and couldn’t take on winter climbing. Snow-covered approches to any winter crags in this country would be too laborious for him. Despite the fact, it was him who introduced this brilliant meme (link below), “Kinder Downfall”, to me, which I can thoroughly recommended to any Midland-based winter climbers for laugh: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGq-3TlswZs There is a word, “arm-chair climber”, and Loz might be qualified for it not in a sarcastic but with the most positive way. He was knowledgeable even for routes or activities he would never have a chance on. That is a passion.
A few years ago Loz decided to diet to lower weight and he made it. I don’t know exactly, but I guess he lost 3-4 stones, most admirably. You can easily spot the difference in the photos. Dieting is tough for anyone, but especially for Loz, as his love to food and drink (wine) is almost unrivalled! He said the effect of the weight difference was remarkable. Approaches that had been once felt like a full-marathon(?) for him became much more attainable. His climbing grade shot up.
My best memory with Loz was our week-long climbing trip to Cornwall, which is his favourite place, in the summer of 2014. One day we walked to Fox Promontory — it is more remote than the nearby major crag Chair Ladder, but he made it without great difficulty. His diet paid off very well. On another day we climbed Golva in Sennen — the most striking crack route and one of the few routes in the crag that truly merit the three-star status (recommended!). He had talked about it repeatedly as his dream route — the route he can never forget since he first saw it. On the day, his dream came true. He made the top after good fight, taking 2 hours on the 35m route. It was neither leading nor clean ascent, but who cares? A man wants to get on and climb a route way above his grade and he has done it at all last. It being a solid and well-protected (namely, hard for the second) E2, it was the hardest-grade route he had ever climbed by then and maybe in his life.
In the last couple of years, it seemed Loz’s interest shifted more to his another hobby, horse riding (and maybe driving), though apparently he still climbed occasionally. I have invited him to Scotland, proposing accessible venues. One of them is, slightly ambitiously, Etive Slabs, the home of the country’s longest and purest slab routes, because slab is easier for his cardio and because I too can take on its challenge (long runout…). He was keen. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen in time… I am thinking of visiting the Slabs next spring, remembering him.
Finally, to talk about Loz would never be complete without his love of food and drink and anything culinary. Loz regularly made climbing trips to France (by car). A half of his talk about them was usually about good local food and wine, some (dozens?) of which he brought back. Admittedly, it may have been because of me — I share more passion on food than bolt-clipping — his regular climbing partner Tony Hextall would confirm either way.
In long-weekend or bank-holiday trips of Bowline Climbing Club, it is common for Loz to take complete rest days, drive around by himself, and hunt for good food and drink. It was physically hard for him to be engaged with outdoor activity consecutive days. To have fun outside of climbing must have worked well for him. As a bonus, we, the rest of the attendants, too had sometimes great souvenir! Look at the snapshot photo on the right (or above if smartphone) of Bowline barbie in Sennen beach. I remember he had travelled to a fish market (in Newlyn, I think) on the day and brought back some fresh mackerel for us.
Loz is the guy for me to consult about good restaurants even in a remote corner of the country, including areas in Scotland, which he had never set a foot on. I really appreciated his in-depth knowledge. Loz is the only person I know who carries a set of quality kitchen knives like Global to camping. He is my only friend in Britain who talks about rating of fine-grit (>#3000) whetstone. I have once given him a present of a small kitchen knife purchased in a proper knife shop in Japan. He responded with a beaming smile, saying he could shave his arm with it!
Sadly his life wasn’t long, but I would like to believe he made the most of it. It is certainly true that he was well aware of his mortality and in spite of, or probably because of, that, he was keenly involved for what he wanted to do, including hard-core activities like climbing, which is almost shocking for his friends with the same disease, judging from very occasional comments in his wall in the SNS. He was pushing his boundary in earnest.
So guys, eat, drink, climb, and be merry while we can! That is precisely what Loz did and what we should do, too.
I have compiled my past photos of Loz as my Flickr album.