048: Matt Helliker/Keep It South West

“Strive to be happy and be the best possible person along the way. Tick your own personal goals. No one else gives a shit in the end”.

Climber Matt Helliker is widely regarded as one of the UK’s top alpinists. But I have a feeling he’d prefer to be known as an all-round mountain athlete, as comfortable taking on a peak like Citadel in the Alaskan wilderness as he is exploring the sea cliffs of his native south west, or the Scottish winter climbing he considers to be the best in the world. 

Matt in his ‘happy place’, training in his Chamonix basement.

Intriguingly, as I discovered during the conversation we had at the Outdoor Show in June 2018, he is also at an interesting point, mulling over what the future holds as he approaches 40, and wondering if he’s fulfilled his potential during a career spanning two decades.

“Scotland is the best mixed winter climbing in the world”

The result is a conversation covering themes we can all relate to, whatever our athletic level. Can you ever really find happiness from the things that drive you, or are you doomed to keep repeating the same cycles of feast and famine? Is self-esteem linked to work ethic and performance?

During a hugely entertaining chat we cover all this and more, as Matt takes me through his physical and mental processes with total honesty, and explains how a skinny kid from Somerset became one of the UK’s most talented climbers. 

Matt is a hugely appealing character, self-deprecating and with the same passion for climbing and the lifestyle he’s worked so hard to achieve since the start. I really enjoyed this one, so massive thanks to Matt for coming on the show and getting right into it.

If you only have five minutes…

Listen to this section - Matt on how a friend's close-to-home observation has lead him to some recent reevaluation.

Connect With Matt

Show Notes

  • At the Outdoor Show.
  • The trade show routine.
  • Matt’s latest Italy project: Ground Zero.
  • Handling the all-round game by being methodical.
  • How expeditions make you weak. 
  • Setting an age deadline for these trad and sports projects.
  • ‘Scotland is the best mixed climbing in the world’.
  • Coping with inactivity and injury.
  • The psychology of self-imposed a deadline.
  • Chasing ever-diminishing returns. 
  • ‘Do I ever feel satisfied or content? No. And that’s quite a horrible place to be’.
  • How your personal drive can evolve. 
  • Citadel
  • ‘Matt is the biggest underachiever in British climbing’. 
  • Coasting versus pushing yourself. 
  • Revisiting Split Rock, where it all began.
  • A formative experience at Certain Surprise.
  • Matt’s classic UK climbing apprenticeship.
  • Scotland as the ultimate winter climbing ground.
  • Extreme Alpinism.
  • The influence of Mark Twight.
  • Meeting at the Fairview Inn
  • Early mentor John Baker
  • 14 Scottish winter weekends on the trot.
  • Growing up as a fitness fanatic.
  • Not training smart.
  • Matt’s happy place – his training shed. 
  • Balancing fitness with the demands of different disciplines. 
  • The influence and the cycle of the seasons.
  • Matt’s next expedition to India.
  • Views on expedition climbing. 
  • The vagaries of climbing at higher altitude.
  • Organisational difficulties 
  • Making a home in Chamonix 
  • The UK is the outdoor epicentre 
  • South West is best
  • A2 pulley injury 
  • Where does it end? 
  • How satisfaction and work ethic is linked to self esteem. 
  • Finding a new outlet in sailing. 

People Mentioned

Places Mentioned

  • Romanschorn
  • Friedrichshafen
  • Pembrokeshire
  • Scotland
  • Split Rock
  • Alps
  • Alaska
  • Bristol
  • Dartmoor
  • Chamonix
  • India
  • Annapurna III
  • Patagonia 
  • London
  • Amsterdam
  • Cape Town
  • San Francisco 
  • Chamonix 
  • Bristol
  • North Devon
  • Pembrokeshire