John Bachar – A True Slow Hero

climbing-magazine-84John Bachar, Free Climber, died on July 5th aged 52

I was reading The Economist this week and came across the obituary of John Bachar. I was, when I was about 17, really into climbing, sadly, as friends and climbing buddies left to go to university our little climbing gang drifted apart and I haven’t climbed for around 15 years (but I am always promising myself that I will start again. Some day…!). We had all heard of John Bachar at the time, he was a bit of a myth, this Californian free climber who seemed so exotic and distant and so cool to us young men from the rainy midlands in the UK!

So, it was with a tinge of sadness that I heard he had died, I hadn’t even thought of him for years and it took some time to recall where I knew him from…

But, more than a personal note, John was a true slow hero. He was a laid back Southern Californian, with the mannerisms of a surfer and considered the Worlds Best Free Climber (free climbing is rock climbing without using ropes or assistance. It is just you, the rockface and some chalk to dry the hands. It is the purest  – and, obviously, the most dangerous – form of climbing).

He climbed slowly and unrushed, seemingly in slow motion, always graceful, never hurried. It was all smooth and unforced.

Unlike a lot of mountaineers he wasn’t interested in “conquering” the mountain, but in the graceful act of climbing itself. Getting to the top didn’t matter. All that counted was “the grace, control and style of how he got there. The rock was his superior and, he felt, should remain as if he had never climbed it.”

He died after a fall from the Dike Wall near Mammoth Lakes, California.

RIP Jon Bachar.

You can read The Economists full obituary here.

This has inspired me to start a new topic here at Tortoise HQ, I want to start celebrating true Slow heroes. There are the obvious ones; Lao Tzu, Carl Honore, Tom Hodgkinson, Henry David Thoreau, William Morris, but I am interested in the more unsung or less obvious ones. Tell me about your Slow Heroes (you can leave a comment on this post or contact me here) and I will do an entry on them at a later dates.

And if you will excuse me, I am off to find a rockface…

Matt