Interview: James Hooper on Continuing Rob Gauntlett’s Legacy
Writer David Vann caught up with Brit James Hooper, who shared the Adventurers
of the Year award with Rob Gauntlett for their ambitious 26,000-mile journey
from geomagnetic pole to geomagnetic pole last year (read the feature article).
Tragically Rob and his good friend James Atkinson were killed in a climbing
accident in the French Alps earlier this month.
James Hooper and Rob had an exceptional record of working well together to achieve extraordinary goals, including climbing Everest at just 19 years old. Here, James reflects on the loss of his
dear friend and how he plans to make sure Rob’s legacy lives on.
After the initial shock of the event, what are your thoughts or
At the moment I’d just like to take a few weeks to reflect on everything, the direction which Rob and I were moving in and the goals we were trying to achieve. Many of those goals will not have changed and I feel more strongly than ever about trying to complete some of the work we had begun. Rob and I desperately wanted to be able to tell the story of our 180 Degrees expedition through the footage that we shot and through a book. We hoped that through this we could not only share some fun times and tales of beautiful places, but also encourage people to realize that there are no boundaries to what you can achieve, if you are just willing to believe that you can make your dreams a reality. I’m looking forward to writing the book, as I believe that it is a wonderful opportunity to continue Rob’s legacy, and hopefully inspire people to draw on his strength and determination.
Is there any new information now about what happened, after the reporting of the first couple days?
There is no way of knowing exactly what caused the tragic accident leading to Rob and James’s deaths. The mountains are an inherently risky environment, and yet this is part of why we love them. They are unpredictable; they are beautiful; they present a challenge. All we know is that they were nearing the top of the Gervastutti Couloir, a route which was technically well within their abilities, and at this point the slope becomes slightly more steep. Perhaps one of them slipped, or, more likely, was hit by a small chunk of ice or rock from the seracs which hang over the route, disturbing their balance and causing them to lose their footing. They would have begun to fall down the slope and the protection they had fixed must have failed. At this point it would not have been possible for the other to hold the fall and they both fell around 500 meters to the glacier below. From what they were wearing and the pictures on their camera, this would have happened at some point during the afternoon of Friday, January 9th.
Are there any facts to correct, anything that the initial reports had wrong?
Initial reports suggested that the accident had happened on Saturday morning and had the result of an avalanche, both of which were incorrect.
You were focused on working on a documentary and the book about your pole-to-pole expedition, but you also mentioned Africa. Was it something in particular in Africa
Rob and I were always discussing fun ideas for future trips, and as we had not yet undertaken an expedition in Africa,we were keen to explore this wonderful and diverse continent. At this stage I don’t think I can really focus much further than completing the goals Rob and I had set out to do and beginning a trust in Rob’s name that would allow others the opportunity to realize their ambitions. However, there will certainly be future trips and expeditions, Rob would be seriously unimpressed if there weren’t!
- Nat Geo Expeditions
How do you think Rob would have wanted us to think of this event?
Risk is a part of life, and we constantly make judgements on whether we are comfortable that we can overcome the dangers of the situation we are in. You could get hit by a bus while crossing the road, but this is not a reason never to leave your house because with appropriate care you can negate this risk. Who are we if we don’t fight to better ourselves every day, what would life be if we did not challenge ourselves and learn new skills in the process? Life is a journey full of infinite potential experiences. We only have a limited time on our beautiful and diverse planet, and surely this time has been wasted if we don’t positively step forward and embrace the wealth of opportunities available.
Rob strove every single day to be better and stronger, he believed completely that he could achieve everything and anything, he embraced diversity and change, and he sought to use his experiences to encourage others to realize their potential.
We must realize there is opportunity in everything.