Yorkshire Post: My Passion for Mountaineering
Mark Serby, director at Wake Smith talks about his passion for ski touring and exploration.
I have always enjoyed visiting the mountains and it probably stems from a trip when I was at school at Uppingham in Rutland, when a group of us went to Tremadog in North Wales one weekend to complete a fabulous rock-climb called Christmas Curry.
Climbing against the Snowdonia backdrop was a revelation to me and I continued spending many exploratory climbing weekends traveling to the mountainous regions of the UK.
After school and prior to University, I opted to take a gap year and aged 18, rather boldly made my way to Chamonix in France for the winter season, where I managed to land some reception work in a hotel.
It was a huge adventure to the largest mountain range in Western Europe and the job was perfect because it left me with most of my daytimes free to learn how to ski and to familiarise myself with the vast Chamonix valley.
It was such a spellbinding place that I stayed on after the snow had retreated and the pistes had closed to push my rock-climbing in those dramatic surroundings.
I returned to the UK one year after leaving it to start my studies at Goldsmith's College in London, coincidentally, joining at the same time as Damien Hirst! By then I'd become a competent skier, I was fluent in French and my fascination with the mountains was firmly entrenched.
Many ski trips later, I was in my thirties, and I met a ski-touring guide on a bus journey in Prague. We talked at length and he encouraged me to give the sport a go.
I subsequently booked myself on a trip to Andermatt in Switzerland where I got to grips with the thin, specialist touring skis and the skins which attach to the base, enabling them to grip on the uphill pushes.
It's a totally different discipline to downhill skiing – you go uphill as much as down and you carry all of your supplies for the day as you travel from mountain hut to mountain hut, so it's very much about self sufficiency and getting off the beaten track
It quickly became a passion and tied in with my other travels to the mountains which includes on-foot ascents of Mont Blanc in France, the Matterhorn on the Swiss/Italian border, Mount Elbrus in the Russian Caucasus Mountains, Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and Mount Damavand in Iran.
Ski-touring became a regular winter fixture and has taken me to many countries with friends, including America, Russia, much of the Alps and Romania.
I love the peace and the unique views it provides of those impressive peaks, but the most interesting trip was probably to Norway where a group of us stayed on a boat and ski-toured around the fjords, being picked up by the boat at the end of the day as we descended into each new inlet.
There is still the classic Haute Route which is high on my list of things to do. It takes seven days and passes through some of the most spectacular scenery in the Alps from Chamonix in France, to Zermatt in Switzerland.
However, I also have an idea to tackle the Mongol Rally drive from London to Mongolia in aid of charity and I'd like to travel the historic Silk Road from Beijing to Europe, but my idea is to do it using only public transport, obviously not on skis!
I'm sure there will be other adventures if I can find the time!