Growing up on the side of the Pennine Moors, the oppurtunity of adventure found in ’the great outdoors’ has always excited me. As well as being inspired by this landscape, my Grandad, Harry Stedman, ignited my imagination as a child with tales of his trips around the globe serving in the Army in the 1950’s. Ironically, the story which has stuck most of all does not hail from any of Harry’s exotic destinations, (Cairo, Argentina, America, Brazil…) but from somewhere a lot closer to home.
Horwich, the village where I grew up is nestled against the vast and (oftentimes) bleak moorland. The open landscape is crowned by a colossal iron structure, one which my Grandad helped to build. Winter Hill Mast was a televison tower completed in 1956 that broadcast Granada ITV and ABC shows until the mid 60’s. As a child ’The Mast’ loomed over my hometown, its 450ft height seeming astronomical to a boy so small.
Warnings of the giant icicles that could kill if they fell from the mast during winter, only seemed to excite me further. I found and still find the ruthlessness and danger of the natural world to be mesmerising. My mind was gripped by this inhospitable environment, where one had to overcome the harshest of weathers just to keep moving, the urge to climb was something that I seemed to develop young. I wanted to race my grandad up masts and hills, something that would be channeled into a much more extreme past time later in life.
There was something magical to me about this mast. A prominent landmark in the North West, everyone I met knew about it and I wasted no time in letting them know it was my grandad that had built it. As I child I believed he had built it all himself, fighting huge storms and torrential rain to build it with his bare hands. I was also obsessed with the landscape, a baroness seeming paradoxically full of adventure and escapism, challenge and fear.
Its as if that first feeling for adventure I found at the mast is what has driven me on to be a passionate mountaineer and ice climber, travelling the UK and Europe searching for my own adrenalin rush. I climb frozen water falls, glaciers and cliff faces chasing the same excitement and wonder I felt as a chid. Unlike most other people this summer, I’ll be spending my time craving the cold, and counting down the time until winter; when the landscape is most merciless, unforgiving and full of oppurtunity.
Read more on Ricks personal blog. Plus keep an eye out for the next instalment right here.