Simon Yates (mountaineer)

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Simon Yates (born 1963) is an English mountaineer best known through the book Touching the Void by Joe Simpson, and the film of the same name. Touching the Void recounts the 1985 ascent by Yates and Simpson of the West Face of Siula Grande in the Waywash mountain range in the Peruvian Andes, Simpson's accident on the descent, and Yates's attempt to rescue him. Due to this adventure, he's also known as "the man who cut the rope".[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Yates was born in Leicestershire, England and in the 1980s moved to Sheffield to complete a degree in biochemistry at the University of Sheffield. After graduation Yates concentrated on mountaineering and did rope access work to support himself financially.[3]


The famous incident on Siula Grande, when he cut the rope on Joe Simpson in order to save his own life has had some repercussions upon Yates after his return from the climb. Some mountaineers, mainly the old guard, were very critical of his decision to cut the rope on his partner. Yates argued that he could not rely upon an army of people to help since they were cut off from the world on the mountain flank with a raging storm in progress. Despite this decision, his rescue attempt contributed significantly to save Simpson's life. Simpson has always vehemently defended Yates, saying he would have done it himself had the roles been reversed. From now on, Yates would often been referred to as "The man who cut the rope", a nickname he says "is likely to stay with me for the rest of my life".[4][5]

Yates said that he lost contact with Simpson until they went to Peru to film some scenes for the Touching the Void documentary. He said that Simpson had become "a person he could not relate to" and that "climbing partners are like work colleagues. Some work colleagues go on to become friends, some become acquaintances and some people you work with - well, you rather wish you didn't."[6]

Although best known for the Siula Grande climb, that expedition was a small part of Yates's climbing and mountaineering experience. His other successful expeditions include Laila Peak and Nemeka in Pakistan and several expeditions to the Cordillera Darwin in Chile.

In July 2009, Yates successfully led a group of four clients to the summit of Lenin Peak (7134m) for a well-known adventure travel company.[7] In September 2010, Yates planned to return to the Cordillera Huayhuash to lead a group of trekkers to the base camp of Siula Grande and to the look-out point of Cerro Bella Vista, where one can see the path where Joe Simpson crawled to safety back in 1985. This will be the 25th anniversary of the famous mountaineering story.

Yates is the author of three autobiographical books about mountaineering. The first, Against the Wall, is about an expedition to climb a new route on the Central Tower of Paine in Chilean Patagonia and was short-listed for the Boardman Tasker Prize for Mountain Literature. The Flame of Adventure, describes a series of climbing adventures around the world. His most recent book, The Wild Within describes expeditions to the Cordillera Darwin in Tierra del Fuego, the Wrangell St-Elias ranges on the Alaska-Yukon border, and eastern Greenland.


  • Against The Wall (1997) Jonathan Cape, London.
  • The Flame of Adventure (2001) Jonathan Cape, London.
  • The Wild Within (2012) Vertebrate Press, Sheffield.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ TimesOnLine - The man who cut the rope
  2. ^ Touching the Void resumé
  3. ^ A dad's wild times Sheffield Telegraph, 18 March 2012.
  4. ^ The climb of his life, 28 February 2005. Retrieved 21 January 2011.
  5. ^ Interview: How we met Joe Simpson and Simon Yates The Independent, 23 February 1997. Retrieved 21 January 2011.
  6. ^ The climb of his life, 28 February 2005. Retrieved 21 January 2011.
  7. ^ [1]

World Expeditions

External links[edit]