Simon Yates (mountaineer)

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Simon Yates (born 1963) is an English mountaineer. In 1985, he climbed the west face of Siula Grande in the Waywash mountain range in the Peruvian Andes with Joe Simpson. On the descent, an accident resulted in Simpson falling over a cliff while roped to Yates, who was forced to cut the rope to avoid both climbers falling. Simpson survived, and recounted the story in the book Touching the Void, which was later adapted into a film.[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]


Together with Joe Simpson, Yates climbed Siula Grande in 1985, via the hitherto unclimbed west face. On the descent, Simpson fell through a cornice, breaking his right leg and heel. To continue descending, Yates then used ropes to lower Simpson down the mountain in stages. While descending in the night in bad weather, Yates lowered Simpson over an unseen cliff edge, which meant that he was hanging over a deep crevasse with only Simpson's hold on the rope to prevent him falling. To avoid being pulled off the mountain himself, Yates cut the rope. Simpson thus fell approximately 50 feet into the crevasse. He survived the fall, unbeknown to Yates, who assumed he must have been killed. Simpson managed to climb out of the crevasse and reached base camp two days later.

Some mountaineers[who?] were very critical of Yates' 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 saving Simpson's life. Simpson has always vehemently defended Yates, saying he would have done it himself had the roles been reversed.[4][5]

Yates later 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]

After the Siula Grande climb, Yates went on to carry out expeditions to 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). In September 2010, Yates planned to return to the Cordillera Huayhuash 25 years after his climb with Simpson, to lead a group of trekkers to the base camp of Siula Grande and to the viewpoint over Cerro Bella Vista, where one can see the path where Simpson crawled to safety.

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.

World Expeditions

External links[edit]