Welcome to "On Belay With..."! This is a series of short interviews with all sorts of folks involved in mountain medicine. Joining us at the belay for this posting is Dr Marika Blackham. Marika will soon be joining us at Chesterfield Royal Hospital as a Clinical Fellow in Anaesthetics, Critical Care and Mountain Medicine. As part of the post, she will start the Diploma in Mountain Medicine (DiMM) in December.
What was the last mountain you climbed?
The Carneddau Circuit, Snowdonia, back in the Summer, starting in Bethesda following up Mynydd Ddu, along to Carnedd Dafydd, Carnedd Llewellyn, Foel Grych, Carnedd Uchaf and back down to Bethesda via Drosgyl and Galle Y Mynn. We saw wild ponies and took a dip in the stream at the bottom of Gyrn Wigau!
What does the perfect mountain day consist of?
An interesting ridge with some fun scrambling/climbing and with good friends, preferably finished off in a pub!
What's been your worst mountain mishap?
My climbing friend fell 13m, all of his gear ripped out. He broke his arm and foot, but after some screws and plates he is back climbing.
Coire Mhic Fearchair on the north side of Beinn Eighe.
What's been your best mountain day?
Beinn Eighe in Torridon, Scotland, this was a beautiful ridge which is surrounded by stunning peaks and you can see the Isle of Skye on a clear day, which it was!
What mountain changed your life?
Climbing Mount Toubkal in Morocco aged 16 on a school trip to the Atlas mountains. Interacting with the berbers and their mules, the teachers accompanying the expedition and the varied environment made me want to continue to push my own physical and mental limits, as well as creating an expedition that is enjoyable, environmentally/economically sustainable and teaches others of a passion for the mountains.
What's been your best bit of mountain kit?
Sealskins hiking socks-never a blister and always warm and dry feet.
Marika leading The Cracks (HS 4c) on Dinas Mot. Just ahead is the slippery and rather exposed final pitch. Good value for HS!
What makes a great climbing partner? Has anyone come close?
My current climbing partner Jenny is an attentive belayer and helps me to improve by pushing me to try harder problems. Getting the balance between having fun and trying something difficult and new is sometimes hard, but Jenny has a lot of psyche and is very enthusiastic. A great climbing partner!
What's been your biggest mountain disappointment?
I was due to go on an expedition to northern Iceland the summer before starting my first job as a junior doctor with the university hiking club, and the dates of the trip were rearranged due to logistical issues at the last minute, meaning I had to give up my place on the trip, absolutely gutted, it looked amazing. I hope to arrange my own trip there someday.
Approaching the Matterhorn. Arguably one of the most distinctive mountains in the world. Irresistible!
What is your "dream" mountain objective?
I would love to climb the Matterhorn. Just a classic mountain with good mixed climbing.
Give us a mountain "tip"!
Always plan/pack something delicious to boost morale. Chocolate coated banana chips are one of my favourite additions to a trail mix.
Marika has just completed her foundation training in Yorkshire. She is a former president of the Leeds Wilderness Medicine Society and a founder of the Leeds Medical Education Academy Summer School.
What do Karen Greene, Stuart Allan, Edi Albert, Abigail Forsyth, Jon Morgan, Tom Yeoman and David Hildebrandt all have in common? They have all taken part in "On Belay With...". If you would like to join them please get in touch!