I Want That Job! - Duncan Bell, Hot Rock Expeditions

© Hot Rock Expeditions

In this article series I Want That Job! I'm interviewing people from various professions within the climbing world. If you think your job is a dream come true (it has to be climbing related) and if you're willing to be interviewed - then drop me a line. Likewise if you can think of a job that you'd like to have - suggest it in the forums and I'll try and track someone down.

This time it's Duncan Bell. Has he got the best job in the world or what?! I think he might have. He thinks he might have. Lucky bugger!

Bouldering with locals at Mwanza, Lake Victoria
© Hot Rock Expeditions
Name: Duncan Bell

Age: 33

Job Title:  I run Hot Rock, a continuous global climbing expedition

Relevant Qualifications: Sense of adventure

Perks and holidays/time off: Continuous climbing and travelling all round the globe

Describe your job:

Finding hostels in Delhi at 2am in the monsoon. Negotiating the Sudanese desert. Riveting new windows to the hot rock truck. Planning climbing itineraries across the remotest corners of the globe. Designing artwork and dealing with media owners. Keeping the taxman happy and up to date. Telling prospective Hot Rockers about the expeditions. Extracting the truck from trees, padi fields, bogs and soft sand. Employing a leader and driver who can run the best climbing trips in the world...   Oh – and climbing, climbing, climbing...

How did you get this job?  How long did it take?  Any hardships?  Did you always want it or did it just happen?

I sort of fell into running hot rock when Stuart Marlow, the founder, decided he wanted to sell the truck and do something else. Previously I'd been a fundraiser for Cancer Research UK – another job I loved – but not quite as much. Since then we've travelled Africa (twice), the Middle East and are currently on the first of 2 consecutive trips through Asia. Lianna (my partner) and I run the trips ourselves about half the time, and have other leaders for the remainder.

What attracted you to the job in the first place?

Solving the world's problems illicit moonshine with Iranian climbers... Camel trekking to unclimbed crags through poppy fields with Egyptian Bedouin... Deep water bouldering from isolated beaches on Lake Malawi... Catching up with hotrockers to climb and reminisce back in the UK... and not forgetting: no 9-5... no commuting (or the world's longest commute, depending on your point of view.)

How long have you been in the job now?  How long do you see yourself continuing?

About 3 years. I'm sure the time will come when I'll get fed up of seeing new cultures, meeting local people, climbing all over the world and running my own small business – but not just yet.

Describe your average day at work?  And the average week?

There really is no such thing. When I'm back in the UK it's all about paperwork. On expedition, we aim to travel 1 day in 3, climb 1 day and have 1 day free for touristy / chill out time. But of course, we might spend a week stationary at a top crag (Hampi, as I write) or another week extracting the truck from a padi field (that was last month's excitement...)

One of the biggest surprises I had when starting up was that virtually nobody ever telephones. People these days prefer to email – which of course makes life so much easier when I'm on expedition. So I can spend most of my time abroad... in fact, I currently spend just 2-3 months per year in the UK, which is basically time spent at home arranging the advertising – in magazines and on websites worldwide -, dealing with tax, invoicing and payroll matters, planning future expeditions, running occasional lectures and so on and so forth.

Things basically pile up and up for months on end, and there's always a barrage of paperwork back in the UK. But that is fair enough as the only “business”-type work I do whilst abroad is emails – replying to prospective hot rockers, telling them about the expeditions and trying to keep the “trip reports” section of the website up to date. But in future, who knows? As mobile – and especially wireless – technology spreads, it is getting easier and easier to do everything from the truck. And the flip side is that there's always plenty of ex-Hot Rockers wanting to lead the expeditions – so if Lianna & I want a few months break to do something different or recharge our batteries, we can. Having spent the better part of a decade commuting over 3hrs / day for my previous London-based jobs, the lifestyle I now have is refreshing, to say the least.

Beach Bouldering
© Hot Rock Expeditions

The hotrock truck "birt" at Spitzkoppe
© Hot Rock Expeditions
What is the toughest part of the job?

The hardest part of the job is when things don't go to plan. On the current trip we had a couple of guys turned down for their Iranian visas, 1 suspected broken leg following a motorbike accident, and the Indian monsoon ran a couple of weeks late. Trying to make sure everyone has the trip of a lifetime is really high pressure at times like these, and essential because most people who join hot rock do so from personal recommendations.

Happily, Lianna is leading the trip day-to-day so she has to deal face to face with all that stuff!

If a teenager said to you 'I want to be a [.......], like you' – what would you say?  Recommend it?  Warn them off?  Laugh?!

I'd say no way. There's only room for one Hot Rock. Get off my patch!! More seriously: the travelling and climbing is bound to appeal. But if you want a steady income – let alone a pension – and a predictable day job, then forget it.

Any friends through work?

So many Hot Rockers of course, meeting up with folk post-expedition is one of the best parts of the job. But the one that comes to mind was the privilege of climbing alongside Eric Weihenmeyer, the famous American blind climber, on an ascent of Mount Kenya. His attitude (not to mention ability) is both utterly humbling and immensely inspiring.

Any amazing stories?

Chewing the political fat with black & white Zimbabweans on the overnight train to vic falls; having my partner knock a 5 inch scorpion on me on a bivi ledge in iran; narrowly avoid trouble in Khayelitsha, a rough township in the Cape Flats; abbing off 3 tufts of grass from the middle of a 600m face in Malawi; discovering new bouldering areas in Tanzania and climbing areas in Uganda. Enjoying incredibly friendly welcomes from the climbing communities wherever we go, with a special mention to our great friends in Turkey. Oh – and witnessing a shootout between police and smugglers in the remote Iran – Pakistan borderlands.

All the best Hot Rock stories are on the trip reports section of the website:

And finally - What's your dream job? Why?

Er... see above!

Click to visit the Hot Rock Website

For more I Want That Job! Articles take a look here:

More information Hot Rock Expeditions

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