ARTICLE: Perfect Partners #3 - Tom Livingstone and Uisdean Hawthorn

by Tom Ripley 26/Oct/2017
This article has been read 4,046 times

Tom Livingstone is a blonde, bold, brash Englishman living in North Wales. Uisdean Hawthorn is a quieter, yet equally determined Scot from a remote corner of the Scottish Highlands. With hard ascents and attempts in Scotland, the Alps, Alaska and the Rockies, plus ambitious plans for the future, they are fast becoming one of Britain's most formidable alpine partnerships. Uisdean is a fully qualified joiner, whilst Tom mixes outdoor instruction, rope access and writing to pay for his climbing adventures.

Summit of Mount Alberta., 107 kb
Summit of Mount Alberta.
© Uisdean Hawthorn

But, the question remains: beyond their cosy shiver bivvies, what do they really make of each other?

Uisdean on Tom

How did you first meet?

We met in the Gorges du Tarn, the weather had crapped out in the Alps so John McCune said I could come along and join them. I now know that Tom is never that keen to climb in a three rock climbing.

What was your first impression?

Silly hair, with a posh accent that he obviously liked the sound of. Surprisingly after the first few hours we got on well.

Did you know of Tom by reputation before climbing together?

No.

What was the first route you climbed together?

The Greenwood-Jones on the North face of Mount Temple in the Canadian Rockies. We agreed to go on a month long trip to the Rockies before we had properly climbed together. Even though we got on well on the trip, when I look back now, knowing how important trust is in an alpine climbing partnership, it seems like an ambitions and slightly stupid thing to have done.

Summit of Mount Temple., 241 kb
Summit of Mount Temple.
© Uisdean Hawthorn

Why do you enjoy climbing with Tom?

He is always psyched and we are keen for similar things. No matter how ambitious a route that I suggest might be, he will always be keen.

You seem to enjoy taking the piss out of Tom, do you actually like him?

Yeah. I must do as I have spent a lot of time with him over the last few years. I mean, you have to like someone to spend seven weeks in a tent in Alaska with them. Either you learn to like them by the end or kill them. That said, it's always too easy to wind Tom up about pretty much anything he does.

What's the most memorable route you've climbed together?

The House-Anderson on Mt Alberta's North Face in the Canadian Rockies. We had failed to climb it the year before in bad weather, when the face was in poor condition. On our successful ascent everything went as well as we could have hoped. We also slept in a cave half way up the face, which neither of us is going to forget anytime soon.

Sum up your partnership in three words.

Outrageously Overly Optimistic.

Best thing about climbing with Tom?

He just deals with anything that comes at him and keeps the rope moving. Nothing ever gets him down and he will always take the positive from things, which is a good antidote to my Scottishness.

What's the most scared you've been when climbing together?

Descending from Mt Alberta the first time we tried the North Face. We traversed a long way to get to the East Face, which is next level choss - it makes South Stack feel like the Verdon! There were lots of slough avalanches and not really anything solid to rap from. I remember feeling a bit out of my depth, but Tom took the lead and did a good job getting us out of there.

If you could change one thing about Tom what would it be?

Apart from his hair and his accent, I would make him better at ice climbing. He is very strong so gets away with having bad technique, but it's not an efficient or pleasant belay.

What are your plans for the future?

I think we'll maybe go back to Alaska and then perhaps the Himalaya after that.

What's the least enjoyable route you've done with Tom?

Tom and I had an unplanned bivvy (without bivvy gear) on a rock about 20 mins walk from the Charpoua Hut. We had climbed the American Direct on the Dru in a day and had rapped through the night. We then got lost in a maze of crevasses and decided to bivvy until it got light. When we woke up we were extremely tired, having climbed Divine Providence two days before heading to the Dru. The climbing on the American Direct was extremely enjoyable, but the rapping through the night and sleeping on a rock that turned out to be so close to the hut sucked!

Has Tom ever cheated on you and climbed a route you really wanted to do together with someone else?

This spring Tom climbed the Lesueur Route on the Dru with Tazzy Kim (Ladiges) two days before I arrived in Chamonix. We had started walking into it the previous year, before bailing because conditions were too bad. My FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) didn't last long, however. Tom went home a week later, which coincided with the weather getting really good. I then managed to climb three big routes including the Lesueur Route with Big Tim Neill.

What have you learned from climbing with Tom?

If you are positive and keep going it will properly be OK in the end. And if it isn't then just do something about it until it is back to being OK. Oh and if you speak poshly and confidently to people, they will believe you and do what you say.

With John McCune In a bothy bag at the top of Divine Providence , 141 kb
With John McCune In a bothy bag at the top of Divine Providence
© Uisdean Hawthorn

Tom on Uisdean

How did you first meet?

We first met in Gorges du Tarn. I was climbing with John McCune and Uisdean joined us. I specifically remember him trying a horrendous 7a - thin, technical and it was hot - Uisdean kept saying, in his strong Scottish accent, 'It's a fucking tech-fest!' Instantly I knew we shared a common hatred of technical slab climbing after that!

What was your first impression?

Scottish. Good winter climber. I couldn't understand his accent.

Did you know of Uisdean by reputation before climbing together?

I'd heard about him making the first ascent of The Giant on Creag an Dubh Loch with his dad.

What was the first route you climbed together?

The first proper route we did was the Greenwood/Jones on Mount Temple in Canada. Uisdean didn't have much alpine experience at the time, but we did just fine. Bears didn't eat us and I can remember standing on the summit, explaining to him how to use a compass, just as sun set and the winds picked up. Exciting.

Did Uisdean live up to his reputation?

Before we met, all I knew was that he was a good climber and was Scottish. This was confirmed when we met, plus he's chilled without a big ego so all was cool.

Why do you enjoy climbing with Uisdean?

He is solid, headstrong and doesn't mince words. Importantly he is psyched and we share similar ambitions of routes and mountains that we want to climb. Equally important, he enjoys eating totally shit food, awful bivis, pushing on regardless and talking smack as much as I do.

You seem to enjoy taking the piss out of Uisdean, do you actually like him?

Of course, the banter keeps things positive and light-hearted. He's a very good mate, we've climbed a lot together and I trust him. Also, the electric bagpiping is entertaining.

Tired in the tent after an attempt on the Slovak Direct., 164 kb
Tired in the tent after an attempt on the Slovak Direct.
© Uisdean Hawthorn

What's the most memorable route you've climbed together?

Every route and experience in the mountains is memorable for its own reasons. If I had to pick one, perhaps it would be the House/Anderson on Mount Alberta. It was the realisation of a long-term goal, is hard and intimidating and feels remote. Plus, it was an early repeat.

Sum up your partnership in three words.

Uisdean likes to say, 'get tae fuck!' a lot, which always makes me laugh. Usually it is said in jest but it sums up his attitude of not taking any shit, and being tough.

Best thing about climbing with Uisdean?

He's a good mate.

What's the most scared you've been when climbing together?

Many shit abseils. We should stop bailing! With perhaps abseiling down the east face of Mt Alberta after bailing from the North Face being the worst of the lot. It's vertical choss, but we had to suck up the fear and get the job done.

If you could change one thing about Uisdean what would it be?

Either, I'd get him sponsored by a bank so we wouldn't have to work again and could just go climbing. Or, I'd make him wear a kilt all the time. The banter would be fierce.

What are your plans for the future?

Alaska next spring. The Himalaya next autumn. New routes hopefully!

What's the least enjoyable route you've done with Uisdean?

Descending is always much less enjoyable than ascending. Rapping down the east face of Mt Alberta when we bailed in 2015 was grim, as it was loose as anything. Also, rapping through the night when we got off-line after climbing the American Direct was a particular low point. Though I did find a nice new rope, during that descent! In fact, all abseiling is grim.

Has Uisdean ever cheated on you and climbed a route you really wanted to do together with someone else?

Sure, but I don't see it as cheating! The Hypercouloir on Mont Blanc (which Uisdean climbed with Kim Ladiges) looks like a good route! That said, I'm envious of the trip to India that he's just returned from, with Ben Silvestre and Pete Graham. They had a great time.

What have you learned from climbing with Uisdean?

Peanut butter is all you ever need; it's not as bad as you think; double sleeping bags are the best and 'Get tae fuck!'

Visit Tom's blog.

Visit Uisdean's blog.

Tom is sponsored by: Petzl, La Sportiva and Mountain Equipment

Uisdean is sponsored by: Mountain Equipment, OTE Sports Nutrition, Scarpa, Edelweiss, Grivel and trac

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