Alex Hallam enjoys climbing. For him, the emphasis is having fun with good friends and going to exciting places, where there's a chance for an unexpected adventure. Someone will probably fall in the sea, there will be discomfort, and off-widths may be sought out (and climbed in shorts). There's a tendency for the modern climber to believe it's all about grades, training and sponsorships, but Alex represents a great number of people who go outside and rock climb simply because it's fun. The performance and numbers don't really matter, and instead it's more entertaining to spend a week in Font doing some bouldering but also eating 'Rice and Chicken and Yam' every night, whilst occasionally burning off/being burnt off by your mates. Alex works long stints as an Engineer at sea. 

Where did it begin?
I started climbing in 2005 through my school (Portsmouth Grammar School). Someone gave a talk about bouldering, and although I didn’t take much notice, a friend (Ben Freeman) took note. He went to an old ‘Bendcrete’  bouldering wall called Fort Purbrook, inviting Mark Winfield, and by proxy, me. We started going regularly, and to Calshot climbing wall, but it’s a long drive and there’s not much rock on the south coast of England. As soon as I passed my driving test, we went sport climbing at Portland a lot.
I didn’t climb much whilst at Southampton University - if I did, I think I would probably be dead! I surfed a lot, and eventually bumped into Phil Stubbington, who took me trad climbing in Wales. I bought a rack of gear, and together with Mark Winfield, we climbed on the grit a lot. We visited Rivelin, Stanage and the usual crags, thankfully not killing ourselves in those early years!
My first trip to the Alps was funny; we cycled there because we didn’t have any money. It was one week of cycling with heavy bags and bikes, then two weeks climbing, then another week back! I went with two other mates - one couldn’t tie a figure of eight knot, but we wanted to have a big adventure, and that’s what we got. It was hilarious. We basically put the destination into Google Maps and straight-lined it from Calais, cycling up virtually every pass and col along the way! It was good training, though.
When we got to the mountains, we only had about four ice screws. The weather was pretty bad, but we went into the hills because we were bored and we’d come all that way. Besides, the weather wasn’t as bad as Scotland! We tried to do Mont Blanc but a friend had got injured, so that was the end of that. 
Before the Alps, we’d gone to Scotland in winter. We packed our friend Pete’s Ford Fiesta and headed north. We slept in car parks, and Pete only had a 2-season sleeping bag from Argos. It had a broken zip and he froze, shivering all night long!
The climbing was funny - we did easy gullies and similar routes. Now I’d happily ski down them, and it’d be a lot more fun! Actually, now you mention it, I remember going to Scotland on another trip with a friend called Kit. He was careering round the wintry roads like a racing driver, and we practically skidded past Loch Lomond. We said: ‘let us drive or let us out!’

'Ouch! Who threw that shoe?!' All photo details unknown.
What about your famous/infamous ‘Hallam Adventures’?
I guess I like having adventures. I value the fun side of life, the unknown elements, and when things don’t go to plan. It makes for a great story. Everything always works out in the end. I especially like it when you have multiple crafts involved in the journey (for example, bikes, boats etc). There’s no fun in just getting a taxi!
An example is the Jura fell race [a tough mountain running race on the Scottish island of Jura]. After I did the Three Peaks Yacht Race [walking up Ben Nevis (Scotland), Scafell (England) and Snowdon (Wales), but sailing between the mountains), I met a guy in a bar. He told me about the Jura race. 
I went to Jura with Tom Livingstone. We only got onto the Reserve List, but drove and got a boat to the island anyway. The weather was incredible and we really enjoyed the race (and the after-party in the whiskey distillery!). We took a boat back to the mainland the next morning, and with a mixed forecast, drove to the classic sea stack ‘The Old Man of Stoer.’ We arrived late in the evening, but since it was summer in Scotland, it didn’t get dark until 11pm, and with the forecast showing rain for the next day, just packed our bags and went for it.
We were going to rock-paper-scissors for who swam to the stack and set up a tyrolean, but thankfully there was already a team returning from the stack, so we went across on their rope. As I went across, it got lower and lower, until my chalk bag and rope were skimming in the sea! My jeans ripped at the crotch and I ‘exposed’ myself as well. Classic.
We climbed the Original Route (VS 5a), topping out about 11pm, just as it started to spit with rain. We abseiled down, pulled the ropes (they fell in the sea), got back to the van and crashed out. Tom woke up as I was driving the van back down south. I think I drove for 19 hours that day, all the way to Southampton. I guess the idea behind the adventure is to ‘bite off more than you can chew,’ but chewing it anyway!

Alex on the Original Route (VS 5a), Old Man of Stoer, Scotland. Photo: Tom Livingstone

Alex rigging the abseil as it starts to rain. Old Man of Stoer, Scotland. Photo: Tom Livingstone

I also had a hilarious day with Dan Barbour, where we tried to tick all the Peak ‘Classic Rock’ routes. It was Valentine’s Day 2015, and we had rain, hail and snow. I just remember being on some Severe with water cascading down the slab, literally like a river. I had water running down my hands and then down my sleeves. We still completed it, though!
Here’s one more example: I went to Kalymnos a while ago with Rob Richardson and Tom. We wanted to climb a classic multi-pitch on the south face of Telendos [an island off Kalymnos]. It was red-hot during the day, so we climbed it in the evening, watching an incredible sunset wash up the wall. It was amazing climbing and the views were stunning. We topped out in the dark and lay on the warm ground, and I played some classical music on my phone (I think it was ‘sweet Bergermass’?!) under a sky full of stars.
But then, as we began to walk down the other side of the mountain, the sea mist rolled in. We found some cairns, which led to a path down the other side, and past a tiny church. This was in the days before Google Maps, so we got lost: the path seemed to go the wrong way and we were pretty tired by now. We decided to ‘sleep’ in the church, so we lit some candles, said ‘thanks God,’ and then laid down on the ropes. Rob was the only one who’d brought a jacket, so he took turns to alternately snuggle us.
In the morning, we saw the path was obvious, so we walked back down to the fisherman’s houses on the island. We picked up our stashed blankets which we’d intended to sleep in (we’d borrowed the blankets and a giant parasol from our hotel). Then we waved down a fisherman’s boat, jumped on and had a nice ride back to Kalymnos. I should say: all items were returned!
Ultimately, it’s all about having fun with mates. Here’s an example.
Tom and Alex in Kalymnos. Photo: Rob Richardson
What else do you enjoy? You ride motorbikes?
Yes. Riding motorbikes is incredible. It’s like soloing, but it’s more fun than just trying to climb fast. It’s like skiing but better. It’s like downhill biking but without having to peddle. It’s as close as you can to being a fighter pilot but not being in the military. It’s totally pointless, but it’s a risk vs. reward balance, and it’s amazing. You’re so close to the edge, and you know any mistake could be fatal (at least two people die on the Isle of Man ‘TT’ every year). I like being on the edge of control. But then again, you can also just go out for a ride and it’s great. You don’t have to go fast!
I have two motorbikes (a Royal Enfield and a Triumph Daytona 675), six bicycles, a paraglider, three surfboards and two pairs of skis. I guess I like all sorts of activities. My work has helped me to fund this lifestyle. I’m an Engineer on superyachts, working long on/off shifts.

Alex and his Royal Enfield. Photo: Kit Perry
Would you ever BASE jump?
When I’m old! I thought about it, and I’ve decided I already do a lot of fun things. Having read Tim Emmett’s article on wingsuit BASE, I thought it’s not worth the risk. Tim says nobody enters a marriage thinking they’re going to get a divorce, yet two-thirds of marriages end in divorce. That’s the same with BASE.
What are your thoughts on paragliding?
I like it, but it’s way more dangerous than climbing, and not as fun. Climbing is more than just ‘climbing.' There's so many facets: bouldering, ice climbing, you can go sport climbing and high five and chest-bounce, you can go trad climbing and fall in the sea. Whereas with paragliding, you sit under a big canopy and basically go round in circles. I guess it’s all about risk mitigation - with paragliding, the consequences are so much higher, so it doesn’t about the risk (likelihood) level.
There’s a clear graph between risk of something happening on one axis, and the consequence of it happening on the other. It depends on your attitude, and the ‘acceptable’ line can move. Trad climbing is an example: you’ve got to spend six months climbing easy stuff before you can push your grade. This is why trad climbing isn’t that popular any more - people don’t want to spend lots of time gaining experience before progressing. They want instant satisfaction.
What’s your obsessions with Off-Widths?
They’re a challenge. It’s to take back some of the sport of climbing for its own good. Nowadays, everything is focussed on performance, competitions and how good your finger strength is. But you can't easily train for off-widths indoors - you need to actually go outside and try them. It’s just going climbing - but some people might see climbing as ‘scapula pulls’ and Lattice programs. Struggling up an off-width is an antidote to climbing indoors and competition climbing. It’s kinda fun… well, it’s shit, but fun.
Nowadays, there are two types of climber. There’s the ‘Indoor’ and ‘Outdoor’ climber. For example, people in London can boulder 8A, but they might never have touched real rock. They go to the ‘climbing gym,’ see it as a work out, and follow the competitions. Which is fine, but if you don’t have mates like my friend Phil, who took us climbing outside, you’ll never learn about this other, amazing outdoor world. You can also book an instructional course to learn the skills, but you get my point. It’s fine that there’s an entire Indoor world. It keeps the crags quiet and stops the routes getting polished. But it’s interesting. Climbing is now in the Olympics - I wonder if it’ll be the same as when Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France? Bike sales went through the roof. I wonder if climbing will be like that after the Olympics - the indoor walls and scene will grow enormously.

Alex on Glass Hour (7A), Stanage. Photo: Alex Hallam Collection
You live in Sheffield?
Yes. I can do everything I want (apart from surfing) and it’s a great place to be based. It’s a good city, cheap to live, and the climbing is fun and accessible. Of course, it’s not full of adventure - the grit is a bit like ‘take-away climbing.’ It’s bite-sized.

Any climbing highlights?
Dream of White Horses (HVS) - DNF
The Rasp (E2) - jamming!
Horny lil’ Devil (DWS 7a) - the most fallen-off route ever?
The Cutting Edge (6c+) - the world’s shittest sport route? ‘Three stars haha.’
Helfenstein's Struggle (HVD) - ‘an aficionado for strugglers’
The Chasm (VS) on Buachaille Etive Mor - the world’s wettest route.
Rhododendron Crack (E1) - the world’s hardest route if done in shorts and t-shirt.

Alex wants to be sponsored by: Cathedral City Cheddar, Loose Leaf Tea, Waitrose, Chateauneuf du Pap and St. Austell Breweries.