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Out and about with Tony Allen, Redtail’s CTO

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Mountaineering is in my DNA​

There is a faded old photograph of me somewhere aged 9 months standing in my Dad’s mountain boots outside a tent. I guess it all started from there.

I grew up in the country.   From an early age I loved exploring what was around and was curious of what was in the next field, down that old mineshaft, over the hedge, where the stream came from – or went to.  What is it like to climb the tree? Could I climb the tree?  What is over that hill?  As I grew older, my sense of adventure found refuge with rock climbing in the Peak District and from there eventually to higher, further away places in the mountains.

At university, I climbed with the rising stars of the time.  Most weekends, Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and sometimes Fridays, we could be found fighting our way up various routes on the gritstone edges around Yorkshire.   The stars would be there gliding up blank overhanging walls way beyond anything normal people could do.   I was always touched by the way they took time out and came over to see my scratchy attempts on simple climbs around the corner.   Always with a word of encouragement and advice without ever being patronising, although they easily could have been.  Great guys.  It is no surprise that they went on to become world-class international mountain guides.

Out and About

I never really mastered rock or ice climbing. On a good day, I was just about mediocre.  It was the beckoning serenity of the high mountains that drew me.   I often found myself being out in front on the sharp end of the rope, high up on the face.  Finding new ground.  Out on a limb.  It made me feel alive.  In those moments, nothing else mattered and the trivialities of normal life fell away.   At times it felt as though I was part of something much bigger.  I liked that.

There are thousands of days out I’ve had in the mountains all over the world.  Small ones, big ones, easy ones, scary ones, popular ones, unclimbed ones.  Every single day is a unique experience and a rich source of memories that keeps me going back for more.

I feel more at home in the hills, in the cold, in the mist with the wind stinging my face, than I do in my own living room watching telly by the open fire.

Resilience, Endurance and Managing Fear​

Back in the day, there was no backup and no easy rescue.  Nobody to call for help.   The was a strong requirement of having to look after yourself and others if anything went wrong.  Which it did from time to time.  We had to be self-reliant, endure hardship and never ever give up.  Usually because there was no choice.

Once, we were making our way through the remote Upper Eskdale in the Lake District in the winter. It was towards the end of a very long day and my climbing partner collapsed with a suspected heart attack.  There was nobody about.   Mobile phones hadn’t been invented and darkness was approaching.  Don’t know how I managed it, but I eventually got him to safety 4 hours later on my own.   He was my University professor and he publicly thanked me at my graduation for saving his life.   Looking back, that was probably the scariest time I’ve ever had.  It also taught me a lot about myself.

On another occasion we were in a tent in the dark, with a bed made from rock hard glacier ice, at 4,000m with no contact with the outside world, when a rockfall started high above us on the cliff face.  For the next few hours (probably only minutes) rocks rained down all around us.   We giggled nervously as there was nothing we could do other than hope that the thin tent wall would save us.

First Ascents and New Routes on Virgin Ground

Undoubtedly the peak of my high altitude climbing career came when I joined an expedition to an unexplored mountain range in the Tien Shan in Asia.  I was lucky enough to make the first ascent and name 6 mountains around 5,000m.   Looking down over onto another mountain range for the first time knowing that nobody had ever seen it before, was for someone who loves exploring, like finding my very own Shangri-La.

Memories that Last a Lifetime

There have been many delightful moments over the years that have burnt themselves into my soul.

Belaying on top of Froggatt Edge in the early evening sunshine.  Feeling the crisp air and the crunch of snow in a pre-dawn Alpine start.  Topping out in the dark after a dangerous ice climb.  Fighting through the summit cornice on Ben Nevis.  Being mistaken for Mountain Rescue (all the gear, probably a bit of an idea).  Moving quickly over difficult ground.  The sudden breaking of the clouds to reveal a way forward.  A solid ice axe placement.  Crawling across the icy summit on Helvellyn in 100mph winds.   Seeing a range of hills and knowing that I’ve stood on top of every single one of them.  Gingerly peering down the North Face of the Matterhorn.  Bivouacking high up in the Black Cuillin on Syke and watching the shooting stars disappear across the Atlantic horizon.  Wandering through Borrowdale in the Autumn mists.  Doing the Snowdon Horseshoe in a day and back from Essex on a very cold November day.  Catching ‘Jed’ the dog in my arms after he fell down a cliff on An Teallach.  Seeing a fawn being born in the heather.  Unroped and exposed high on the North Face of Ben Nevis in winter, peering down through my legs and seeing the rotor blades of a rescue helicopter far below.  Carrying my Dad down drunk off Grey Friar celebrating his birthday after doing his final mountain.

Seeing an eagle fly high above a rock face.  Being altitude sick on Mont Blanc (although not at the time).  Reaching safety at last.​

Backing Off

About 10 years ago I had too many near misses over a very short period of time.  I lost concentration and took a few falls.  I saw a young climber hit the deck in front of me and sustain life-threatening injuries.   On another occasion I found myself high on a knife-edged snowy ridge in Glen Coe having to force myself through the fear bubble into making a committing move on sketchy ground, knowing that if I got it wrong it would be the end for both me and my mate.

My guts were telling me that my luck was about to run out.  It was time to back off.  My attitude to taking the biggest risks by pushing my own limits changed almost overnight.

These days, I probably get more enjoyment than I ever did wandering around the same hills all over again and seeing them for the first time through other people’s eyes.  I relish taking out new people into the hills that have shaped my character so much.    Being able to mentor my young son having his own mountain adventures and building up his resilience and self-confidence is wonderful.

I guess after running out of climbing partners over the years, I’ve now bred one of my own.

Topping Out

For me, getting to the top isn’t important.  In fact I don’t really like summits because by definition they are exposed, cold, windy and only halfway.  The day is about banking the experiences that last a lifetime and can be relived over and over again.  I can’t remember what I did yesterday, but I can recall with clarity every single day I’ve ever had in the mountains.

I’m like a stick of rock.  If you broke me in half, the word ‘Mountain’ runs right through me.

Are you ready for the new car insurance regulations – Jan 2022?

Reading Time: 5 minutes

On the 1st of January 2022, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) will bring into effect new insurance rules for vehicle and home insurance.

These changes are to prevent “price walking”.  The term “price walking” describes what insurers do when they increase renewal premiums for existing customers while offering new customers the best deals.  Essentially, loyal customers are penalised for being loyal instead of shopping around.

The Money Saving Expert, Martin Lewis, has warned that this will be a “monumental shake-up” across the insurance industry. This change will affect vehicle and home insurance customers across the UK.

Car-and-home-insurance-savings

If you own a vehicle (car, motorbike, van – doesn’t matter what type of vehicle), these changes will affect you!

The changes also affect home insurance customers (whether you have home and/or contents insurance – this change will affect you).

Sheldon Mills, Executive Director, Consumers and Competition at the FCA commented on the new rules:

‘These measures will put an end to the very high prices paid by many loyal customers. Consumers can still benefit from shopping around or negotiating with their current provider – but won’t be charged more at renewal just for being an existing customer.

‘We are making the insurance market work better for millions of people. We will be watching closely to see how the market develops in the future and to ensure firms continue to deliver fairer value to consumers.’

Obviously, these changes have the potential to has huge impact on the car insurance industry.

It’s got me thinking about telematics. If customers will no longer be able to reduce their insurance costs by shopping around, how will we find ways to save money?

Car-insurance-save-money

Have you ever shopped around for cheaper insurance when you receive your renewal notification?  I do.  I check the latest costs every year to ensure I get the best deal.  I think this year was the first year that I stayed with the same insurer, and that was only because they managed to price match the best alternative option.

So, how can we ensure we get the best deal when insurers can’t offer us low premiums as incentives like they have in the past?  This goes back to what I said before about how this news got me thinking about telematics.  Perhaps this will lead to a new rise in telematics uses or reliance.  Will insurers start relying evermore on our driving data to determine whether we are a low risk and therefore worthy of a lower premium?

Perhaps more importantly, how many of us would trust our driving behaviour enough to truly believe we would reduce our insurance costs by relying on telematics?

While there are areas of my driving that could be improved, I believe I am a good enough driving that I would be happy to use my telematics data to inform my car insurance premium.  However, I know many who would feel the opposite.  Whether they are good/safe drivers or not, they still seem to be very against the prospect of having telematics “forced” upon them.

Alternatively, if you don’t drive many miles each year, maybe you could consider pay-by-mile based car insurance to reduce costs.  Companies like By Miles, on of our partners, offer a type of insurance where you literally “pay by miles” driven.  Each mile costs a set amount.  So, at the end of each journey, that cost is multiplied by the miles recorded during that journey.

I thought it was a brilliant idea when I first heard it.

by-miles-pay-by-mile-car-insurance

I would have loved that type of insurance offering.  If it had been around a few years earlier, I would have definitely used it and would have almost certainly saved money.  I think I drive far too many miles for it to be cost effective for me now.  There are plenty of motorist who could save money this way though!  Could you?

I suppose the follow-up questions then are, why are so many still so against telematics?  Furthermore, could these new regulations be a catalyst?  A catalyst that starts to bring telematics into more favourable light?  A catalyst that means it can become the new way to help us reduce our insurance costs?

I think it is too early to speculate.  I do, however, hope that this could well be the case.

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