Dom Joly: Climb Kilimanjaro? Pah! I went up a volcano and skied down it

Weird World of Sport: Nobody had ever attempted to ski down it and my life started to flash before me
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The Independent Online

I have to tread very carefully here but ... I've climbed Kilimanjaro and it really wasn't that big a deal. Sure you get altitude sickness and it's a bit tiring but, apart from that, it's just one of those things that you do if you're travelling in Tanzania – you do a safari, climb Kili and then go to Zanzibar for a bit of beach action. Nobody I know did any specific training for it, they just got on with it – try dancing as MC Hammer, that's hard.

It's the power of television I suppose – everything has to look exciting and heroic. A week doesn't seem to pass now without some programme showing people trying to climb Everest. This has become such an industry that, on good climbing days, there are traffic jams on the way up.

It seems totally ridiculous that so many people are now able to have a go at something that, even 20 years ago, was the preserve of a very few elite nutters. I think that you should have to ski down Everest now once you've "summited" it. This would make things a little trickier again and separate the men from the boys.

I haven't climbed Everest and never will but I have climbed a volcano in Nicaragua and then attempted to ski down it. Once again, it was for television – people only ever do this kind of stupid stuff for television. It's like Warren Beatty put it scathingly in the documentary, In Bed With Madonna: "What is the point of living off-camera?"

I was in Nicaragua filming a travel show and Nicaragua is very much all about volcanoes, they're everywhere and you are supposed to climb them? Why? "Because," to paraphrase George Mallory, "they're there." So I was told that I would be climbing this volcano and, not only that, I would be "boarding" back down the thing. When I grumbled that I couldn't snowboard – that I was a skier, they were very relaxed and told me not to worry, that they'd find me some skis. I should have given this more thought; I should give all television I do more thought – but I never do. I ended up spending half a day in the sticky, hot customs house in Managua, eventually to take possession of the first pair of skis ever to be imported into the country.

This should have been a warning but off we drove towards this volcano, with the skis on the roof. The "climb" was not that arduous – a bit like Kilimanjaro, it was just a long, steep walk that you rather wished would end very soon. When we eventually summited I got my first sight of the slope down which I was supposed to ski.

It was a sheer drop of loose, sharp, black stone and it made me a bit dizzy. It was at this moment I discovered that when the production team had found out that people "boarded" down it, this meant on huge wooden sleds. Nobody had ever attempted to ski down and he was looking forward to watching. I got a sinking feeling and my life started to flash before me but I couldn't turn back. The cameras were rolling and my pride was at stake. I donned the tiny "Bigfoot" skis and got ready to die. It took me about 10 minutes to pluck up the courage to point the skis downhill. The moment I did I shot off for about five metres before the skis stopped dead and I tumbled over and rolled halfway down the slope on what felt like thousands of little daggers. It wasn't my finest hour.

It turned out that skiing the volcano wasn't really an option as the rocks didn't give enough slippage so I ended up slipping and stumbling all the way down to the bottom – something which took me about 40 very painful minutes. Now I realise that I should have done this for Comic Relief and I'd be hailed a hero by Gordon Brown and invited to a reception at No 10 where people could hear, once again, my heroic story. As it is, the incident is for Five and is not being aired until 2010, so you'll just have to take my word for it. It'll be good training for the cheese-rolling that I'm taking part in later this year. That was for the Indy charity auction – I'm all about charity this week although I'm loath to talk about it.

Hooray Henrik, but pants are a bit rough

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