Julian Sands talks about seeing human remains on a ramp

Julian Sands spoke of feeling “chilly” with the discovery of human remains while pursuing his love of climbing, in his last UK interview before he died on a solo hike in California.

The 65-year-old actor is a committed climber and says he is getting braver to go out alone. “The friends I used to climb have stopped going to the mountains,” partly because the rock face has become more unstable with climate change, and partly because of age, he told Radio Times.

“If you don’t really have the desire, focus on climbing a route, if you don’t really commit, it becomes much more dangerous.”

He added: “I’ve found scary things in the mountains, when you know you’re in a place where a lot of people have lost their lives, whether it’s in the Eiger or in the Andes. You may be confronted with human remains and that can be horrifying.”

Best known for his roles in the Oscar-winning film A Room with a View and the TV dramas 24 and Smallville, Sands says he appreciates the landscape and wildlife of California’s mountains more than the stargazers of Los Angeles.

Ascent is about “solace” and “existentialist self-negation”, he says.

In an article about the actor for the Guardian last week, his closest collaborator, director Mike Figgis, said he recalls a conversation with Sands “about the kind of burial where they put your body in a mountain, animals will come and eat you. and then you will be part of such a cycle.”

The sand disappeared on January 13 during bad weather in the Baldy Bowl area in the San Gabriel mountains. An air and ground search was launched but was hampered by the deadly storm, icy conditions and the threat of an avalanche.

The human remains found by hikers nine days ago have been officially identified as those of the actor. The cause of death is still being investigated.

The Sands family said: “We continue to hold Julian in our hearts with fond memories of him as a father, husband, explorer, lover of nature and the arts, and as an original and collaborative performer.”

Sarah Jackson, Sands’ agent, said: “He is a passionate climber, and it comforts us to know that he is passing where he loves, doing what he loves.”

In a Q&A with the Guardian in 2020, Sands said he was happiest when he was “close to the top of a mountain on a beautiful cold morning”.

He recalled dying while hiking in the Andes in the early 1990s when he was caught in a storm above 20,000 feet with three other people. “We are all in very bad shape. Several people close to us were killed. We were lucky,” he said.

Writing for the Guardian, Sands’ friend, actor Gabriel Byrne, shared an excerpt from Sands’ most recent email. In it, Sands wrote:

Most mountaineers understand that the real peak is within. The high point at the apex is just that, but the experience of approach, face or ridge, up and down, is where true fulfillment is found.

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