Jesse Dufton epitomises achievement and bravery in the face of adversity. He was born severely sight impaired and advised he may never be able to read or write. Now totally blind his attitude and determination has resulted in him becoming an elite rock climber. In addition, he has excelled in the academic and corporate spheres gaining a doctorate in Materials Chemistry.
Jesse’s talks allow him to share the mindset and mental tools which underpin his numerous achievements. He talks about managing fear, overcoming obstacles through ingenuity and dealing with crisis in hostile environments. He balances humour and harrowing anecdotes with keen insight into performance, diversity, teamwork and sustainability from a unique viewpoint.
While he is too modest to admit it, his achievements and outlook in the face of his disability are hugely inspiring. The fact that he has achieved such success in both the sporting and corporate worlds allows him to understand and relate the key attributes which underpin success universally.
Jesse is passionate about the environment and clean energy. He holds a senior role in a global hydrogen fuel cell company enabling decarbonisation throughout society.
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Read more about Jesse Dufton
Jesse was born with 20% of central vision and no peripheral vision due to a degenerative genetic condition, rod-cone dystrophy. Nevertheless, he began rock climbing as soon as he could walk and became a fully-fledged climber aged 11. At University, his climbing showed him the effects of climate change first-hand. This inspired him to study a Ph.D. researching solar cell materials. During his postgraduate studies Jesse’s vision further deteriorated and he lost his limited ability to read. However, with his ingenuity and the aid of text-to-speech software, Jesse completed his doctorate. He began a career in the clean energy sector, and has risen to hold a senior position in a global fuel cell firm. Picking up a postgraduate certificate in Intellectual Property Law from Queen Mary’s University of London along the way.
World class competition climber
In 2017 Jesse organised a self-supported, month-long expedition to arctic Greenland. There, on the inaccessible and seldom visited Stauning Alps, he summited two previously unclimbed mountains. This was a feat few sighted climbers will ever achieve and a world first for a blind person. As a results of the gruelling conditions, Jesse demonstrated his genuine mental toughness and ability to lead in a crisis.
In late 2017 Jesse was selected for the GB paraclimbing team at the next selection. Consequently, he is now a world class competition climber and has represented GB at multiple world championships. His competition experience has honed his ability to excel under pressure and deal with the mental demands of high expectations.
Best known for scaling the Old Man of Hoy
However, Jesse is best known for scaling the Old Man of Hoy. The climb was the focus of the internationally acclaimed documentary Climbing Blind and was recognised with a parliamentary motion. The Old Man of Hoy is a 137m tall sandstone pillar rising from the sea in Scotland’s Orkney archipelago and is considered a jewel of British climbing. As with all his notable climbs, Jesse lead his team and completed them on the first without rehearsal.
Not one to rest on his laurels, in 2020 Jesse became the first blind climber to achieve the grade of E2. He conquered the infamous Forked Lightning Crack in Heptonstall, Yorkshire in the middle of a global pandemic. This highlights his drive and ability to attain peak physical and mental performance in the face of unprecedented disruption.
“Astounded and lost in admiration.”
Joe Simpson [Author of Touching the Void]