Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Everest2 - Closing Thoughts & Thank You!

Heading up North Col in an acclimatisation climb (circ. 6800m)
Apologies for the late final entry - it has been a hectic few weeks but I have now finally had the opportunity to relax and put 'pen to paper' so to speak..!

Whilst I didn’t achieve my ultimate, most 'obvious' goal (other than returning in one piece!) I did push myself to the limit of my abilities and made a decision which, upon some critical reflection, was the right one even though it's not been been an easy one to articulate back at sea level... It's been a very character-building experience to reflect on a decision which, at altitude, was crystal clear - I wasn't 'comfortable' and 'something' (as vague as that may seem!) was telling me to turn around and 'call it a day'. 

The biggest and most important challenge is now determining 'what I have learned' from this... so that WHEN I go back (and yes, I am definitely going back!) I will have another positive and safe experience and make an even stronger bid for the summit of the worlds highest peak.... and continue to enjoy other alpine challenges around the world.

Risk vs Reward...
The allusive 8848m peak remains a tremendous challenge and one which certainly should not be taken lightly - this is something that I've always appreciated and is one of the reasons why I love the physical and mental challenges inherent to high-altitude mountaineering.

Base Camp 2011 - Happiest when on a mountain...
There are risks and the stakes are high - you know that going into a climb. The key is knowing how to manage and minimise these risks so that you return in one piece to tell the tale - whether that includes a much coveted summit photo or all digits in tact. The key is to recognise and understand the risks and assess whether the potential outcomes are worth the potential sacrifice. To me, the personal satisfaction and experience of reaching the summit is not an outcome worth risking my life for.
Managing risk means knowing your hardwear, having the appropriate processes and systems in place before and during the expedition, working as a team, appreciating the power of nature's forces, and, perhaps most importantly, being fully aware of your own personal abilities and fully understanding the degree of risk that you are willing to take.

Mountains are unpredictable. Despite the fact that the infrastructure, overall technology, communications and 'risk awareness' have improved significantly over the past few years, people still die on Everest and people will continue to take risks -- the statistics are a testament to that fact.  The debilitating effects of altitude, exhaustion, combined with extreme weather conditions, lack of food and water, problems with equipment, physical health and mental strength and stamina, and good old-fashioned “luck” are all factors which will continue serve to deter or contribute to ultimate success on the mountain.

What I've learned...
I've thought a lot about this question over the past few weeks.

On my 'Everest Journey' I found new sources of inspiration. I found new friends. I found old friends again. I found that I can take time for myself and time for my family / friends and time for work. I found that I've come to better understand and know my limits and manage risks.  I found that just by trying that I can have an impact on other people. I found that life with goals is fulfilling and inspiring.

Like the 8848m summit, I have learned that sometimes even the most tremendous challenges are possible and achievable when broken down into smaller, individual goals.

I have learned to be flexible – where one door closes, another opens.

I have learned to have patience – to take people for who they are. 

And I have learned to remember to LAUGH. Life is incredibly short and it’s so easy to become far too serious and get caught up in the ‘daily grind’. While I am certain these past 2.5 months has accelerated the grey-hair and wrinkles process, I feel content (and proud) knowing that many of these are laugh-lines, attained in the shadow of Mount Everest..!

This quote from Theodore Roosevelt best sums it up....:

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.

Whilst taking 2.5 months out of my life to live in a tent in freezing cold temperatures and eating my body-weight in SPAM is a bit of an extreme way to realise these lessons, they are lessons which I hope will keep with me and continue to learn from for the rest of my life.

Summit or no summit, the mountain will always be there as will memories to last a lifetime.

On that note, I'd like to thank my family and friends for their continued support - in particular my sister Melanie and good friend and Everest summiteer Pete Sunnucks (I will get there!!) for keeping my blog up to date so tediously!

To Sevenoaks School, Ridgetown District High School, and Future Hope School -- a huge Thank You for your many messages, emails and for your continued support and for joining me on this journey. Thanks so much for being such great company along the way.

Thank you to my employer, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC Consulting) and my colleagues for your support - you have been absolutely fantastic for putting up with me and I promise to wait a few more days before asking for more time off... ;-)

Thank you and a huge congratulations to our team and my guides Zac Poulton and Chris Szymiec - you guys are amazing and I feel as though I've inherited a few more brothers to add to the collection from last year...! In particular I'd like to extend my special congratulations to my teammates from last year who joined me this year -- all of whom were successful! Andrew Robertson (Climbing Partner in Crime!); Geordie 'Seven Summits' Stewart; Stephen 'The Celebrity Artist' Green; and Mark 'The Dark Horse' who always had some entertaining stories to keep us on our toes...

Thank you to the Hood - those freezing evenings on the Thames in the Sisterhood Dragon Boat followed by Monday Pub were exactly what I needed. Thank you so much for keeping me motivated!

Finally, last but not least, thank you also to my sponsors Chucs Dive & Mountain Shop; The Altitude Centre; Maximuscle; Planet Dacha  and BodyWorksWest - your support has made this journey possible and I'm most grateful for your advice, camaraderie and involvement. 

Fashionista at 7400m.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Everest2: Thank you from Ridgetown District High School

Just a quick email to say we here at RDHS are very happy you are safe and sound and I am looking forward to a detailed account of your adventure. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Safe and Well

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Heather is now safe and well back at Advanced Base Camp after what can only be described as making a very very difficult decision of turning around and abandoning her attempt somewhere by Camp 2. I'm yet to find out more information, but the reports from the Adventure Peaks website is that she is now helping with radio communications at ABC for the teams summit attempt tonight.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Final Push!


I'm pleased to confirm Heathers final big push is well under way! She's departed Advanced Base Camp today to start the long arduous climb to reach the top of the world... If all goes to plan she will summit on the 26th of May.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Base Camp - Acclimatisation Profiles - Special Thanks to the Altitude Centre!

The team has been enjoying the comforts of the Hilton that is our 5200m Base Camp for about 10 days now ‘recovering’ (eating everything in sight and sleeping 10 hours/day) from our last move to 7500m (above the North Col). Everyone is in good spirits - ready and waiting for the allusive weather window. Besides the usual ‘hot topics’ at lunch and dinner - weather windows, rope-fixing dates, and what exciting condiment will eaten at dinner today- a recent new ‘element of complexity’ has resurfaced entering an old, all-too-familiar bit of vocabulary back into our conversations - acclimatisation.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Base Camp - CHUCS and Mount Everest

Two of my most prized pieces of ‘mountain attire’ at Base Camp (where striking the delicate balance between mountain fashion and function is clearly a priority!) are my 
(1) ultra light down jacket and 
(2) Chucs sun cap. 
Having said that, fashion is relative… If I walked into the Base Camp mess tent in an Alexander McQueen gown and my high altitude boots I’m fairly sure that the boys would ask why I was wearing high altitude boots at Base Camp….