Nepal, Everest Summit Anniversary, & Toblerone

It’s four years today since I was on top of the world, literally.

Summit of Mt Everest
Summit of Mt Everest

I’m careful where I use the word luck, because to hold luck responsible for something isn’t always accurate and can take away from the effort involved.  However, I can definitely say, especially in light of recent events in Nepal, I was lucky enough to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

This morning there was news of a second huge earthquake in Nepal and I wanted to help, I wanted to do something.  My single donation felt like a drop in the ocean but together with other donations all of a sudden ‘we’ can make a difference.

I had an idea to reward donations with Toblerone.  A dear friend, knowing my love for chocolate, had recently given me a 4.5kg bar of Toblerone and I thought, perhaps people will donate to the efforts in Nepal and in return I can share a huge chunk of chocolate.

Toblerone
Toblerone

That was this morning.  Just 10hours later through generous donations, the Toblerone is almost gone and the £500 target that I wanted to raise has been met.

I can’t think of a better way to have recognised my summit anniversary than to have contributed to the efforts being made to help re build Nepal.

IMG_9878

There is still a few chunks of Toblerone left, so if you can donate, please do.  I have chosen the following four charities to support because I personally know the people who are responsible for where the funding is going.

https://www.crowdrise.com/fundraise-and-volunteer/the-team/helpsherpashelpnepal

http://support4sherpas.org/

https://www.justgiving.com/EPIC7/

http://thecloudbasefoundation.org/site/donate/

I’m asking for donations of at least £43 for a chunk of toblerone, simply donate to one of the above charities, let me know and I’ll send you chocolate!

Thank you.

 

 

Buxton Adventure Festival

This weekend, 21-22nd October, is the Buxton Adventure Festival (BAF) and I’ll be there speaking on saturday at 12.30pm.

www.squashfalconer.com

I’m really looking forward to this one, it’s close to home and will be attended by lots of friends and family – which always seems to put more pressure on a talk!  My dad and step mum (who have never seen my talk) will be there, old school friends are coming and there’s even a hen do in attendance!

It’ll be a great couple of days and I’m looking forward to it… Click here to book tickets .

From the BAF website….

The concept behind BAF is to marry the excitement of live lectures with the thrill of big screen cinema.  Over two days, visitors can choose from an inspirational series of ten different 2 hour talk+film sessions with tales of  intrepid expeditions, challenges and races brought to life by world-class speakers paired with epic films of climbs, runs and rides. 

All in all we promise a celebration of adventure for outdoor enthusiasts, weekend warriors and armchair adventurers, at the heart of Derbyshire’s glorious Peak District.

 

Everest 2012

Having been there last year I have had a much more heightened awareness of this years expeditions.

The four people who I was watching closely; Kenton Cool, Mollie Hughes, Becky Bellworthy and Leanna Shuttleworth all summited the mountain and are all safely back down. Kenton fulfilled his Olympic Medal Quest and took a gold medal to the summit. While Leanna Shuttleworth became the youngest British female to summit both Mt Everest and all of the seven summits. Impressive stuff!

Before any summits had even been attempted this season Russell Brice and his team, Himalayan Experience, had already pulled the plug and decided to leave the mountain. Being such an experienced, prominent and involved team over the past few years them leaving the mountain must have sent shivers through base camp for those who decided to stay. The physical challenge of Everest is one thing but there’s such a huge mental game too. You spend weeks in base camp, the acclimatisation process is a long one and you have so much time to just think…. When should you make your summit push? Are you strong enough? What about the conditions of the Khumbu ice fall? The conditions of the Lhotse Face? What will the weather be like? … Endless questions, you can see how easy it could be to psych yourself out. Let alone dealing with the fact that such a big team has opted to leave the mountain.

In the press this photograph has done the rounds …

Queues of people on Everest

…and the words “Everest traffic jam” have appeared in many headlines and stories.

It’s not uncommon to hear about queues on Everest, you may have heard stories, for example, of the bottle necks created at the Hilary Step which sees people waiting for hours and hours and sometimes tragically this can costs them their lives.

The route to the top is set with fixed lines, often you are climbing along a ridge, there are no over taking or passing places and so your speed is very much determined by the people in front. The day I summited the weather was bad and so most people who had set out for the summit turned back. Perhaps that bad weather was good luck as I didn’t have to wait in any queues. I reached the Hilary Step and waited minutes before ascending it.

The climbing season for Everest is short and the weather windows to summit are even shorter. In past years there has usually been a few summit windows. For example last year Kenton Cool summited early May, my team summited on the 12th May and other teams were still getting to the summit two weeks later. This meant that the volume of people summiting on those days were generally less.

This year, due to the weather, it was looking like there might only be one or two summit windows, which is why when the first decent weather report came through most teams went for it. And I think this was a huge contributing factor to the queues we saw on Everest two weeks ago.

That doesn’t of course deal with the bigger questions that have arisen now that more and more people are climbing Everest. Are there too many people on the mountain? Is it too easy for anybody, even those without sufficient training and experience to join an Everest climbing team?

There’s no easy answer to this. As the world of exploring and adventure opens up with technology, media and the pace of progress moving rapidly forward it’s inevitable that more people will have the choice to climb Everest. And who are you or I to remove that choice?

As a mountaineer I think first and foremost you must take responsibility for yourself. I asked myself these questions before I went to Everest. Was I experienced and fit enough to be on the mountain? Did I know the risks? Did I expect other people to risk their lives trying to save me? Was I prepared to save someone who perhaps shouldn’t have been their in the first place, possibly risking my life to do so? These were only some of the many questions I thought about and answered before I went.

For now the mountaineers have the choice, we can put ourselves in these places but we must be fully aware of the reality of doing so.

A year since the top!

It’s a year ago today that I reached the top of the world. I woke up this morning to a text from Stew, one of my team mates who I reached the summit with ….

“Happy summit day! We were over the Hilary Step and were almost there!”

It took my mind back to reaching the step and all the feelings came flooding back. It was a very tough part of the journey (understatement!). I was pushing myself harder than I ever thought I could go and was starting to wonder if I could make the top or more seriously if I could make it back down.

What continues to amaze me is how incredible it feels to have done it and to be back from the experience alive and well. Everything is different since the top. I have always said that I think I was born on a lucky day because I’m a naturally happy and positive person.. but since Everest there’s a feeling of utter delight that I’m alive and a more heightened sense of appreciation of the wonderful people and things that surround my life.

How do I feel today? I’m smiling, I’m happy. I’m also very distracted from my own thoughts of celebrating because I’m following the Everest expeditions on the mountain this year. So far no one has summited (although, it’s still early) and worryingly one entire team has pulled out and left the mountain. You can read about it here.

The other teams all seem to be resting before their summit pushes which are about to begin and it sounds like May 20th could be the day people are aiming to summit on. The mental game of Everest is so tough. I completely respect and understand the decision made by himalayan experience to leave the mountain and I also respect the decision of those who have stayed. However, I think the weight of knowing such a big team with so much experience has left the mountain will undoubtedly put pressure and concern on those still there.

I’m sending you all good vibes for a safe return. I hope you all have the right knickers on and I’m sure everything will work out!

On top of the world with Stew!

I love this next picture because when I look at it I can remember exactly how I was feeling. I was coming home and for the first time since the top, I knew I was coming home!

On my way back down the mountain..

This is Jangbu, we’ve climbed a few mountains together. I couldn’t have done them or this one without him. The sherpa people are incredible and I’m proud to say Jangbu was my climbing partner and he’s also my friend.

You can see the frost nip on my face in this picture!

Me & Jangbu

Climbing Everest was great ….but what’s really great is finding you’re dream and going for it. Whatever your goal, dream or plan… Definitely go for it!

Everest… This time a year ago…

It’s that time of year when all the Everest teams have set off and are reaching Everest base camp. Two years ago I was eagerly awaiting any news from my friend Alison Levine who was on her second Everest attempt. I would never have imagined that just a year later I would have been on my own attempt… and this year looking back reflecting on it.

This time a year ago I was just arriving at base camp. During the trek in I had been ill in Namche Bazaar, the 48hr bug had left me underweight, tired and feeling quite homesick. I had my last Skype call in Namche Bazaar to a friend and I said, “I don’t think I can do this”… and honestly, at that moment, I didn’t.

I soon pulled myself together though and I can remember so clearly the buzz of excitement as I saw base camp for the first time. I was really happy to get into my base camp tent and ‘make home’.

My home at base camp
Important stuff!
Highly organised and neatly folded clothes...
Home is where your multi-coloured bobble hat is!

While we acclimatised and rested at base camp we spent time getting our kit organised and practising numerous things including the ladder crossing. A task we would have to do many times to get over the crevasses in the Khumbu Ice Fall.

So easy to do just a foot of the ground!
Not quite so easy when below is a deep, dark, black hole!

For our initial acclimatisation we climbed up to Pumori advanced base camp and spent a couple of nights there. It got us up to 5,800m and gave us some spectacular views of Mt Everest.

The summit of Everest is on the left.

It was quite a magical evening, the cloud hung in the valley below us and I remember thinking about the daunting task ahead. I also very clearly remember I was wearing a pair of knickers that were given to me by someone very special – they had reindeers on them!! (For those who don’t already know, check out The Kinckers Philosophy!)

I was looking up at the summit of Mt Everest

It’s not always an easy time to be on the mountain, yes there is the excitement and anticipation of what’s coming next, but there is also the pressure that comes with what’s next- it’s a massive mountain to climb!

There are some really interesting and wonderful expeditions this year, I wish each and every one of you a successful expedition and a safe journey home…

These are four people who are doing some great things!

Kenton Cool who is taking an Olympic Gold Medal to the summit.
Mollie Hughes who is attempting to become the youngest British woman to summit Mt Everest.
Becky Bellworthy who is attempting Everest for the second time and who also is attempting to become the youngest British woman to summit Mt Everest.
Leanna Shuttleworth who is attempting to become the youngest British woman to summit all 7 summits and summit two 8000m peaks in 24hrs!!

Everest Film

I am really happy to be able to share this short film about my expedition. I was the camerawoman, the presenter, the director and the producer!!… It was all filmed on GoPro’s – amazing cameras…
Tom Grimshaw edited this film- he did a brilliant job. Thanks Tom xx

All my fingers and all my toes

I’ve been back home for just over a week now and it still doesn’t feel like it really happened.  Less than 2wks ago I was on top of the world!

After reaching the top and getting back to base camp everything happened really quickly.  Trust me, as amazing as the mountain and base camp is at the end of the trip you just want to get out of there and get back home as quickly as possible.  There was talk that I might wait at base camp for a week or so and attempt another summit in order to try and fly but other people suggested that, not me!  Climbing Everest once had taken everything I had; physically, mentally and emotionally, I was utterly exhausted.  To do it again would have been a huge risk and very dangerous.  It’s so rare that someone will summit twice in one season. Those who do are often climbing Sherpa’s or just simply exceptional.  Me, I was out of there…

We returned to base camp, within minutes I was in the camp shower (it was the most incredible shower of my life!)  And within two days we were packed and leaving.  We trekked to Lukla in three days.  It was a tough trek.  My body was screaming to stop and rest, yet there was 36miles to go.  I was doing that walk you do when you‘re on auto pilot, in a daze, stumbling along and probably looking like a zombie.  I was amazed though at how quickly I was healing; as we got lower I could taste the oxygen!  I was sleeping really deeply and recovering quickly.  My swollen and slightly frost bitten face was looking more normal by the hour, my toes were getting feeling back and I was putting on weight.

Reaching Lukla you always worry that you may get stuck there for days.  The flights only go if there is no cloud and there are usually lots of people needing to fly out.  We were very lucky.  The first small plane landed in the morning at 7am, we were on it and better still so were our bags! 

By 8am on Thursday 19th May I was back in Kathmandu… and would soon be on a flight back to the UK.

It’s very weird getting home after a big trip.  It feels almost surreal.  I felt like I had been away forever, but standing at Heathrow it seemed only days since I was there and leaving for the trip.  I was a bit of a wreck, physically worn out and emotionally exhausted but so happy to be home.  I keep seeing people and things and thinking, ‘I wasn’t sure I was going to see you again’ – it makes you realise how special everyone and everything in your life is.

And here I am…. at home, typing this…. with all my fingers, and looking down…. at all my toes!

The dogs grown while I've been away!

Getting to and leaving Kathmandu

I don’t want to talk about excess baggage!  All I will say is I was a few pounds lighter when I got on the plane and I don’t mean in weight.

The flights themselves were great and made all the better because I had a five hour stop over in Abu

Cup of tea in Abu Dhabi!

Dhabi where I met Musco and Shirl (Emma) for breakfast and a cup of tea!  It was really lovely to see good friends and have a giggle.

I arrived (with all my luggage – which is always a relief) in Kathmandu at 9pm, really tired.  I was thinking that I would have a couple of days here but turned

out we are now on a plane to Lukla first thing tomorrow morning so I just had today to get everything sorted.

This morning I ventured out into the busy, smelly, dirty and crazy

streets of Kathmandu… That said this place does still have a certain charm about it.  One thing’s for sure it’s full of character.  It also has everything you could ever want or need to buy.  I did my last bit of shopping; one extra nalgene bottle, one spare head torch, some rope, spare batteries and most importantly I got loads of chocolate and snacks!  6kgs to be exact!  I’m very pleased that I didn’t have to buy any underwear here – the knickers selection is pretty poor….

Squash in Kathmandu
'Squash in Kathmandu, standing under the ever so slightly tangled mess of phone and electricity wires!'

I met the group, so far so good!  There’s one other woman and two other men on our climbing team (plus the expedition leader and staff).  It’s a small group but we will be trekking in with a basecamp expedition group and also climibing alongside the Lhotse expedition group, so they’ll be plenty of people to get to know.

Tonight I met up with some friends who are here for one night only so it was a brilliant coincidence that we got to see each other.

All that is left to do now is send a couple more emails, pack, re-pack and re-pack my bags and I’ll be ready for the 4am start tomorrow.

The plan is to fly into Lukla and from there trek to Phakding (being very careful not to drop the ‘d’ when we say the name of this place!).  After one night in PhakDing we will head to Namche, I love it there, they have an internet cafe and a bakery.  It is the last place that is like a town as we know them back down at sea level!

I’ve received some lovely cards/emails and messages over the past few days wishing me luck and sending me love – I want to thank everyone so much, it’s been so lovely to get them and it makes a real difference.  I really appreciate it, so thanks for taking the time.

I’m feeling a mixture of excitement and nerves at the moment.  It’ll be great to get going tomorrow and one small step at a time (later on when I get higher, taken very slowly) I’m going to try and make my way to the top of the world……………………………….  and then maybe, if everything goes right, jump off!