This isn’t your typical story about climbing Everest. I had an unassuming and fairly ordinary beginning brought up in Kelsall, near Chester, but like many others, had an Everest to climb before even reaching base camp.
Suffering a mild form of epilepsy at nine years old shattered my confidence and self-esteem with panic attacks and anxiety. Relentless bullying throughout school and a lifelong stammer in my speech left me in a ‘victim’ mindset. A fateful encounter with paragliding on holiday aged thirteen unearthed a passion for the outdoors – a way to prove myself wrong, and choose my challenges instead. I began to question these self-limiting beliefs through outdoor challenges, and learning that we can’t always choose our challenges – but we can choose how we respond.
My first walk in the Lake District in 2010 inspired the question ‘Where is Mount Everest?’
The question captivated me and climbing to the summit of the worlds’ highest peak seemed the ultimate achievement. I climbed Mont Blanc in 2012 aged 17 and headed to the Himalayas for the first time in 2013 to attempt Mera Peak (6,476m) and Baruntse (7,129m). Challenges are a great opportunity to create something bigger, and fundraising for charities also led to being selected as a London 2012 Olympic Torchbearer through Chester.
I’ve always had the support and belief of my parents, albeit they were never going to sign a cheque for the Everest expedition, nor was my job washing pots in the local pub. I was going to have to find a way or make one and have single-handedly funded my expeditions through corporate sponsorship.
My first attempt to climb Everest in 2014 ended in disaster with an avalanche which tragically killed sixteen people and cancelled the expedition. In 2015 I returned when our team were trapped on the mountain with my team as a huge earthquake struck Nepal and devastated the country, whilst taking the lives of three team-mates at base camp.
“Had I been in that tent at base camp, what would I have left behind?”
I began fundraising for Nepal by cycling the height of Everest in one day and organising Walk4Nepal on the anniversary of the earthquake to raise money for PHASE Worldwide and support the rebuilding process. Adventures and endurance challenges closer to home have provided the opportunity to make the biggest difference I can and raise over £85,000 for various charities before founding Mind Over Mountains in 2020.
My books, Icefall and Another Peak, have told the full story so far.
Having suffered with depression, anxiety and bulimia as an endurance athlete I now share my experiences to help others, especially men, talk openly about their struggles and seek help. Sometimes we can’t always see the top of the mountain, but taking small steps can take us further than we ever imagined possible.
Challenges make life meaningful and Everest was just one step on the journey. Now my mission is inspiring others to discover their own Everest in life and thrive; not just survive.
We all have our challenges – do they have you?
I’m indebted to my sponsors who make this journey possible.
I am proud to be the first-ever brand ambassador for The Westgrove Group, a bespoke security and facilities management firm, based in Warrington, Cheshire.
The Westgrove Group is an award-winning national provider of bespoke dual service security solutions, specialising in high profile corporate offices, commercial premises, shopping centres and football stadia. My role involves inspiring their 1,500+ employees, partners and community around mental health and overcoming personal challenges.
I was selected as an Ordnance Survey GetOutside Champion for 2020 to help people get outside more often.
Most of my outdoor kit and equipment is kindly supplied by Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports.
Want to join the journey? I’m always looking to partner with brands who share my mission to inspire others. Please get in touch.