So… what’s next? Since Everest last year I’ve been asked this continually. If you’ve read my book you probably have a better idea. But in the meantime, I’m excited to announce that this Autumn I will be attempting to climb Cho Oyu, in Tibet. At 8,201m (26,906ft) this monster is the 6th highest in the world. Also known as the Turquoise Goddess, this stunning beast is technically safer and easier than Everest, but no 8,000-metre peak is either easy, or safe.
I will be joining an expedition team led by Rolfe Oostra of 360 Expeditions, departing on the 28th August and returning on 14th October. I met Rolfe on Everest last year; he is exactly the sort of person I want to be on expedition with. A prolific mountaineer, Rolfe has summited more mountains than I knew existed, including Manaslu (8th highest) and Everest. He is at the top of his league, albeit slightly nuts – I have never laughed as much as I did in the three days of our training trip in the Pyrenees last March. Being with the right people is imperative.
When I’ve seen this peak on the treks to Everest BC, from the Gokyo side, it has always grabbed my attention. There’s something about it that draws me in. This will be my third expedition on an 8,000m peak. Hopefully most of you will be aware that both Everest attempts in 2014 & 15 went a tad pear-shaped. I managed to rock up during the two biggest disasters of Everest history. The Snickers advert with Mr Bean falling through the roof springs to mind. Such is the nature of mountaineering – the mountains don’t give a flying fishcake how hard you’ve worked.
But for what they didn’t give me, they gave me new perspective, self-discovery, adventure and a vehicle for positive change (check out our Walk4Nepal video that has now raised over £20k!!). The journey focused with Everest as the center of the universe. It has grown arms and legs, and now I can use the journey to create something far more powerful than a summit. Cho Oyu is a different kettle of fish for me. It’s a chance to finally test myself in the extreme high altitude environment, to put my preparation and the things I’ve learned into action. Perhaps psychologically I need a fresh start to get my mindset back to where it needs to be, in a new place, with a new team, so I can put the other experiences to bed. Or perhaps I just like the idea of living in a tent eating chocolate.
Cho Oyu (or however my family want to fail miserably at the pronunciation) also gives me damn good conditioning: it’s like running a marathon to training for running a marathon. It gives me the best possible chance of getting into the death zone, and the future value of this experience is beyond anything else. But do I need to explain myself? It fulfils a spiritual need for adventure, challenge and living life to my best potential. Maybe it’s exploring a different place and reminding myself how small we are in the vastness of creation, and the thrill that brought me to the mountains in the first place…. nothing else really matters.
People question risk. Has the avalanche last year not put me off? Risk is everywhere we look. All we can do is minimise risk to a level that we feel acceptable. Sure, mountaineering poses more risks than a game of Scrabble (unless you play my grandma) but we are programmed for survival with a fight or flight response. We can keep ourselves in a comfort zone to then realise we’ve been farmed into a society of convention many wasted years down the line – or we can throw ourselves out there from the beginning, raise a middle finger to expectation, and live our full potential through self-discovery, adversity and challenge. Life is fragile either way, so we must make it count. Living in a society where people live to make money then die is terrifying to me. The most tragic risk; is taking no risk at all.
Until recently, I’ll admit it’s been hard to train without a goal. Back in January I gave up 8 miles into a half marathon! Depression had something to say for that, albeit I fought the bastard and knocked 5 mins off my half marathon PB a month later and won my age group at Wrexham… With 2.5 months to go, I need to re-tune the engine. I hope you enjoy following the progress as I prepare myself yet again.
Massive thanks to all who continue to get behind me, encourage me, and let me know how the journey is inspiring you. Westgrove Group – well, what can I say – 2 years ago they made me their proud Young Ambassador. Although I may not be young anymore (21 next week, *gasp!*) and I haven’t summited Everest yet, I continue to overcome adversity, pursue a goal, and use this to inspire others… thanks to their help I can continue spreading that message.
And of course, my family and friends. Mum has been determined to find me a feisty Italian girlfriend in a bid to distract me from climbing big mountains, sadly for her I have a good track record of overcoming obstacles…
I leave you with a quote from my book Icefall…
“If you think adventure is dangerous, try routine. It is lethal” – Paulo Coelho
UK BOOK/SPEAKING TOUR!
- London 22nd June – Tales of Adventure
- Hull 25th June – Princes Quay Shopping Centre (signing only), 12:45 – 3pm
- Manchester TBC – Cotswold Outdoor (signing only)
- Edinburgh TBC – Tiso Outdoor
- Heswall TBC
- Liverpool TBC