First blog in a while, mostly because I’ve been too busy working on my book ”Icefall” which thankfully is still going ahead and set to be published by Christmas, although now telling a different story to the one we wanted to hear.
Five weeks after returning home, life begins to return to normality, but only because I’ve been there and in this position before. I’d already contrived the EPIC7 project by this time last year; my ‘come back stronger’ project for Everest 2015. Right now, things haven’t taken off with quite the same momentum.
For the first week, I could do nothing but question why I was still here, walking around a warm house with lots of food and comfort. It was utterly miserable. I almost wished the three guys on my team that we lost at Everest base camp had been spared inside of me. Life didn’t seem fair. The climbers understand the risks; but nobody should die doing their job at base camp. It has tormented my mind since, like flashbacks. They’re not the sort that have you screaming in the middle of the night, but subconsciously replaying those hours and days in your head and imagining how differently it could have ended. Researching some names for the book made me realise one of the staff on our team had lost his brother at base camp, working for another team. I’d wondered why he was so strangely quiet, yet still managing a faint smile. I wish I’d known and given him a big hug.
The Everest poster has ultimately come down off the wall. People continually say ”The mountain will always be there”, which has always been a pet hate. Of course it will (if we do something about global warming) but so will Ellie Goulding, or Cheryl Cole… the opportunity and chance may not be. It was necessary to recluse myself from society and the online world to give myself space to think. The attention and support was flattering (thank you) but overwhelming at the same time. Everywhere I went, people seemed to point and know who I was. And it doesn’t matter if I’m only young. There will be more avalanches on Everest in future, and they don’t care how old you are. The risk is the same.
I guess the only way to deal with a near death experience and void in my life was to distract my mind by fundraising for the victims. So far, every fundraising idea I’ve contrived has been short-lived by a subsequent lack of confidence and drive. It will come back at some point. I considered going out to Nepal to volunteer; but the general belief is that unskilled and untrained aid workers, like me, are better donating the cost of their plane ticket to charities instead.
I’m extremely grateful that we’ve managed to raise over £5,500 for Nepal as a result of this tragedy. You know who you are and should be extremely proud of the help you’ve given. But still, I want to double this. We continue to hear heartbreaking stories from Nepal; their battle is far from over. Disappointing to see some publications saying that Everest climbers have abandoned the quake victims. If anybody has supported Nepal the most, it’s the mountaineering community, and I’m proud to be part of that.
Whether I return to Nepal or not, that is no reflection of willingness. I would urge all of you to consider visiting Nepal for a trek or adventure holiday. Please don’t be put off by official government warnings. Nepal is very much open for business and the money from tourism will be the most vital link to their recovery. They are resilient and resourceful- they will bounce back better than most people would from such a wave of devastation.
Coming back and planning some really big unprecedented adventures, is all I know best. If I wanted to jump onto the conveyor belt of conventional life and kill my potential to conform, I’d go and get a job as a Turkey at a Bernard Matthews’ farm. I’ve been spared for a reason, and that reason is to make the biggest difference I can, not to merely exist.
I was exceptionally fortunate to have a formidable support team around me throughout both of my Everest expeditions, who within weeks of returning have stayed strong around me, such as Westgrove Group who have already committed to the next steps of my journey amongst others.
In the next 12 months, I have two world record attempts lined up and I’m off to Aconcagua, the highest peak in South America, in November. I am not a naturally gifted athlete or borne adventurer by any means. But we have to focus on our assets, and with enthusiasm, focus and commitment, I’ll do just fine. I would disagree that I’ve given up on my dream, merely changed my direction. Hopefully I’ll be inspiring others that we have to adapt and overcome, no matter how hard we work for something. We never earn the right to anything; but the rewards become greater. That is the cruel reality of high altitude mountaineering.
There is still the unknowns and the possibilities. Everest will continue to gnaw away at my toes for some time, and who knows whether it will creep any further up…
BE AWESOME AND PLEASE DONATE HERE: www.justgiving.com/EPIC7