Thankyou. Seriously, thankyou. The aim of this blog in particular is to try and show my appreciation for the selfless generosity, time, support, advice and respect I’ve been given by so many people, some of whom I haven’t even met, simply to help me achieve my ambition and support others in the process. I don’t feel worthy; I’m just a teenager trying to make my goal a reality. But maybe that’s just it. Maybe people respect that I’ve just grabbed hold of something and won’t bloody let go, no matter what.
When I have bad days, because everyone does, I will really feel like all of you are behind me as I suffer and struggle up the mountain. There have been so many humbling comments that I couldn’t possibly choose a favourite. People say if anyone deserves it, it’s me; but Everest will decide on that one. I’ll do my utmost best and take a day at a time.
I’m so lucky to get the chance to do this again, and learn from the experience… almost. Last night my mobile tech failed so I was up till 2am sorting out, re-syncing and uploading data onto it. It was my last night in my own warm bed for 8 weeks, but I barely slept anyway. I’ve picked up on the toll on my family around me; and feel somewhat guilty. There is no doubt that Everest is dangerous, as the Guardian will love to tell you, but it’s about being surrounded by the the best possible support and making judgement of the risks. Many people will live long, yet comfortable lives. Life is two dates and a dash in between; what matters is what you do with that dash. Nobody is invincible, but if we feared accidents, we’d never leave the house or achieve our potential. I hope my family can understand why I’m doing this and that it makes them proud.
This morning I looked at my walls and smiled. On one I have this;
You can fight or flight. Adapt and overcome. When Everest 2014 went pear shaped I needed to re-evaluate the dream, and find what it really meant to me. I needed something to keep me going. And boy, the EPIC7 project did that. The journey has been astounding and I’m almost sad to see it reaching the finale. Many people saw it as a distraction, an extra expense when I’d have to start all over again, but I knew it was just the beginning of something better. I’m not creative at all; yet I remember sitting down with Steve from Westgrove and showing him my list of challenges scribbled on paper and the concept was then sold there and then, I couldn’t believe it.
I couldn’t possibly describe all of them and wish I had space for all the photos. I’ve been stripped bare, to the point of hallucinating with exhaustion, knocking myself unconscious and hitting tarmac in the middle of the night. Now, I know nothing will compare to Everest, but I’d say it’s pretty good conditioning for what I’m about to face; learning to take control when your Inner Chimp gets a banana and does a runner. Not forgetting my Scottish Winter training, where a typical day involves winds and ice scratching your eyeballs out.
Here’s a quick summary and blog links…
EPIC7#1 The Fred Whitton– the toughest cycling sportive in the UK, solo in 9 hours, 130 miles/12,000ft ascent
EPIC7# 2 Welsh 3000s- the youngest person to complete solo. 15 highest mountains in Wales. 12,000ft ascent, 32 miles, 18 hours 45 mins.
EPIC7 #3 Chester2Cham- cycling almost entirely solo/unsupported from Chester to Chamonix in the French Alps. 880 miles in 8 days, carrying 10kg of gear.
EPIC7 #4 The Dom- a week later, climbing the highest peak entirely in Switzerland, the Dom des Mischabel, PD+ with IFMGA guide James Thacker. Reputedly the biggest vertical ascent in the Alps.
EPIC7 #5 Solo 3 Peaks Cycle– the youngest, and possibly first, solo and unsupported attempt. Climbing the 3 highest mountains in the UK and cycling 440 miles in between in 4 days. In Autumn weather!
EPIC7 #6 The Great Glen- walking the 79 mile long distance path the Great Glen Way in Scotland, in 54 hours.
Thanks to you all, Everest, my holy grail, is not only back, but stronger than before. We’ve already raised over £8,500 which is mindblowing. I’m not even there yet! Thankyou to all; together we’re making a difference to peoples lives facing adversity, at home and away. As seen in the news this week, there is too much stigma around mental health so I’m determined to help change that with the fundraising. People with depression fly planes? Yeah, they can attempt Everest too. And as for all the bullies and the naysayers? Catch me if you can.
I want to thank my close and growing circle of friends, for putting up with my peaks and troughs, and supporting me even when I don’t have time for coffee meets! My family, especially my mum, for allowing me to follow my heart and this unconventional path in life because they know how much it means to me. My mentors- you know who you are, for your selfless time and dedication to my personal development and opening doors in my life. My sponsors and supporters, and the Chester Business Club. I can’t name them all. And my personal trainers, Ian and Mitch. I am blown away that you believe in me enough to bring your brand to the top of Everest with me so I can fundraise for important causes. And a special thankyou to Mark Pinnock and ShortList Recruitment, who stepped in last minute to cover the extra shortfall towards my expedition costs.
Tonight I fly to Kathmandu via Qatar Airways, arriving tomorrow. On Tuesday we then fly to Lukla (weather permitting) and began a leisurely three week trek to Everest base camp. We’re in no rush, and this way we arrive in good health and well acclimatised. The trek in is great fun in itself, as we stay in teahouses in remote villages, visit the bakeries (!), see friends on the trail, drink tea, enjoy the scenery, pass Yak trains cross high passes, hopefully climb Pokkalde (5800m) and watch the sunset from Gokyo Ri. We aim to arrive at EBC towards the 19th/20th April where we rest for a couple of days, have a puja, then begin our rotations up the mountain to acclimatise and wait for the window, scheduled to arrive home 2nd June. You’ll have to follow the updates to see where we’re up to!
This will be my last blog until the expedition begins, where two of my best friends Ste and Chris will be kindly helping me with updates when I need to keep my head in the game.
Somebody is watching over me; it must be my lucky EPIC7 mascots – the H Brothers.
So- thankyou- for being part of this compelling journey. Because without passion, life is pretty boring. It’s been one hell of a ride and it ain’t over yet. If you’re willing to work hard enough, you might just surprise yourself. We all have our challenges but it’s how you react to them.
I climb not only with confidence, but respect for the 16 souls who tragically died on Everest last year. I was lucky.
Bye for now, Alex