Hi all. One month till Baruntse. It’s manic. So much to do. Kit to be sorted. Dilemmas to be dealt with. I’m sat outside writing this in my toasty Icebreaker merino wool baselayers miserably trying to absorb the dwindling final days of Summer which has yet again flown past me before I could say ice cream.
I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t feeling the pressure, yet excitement. I still want to get round to spending time practicing with kit and researching altitude training/performance to maximise my chances on the climb, whilst still plugging away with fundraising and training like a Monk.
Firstly I want to give a shout-out to my mate Gavin Matthews at Chester Dee 106.3 radio who’s been a great support to me and my fundraising over the past years. My latest blog brings updates of all sorts, and it’s delayed, because it’s been so ridiculously busy, and upsetting in particular the past few days. So I’m still keeping up my crusade of training in the mountains. As much as I hate swimming, I went for a session last week where I was holding my breath for 25m laps (and worrying the lifeguards by the time I reached the other side gasping and choking for air). I’ve been building up my running and strength training as explained in my last blog- focusing mostly on endurance sessions but I’ve enjoyed (!) a couple of hill interval sessions too which build cardio, stress V02 max and strength, which involve finding a steep hill and legging it up 5 or 6 times as fast as possible, jogging down, reaching the throwing up threshold and kneeling on tarmac by the final rep.
Went scrambling and walking for two days in Snowdonia with my good friend Rich with amazing sunset views on Tryfan the Sunday night then 4 peaks the day after via Moel Eilio, finishing on Snowdon. Rich summited Mont Blanc himself this Summer which is awesome, and a top effort for Marie Curie Cancer- and so we had loads to talk about and catch up on- it’s over a year since I climbed Mont Blanc and it’s great to have something like that in common. We called in at the famous Pen-y-Gwyrd hotel where the 1953 Everest team trained, which is a pretty cool and nostalgic place. I’m dying to go back for a proper look but here’s one very special photo below- more pics coming soon!
Fortunately I’ve been staying pain free in training too. My masseur has been beating me up regularly to keep me supple. I still haven’t told you the story about how I began to get shin pain and my gambled return from injury to Everest training yet, but I’ll get round to it.
Now, what have I lost? Well, my personal trainer backed out on me due to a new job (6 weeks before the exped, leaving me clueless with a new routine). However I’ve got a new one, so that’s dealt with. My beloved bike, my only transport, was stolen from Chester station last Tuesday when I returned from hillwalking in the Lakes. The lock had been cut and my pride and joy taken after many thousands of miles of happy usage, cardio and adrenalin (and a few near misses). I was gutted. Fortunately I’ll be getting a new one on insurance, but the chances of the toerags getting caught and me retrieving it are very slim. I’ll be investing in a ‘D-lock’.
Worst of all, I lost my best friend, my companion. My dog, Hooch, the fluffiest, most loyal, cheeky, loving, soft, chilled, amazingly irreplaceable dog passed away at home on the sofa next to me last Tuesday. It was totally unexpected, although he was nearly 13 years old, that afternoon he’d been happily playing and running about in the forest (and trying to steal the sweets from my grandmas’ car on the drive home). I could write a whole blog on my dogs, Hooch in particular. Maybe a sequel to Marley and Me. But if I did, I would be here for weeks. It’s not because my dogs aren’t worth my time, but because it would be impossible to sum him up in words alone. Where would I begin? They say a dog is truly a man’s best friend. There was no doubt about that with Hooch. He was a one-of-a-kind who was always trying to find mischief, and you could tell from his intelligent yet stupidly deceiving face that he knew exactly what he was doing, for a laugh, and that he loved getting away with it. I have another dog, Harley, who is more mild, subtle and independent, introvert by nature, but equally a greying, beautifully tempered and loving dog absolutely full of character (and in comparison to Hooch, a complete wuss). Here is one of Hooch Knievel’s stunts from the most recent Christmas:
He was a bear. Big paws, fluffy rug-like coat, barrel chest, and a constant desire to be with you and look after you. A happy and laidback dog who never hurt anybody, except the odd squirrel unlucky enough to be caught by him (once he’d worked out that they indeed went up trees). My dogs have been there for as long as I can remember, and so as an only child they became like siblings to me. Therefore I can only remember certain parts as I’ve grown older, and the best part was growing up together. My dogs are the best companions, and they’ve been able to share the most important moments of my life, been there through both the triumphs and the struggles, and made life so much brighter. It seems so cruel that he won’t be able to share the rest of my life with me- or give us more laughs, humour, company, love, warmth, freshly-painted wall tester and portable vacuum cleaner. Losing Hooch was an emotional shock we didn’t see coming, that still hasn’t quite sunk in, but it dug deep, and the realisation keeps coming back and hitting me very hard with a pandora’s box of emotions. Not having him around after 12 years is depressingly surreal. A void has been left, the house and my life feel emptier. You don’t realise how much pets mean to you and contribute until they’re gone. Being so busy has helped me through a confusing, guilt-ridden and distressing time. Life must go on, regrets are pointless. It will take a while to fully accept that he’s not going to be there at my feet when I walk Harley, and that I’m not going to be rescuing the ever-daring parrots from his jaws (he soon gave up) or chasing him across the front lawn every time I leave the front door open. He even helped with my sponsorship emails…
He died at home, on the sofa next to me, after a likely heart attack. He was asleep on my feet and I witnessed his happy life tragically coming to an end. It was horrible to watch, but I take comfort that he passed away quickly with little discomfort, with the owner he doted on by his side the whole time, in the home he loved, after a pleasant day with family. There was nothing we could have done, his time had come. If there’s any comforting way to lose a pet, then that has to be it. He’ll be sorely missed, but never forgotten. I have to make the most of my time with Harley, and reflect on the happy memories of Hooch. There’s so many, and even as he greyed and slowed down, his temperament never really changed. The time he leapt clean from the rear window of a Landrover Freelander to chase a cat that had really got on his nerves, swimming at the beach, the 7ft wide sticks he heaved round the forest in the path of oncoming cyclists, the countless anglers he decided to upset at the local fishing pond by diving into their swim or pinching their maggots, his sledging antics, the countless home DIY jobs he ruined, squirrels he chased, master-minded great escapes from the caravan awning in North Wales, even his playful barking, sleeping upside-down bat impressions, and snoring on the sofa… there’s so much more I could say. It’s sad to know he won’t be there for Everest, but I know he’ll be looking down on me. I feel guilty for leaving Harley for 35 days next month.
So my message is simple- everything happens for a reason somehow and obstacles come at you from all angles. Don’t lose your faith and you’ll get there.
You can learn a lot from a dog- smile, and the world smiles with you.