April isn't far away at all. April marks the time when I set off to join the World's Highest Dinner Party on Everest. Sounds bonkers, right? Well, that's because it is, but it's all for an amazing cause and some serious money is being raised as a result of it.
Community Action Nepal is our charity of choice. We aim to reach over 100K and along side the figure of 120K that was raised when the attempt for this dinner party was originally tried out, those are big numbers! In 2015 the team set out to break this record and raise the same amount but had to turn back after the earthquake hit. Now the team plus myself are back for another try and to get more money raised at a time where the mountain people of Nepal need it more than ever before.
This may seem like an odd stunt (men in Thomas Pink dinner suits, women in ball gowns, Michelin star dehydrated food made by Sat Bains, table and chairs, champagne...) but it is one that attracts attention and I'm pleased to say that we have some pretty incredible sponsors off the back of it, all putting their good into Community Action Nepal.
This may be a charity expedition but it doesn't come without its challenges and risks. One must not forget where we are having this dinner party... The North Col of Everest, just over 7000m (that's 23,000 ft). The biggest danger being the thin air at that altitude... There's also some interesting climbing towards the Col...
So how does one train for such a mission when working a full time job in the flat London city?
Denali proved to me I had the skills, stamina and strength needed for big mountains independently but 7000m is a whole other story.
Here are a few ways I've been training as we approach the 3 month to go mark.
I can't praise this place enough. Those who know me must be sick and tired of hearing me talk about it but it really is something else. It's a session based gym crowned the KING OF GYMS by GQ and boy, are they right. Choose from Reshape, Ride or Rumble. I've been going two to three times a week and the results are insane. It pushes your limit for core, endurance, HIIT training and strength. Squat like you've never squat before, run inclines at speeds you've never sprinted before - let alone uphill, do reps you thought were impossible, punch like you're a pro boxer and ride a bike whilst your lungs explode out of your chest. All this comes with fantastically cringe worthy but perfect motivation from the beautifully carved trainers. I find endurance training easy to get motivated for but I struggle with the other stuff so this is awesome. You'll finish each session on a high of endorphins feeling like you've done all you can as you high five your trainer at the end. Worth every penny.
The exercise that you can rely on. It's true that if you don't like running, you can only ever get so far. For me running is great aerobic exercise to get my lungs used to deep breathing for the mountains.
Alan Hinkes believes that the cycling muscles used is very similar to the ones needed in the mountains. Bike to work and you're getting training in without thinking about it.
GET UP EARLY
It's dark, wet and horrible at the moment which is why it's the perfect time to get out of your bed and prove to your mind you can do it. The more of this you do, the easier mentally it'll be when you're cosy and warm in that sleeping bag not wanting to get up and out into the freezing air.
GET TO THE HILLS
This is self explanatory. Put on a rucksack that's the heaviest you can manage, grab some poles and walk up and down hills for hours on end. Weekends are best for this. The added bonus is getting to altitude a few weeks before you're due to set off on your big challenge. I'll be going to the Alps for a few days for this. Do long days, I'm talking 18 hour plus days to get your mind and body ready for what it is getting on the real thing.
GO OVER AND OVER ROPE SKILLS
Sometimes I go months without going through glacial travel rope work or building anchors. It needs to be fresh in your mind otherwise, well... You're obviously screwed. I go through it in my head frequently and when I have time, whip out the rope and spend 5 minutes setting up various scenarios.
GET TO THE COLD
I have sensitive lungs. I tend to develop a cough at altitude (not the scary cough from pulmonary edema - a severe and dangerous altitude cause) but because of the dry and freezing air. It's an irritation that in turn means I get less O2 because I'm coughing so much when standing still. This time, I want to get my lungs adjusted better and get in the habit of covering and breathing through my mouth so to warm the air before I breathe it in. I'm headed back to the Arctic for a crossing in a few weeks time. This will also be a great kick start to getting my expedition organisation up to speed again. I swear for the cold and the mountains, it's all about the admin.
THINK ABOUT IT
Go through the expedition over and over. Prepare yourself for all events. I think by really knowing what you are letting yourself in for, you've covered all emotions already so that you are better prepared to deal with them on the day. It'll be hard, but why will it be hard and how will you deal with it? Think about it.
This stuff is all doable. That's the thing with expeditions. You have to love it otherwise this would all seem overwhelming. It has to be an obsession, a passion.