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Inspiration

Extreme is not exclusive but it does take dedication

Extreme is not exclusive but it does take dedication

I like to go on extreme expeditions in extreme environments. Admittedly the main and initial driving force for going on them in the first place is for purely self-indulgent reasons as I have found what I love and just keep finding ways of continuing doing it. No harm in that, right? Other parts of my life suffer from that passion but compromise is the golden word here. Thankfully there are other elements that come out of it which also give me a kick. They have less selfish reasoning behind it like promoting the can do and self-belief attitude and defying stereotypes as well as highlighting the biggest issue of our time, climate change. All of these make it all the better. I am one of those 'lucky ones' who has found their passion and is able to make it a reality but if you haven't found your passion or you are not doing what you love for whatever reason... Why not? There's a whole world out there for you and you can make it yours!

I really want to drill home to you guys reading that what I do is not exclusive. It takes time, effort and complete dedication but that’s the beauty of it as I enjoy all of that just as much as the expedition. It all goes hand in hand.

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Holiday? What holiday?!

Holiday? What holiday?!

“Going on another holiday again?”

People often think I’m off on another holiday when I commit myself to another expedition.

Truth is, I haven’t been on a holiday since 2011. Expeditions of my type are not a holiday. They are everything but. Yes, I look forward to them and get a sense of escapism from city life, but those are the only comparisons. They are hard going, they take grit and determination to get to the other side and a lot of questioning on why I’m doing it. They are often uncomfortable, scary, exhausting, make me hurt in ways I didn’t know could hurt, involve lack of sleep, (lack of oxygen a lot of the time too), are too hot or too cold, take a lot of brain power worrying and then there’s the making of quick life determining decisions. I cannot say enough how far away from a holiday they are.

The last time I went on a holiday! The difference!

The last time I went on a holiday! The difference!

Not looking my best! Sunburn, no shower, cold!!!!!

Not looking my best! Sunburn, no shower, cold!!!!!

On Denali, myself and Tim swore to each other that our next trip would be a beach holiday with no bag carrying. I can’t see that beach holiday happening anytime soon but I must say I do long to be by the Mediterranean! Of course at the same time I look forward to getting my teeth well and truly into the next big trip. It’s what I live for and I’m not complaining in any way about the toughness of them... The tougher the better!

Coughing my way up! Feeling pretty exhausted on this photo. Not a holiday but a test!

Coughing my way up! Feeling pretty exhausted on this photo. Not a holiday but a test!

The feeling of vulnerability and having to roll with whatever nature throws at you is a humbling experience. You have to know what you're doing otherwise things can easily get out of hand. Knowing you have a situation under control is a rewarding experience however, if anything goes wrong it's easy for that rewarding experience to turn nasty and life threatening. 

I know it’s a privilege to be able to actively put myself into such a challenging and extraordinary position but it is something I work hard for in order to make happen. I thrive on the better person I become after each trip and I am addicted to making wonderful, proud, incredible memories and addicted to the bonds I make with teammates that go on to become the closest friends life can give.

So next time someone uses the word holiday to describe one of my expeditions I’m going to crack down on them. I came back from Denali and it took me over a month before I had caught up on sleep and recovered. A month of bad sleep, lack of oxygen and being cold does that to you. I could not keep my eyes open after 12 noon and had to retreat to bed for 4 hours! Thankfully, I’m over that now and I’m now back after that hardship again.

This is what we woke up to every morning. We breathe in the night, our breath freezes to the tent, it snows on us in the morning. Not a pleasant start to the day and I'll never complain about getting out of bed again.

This is what we woke up to every morning. We breathe in the night, our breath freezes to the tent, it snows on us in the morning. Not a pleasant start to the day and I'll never complain about getting out of bed again.

Having hardship means that you appreciate everything again which is another addiction of mine. One moment that sticks with me after Denali was when we flew out from the glacier. A very short plane ride from the bottom of the mountain back to Talkeetna was out of this world. We went from full expedition mode in freezing temperatures on a barren mountainous landscape to landing in Talkeetna to their summer.

Leaving the mountain behind!

Leaving the mountain behind!

It was full of greenery, the smell of flowers was in the air, warmth on our skin and we were met by Sheldon Air Service crew who carried a plate full of fresh fruit all cut ready to eat! I’ve never felt so high in my life! If ever I’ve felt immensely happy to be alive, that was it!! That’s the closest that came to a holiday! (And knowing a shower could finally be had!)

My Training for Denali

My Training for Denali

Training/workouts/exercise/session/thrashing/beasting/gymming … Whatever term you use it all comes down to one focus – improving yourself physically and mentally.

I feel I can write a post about training now. I’ve been seeing real improvements over the last 3 months on the run up to my Denali expedition. It’s a real relief to see clear results of my developments because in the last year or so, moving forward with training was going at a real slow rate and injuries kept reoccurring. A few years ago I was fit as a fiddle, some may even say too fit/did too much as it later developed to injury (and when I say injury I mean running so much that I broke the bones in my feet.) Being injured really knocked me off guard and I lost my focus a little in the fear of injuring myself again.

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Balancing work and play... Or in my case, not very well

Balancing work and play... Or in my case, not very well

I was told a memorable bit of advice when on an expedition in Svalbard for 10-weeks in 2011. For the whole team, it was the first long haul expedition we had ever been on. We had no outside contact at all, were completely self-sufficient in the Arctic wilderness. We were moving, climbing and partaking in science work for the duration and it took some of the team more time than others to adjust to this life. We were told that it would take each person different times before our 'spirit' traveled from the UK to Svalbard.

The idea being that our spirits would be left at home when we arrived in Svalbard whilst we adjusted to life in the Arctic. But when we were in the swing of things and the expedition became our world, our spirit would return to us and we would feel whole again. It would take even longer for our spirit to return to us when we got home. For many months post expedition it would be left in Svalbard as we adjusted to civilian life again. Thing is, I don’t think my spirit ever came back, my spirit is essentially always on the next adventure. That’s not a cry for sympathy, I love my civilian life but what makes it so great is that I can keep adventure a part of it. Without it I would have a big piece of me missing.

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SURROUND YOURSELF WITH THOSE YOU RESPECT

SURROUND YOURSELF WITH THOSE YOU RESPECT

Surround yourself with people you respect, people you admire, people you are inspired by and people that have a positivity for life and live a life they love. I truly think that it’s what drives me the most. I am affected by others mood. If someone is down in the dumps or bored with life, it gets me down. I hate that it can and I try to resist by taking myself away from those scenarios.

This weekend, Tim and I spent it with adventurer (one title of many) Neil Laughton. I have known Neil for many years now and he is a man I hugely respect and look up to. I have been on expeditions with him, partied with him and I go to him for advice. Saturday night we all chatted about adventure, past, present and future, our ambitions and love of life. We then hit the dance floor after one too many cocktails!! Sunday was a different story, I’ll go into that later!

I get such a buzz of excitement, interacting with those who are on the same wavelength as me. Tim and I have one another to bounce off, which we treasure but we get an extra high when there’s someone else who is more experienced and has new adventures and words of wisdom to pass on. I know that for as long as I live I want to have this lust for life. Doing things that I love and making them happen no matter what. There’s always a way to make your dreams come true and Neil is a shining example of that. The man seems to be able to make any idea a reality and has his fingers in so many different honey pots - he just makes time for everything. It’s a wonderful feeling to think and know you can do the same. I’ve proved it to be the same for me so far and I’ll keep proving it.

There’s this unique notion when around a table with likeminded people talking about dreams and ambitions. The energy, excitement and pure happiness with life is so contagious, as long as you let it be. It’s just so great to be with people who can recognise opportunities whatever they are and be proactive in making something that seems impossible, possible. I hope that I too can have that effect on people because I am so susceptible to it!

I really think people can get stuck in a rut all too easily by being around others who are also not making the most of their time and who live a life too comfortable. There’s something huge to be said for getting out of your comfort zone once in a while and meeting new people and trying new things. Be different and dive into the deep end.  I can’t think of anything worse than sticking with the same predictable routine.

As for Sunday, Neil invited us to learn what he’s been encouraging many others to try… Penny farthing riding! Why the hell not eh?! So on Sunday morning, we all rocked up hungover and a little off balance at St James Square to learn the art of the penny farthing. After just over an hour of practicing riding and getting on and off on quiet roads we hit the busy central streets of London to see the sights of the city! It was fantastic fun, a skill was learnt and I’ve never had my photo taken so many times in such a short space of time!!