On May the 12th 2011 I achieved my dream to climb
Mt Everest the worlds highest mountain. This was a culmination of years of high altitude mountain climbing, physical and mental training... Read more
Posted on Tuesday 9th July, 2013
Hey folks! Hope everyone is well and enjoying the Winter so far. I just realised after doing my Tax today that it is past the middle of the year already! I have not written a blog post since the start of the new year…wowzers. So why not? I suppose life just cruises along and because I am not on expedition I sort of forget about my blog as I am updating on the old Facebook fairly regularly. Well seeing as its the middle of the year I think its time to look back at my New Years Resolutions and see how I am going so far. Basically this year I have been working hard to pay off my expedition debts that I still have from last year and even from Everest. So on that front I am getting there but slowly and I still have a way to go. I feel happy that I have got it down considerably however! So I suppose there has not been so much playing this year as the focus is not to spend. I have been enjoying some local adventures here in the Blue Mountains and went on a little climbing trip to Point Perpendicular for my birthday which was awesome to spend time with friends, climb and even see the whales cruise past underneath us!
I spent most of the first part of the year training for the North Face 100 trail race in May. I was running around 50 to 60km of trail a week to get ready for it and my longest run beforehand was 55km of trail and part of the actual course. It was tough! I keep saying I am not really a runner and never really have been. I did not grow up doing any sports. I run some trails during my training for mountains but not this sort of distance. I truly did not know if I could make it. However I like a good challenge and it gave some sort of physical goal to work towards while I don’t have a big trip to stay motivated in my training. The day was pretty amazing and I couldn’t believe there were 1000 runners. Also that 300 of them did not make the finish! I started out feeling great and in fact the first 55km felt pretty good. Duncan and I were running together, laughing a lot of the time and some other runners called us Mr and Mrs Chatty! It was the fastest I had ran in our training together and the best I felt too. As we got to around 60km though it started to get tougher. Then as the sun went down and when it turned cold, running got more difficult. Then we hit Kedumba Pass and ouch that hill hurt! I was actually set to get to the finish in under 16 hours as we left the last check point of 89km at 14 hours of race time. I was super excited as I never thought I could do that time however I twisted my knee at 94km and things changed. I could not bend it and had to hobble up and down hundreds of stairs over the last 6km kilometres with tears streaming down my face and hypothermia setting in. Then the finish was finally upon us!! I made it over the line in 17:26min. Not bad for my first ever trail race and second ever running event! I could not have done it without the help of my awesome support person Emma Newell and also all my other friends that cheered us on! Special mention to Shan and Cillo
I have been pretty solidly teaching Outdoor Recreation at TAFE in Lithgow this year with loads of Tvet HSC programs this first semester. It is always fantastic to meet so many young adults and to spend time with them in the outdoors. Adventure is really such a great tool to bring out so many qualities and skills they never knew they had and its great to watch their confidence build as they challenge themselves. This is probably the most rewarding part of my job. I have also worked with some fantastic new students doing their Cert 3 and 4 in instructing bushwalking. We have had some amazing times out there exploring and navigating in some beautiful terrain. I have felt so proud of them as their skills have developed and they are now very competent navigators. Guiding assessments start soon and I am sure they will crush it! Go team!
I have started training ABC reporter Eric Campbell to climb Everest. Yes its a little crazy, as he has no previous mountaineering experience, not a very high fitness level and lets face it, probably not such a healthy lifestyle either! So basically the idea is to follow his progress as he trains to climb the worlds highest mountain. It is basically a four part documentary for Foreign Correspondent that looks at what it takes to get to the top and also a report on how many people are on the mountain these days and what led them to be there. I plan to be on Lhotse while Eric is on Everest so I will be part of the Nepal footage also. We will be doing some more filming in a month or so as we amp up the training!
So lets take a look at what my goals for the year were-
Live a healthy lifestyle
Do my best in my trail races
Hone the skills I need to make my 2014 expedition a success
Enjoy the simple pleasures in life
Spend quality time with friends and family
Well it seems that I am going pretty well with them so far. I can always work harder though! I have been working on something lately and it is progressing. Hopefully I will have the website part done in the next month or so and then I plan to have some launch offers. I am pretty excited about it and looking forward to getting out on more adventures with people in the future so I will keep everyone in the loop as plans develop. Ok folks I trust you are all enjoying some quality outdoor time as its great to get out in our beautiful backyard whatever the weather!
Posted on Monday 17th June, 2013
Everest BC Trek Clothing and Equipment List
Most items on this list may be bought in Kathmandu. There are some really great gear stores there now with very reasonable prices such as; The North Face, Mountain Hardware and Marmot. In fact most outdoor brands are now available so there is no need to stress if you don’t arrive with everything on the list as its fun to shop there too.
Backpack around 45 litres of capacity
A large durable duffle bag for the porters with a lock
Stuff sacs and garbage bags for inside the duffle bag to organise and waterproof your things
Trekking boots (helps to be waterproof such as gore tex lined)
Set of trekking poles
Lodge shoes or sandals (crocs work well)
Sleeping bag comfortable to -20′C
Thermarest (this helps to sleep on when the mattress in the lodge is a bit average, it is optional though)
Be prepared for extremes in temperature as it is a high altitude alpine environment. You can often go from very hot when exercising to very cold when you stop especially if we have a snow storm. Also keep in mind that you can bring extra clothing like a couple more T-shirts as to what is on the list. I have written the minimum amount that is required to be comfortable on the trek. There is an option to do washing at Namche however beyond there it is not always possible. Sometimes you can hand wash socks and underwear to dry on rest days in the sun if its out. I am also a fan of hanging my socks on my pack whilst hiking to dry!
Light weight thermal long sleeved tops x 2 (medium weight merino or equivalent)
T shirts or trekking shirts x 3 (I recommend having one long sleeve coolmax type shirt)
Heavy weight thermal pull over or jacket x 1 (heavy weight Merino, polartec powerstretch, soft shell, 100 weight fleece)
200 weight fleece jacket or prima loft jacket x 1
Waterproof shell jacket with hood preferably breathable
Down parka preferably with hood
Thermal pants x 2 (light weight merino or polartec powerdry)
Fleece or polatech powerstretch pants x 1
Light weight hiking trousers x 1
Heavy weight hiking trousers x 1 (soft shell is warm and fairly wind proof for higher altitude)
Hiking shorts x 1 optional
Waterproof shell pants preferably breathable (lightweight
Trekking socks, warm ones x 4 and lightweight cotton ones x 4
Thick socks made from wool to wear at night in lodges x 2 pairs
Insulated windproof gloves x 1 (ski gloves work well)
Fleece or polartec powerstretch gloves x 1
Polypro gloves x 1
Sunhat or cap (cap and buff works best up high as it all fits under your hood)
Head torch and spare batteries
Sunglasses that are polarised
Sunscreen (the higher we go, the stronger the UV so I recommend a high factor in a small bottle to keep handy)
Sunscreen lip balm (needs to be kept in a pocket and continually applied during the day)
Moisturiser (your skin gets very dry from the low humidity and can crack easily)
Personal 1st aid kit including personal medication, blister kit, analgesics, throat lozenges, antibiotics (Cypro is a must), iodine or micro pur and gastrolyte.
2 x 1ltr water bottles (one with an insulated cover is recommended)
Toothbrush, toiletries and toilet paper
Face wipes or baby wipes (these provide a ‘baby wipe’ shower when its difficult to get warm water for a wash)
Lightweight novels, journal
Light weight towel and soap
Earplugs (I recommend them as sometimes it can be a bit noisy in the lodges at night)
Personal treats and snacks (can buy in Kathmandu)
Town clothes and shoes
A bag to leave these in Kathmandu (very cheap in Kathmandu)
Shoulder bag or small backpack for exploring around town (optional)
Snaplock bags for snacks so you can divide each day
Tips for our Sherpa staff
Posted on Tuesday 11th June, 2013
Here is a testimonial from a speech I did earlier this year at a St Jude Medical Conference. I just thought I would put it on my blog so it is easy for people to find. Lindsay is quite happy to discuss this further if needed so if you email me at firstname.lastname@example.org I can give you his contact details.
20th April 2013
Re: Allie Pepper
To whom it may concern;
I asked Allie to speak at a sales conference our company held in February of this year. The theme of this conference was ‘Everything is Possible’. The brief I provided Allie was to illustrate to my team that ‘Everything is Possible’ despite what situation you are in, what age you are or what has gone on in the past.
From first contacting Allie to speak at the conference everything was very easy, simple and no fuss. Allie offered to come and meet prior to the conference to get to know me, understand my goals for the talk and share a little about herself. I must admit this was very re-assuring to get to ensure Allie had a clear understanding of what I wanted, and gain a glimpse into how she was going to achieve my goals. She maintained constant communication in the lead up to the meeting which was re-assuring to know everything was well prepared.
On the day Allie arrived early to ensure set up was correct and AV was functioning. This is essential as the photos and videos she has are a central part of her presentation and something that captivated the team she presented to.
I could say many things about Allie’s presentation, she is an amazing individual that has achieved so much in a short time. She is a great story teller and captivates her audience, and she is a confident and relaxed presenter. The strongest testimony I think I could provide Allie is that the group of 80 staff she presented to was at 3:30 on a Saturday afternoon. The remainder of the company had departed for an afternoon of free time and preparing for a gala evening ball. However my team remained behind to listen to Allie. Allie finished on time at 4:00 but questions and discussion easily continued until 4:30. Basically no one wanted to go and enjoyed the opportunity to learn from Allie and hear her perspectives. Even after 4:30pm many people remained behind to look at her gear, share their own personal experiences. This is a clear representation of how Allie connected with the crowd and reflects that her stories do inspire and connect with people.
I have no hesitations in recommending Allie to present to their team whether it be part of a sales conference or other team meeting. Whilst I haven’t personally attended, I would envisage her adventure based trips with teams locally and abroad would also build individuals and teams and inspire others to strive for greatness.
AF-CRM Division Manager
St Jude Medical Australia & New Zealand
Posted on Monday 15th April, 2013
Apart from guiding and teaching at TAFE here in the Blue Mountains, I also work as a speaker. I have learnt so much from following my passion and climbing some of the tallest peaks in the world. These lessons are valuable to everyone and do not just apply when helping to achieve personal goals and ambitions but are also relevent to success in business. Here is a short video from a corporate speech I did in February. For booking enquires please email me at email@example.com
Posted on Sunday 20th January, 2013
In this part of my four part series I talk about the clothing I use on the Everest Base Camp hike, straight from my wardrobe! Over the years I have used many brands, makes and models of outdoor clothing and have settled on some basic layers. These are the layers I use for hiking in the Himalaya and many of them when climbing there too.
Posted on Monday 14th January, 2013
I decided to do a series of videos that show all the things you need to complete an Everest Base Camp trek. In fact these are all the things you need for any trek in the Himalayas such as the Annapurna circuit or the Manaslu circuit. In part 1 I discuss what shoes, sleeping bag and sleeping mat I take with me and why. I hope that these videos are of some help to you when are planning your Himalayan trek!
Posted on Friday 4th January, 2013
So here we are at the start of 2013, already! What a year 2012 had been. I have met some really special people over the course of the year and lots of very inspiring ones that have touched my heart. My expedition in April and May was such an amazing experience and my summit day on Manaslu stands out as one of the most awesome days of my life so far. The support I received for this trip from my sponsors, family and friends was overwhelming and I am very, very grateful. Now moved from Blackheath to Wentworth Falls, I feel like I am probably close to or perhaps the fittest I have ever been which feels great. It has been fantastic to share so many adventures with so many people during during the year. Whether that be with Dawa Sherpa and the other climbers on Manaslu and Lhotse this Spring season, my climbing and training partners back home here in the Blue Mountains, clients I guide on day adventures at ‘High and Wild’ or the students I teach at TAFE, we have had some fun in the outdoors and have learnt plenty more about ourselves along the way.
In my last blog post I mentioned that I was undertaking a new challenge which was the Sydney Marathon in September and I also said I had hopes to finish in under four and a half hours. I would like to say again that I don’t see myself as a runner. Sure I train by plodding along the trails up here in the Blue Mountains and hiking up and down stairs with a back pack however I have never really run regularly as a form of exercise. The longest distance I had ran before the marathon was 25 kilometres so you can imagine I was very nervous on race day! I was really just hoping to finish the 42.2 km at that point and didn’t care too much about my time. Luckily my friend Nick Murphy came along to support me and rode his mountain bike around meeting me to top up my water bottles and give me gels so I didn’t need to carry too many. It was awesome as this really motivated me during the race. I finally met one of my biggest inspirations Pat Farmer who ran from the north pole to the south pole. We had a great chat for about 20 minutes as he was the 4 hour pacer. I eventually had to tell him I couldn’t talk anymore as I was getting too tired talking! He slowly slipped away as I could no longer keep up. Anyhow I ended up finishing in 4 hours and 15 minutes. I could’t believe it and really surprised myself. I went in this race for my charity and didn’t expect that I would actually have so much fun! It hurt like hell but only for a few hours and compared to a summit day on Manaslu of 18 and a half hours it wasn’t too much to suffer! In the back of my mind I thought that if I made the qualifying time for the 6ft track marathon I would go in it. I made it with five minutes to spare so that is now my next training goal. The race is on 9th of March and starts in Katoomba, heads along the 6ft track and fire trail and ends at Jenolan Caves. I have been training a lot lately so feel pretty confident I will make it. If you would like to support me by supporting the local fire brigade please go to my fundraising page- http://www.everydayhero.com.au/allie_pepper Thanks heaps guys!!
I mentioned in my last post that I was super psyched when I returned from Nepal at the end of May. I really felt like I did well on my trip and made good decisions even when it meant I had to turn around on Lhotse. I felt more driven than ever to climb more 8000m mountains and was really keen to get back to Lhotse and/or head to Pakistan to try the Gasherbrums this year. Unfortunately I still have quite a lot of debt from my last two Himalayan expeditions which means I am unable to head off again quite so soon. I have struggled with this mentally the last few months as I really enjoy having something big to train for and that has been a large part of what has motivated me in my life the last few years. These types of Himalayan expeditions are not cheap so I have had to refocus my goals again for 2013 so I can be in a better financial position. Of course this is a great lesson and I am reminded of how grateful I am to have had the opportunity to climb this last year which is largely because of Northcote Pottery and Andrew and Jenni’s support and belief in me. If it wasn’t for those guys I would never have been able to go on my expedition to Manaslu and Lhotse so I can’t thank them enough for helping me to live my dreams. I would also like to thank Moore Stephens, Asian Pacific Group and all those at Marcellin Football Club for their support of my expedition. It means so much to me that you all believe in and support me and it inspires me to be my best and train harder. I have decided to focus towards planning the next big trip to take place in 2014. Details of the adventure will be disclosed as plans are concreted but it looks to be a big one and I am actually now very happy to have the whole of next year to train and prepare for it!
Back at home I have a lot to be grateful for. I have shared and continue to share adventures with lots of people in my everyday life which is really inspiring for me. During the year I work for TAFE NSW in Lithgow and Wentworth Falls in the Outdoor Recreation departments. I have had the pleasure of working with some amazing new guides that have done some great jobs as bushwalking instructors. Its wonderful to think that I can now train students in the very course that changed my life back in 1999 and ultimately led me to an ascent of Mount Everest. I have also had the pleasure of meeting some fantastic young adults through the Tvet outdoor programs I teach. One of them even inspired me to go fly a plane! It is great to see how students gain confidence in themselves through adventure in the outdoors especially the ones that may have difficulty at school and in their home lives. To all those from my programs last year, you guys rock and don’t stop believing in yourselves. I know sometimes it is tough at the end of school and you may not be sure what to do. However just do what interests you and you never know where it may take you. Also have an open mind and don’t be scared to give it a go. Just like when we went rock climbing, you never know what you might achieve. In fact this is probably good advise at any stage of life and also something I follow in my own life.
In Summer I work as a senior instructor with High and Wild Adventures in Katoomba. The last few trips have been great as I have had return clients. We have been out in the National Park climbing and canyoning together again. It is always nice when someone has such fond memories of a trip that they come back years later to do it again, sometimes from overseas. We have lots of fun out there in the outdoors and I look forward to more adventures in 2013. If you are keen for an adventure in the Blue Mountains and have never done one of our wonderful canyons here please contact Darren or Aidan. If I am available I may even be your guide! Perhaps this is a good chance to step outside your comfort zone in 2013 if its something you have never experienced.
In November I headed down to Melbourne to talk at the Victorian Outdoor Education Association AGM. I met some really great people on the night and it was fabulous to be in a room of folks also so passionate about the outdoors. We were all reminded of the importance of outdoor education in young peoples lives and I shared my story from my first outdoor course to the summits of the highest Himalayan peaks. I am really looking forward to doing more speaking and sharing my story in 2013. It is certainly a different type of challenge to the challenges I face in the outdoors, speaking to a crowd. My teaching skills help a lot and I definitely love to tell a story! So it is something I enjoy very much and is also very rewarding for me.
On January 1st I ran 44 kilometres of trail here in the Blue Mountains with my training partner. We wanted to start the year with a hard run as we both aim to get super fit this year. We ran a good amount of the North Face 100 trail race track starting in Wentworth Falls heading to Katoomba and Narrowneck Plateau then back across the valley and up Kedumba Pass. We started quite early but unfortunately it was a crazy hot day so we both suffered in the heat and it took us longer than we estimated. I had thoughts of what it would be like to run these crazy ultra races through the desert in 40 degree heat, man that would be hard! However I really enjoyed it, even the suffering of course! I am keen to do it again soon and try beat our time on a cooler day. As I wasn’t sure for a while if I would be around in May this year I didn’t enter the North Face 100 race. However I am now keen to do it so I am on the wait list. This means I will probably get a place as everyone on the wait list last year was offered one. So I am training for it and super motivated with my trail running right now.
So New Years resolutions-
Live a healthy lifestyle
Do my best in my trail races
Hone the skills I need to make my 2014 expedition a success
Enjoy the simple pleasures in life
Spend quality time with friends and family
I may not have any huge Himalayan goals this year but I have plenty of other challenges planned which I am really looking forward to. So heres to a happy and healthy 2013! I hope you guys have some great resolutions and good luck with achieving them. Lets always remember that we never know what we can achieve unless we give it a go. No harm in trying!
Posted on Thursday 16th August, 2012
Posted on Thursday 9th August, 2012
Yes its been some time since I have written a blog post. I suppose mostly because its so exciting to write about my adventures on the mountain that everyday life can seem a bit, well lets just say not as exciting! Obviously I can’t live the whole year at high altitude as its not physically and mentally possible not to mention the amount of funds needed. Since I have come back to the reality of life here in Blackheath I have gone through a variety of mixed emotions. I have had extreme relief that the physical effort has ended and I could rest and recuperate. Then the realisation of the burden of my debt from this last trip and Everest combined is quite substantial. Thoughts of what next and getting excited about new plans but not being in a position financially to concrete them has made me sad. However then realising that I am extremely fortunate to live the life I do and to have done the things I have already. I have been reminding myself lately just how lucky I am. How lucky we are in Australia compared to the rest of the world that we even have choices and don’t only think about how we are going to feed ourselves the next meal. Coming down from the mountain has never been easy for me and always brings a roller coaster of ups and downs. Thankfully over the years I have learnt ways of not letting the down part actually bring me too far down. After Everest I felt like there was a big empty space inside me where my dream had been. I spent years working towards Everest, living and breathing it. Then when the dream actually became a reality I didn’t feel such a huge sense of achievement. Perhaps I sound crazy. It should be enough to stand on the top of the world and be done with it. I should have felt satisfied. I only really started to feel better when I thought up this crazy last trip of climbing two 8000ers in a row. That put the fire back in my belly and filled the empty space. As I sit here now I feel quite selfish that only these big expensive adventures would satisfy me and that I would feel sad that I don’t have one on the horizon yet. Of course its a selfish sport where there are many things at risk including becoming addicted to it. The price is high not just in dollars but in so many other ways when this happens.
So what have I been up to? Apart from starting working back at Tafe teaching outdoor recreation, I have started to train again. I suppose I feel I am always in training because I never know when the opportunity for an expedition will arise. Apart from that exercise makes me very happy. I am gradually getting my fitness back but its a slow return to how I was prior to my trip. I am however working towards something. On September 15 I am going to run a 42km marathon which I am very nervous about as I have never run that far before! I am running for my charity the Australian Himalyan Foundation as part of the Sherpa team. Most of the other runners are only running the 9km however and originally I was going to just do the half marathon but I don’t usually like to do things by halves so thus the upgrade! So I am quietly shitting myself about this but its for a good cause so I may as well try to get a reasonable time. By reasonable time don’t get too excited folks I am thinking under 4 and a half hours would be awesome. If anyone would like to support me by donating to my charity I would be super happy. Just click on this link-
At the start of July I flew to Melbourne for a few days to talk to Moore Stephens, Asian Pacific Group and ABC Financial Group. They were all involved in some financial sponsorship of my last expedition. I don’t really have much in my wardrobe in the way of corporate clothing so with the help of my friend Merete we went shopping and I bought my first suit jacket! Not a big deal to most people but its a far cry from the down suit lets just say! It was so fantastic to meet people that I had only been emailing and to share my story with the staff. I had lots of great positive feedback which was awesome as I had spent many days working on my presentations. It has been a very steep learning curve for me only just a year ago learning how to edit video and make a keynote presentation so I feel pretty proud of myself in that respect.
Something that really left a big impression on me from my expedition was flying in the helicopter through the mountains. It was really such an amazing and unforgettable experience. I am in awe of where these machines can go and how high they can fly. The B3 is able to fly up to 7000 metres in the right conditions and extract injured climbers off the Lhotse face. I absolutely love flying in them so when I got home I did some research into how to get a helicopter license. Turns out it is super expensive. Damn why are all my dreams so expensive!! Anyhow I started having thoughts of learning to fly a plane instead after having a 16 year old student on one of my Tafe programs tell me she almost had her pilots license and had paid for her lessons by working at McDonalds. I was so inspired by her and then came home to find out my flatmate Matt Norgrove also used to fly. Anyway to cut a long story short I happened to drop into the aerodrome at Bathurst on my way home from Tafe one day and booked in for a trial flight. This Tuesday I went out with Chris from Central West Flying in a Jabiru for an hour and it was amazing. He helped me to actually fly the plane, turn and go up and down. Also steer down the runway and he told me a lot about all the instruments etc. It was overwhelming the amount of information I tried to take in and also such an awesome feeling being up in the sky and flying a plane. I loved it. As with mountain climbing when you are in the thick of it you don’t think of anything else, just live in the moment and take in everything around you and focus on what you have to do. I didn’t think about anything else apart from flying and what a challenge!
I didn’t get too nervous in my trial flight even as Chris stalled the plane and we started falling…..then he started it again to prove that you don’t just fall out of the sky infact you can safely land if this happens, in the closest paddock! He said he had done it before which I thought was quite cool. Driving home from what may prove to be a new adventure I had thoughts about Nancy Bird-Walton. I had won her National Geographic Society grant for female adventurers last year for my Everest expedition. Sadly I never got to meet her as she passed away in 2009 at the ripe old age of 93. She learnt to fly when she was 18 in the 1930s and became the youngest Australian woman to gain a pilots license at the time. She was one of the only woman pilots around. I hope she would be proud of me not only for climbing Everest with the help from a grant named in her honour but also for experiencing first hand what it feels like to be in the pilots seat.
As my finances begin to look a little healthier I am going to start lessons which actually aren’t too expensive out at Bathurst. Eventually I would like to fly the Cessna so I can take passengers and then with hopes to upgrading to the helicopter. Apparently once you have your pilots license you only need half the hours in the helicopter which is great as it costs over $500 an hour to fly.
At the moment I am working on a new presentation for a talk I am doing at the Blackheath National Parks Auditorium in two weeks time. Its called ‘Dare to Dream’ thanks to Kip Prahl for that inspiration. That pretty much sums up the theme of my presentation and my mountain climbing career so far too I guess. I will put the flyer up once its done. Thanks for following me and I appreciate everyones support so much.
Posted on Thursday 31st May, 2012
I am sitting back at my desk in my room in Blackheath, Australia and it certainly feels surreal looking out at the gum trees of the beautiful Blue Mountains National Park again. Our sandstone cliff faces pale in comparison to the mountains that have surrounded me the last two months however they are familiar and ruggedly awesome nonetheless. Its taking some time to ‘come down’ from my adventure and I am gradually processing it as my body and brain are recovering from exhaustion.
As Dawa and I had our final debrief about our climbs back in Kathmandu, I became quite emotional to be at the end of our journey. It had sometimes been hard, a struggle and desperately exhausting towards the end but it had been an amazing adventure thats for sure. I think I even heard a bit of sadness in Dawas voice that it was over even though he had some days of very hard work behind him. So our trip into Lhotse felt very long but in reality it was only a week….
After three nights in Kathmandu and only one real rest day where I wasn’t organising anything, Dawa, Domhnall and I headed off to Lukla on the plane very early on the morning of the 16th. We then waited at the helipad for our chopper into Everest Base Camp. We were all happy to see the same pilot again that flew us out from Sama Goan and I was pretty excited to get the ride of my life on such an awesome and clear day! We all squished into the backseat as there were two pilots. We jammed our gear in along side boxes of produce for Base Camp and cartons of eggs! As the air is thin at Base 5300m, we had to stop at Periche so the pilot could shuttle us to Base one at a time and the co pilot also waited there. The pilot had to be on oxygen from above Periche so he didn’t pass out while flying up high. They also took out loads of spare fuel to make the heli lighter. It was an amazing flight into Base and we landed on the top of a helipad of ice and rock jutting up out of the glacier. He did a good job of actually fitting the machine on it as it was quite small. After about 30 minutes we were all shuttled there along with our gear and the helicopter flew off down the valley again. I couldn’t believe it. It was 8:30am in the morning and we were at Everest Base Camp already! So what to do now? Get a weather report from Michael Fagin, go find our camp and then head off to chat to my friend Willie Benegas about the ropes and conditions on the mountain. After some research I found out quite a few things. Damian, Willie’s twin brother, was planning to lead a team to fix the ropes to the summit of Lhotse on 18th and Domhnall had decided to go with them and try follow behind as he was attempting Lhotse without oxygen. There was no way I could make it up the mountain that fast so we decided to try for the 19th. The ropes to the summit of Everest were being fixed that night so all of the Everest climbers were waiting and this was the first weather window this season. Apparently it had been a horrendous season for weather so far with high winds and not enough snowfall to fix ropes. There was a problem on the Lhotse face with rockfall so Damien led a team to fix a new route to Camp 3 which avoided the danger. Only recently had they managed to fix to the South Col, Camp 4 of Everest. Lots of people were planning to summit Everest on the 18th and 19th so we would try Lhotse in the same window. This would mean leaving that night all the way to Camp 2 then the next day to Camp 3 to be able to have an attempt from Camp 3 to the summit on the 19th. Dawa was really keen to go up the mountain because he had only had three nights in Kathmandu to see his wife and new baby. He flies to Austria on the 1st of June for four months, so wanted to get home to spend more time with his family, understandably.
Babu Sherpa from Mountain Tribes, who organises my logistics, had a team from Quebec at the Base Camp so we stayed a night at their camp. It was so flash in comparison to our Manaslu Base Camp and the kitchen staff had practically built a house out of stone. The dining tent even had carpet on the ground and a heater! Gabriel, the expedition leader was at the camp while his clients were up on the mountain heading towards summiting Everest on the 19th with their climbing Sherpa. Dawa and I packed our bags to be ready to head up through the icefall early in the morning. He already sent our oxygen bottles up to Camp 2 with a porter a few days beforehand so that made our loads lighter. We were up at 2:15am and left Base at 3:30am. We wound our way up through the icefall and I was feeling good. I felt like I was going at a pretty good pace and I also thought the actual route of the icefall seemed a lot easier than the previous year. It was just the right temperature that my hands didn’t get too cold in my gloves so I suppose it was slightly warmer than the year before. This time I had a GoPro camera attached to my helmet so I could film going over the ladders that span the crevasses.
I arrived to Camp 1 6000m at the start of the Western Cwm after 5 hours. My best time through the icefall in 2011 was 4 1/2 hours so I didn’t think that was too bad. This is where everything changed for me though because it became very hot on the glacier in the sun with no wind, infact boiling! I stopped and ate my packed lunch that the kitchen staff had made me at Base and Dawa headed off ahead to Camp 2. He is faster and had a bigger backpack so there was no sense in him walking with me. Actually he doesn’t climb with me that often unless he has to because its safer. Mostly just on summit day, so a lot of the time I am on my own. I headed off up the Cwm and soon began to realise I had to take even more layers of clothing off. I just had my thermal tights and a long sleeve glacier shirt on and I was still overheating. I was exhausted and not having fun but finally made it to the start of the camp. Our camp was at the end of the camp however, another 200m higher at 6500m. I could hardly carry my pack anymore and thank god Dawa came down to get it for me. I stumbled into camp absolutely spent and could hardly talk at 2:30pm, eleven hours after leaving Base.
The first very obvious thing I noticed when I entered the Cwm surrounded by Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse, was how different it was in comparison to the year before. There was a lot more bare rock and blue ice around and way less snow. Below is a photo of Lhotse and the Lhotse face in 2011 when we were on the way up to the summit of Everest. It looks like a completely different mountain compared to the one in the above and below pictures. Of course this had me quite worried…..
When I finally crawled into my tent, the place I had been fantasising about for the past 6 hours, I lay down and had a cry. Wow I had only had one cry my whole Everest expedition (because I was upset about how heavy Dawa’s bag was) but this trip I had had a few! I cried when my oxygen ran out coming down the fixed lines on my Manaslu summit day. I cried when I was hypoglycaemic when I finally got back to the tent and now I was crying again! What am I a big cry baby?? Well all these scenes have a common theme and that is, I was absolutely exhausted. I couldn’t even stop crying.
Dawa got news that Damian was back at Camp 2 and hadn’t managed to fix the ropes on Lhotse as he instead got involved in a rescue. Earlier that morning there had been an avalanche at Camp 3 when a serac fell down which wiped out a bunch of tents. Fortunately no one was killed but one Sherpa was very badly injured so Damien helped co-ordinate his rescue. It was very sad to hear this news but in a way I was relieved as it meant I could have a rest day the next day while Damian went up again to fix the summit ropes. I was so exhausted I called my Mum crying and she told me I would be ok after a day of rest and to eat as much as I could. Wise words from someone who has never climbed a mountain! However she is my Mum.
The next morning Dawa headed up to lower Camp 3 to grab a friends tent and move it to higher Camp 3 which is about 7300m for us. I also hired a porter to carry our bottles up for us but he left them at the lower camp 7000m so Dawa took a few to the higher one as well then came back down to Camp 2 again. I radioed Gabriel for a weather update and he seemed to think the 20th would be alright to go for the summit at that point the reports had not showed a significant increase in the wind. So I got on with my rest day. I slept in and Nema the Camp 2 cook brought food to my tent. It was very warm in the tent and at one point I measured 42 degrees! I put my sleeping bag on the roof to try cool it down a little. I got out to do some filming and chatted with Damian as he headed off up to Camp 3 to start fixing that night. Lots of things were going on around me but I was too tired to be social. For example I heard Gerlinde Keltenbrunner (has climbed all 14 8000+m mountains without oxygen) and her partner arrive back at camp after successfully summiting Nuptse, alpine style. What a bummer I was too tired to get out of my tent to congratulate her! I took this photo of the Lhotse face of all the climbers heading up to summit Everest on the 19th which turned out to be a very controversial day with 4 deaths and many more injured because of congestion on the fixed ropes on the summit ridge. I was having a laugh at the time about the ‘conga line’ to Camp 4 and thinking how lucky I was that it wasn’t so busy the year before when I went up there.
Dawa and I pared down our equipment once again before heading up to Camp 3. We decided to just take one sleeping bag to share, one jetboil stove and just my small happy snap camera and the GoPro. We had just enough food for two nights and the bare essentials, I even left my toothbrush behind to save on weight. We left Camp 2 at 6:30am on the 19th and headed up the glacier to the start of the Lhotse face to the new line of fixed ropes. I immediately noted how much blue ice there was back over at the place where the ropes normally start and was worried that this new way would be hard. I was already finding it hard work just heading up the glacier and I was having a ‘lead boots’ day. I hate these kind of days in the mountains. Sometimes gravity works against you and it feels like your boots are made of lead because it so hard to walk and climb in them. Obviously its just how much energy you have. Some days are ‘zero gravity’ days where you feel like its so easy and you are light and can go forever…..I love those days. They don’t happen that often!
I couldn’t believe it I was going to cry again! I stopped near the base of the Lhotse face as tears started streaming down my face as I looked up at it. I was so tired and still had a long way to go to camp. Dawa caught up to me and asked what was wrong. I said I was already tired and was not even half way there. He decided to head up before me and grab an oxygen bottle from lower Camp 3 that he had left there, then come down and give it to me to help. I agreed this was a great idea and would just go at my own pace up the ropes in the meanwhile. So off he went and I was on my own again. I turned around and someone was speeding up the glacier with trekking crampons on. He caught up to me and stopped to leave his poles and put climbing crampons on. It was Chad Kellogg who was making an attempt to break the speed record on Everest without oxygen. I had met him briefly at Willies Base Camp. I had a whinge about how much I was suffering that day and also a laugh about it. He reminded me that was one of the reasons we were there and also the view of course! Yes its true I suppose I must love suffering or why else would I do it?! Luckily the view was gorgeous but I could hardly enjoy it in my current state. He also tried to tell me about climbing technique and pacing in line with breathing and heart rhythm which was awesome advice. However when I was that exhausted it was hard to focus on technique. Sometimes in the mountains you meet some truly amazing people and sometimes you meet some crazy big disgusting egos. This time I was really happy to meet a genuine nice guy and I was super inspired to see him smash up the ropes and head out of sight so fast. Then come back down again shortly afterwards after touching Camp 2 and give me some encouraging words on his way past. Super cool.
Dawa eventually came back down the ropes on the face just as I was hitting a wall. I was very grateful to see him with an oxygen bottle so he hooked me up and I almost instantly felt much better. So we climbed together up to lower Camp 2 then stopped and had something to eat before heading up the final 300m to our tent at high Camp 3. I thought I would never get there as we kept passing more and more tents and Dawa kept shaking his head and pointing up. Where did he put our tent? It must be in the last safe place before the traverse across the face??
Finally we arrived to the tent at 3pm and I had been using oxygen since 6900m but it still took me 8 1/2 hours to get there from Camp 2. Thinking back to the year before it took me 9 hours but I wasn’t using the gas. I very tired but very happy there was no more up for the day. We settled in and made some hot water and food. We decided we needed to find out how the rope fixing went so I radioed Damian. He was still on his way down and he gave me a bunch of information that I wasn’t necessarily that happy to hear. Apparently not all the Sherpa had turned up to help or some had turned around so they didn’t have enough rope to fix all the way to the summit. They used old rope on some sections and there was a lot of loose rock. He told us we needed to take two ice tools each to climb with and to be careful of rockfall especially if anyone were above us. The climb goes up a steep 50-55 degree gully that is normally filled with ice and easy to make anchors in. This season due to the lack of precipitation a third of the gully was bare rock. There is a narrow bottleneck in the gully where rockfall would be very dangerous. Great. We had one tool between us and hadn’t even thought to bring a rope naively as we had trusted the ropes would be fixed to the summit. We couldn’t even belay each other through sections where there was no rope or old rope and I was so tired I couldn’t possibly be fast enough to climb ahead of other parties or dodge rockfall. I basically only had enough energy to try the summit with the fixed rope in place but not enough to climb alpine style, not that we had the equipment to do this anyway. Crap, bugger and bum. Well thats the friendly version of my thoughts to Damien’s news. We then radioed Gabriel for an updated weather report. He told us that the report had changed and the forecast was for higher wind than before. He wanted his team that had just summited Everest to come down from the South Col but couldn’t contact them. Infact he hadn’t been able to contact them most of the summit day. Dawa finally managed to talk to one of the Sherpas at the South Col and they were all too exhausted to move down until the next morning.
Dawa and I had extensive discussions about our predicament. What would my friends and family do if they knew I had that news and decided to go up anyway, then got hit by rockfall or even worse I actually fall? We didn’t have a rope. We had one ice tool. The rope wasn’t fixed all the way to the summit making coming down very difficult. Why were we even taking so long to decide what to do?! The answer was staring us in the face and we had to admit it. The safest decision was to turn around. Even after we decided I still kept asking Dawa if we were making the right decision. Summit fever is the biggest killer in the mountains and even though I knew I had made the right decision, I still had the illness. What would people think of me? Would I walk away disappointed in myself? No I would simply walk away, with Dawa, with my health and all my fingers and toes because the mountain will always be there. We continued to listen to the radio flicking channels through all the groups coming down from the summit of Everest. Dawa was translating all the horrible news of climbers missing, snow blind, frostbite and also dead. It was horrendous listening to all the action live in our tent on the mountain. There were also lots of happy stories as guided groups radioed their Base Camps letting them know they were all safe at the South Col and had summited. I talked to Mike Roberts who had successfully guided his Adventure Consultants team to the summit and congratulated him. He told me I had made a good decision about Lhotse and that he saw a third of the route was rock as he walked passed it the day beforehand. I felt slightly better after talking to someone with so much experience about my decision.
We eventually settled down under my sleeping bag in our down suits. Dawa was not using oxygen but decided if he got cold in the night he would use a bottle. I had my mask on which annoyed the hell out of me as I couldn’t roll over and had to be careful of the hose to the bottle. The wind picked up and got worse during the night, hammering the tent and I couldn’t sleep well at all. Snow had been blasted through all the zips and covered the sleeping bag. As it got lighter in the tent I just lay there with my eyes open wishing I was somewhere else. Somewhere safe and warm and not so noisy. Dawa woke up and apparently had had a great sleep! This man is certainly made for the mountain. I don’t know how he does it! I had a puffy face, red eyes and a splitting headache. We slowly started to get ready to head down. We decided to leave when the sun hit the tent but neither of us had even opened the tent door and bothered to look outside! I braved the blast of snow and looked out to see the sky was covered in cloud. So I guessed there would be no sun hitting the tent. We packed all our things in the tent and I was ready to head down. Dawa decided to finish packing the actual tent up as I headed off first. I still had half a bottle of oxygen left so left it on to head down seeing as I may as well use it all up. I stopped a few meters from the tent to take some photos looking up to the summit of Lhotse firstly, then over to Everest to show what the weather was like. Taking my glove off to do this was a bad move as instantly my hand started to freeze. As soon as I took the photos I quickly put it back on again and stood there for 5 minutes warming it up before I could feel it again. That was close, what was I thinking?!
I headed down the ropes slowly and safely to lower Camp 3. By the time I got down the clouds were starting to disappear and I was getting lower out of the wind. It was a relief to feel the sun again and start to warm up. I was very keen to get down to the glacier and finish going down the ropes as it was exhausting work with a heavy pack and I had to keep my mind on the job as its easy to make a mistake when you are tired and the consequence can be fatal.
Finally we made it down off the Lhotse face and I was very happy to be on the relative safety of the Cwm. We headed back to Camp 2 where Nema cooked us lunch and we rested for an hour. At 1pm we repacked our things and left to go through the icefall for the last time.
Dawa was carrying 4 full oxygen bottles which made his pack incredibly heavy. He decided to leave them at Camp 1 and return in the night to pick them up again. He stayed with me all the way through the icefall and we arrived back at Base together at 6pm exhausted (actually I was the only exhausted one, Dawa said he was a ‘little bit tired but not too bad’). He could have gone in front and arrived ages before me but I suppose he knew this was the last climbing we would do together so he took loads of photos and I took lots of GoPro footage. It was awesome.
Back at base I found out through the grapevine that Domhnall had gone up with Damian that day he fixed the ropes to attempt the summit. He had turned around because a party in front of him was dropping rocks down. He was staying in Base to try again the next weather window of the 24th and 25th of May. I thought about staying too but I would not have Dawa as he was most definitely heading home to his family. I would also have to pay and organise more tents on the mountain. I could have climbed with another Sherpa but this meant more money that I didn’t have. I thought hard about whether I would feel any better having just two days of rest at Base and then trying again when perhaps another team would finish fixing the ropes. The answer was no. Even if I had the money to stay I wouldn’t recover enough energy at 5300m, in that amount of time, to be able to make a serious attempt again. I was disappointed but I was also happy to know we had done our best and if conditions had been different we would have had a better opportunity to make the summit.
The next day Dawa managed to get a flight out of Base in a helicopter as he has loads of friends in the mountains. I wasn’t able to afford a flight so I was prepared to do the three day hike with a porter. I started off down the valley around lunchtime. I didn’t even have the energy to walk around Base and say goodbye to anyone or wish my friends there that were still waiting to head up good luck. I walked by myself for five hours down to Periche and in a way enjoyed the view but was also not looking forward to the next two days as I knew there was some big uphills in the trail. I decided to call Babu and see if he could get me a good price on a flight out as he is always doing deals for me and is supportive of my lack of funds! It turned out he could work his magic and I can’t say how much or I may get in trouble but I got a significant discount. So I put the flight on my credit card and felt like a rockstar once again as the heli landed and Italian climber Simone Moro picked me up the next morning. It was a full flight as there were already three passengers in the back but I squished myself in and my luggage was dumped on top of me. It was perfect weather again as we flew down the valley and I had a massive grin on my face. We landed in Lukla and I only had to wait an hour for my flight to Kathmandu. Dawa waited for me at the airport as he flew a couple of planes before me. We laughed that we both managed to be in Kathmandu so fast!
So back to the Courtyard to see my beautiful friends Michelle and Pujan. Of course Michelle had given me the biggest and most lush room in the Hotel. I can’t thank them enough for being so kind to me and making my expedition even more enjoyable because I always had such a beautiful place to stay before and after my time in the mountains. I spent a few days in Kathmandu eating and sleeping before flying home to continue the trend here.
I want to thank all my financial sponsors for helping to make this amazing adventure possible. Thanks to Northcote Pottery, Marcellin Football Club, Moore Stephens, Asian Pacific Group and Art Series Hotels. I would like to give the biggest thank you in the world to Andrew and Jenni McMahon for their support and belief in me. I would also like to thank Back Country Cuisine, Sea to Summit, Wild Aid, Mont, Goal Zero and Villawood Indoor Climbing Gym for their support of my expedition. Lastly thanks to all my family, friends and work colleagues for their faith and support.
Of course the question everyone has been asking me is what next? Well before I can even think of what next I need to try pay off the debts of my last two years of expeditions. I have some thoughts in my mind but we will just have to wait and see….