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Back to reality and then up in the air again.

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.

My new look with Ant and Damian at ABC Financial Group

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!

Pilot Chris and hope to be pilot Pepper!

Next to the Jabiru at Bathurst Aerodrome

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.

Nancy in her Gypsy Moth

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.

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