High Altitude Climbing and Acute Mountain Sickness

everest-top

 I have been researching the impact that high altitude climbing will have on my body, what I can expect, what I can do to assist my body’s ability to cope.

And importantly, to be able to recognise the onset of Acute Mountain Sickness in its more serious forms.

Acute Mountain Sickness, AMS as it is often referred to, is the effect the declining number of molecules of oxygen in the atmosphere has on our body as we ascend in altitude. It can range from a mild illness, to the more severe life-threatening forms of the illness, such as High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE), and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE).

The latter two conditions require immediate attention and descent from altitude otherwise death is the most likely outcome.

I’m not intending to go into a great discussion on either, nor am I qualified to do so, but as part of my journey “To Climb a Mountain” I want to gain a better understanding of both conditions.

High altitude is defined as 5,000 to 11,500 feet, very high altitude 11,500 to 18,000, and extreme altitude as 18,000 feet and above.  At extreme altitudes physiologic function will outstrip  acclimatisation eventually.

My reading has taken me across a wide variety of topics, but the one that caught my attention was the connection between muscle and the requirement to fuel our muscles with oxygen when under exertion.

Over the years I have trained as a power-lifter for strength purposes and I have achieved results I am happy with.  As a consequence I have grown muscularly and currently weigh-in around the 95 kilogram mark.  This has given me a good power-for-weight ratio and has enhanced my speed on the kayak over the short to mid sprint distances.

Power-lifting has helped me develop strong legs, especially my quads through squatting, and dead-lifting.

Will this muscle help, or hinder me on the mountain as I trudge up the side of an 8,000 metre peak?

When exercising, the body, or more specifically the contracting muscles have an increased need for oxygen and this is usually achieved by a higher blood flow to these muscles.

And therein lies the dilemma as I see it.

Due to the less dense air at altitude the number of oxygen molecules for any given mass of air will drop. Consequently, mental and physical performance will decline, and the larger the muscles, the larger the requirement for oxygen to prevent muscular fatigue…

So what can I do?

There is not a lot that you can do to prepare for the effect of AMS, some people will adapt and perform better at altitude than others and this is hard to predict from one individual to another.

What I can do is decrease my muscle mass, and whilst that will mean a decrease in overall strength I can try and maintain the power for weight ratio balance.

The upshot of all this is that ahead of my expedition to Nepal in April I will deliberately take around 10-12 kilograms out of my frame…

The climbs in Nepal will be done without the aid of supplemental oxygen.

I won’t be changing my training routine greatly, I will maintain some weight training, rowing and kayaking, and importantly, a daily walk of around 10-kilometres with a 25-kilogram backpack at silly o’clock in the morning (that is 4:00am).

The best way to control weight change, either gaining, or losing, is via your diet and that starts in the  kitchen.

Baz – The Landy (In my home gym in the “Shed”)

 

Angels, Friends and Lovers

Recently someone asked who is the “Janet” that regularly features in my stories, and suggesting she must be an Angel from above to put up with me.

Um, no it wasn’t Clare, Janet’s mother, but crikey, wouldn’t we be rich if a had a dollar for every time she has, bless her soul…

But just like Tinkerbell, Janet is sweet and sassy, a friend to all…

Literally, the girl next door, yep over the back fence next door, Janet (Planet) and I have been friends for a lifetime…

…Having fun, flying and jumping out of planes together, abseiling off tall buildings, and trekking through some of the wildest jungles on the planet in Papua New Guinea, where we lived for a number of years…

Other times you’ll see us sitting quietly around a camp fire, soaking up the Australian Outback as the sun slips below the western horizon with not another soul in sight for hundred’s of kilometres…

And in those tender moments, spending the night in a lover’s embrace on a remote South Pacific Island.

Strewth, we would not have it any other way.

And TomO, well he’s the jewel in our lives, the creation of the heady mix of two young lovers and remote South Pacific Island’s…

And rest assured, he seems to have our sense of adventure and has already suggested he will stand on top of Mount Everest with me…

Dream big and it will happen I say, so don’t rule it out…that journey is well under way!

Of course, we can’t leave out our best friend, Milo, the wonder dog! The world’s most lovable Border Collie…

In Janet’s words – You boys don’t know how lucky you are…

And ain’t that the truth!

Ps: We’re off to a remote exotic island in the South Pacific in a couple of weeks time 😉

Baz, The Landy

Nice of you to drop in

 

Baz and Janet, AMP Building, Sydney, Australia
Baz and Janet-Planet, AMP Building, Sydney, Australia

Putting in a couple of leave applications the other day to cover my two climbing expeditions to Nepal in 2015 turned out to be a lot of fun…

My boss, let’s just call him Wayne, he’s a keeper, can’t afford to lose him!

“Baz”

“Yeah Wayne”

“Might be nice if you could drop into the office and do some work occasionally Baz, but don’t let it get in the way of your endless holidays, and how about you call me boss, just for once”

“Sure Wayne, I’ll make some arrangements”

“Janet?”

“Yes Baz?”

“You doing anything, the boss wants me to drop into the office”

“Just lattes with the girls”

“Meet me at the office, and um, bring the ropes”

“Ooo, we playing those games again, you naughty boy”

“No, well yes, if you like, but not just now”

“Hey Wayne, I mean, Boss, I thought I’d just drop in to see if you’ve signed those leave forms yet”.

These photographs show Janet-Planet (isn’t she awesome!) and me abseiling down the AMP Building, Sydney, Australia, in support of a charity fund raising day!

 Baz, The Landy

 

 

 

Feed the Rat (It’s gnawing away)

 

Baz - The Landy, Southern Alps, New Zealand
Baz – The Landy, Southern Alps, New Zealand

Since a young  age I have been fascinated by the majestic beauty of mountains, of the peaks that poke through the clouds reaching ever higher into a deep blue sky.

Growing up in Australia has had mountaineering limitations given our highest is Mt Kosciuszko, a mere 2,228 metres high.

So I contented myself with walking through and over the hills and mountains, developing a love of the Australian Bush, the magnificent Australian Bush…

Like an unsatisfied lover, in recent years I started to look further afield with a desire to experience more from my affair with the mountains…

Three years ago I commenced training designed to assist and enable me to contemplate  climbing an 8,000 metre peak in the Himalayan Mountain Range.  The mountain of choice Cho Oyu borders Tibet and Nepal and is the world’s sixth highest mountain peak and possibly the most accessible of the world’s fourteen 8,000 metre peaks.

The fun is in the journey, right?

I have had some great times developing my rope skills climbing in the Blue Mountains not far from Sydney as well as undertaking an extreme fitness regime.

And talk about a good laugh here and there, strewth, I can’t even tie my shoelaces properly (it’s a long story) but here I am tying myself off on vertical rock-faces!

 

Unfortunately injuries over the past year or more proved to be a significant setback and at times had me questioning whether I should continue!  But the injuries are now behind me and a solid fitness regime is under way to get me on track!

My head is back in the right place, the switch has been flicked once again…

And crikey, the “rat” is gnawing away and it needs to be fed – that’s a good sign, for me anyway, as Janet rolls her eyes with a wry smile breaking through ever so slyly.

Janet knows the rat well, it has led us on many wonderful adventures…

And how good is New Zealand’s Southern Alps playground – truly a mountaineer’s playground.

After a reasonably steep multi-pitch climb I crossed this snow covered Arête in the cover photo on the way to the summit of Auroa.

Whenever I view this photograph it reminds me that “standing back from the edge is safe, but the view is never as good” – it reminds me what I love so much about the mountains, it inspires me to pursue my goal…

So, one step at a time, let’s do this together!

Baz – The Landy

Standing back from the edge is safe (But the view is never as good)

 

Baz - The Landy, Southern Alps, New Zealand
Baz – The Landy, Southern Alps, New Zealand

After a reasonably steep multi-pitch climb I crossed this snow covered Arête on the way to the summit of Auroa Peak in New Zealand’s Southern Alps.

What a great playground, hey?

Baz – The Landy

Those who don’t think it can be done (shouldn’t bother the person doing it)

 DSCN0576“But there are men for whom the unattainable has a special attraction. Usually they are not experts: their ambitions and fantasies are strong enough to brush aside the doubts which more cautious men might have.” Walt Unsworth.

Walt must have had me in mind when he penned that!

I’m gearing back up, slowly but surely and aiming for a Himalayan trip to climb three 6,000 metre peaks in the not too distant future

And of course, Cho Oyu, the world’s sixth highest and one of fourteen 8,000 metre peaks, still beckons…

DSCN0282

This has been my goal for sometime and you might be left wondering when is Baz going to get around to doing it…and I must say I’m a bit behind schedule after the injuries and personal setbacks of the past twelve months – but I’m getting it back on track, slowly, but surely!

In the meantime I’ll be travelling in Australia’s wonderful outback in June and July, including a crossing of Australia’s Great Victoria Desert and a visit to the site of the Atomic Bomb testing from the 1950s– so be sure to stay in touch!

Welford NP Sand Dune 1

And crikey, just remember, if all else fails, remain out of control and see what develops…

Photos: Baz, The Landy, and Janet Planet

Living the Dream (You have imagined)

Southern Alps, New Zealand

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams, live the life you have imagined…”

Henry David Thoreau

Sound advice Henry!

Photo: Baz, Climbing on Fox Glacier, Southern Alps, New Zealand

No ordinary moments, no ordinary people, no ordinary lives (A note from a wonderful son)

How lucky am I
No ordinary moments, no ordinary people, no ordinary lives

“But there are men for whom the unattainable has a special attraction. Usually they are not experts; their ambitions and fantasies are strong enough to brush aside the doubts which more cautious men might have.

 Determination and faith are their strongest weapons. At best such men are regarded as eccentric; at worst, mad…”

 These are words penned by the legendary mountaineer, Walt Unsworth, and they have had a profound effect on me since I read them a number of years ago.

These words summed me up perfectly, I thought.

I’m sure many will be able to relate to them equally, regardless of what your pursuits are…

Over the years I have pursued a whole range of activities, some adventurous, others less so – but I have always been driven by a desire to simply embrace life…

And I have never considered myself an expert in any of them, but it has always been a fierce determination that has seen me through; a strong faith in my ability to grasp the key things, to put them into practice.

I’ve never considered anything I’ve done as a failure, but I’ve had plenty of learning experiences, set-backs that have helped me to learn, to grow, and to develop. I’m thankful for those set-backs, as they have made me stronger.

 Eccentric; mad; yes, I’ve been referred in that way many times.

 Today, I wear those comments proudly, like a badge.

 Walt’s words have encouraged me to have the confidence to pursue my dream of climbing large mountains, to consider making an attempt on the summit of Mt Everest, in the least, to have the courage to admit that I want to climb it.

Every day on Wordspress, millions of words are written by ordinary people, stories about the challenges life has thrown at them, what they have done, and continue to do to overcome them.

About their dreams and aspirations; their highs and their lows…

Ordinary people who want to improve their fitness, to lose weight, to cycle across a city,  or across the world.

Many have their sights set on a fun run, and others having completed one, setting their sights towards running a marathon.

For others, it is their challenge to become stronger, to be able to lift more, or about capturing that once in a life-time photograph, perhaps testing a new recipe to share with friends, or with people they have never met.

Others talk about health and lifestyle challenges they struggle with, that they have overcome.

I read as many of them as I can, they motivate me and they provide me with much needed inspiration…

Seemingly, there is always someone in this cyberspace community ready to reach out, to congratulate, to console…

Usually these people aren’t super-elite athletes, or neither five-star chefs, nor are they fitness gurus.

They have a much greater status than that, for they are simply ordinary people, the same people that Walt Unsworth wrote about when he penned those words…

To those who aspire to do their best, to challenge themselves, I say never give in, you’re not alone out there, dream big, and pursue your dreams…

But on ordinary people, yes I’ve referred to people as ordinary, but in reality, there is no such thing as ordinary people, we are all unique, we all contribute to the mosaic that makes up the world we live in…

It would be a boring place if we were all the same…

We’d never learn, grow, or develop as people.

Take the time to read over Walt’s musings a couple of times, because he was speaking about you…

Draw on the strength of his writing, it is powerful…

Above all else remember,

There are no ordinary moments, no ordinary people, no ordinary lives…

Baz – The Landy

Success Isn’t Permanent (And Failure Isn’t fatal)

Not a bad thought to keep in mind, and it is one of the things I like to remind myself of each day as I chase my dreams…

 

Those who don’t think it can be done (shouldn’t bother the person doing it)

Grey's Peak New Zealand

 “But there are men for whom the unattainable has a special attraction. Usually they are not experts: their ambitions and fantasies are strong enough to brush aside the doubts which more cautious men might have.

 Determination and faith are their strongest weapons. At best such men are regarded as eccentric; at worst, mad…” Walt Unsworth.

 I’m gearing back up, slowly but surely…

Initially into the Blue Mountains, just to the west of Sydney, for some rock climbing to hone the skills and aiming for a Nepal trip to climb three 6,000 metre peaks in November.

Cho Oyu, the world’s sixth highest and one of fourteen 8,000 metre peaks, beckons in 2015…

Sweet Dreams, Blue Montains

This has been my goal for sometime I’m just one-year behind after the injuries and some personal setbacks over the past twelve months.

But I’ll be doing plenty of travel in Australia’s wonderful outback over the coming months also – so be sure to stay in touch!

Welford NP Sand Dune 1

And crikey, if all else fails, just remain out of control and see what develops…

Photos: Baz, The Landy, and Janet Planet

Chanel No. 5 (Chanel No. 30)

Janet - she's wonderful!

They say that diamonds are a girl’s best friend, and exquisite perfume is probably not too far behind in the “pecking order”.

This weekend past, Janet, my beautiful partner and mother to our equally beautiful son, TomO, celebrated a significant milestone by turning fifty-years young!

Janet & TomO

Anyone who knows Janet would be in disbelief, unless they were aware, and of course it gives weight to my view that “how old would you be, if you didn’t know how old you were”?

Never mind, she is not fazed by it, and nor should she be as every year she blossoms even more so than the last, like a rose, timeless, delicate…

Not that she is a wallflower, not by any measure, we’ve jumped out of planes together, chasing each other across the wild blue sky, we’ve leaped tall buildings in a single-bound in a race to the ground, she always wins…

Janet - An Incredible in full flight over Picton, Australia
Janet – An Incredible in full flight over Picton, Australia
Janet - she's no wall flower
Janet, waving, down here Baz – Catch me if you can!
Janet beats Baz down the AMP Tower, Sydney Australia
Janet beats Baz down the AMP Tower, Sydney Australia (Again!)

We celebrated in style with a cocktail party, “glammed-up” with family and friends.

Yes, I did buy a brand new black Tee shirt for the event.

Family and Friends – At “Dinsmore” our home

And Janet loves a party, I wouldn’t call her a party girl, but she loves being around wonderful family and friends, all of whom adore her.

Crikey, didn’t I luck out by living next-door to Janet, yes, Janet was literally the “girl next door” and our coming together simply developed over time.

But how is this, Janet is a wonderful gardener and mows our lawn each week, strewth, if I was to go near the lawn mower I would incur her wrath, okay, a slap on the wrist…

Seriously, going down to see Bluey and the boy’s at the local footy club for a few beers is quite okay, but don’t you go touching that lawn mower Baz!

Anyway, in amongst the birthday celebrations, Janet and I held each other, and remembered that day thirty years ago, yes on her birthday, when I asked her to marry me!

Janet and Baz
Stunningly beautiful 

Most people were surprised and didn’t actually know until I gave a small speech!

She said “yes”, phew!

I never buy lottery tickets, or gamble, after all my luck was all used up on that beautiful day…

I shared our story, of giving Janet a bottle of Chanel No. 5 perfume on that birthday, and there was a quip from the gathered that I must have flogged it, ‘cause there was no way I could have afforded it back then!

It was worth every cent I scratched together, and every birthday since that is what I have given Janet on her birthday.

But a couple of weeks ago, I asked here, “what do I buy you on this very special occasion”?

Janet - cheeky as ever
And that cheeky little grin

Janet looked at me, in her cheeky little way and said, “you know, it is traditional, I wouldn’t want anything else”!

So sweetie, Chanel No. 30 it is!

Happy birthday!

Dope on a Rope – Dreaming of “Sweet-Dreams”

Baz climbing Sweet Dreams, Blue Mountains, Australia

Last night I dreamt I was back in the Blue Mountains climbing “Sweet Dreams” in the spectacular Blue Mountains, Australia…

And if you are going to dream, it might as well be a sweet dream!

I’m taking it as a good sign!

The foot is recovering extremely well from the surgery and clearly the desire to return is prodding my subconscious!

Perhaps, Brian, my father, is providing some divine intervention already, after all he spent a life time helping others and I can’t imagine he is going to stop just because he’s now pushing up daisies!

And Janet’s father, Archie, well he always thought I was a bit of “a dope” for wanting to climb amongst the world’s highest mountains, and for running around the outback and crossing deserts in a four-wheel drive, Janet and TomO in tow…

So a return to climbing and mountaineering is long overdue and will be a welcome change to the events of the past three months.

And I know many of you are great supporters in my quest to summit an 8,000-metre peak, heaven forbid, Mt Everest, and are cheering me back into the mountains…

And why Dope on a Rope I hear you ask?

Strewth, I must tell you that is how it feels sometimes!

Baz - Southern Alps, New Zealand
Baz – Southern Alps, New Zealand

Reacquainted with an old mate (The shed!)

Baz - What a view
Baz – What a view

After seven weeks of rest, recuperation, rehabilitation, and a bit of hibernation I found it very liberating to be back up in the shed this week doing what I love, something that is part of my everyday existence, my every day ritual – exercise.

 A little over a week ago I gave the rehabilitation boot, the boot, literally, after getting the all okay from the doctor, and strewth, how good was that!

Recovery

 Geez, you never want to take mobility for granted, it’s a bugger when you lose it!

For those that are new, having a seniors moment, or maybe just missed it, I had an Achilles operation on my left foot, and a spur clearance on my right ankle about seven weeks ago…

Yes, to legs out of action at the same time, lucky for me though I had Janet and TomO taking good care of me!

After climbing in New Zealand during January it became very obvious to me that if I am to continue pursuing my dream of scaling some of the world’s highest mountains, heaven forbid, maybe even Mount Everest, than something had to be done to fix these problems that had been progressively getting worse.

Baz - Climbing in New Zealand
Baz – Climbing in New Zealand

The rehabilitation phase is well under way I am being extremely well cared for by my wonderful physiotherapist, Paula, from the Joint Health Clinic in downtown Sydney.

 And can I just say this, crikey, how good is it to be back up in the shed.

The Shed
The Shed

A bit of The Angels, one of my favourite Aussie rock bands, belting out of those little Bose speakers to get me motivated, the sound of free weights moving and some time on my new spin bike.

Even the neighbours are happy to hear that music signifying that I am slowly, but surely, returning to normal.  Yeah, okay, maybe they could do with a little less of The Angels.

 And on climbing?

Well it is far too early to return to the mountains, in fact I wouldn’t be able to squeeze on my rock climbing shoes, that is a hard task even under normal circumstances, but the swelling would make it an impossible task presently.

Baz - just stretch yourself
Baz – just stretch yourself

 And what about those big mountains?

Well, if I were to be brutally honest with myself, I would most likely come to the conclusion that my trip to Nepal this year is slowly slipping away from me.  Whilst the recovery is right on track, it was always going to be a very marginal thing as to whether I recover in time or not.

 But in the true style of an eternal and ever optimistic Sagittarian I’m not discounting it yet.

But here is the deal, climbing mountains isn’t a bucket list thing for me that I can just tick off, but something I want to live, enjoy, relish in, and return from.  So being in peak condition is key to my safety and that of those around me.

 The mountains will always be there.

But there is plenty of adventure in my sights regardless, including this year’s Hawkesbury Classic Kayak Race, 111-gruelling kilometres down the Hawkesbury River, and if I don’t get to Nepal, I’m confident of lining up in next year’s Coast-to-Coast Race, a cycle, run, and kayak race that takes you 243-kilometres across New Zealand’s South Island…

Baz - Terrigal Beach, Australia
Baz – Terrigal Beach, Australia

Strewth, far too much fun ahead, you just wouldn’t want to be dead for quid’s…

 And hey, good to see you again…!

Photo’s: Baz – The Landy

My Chiropractor (Cracks me up)

Recovery

I’m sure we’ve all had one of those nights where you toss and turn, unable to sleep, your mind solving the problems of the world.

And with plenty of time to spare reviewing that bucket list that has been gathering dust…

I had one last night…

I tossed and turned in the early hours this morning, hindered by a plaster cast on my left leg, some minor discomfort in my right foot, and an aching neck, possibly brought about by not sleeping in the usual position I might normally.

I’m not one to create bucket lists to be honest, but my mind’s eye did turn to the climbing I have planned over the next few years, I could see those tall peaks in Nepal and Tibet with me making my way to the summits.

A boy who dreamed of big mountains
A boy who dreamed of big mountains

I think it even brought a smile to my face…

And of course my attention focused back to the here and now, the recovery I need to make from the recent surgery, the exercise program I need to undertake, which will include trail running and hill running; high intensity training on the rowing machine and out on the water on one of my racing kayaks, and I’m even contemplating Muay Thai boxing for specific conditioning.

Baz - Terrigal Beach, Australia
Baz – Terrigal Beach, Australia

Not to forget the technical mountaineering skills, getting back out into the Blue Mountains to hone those skills with the team from the Australian School of Mountaineering, especially self-rescue skills.

Baz - Climbing "Sweet Dream" Blue Mountains, Australia
Baz – Climbing “Sweet Dream” Blue Mountains, Australia

After all it is great until it goes all wrong, so best I have the skills to deal with that!

Even practicing something seemingly easy, but in reality is quite difficult, handling ropes and tying knots with large snow gloves on.

And for someone with a handful of thumbs, and even has trouble tying shoe-laces this is something I need to work on…

Baz -  Boar's Head, Blue Mountains, Australia
Baz – Boar’s Head, Blue Mountains, Australia (Um,not the time for too many thumbs?)

I’m sure I must have breezed in and of sleep, but as the first rays of light were piercing the eastern skyline that “crink” in my neck ruled out any more sleep for me. Mind you, normally I would be heading for The Shed at this time of the day to exercise…

The Shed
The Shed (The Font of all knowledge)

I lay there, this time no thought of a bucket list, or climbing, or exercising, just my mind’s eye counting down the minutes to my chiropractic appointment with Greg, the owner of Sydney Spine and Sports Clinic in downtown Sydney.

I have had my body adjusted by the team at the clinic at least once every fortnight for years, and needless to say I am a great fan of this centuries old treatment…

And we usually get a couple of laughs in between the contorted positions I’m placed in.

All I can say is, I hope he cracks me up today!

Strewth – The Surgeon is sharpening his knife

Baz - One step at a time
Baz – One step at a time

Knife or Scalpel, the choice is yours, but the mere utterance of the word scalpel has me reaching for my head, the thought of being scalped sends a shiver up my spine!

A little while back I wrote about an Achilles tendon issue I was having in my left foot.

This has been a longer term problem, my Achilles Heel literally, that has plagued my training, at times, and climbing on other occasions.  It has certainly become worse recently.

A course of treatment using PRP injections has been moderately successful, but not fixed the problem.

As it stands presently it needs to be resolved ahead of my climbing expedition to Nepal in November for two reasons, firstly I cannot achieve the level of training I need to undertake, and secondly, and most importantly, it will compromise my climbing ability, with a potential flow on effect to others.

Climb-On
Climb on

So the surgeon has booked me in for next Thursday to treat the affected area, by scrapping the bone, and “cleaning up” the tendon area.  This involves a partial detachment of the Achilles tendon.  The procedure on the right ankle is very straight forward; they simply chisel off the spurs which may have been caused by a sky diving mishap from a few years back!

You can get the download on that little misadventure in “Butt your Bum’s Broken“.

Baz skydiving at Picton, Australia
Baz skydiving at Picton, Australia

And you can see from my clinical description of the problem that I’m no medico, but I’m working on the principle that the bigger the medical words, the bigger the doctor’s bill.

In all fairness though, he could have at least waited until I had left the clinic before upgrading his vacation flight to the South of France from cattle class to first class…

But I’m digressing!

Having two legs out of action at the same time will literally see me flat out on my back for at least for a couple of weeks, before I become more mobile once again.

Whilst not ideal to have both done at the same time from a recovery perspective, it will at least give me the best chance of making the expedition to Nepal in November.

At this time I have put the expedition to the back of my mind as I need to have this resolved before giving it any more thought. Although my surgeon is confident I can recover quickly and get back to training.  We are hoping for a full 4 months of intense training.

Baz - heading up "The Hill"
Baz – heading up “The Hill” on a training run

Now I know that sounds disappointing and it may not come to pass, but if it does I am simply viewing it as another step in the climb towards the world’s highest peaks. So rest assured I won’t be beating myself up about it…that would just be a waste of time and energy!

There is only one way – forward; and only one speed setting – go!

Baz - Climbing Sweet Dreams
Baz – Climbing Sweet Dreams

I told TomO I am buying one of those little bells you see in the Manor Houses, so I can give it a ring when I need something!

Like on Downton Abbey.

Crikey, not that I watch Downton Abbey (fair dinkum, I’ve opened a can of worms for myself, haven’t I)

I think I read about it on the back of a cereal box…(you do believe me, don’t you – no?)

Okay I watch Downton Abbey, but only every episode!

But back to TomO, his eyes rolled, and Janet chirped in with “in your dreams Baz, in your dreams”…

Janet and TomO on Fox Glacier, New Zealand
Janet and TomO on Fox Glacier, New Zealand

I’m sure they’ll take good care of me though and I’ll keep you all posted!

In the meantime, if all else fails, just remain out of control and see what develops!

This approach seems to work well for us, well mostly, broken butt’s aside!

High Altitude Climbing and Acute Mountain Sickness

I have been researching the impact that high altitude climbing will have on my body, what I can expect, what I can do to assist my body’s ability to cope.

And importantly, to be able to recognise the onset of Acute Mountain Sickness in its more serious forms.

Acute Mountain Sickness, AMS as it is often referred to, is the effect the declining number of molecules of oxygen in the atmosphere has on our body as we ascend in altitude. It can range from a mild illness, to the more severe life-threatening forms of the illness, such as High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE), and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE).

The latter two conditions require immediate attention and descent from altitude otherwise death is the most likely outcome.

I’m not intending to go into a great discussion on either, nor am I qualified to do so, but as part of my “journey to the mountains” and extreme  altitude climbing I want to gain a better understanding of both conditions.

High altitude is defined as 5,000 to 11,500 feet, very high altitude 11,500 to 18,000, and extreme altitude as 18,000 feet and above.  At extreme altitudes physiologic function will outstrip  acclimatisation eventually.

My reading has taken me across a wide variety of topics, but the one that caught my attention was the connection between muscle and the requirement to fuel our muscles with oxygen when under exertion.

Over the years I have trained as a power-lifter for strength purposes and I have achieved results I am happy with.  As a consequence I have grown muscularly and currently weigh-in around the 95 kilogram mark.  This has given me a good power-for-weight ratio and has enhanced my speed on the kayak over the short to mid sprint distances.

Power-lifting has helped me develop strong legs, especially my quads through squatting, and dead-lifting.

Will this muscle help, or hinder me on the mountain as I trudge up the side of an 8,000 metre peak??

When exercising, the body, or more specifically the contracting muscles, have an increased need for oxygen and this is usually achieved by a higher blood flow to these muscles.

And therein lies the dilemma as I see it.

Due to the less dense air at altitude the number of oxygen molecules for any given mass of air will drop. Consequently, mental and physical performance will decline. The larger the muscles, the larger the requirement for oxygen to prevent muscular fatigue…

So what can I do?

There is not a lot that you can do to prepare for the effect of AMS, some people will adapt and perform better at altitude than others and this is hard to predict from one individual to another.

What I can do is decrease my muscle mass. Whilst that will mean a decrease in overall strength I can try and maintain the power for weight ratio balance.

The upshot of all this is that ahead of my expedition Nepal where I will be climbing three 6,000 metre peaks, including Lobuche East, I will deliberately take around 12-15 kilograms out of my frame…

The climbs in Nepal will be done without the aid of supplemental oxygen.

Essentially, I will not change my training routine at all, I will maintain my same level of weight training, kayaking, rowing and other activities. I have found the best way to control weight change, either gaining, or losing, is via the kitchen and diet.

In fact I won’t even modify my diet to any great extent, simply quantity control.

Baz - Meteor Peak
Baz – Meteor Peak

Boar’s Head, Blue Mountains (And a dope on a rope)

Boar's Head, Blue Mountains, Australia

Boar’s Head is a beautiful part of the Blue Mountains situated very close to the villages of Katoomba and Leura.

And only a two-hour drive to the west of Sydney

You can abseil about 150 metres towards the valley floor and then climb back out, or abseil another 100 metres and walk out…

The wall to the right of the Boar’s Head, highlighted by the different colouring, is the climb out and there are a couple of different routes you can take. 

And crikey, how special is that view of “Narrow Neck” the plateau visible in the background…

Baz - Climbing out Boar's Head, Blue Mountains, Australia
Baz – Climbing out Boar’s Head, Blue Mountains, Australia

This is Incredible (Super-Hero’s, right?)

The Incredibles - You be the Judge!
The Incredibles – You be the Judge!

Now don’t you good folk go worrying that this Mr Incredible thingy that a wonderful person, Christina, wrote about me is going to my head.  You know, Bob Parr, family man, super-hero  from the ‘burbs.

Crikey, this is incredible, you’ve forgotten haven’t you.  My moment in the spot light and its slipped from your memory already…and it hasn’t even been 24 hours.

Your teachers were incredibly perceptive when they said , very bright, but needs to pay more attention to detail…

You can bring yourself back up to speed on it here.

Anyway, where was I, yes, don’t worry, there’s no chance of it going to my head, I’m far too incredibly modest to allow anything like that to happen.

And whilst I’ve got your attention for a moment or two, you’d have to admit that I am incredibly handsome. I just thought I’d put that out there, glad I got that out in the open for you, not that I’ve ever thought that myself mind you, never, no way, well not this week at least, not until this story appeared anyway.

In fact, so incredibly handsome that I can spend at least 10 minutes in front of the mirror admiring grooming myself each day.

Don’t just take my word for it, ask an incredibly impartial person, like Fay, my mother.

And someone did recently suggest that I looked like Harrison Ford.

Incredible…

True, you’re right, it was my brother-in-law mumbling something about Indiana Jones and we’re both doomed when the girls find all these empty beer bottles in the morning…

Of course, I am incredibly strong, what do you think I’m doing up in The Shed at silly o’clock each day with my cape and face mask…

The Shed - Or Super Hero hideout?
The Shed – Or Super Hero hideout?

Isn’t that what super-hero’s do?

And my boss, god bless his soul, did say that he’s glad I’m an incredibly talented mountaineer he’d believe anything I told him, to which he added that it is a blessing in disguise because I’m incredibly hopeless at trading currencies, but as he still needs someone around to send for coffee each day I should consider myself incredibly lucky!

That’s what I like about him, he’s incredibly generous when it comes to accolades about me…

And while I’m mucking around with this newfound fame word it would be entirely wrong not to mention that I have an incredible family, Janet and TomO.

Strewth, didn’t I luck out there, hey?

Yes, I heard you, incredible you said, didn’t you!

TomO, truly an incredible miracle for both of us, in fact so much so it often brings a tear to our eye…

TomO - An Incredible in full flight
TomO – An Incredible in full flight

And, let me tell you, he’s an incredible trampolinist, an urban tramp!

Oh yes, he’s an incredible son, incredibly likeable, okay, yes, he is incredibly cute and the Cheltenham girls are already checking him out on the train on the way to school each day, but who is this story about anyway…so let’s move on!

And speaking of Janet, she is incredibly beautiful with an incredible tolerance, spirit and adventurous personality.

Janet - An Incredible in full flight over Picton, Australia
Janet – An Incredible in full flight over Picton, Australia

Mind you, as I write this she has this incredible look on her face that is saying Mr Bob Parr you’re going to come to an incredible and sticky ending if you don’t take the rubbish out before the garbage man comes this week…it’s a short story, incredibly, I forgot last week.

Strewth, that’s right she’s an Incredible as well, best I don’t push my luck, so I’ll get on with that little job right now.

But let me say this, if I ever get to the top of some of those incredibly high mountains I want to climb it will be an Incredible super-human feat, well for me, in any case!

Baz - Southern Alps, New Zealand
Baz – Southern Alps, New Zealand

So to all, thanks for your continuing interest and ongoing support in the adventures that we get up to…and be sure to hang around for a while, I’ll be needing all the support I can muster to get me up those mountains…

And remember, there are no ordinary moments; no ordinary people; no ordinary lives!

Umm, Bob Parr, super-hero, hey…

Incredible!

What, someone has described me as Bob Parr (from The Incredibles)

Recently, I was approached by Christina from a Scribeslife asking if she could write a story about me, The Landy!

Of course I was rather flattered and Christina has put this story together and it appears in her blog.

But strewth, being described as Bob Parr from the Incredibles?

Just wait till “Bluey and the boys” down at the local footy club get a hold of this.

I mean, they’ve only just forgotten about the time I tripped on my shoelaces going down the aisle with Janet (it’s a long story, but I can’t tie my shoelaces properly!) and that was about a quarter-of-a-century ago.

Anyway, I guess it will be my shout again.

And while we are grabbing a drink, here’s a toast to Christina, be sure to check her blog out!

Bob Parr, hey? Umm, might get used to that…

And remember, if all else fails, there’ll always be “Bluey and the boys” to bring you back to earth!

The Shed – Font of all knowledge (And some tall stories)

The Shed
The Shed

Phew…“The Shed” hasn’t changed whilst I was away climbing in New Zealand.

It is still that grand old place where tall stories can be told, a few laughs had, a place where you can grab a coldie out of the fridge to share with mates, and importantly, it is my morning training hangout.

These past few days I’ve headed up the driveway in the pre-dawn darkness, a time of the day I actually enjoy immensely, to exercise on my C2 Concept Rower, and to lift a few weights.

Rowing in the Shed
Baz on the C2 Rower

Over the coming months my exercise regime in The Shed will revolve around high intensity cardio and building muscular endurance in preparation for my expedition to Nepal at the end of the year. Of course, there will be plenty of hill climbing with a 20 kilogram backpack, and I could never go without getting in a paddle on the lake at least once a week.

Baz - heading up "The Hill"
Baz – heading up “The Hill”

I’m always happy to be out hiking in the Australian Bush…and kayaking on our magnificent ocean beaches and inland waterways!

Baz, Terrigal Beach, Australia
Baz, Terrigal Beach, Australia

I will also be focussing  on improving muscular flexibility through yoga practice. Bikram is my preferred yoga and I’m looking forward to reacquainting myself with it over the coming weeks.

Another focus of mine will be agility, something we seem to have in younger days and lose over time. Whilst I’m not too bad, my trip to New Zealand highlighted that I would benefit from undertaking some specific training, like balance beam walking with a back-pack…

And of course there’ll be plenty of rock-climbing up in the Blue Mountains to hone my rope handling skills and efficiency.

Baz - Boar's Head, Blue Mountains, Australia
Baz – Boar’s Head, Blue Mountains, Australia

Something that I will be revelling in!

And my partner in crime, brother-in-law, Ray Tong, and I are scheduled to line up for another start in Tough Mudder in early April, and he is well advanced in his preparation, so I have some catching up to do!

Ray and Baz line up for Tough Mudder
Ray and Baz line up for Tough Mudder

We are looking to improve our time from last September’s Tough Mudder event.

Mind you, I’m currently suffering from a long term achillies tendon injury which has flared once again.

My sports doctor is treating it with Platelet Rich Plasma or PRP as it is usually referred to.  It involves drawing my own blood and extracting the PRP which is then injected back into my achillies tendon to assist recovery. The process can be done in the surgery and takes around 15-30 minutes.  To date, I have had one injection and another is scheduled for next week.

I’m also undergoing a very specific stretching regime to assist in the recovery.

Fingers crossed, as failing this it will require some surgery to correct.

Baz - Crossing Swing Bridge on the Six Foot Track
Baz – Crossing Swing Bridge on the Six Foot Track

But I’m confident all will be well within the next few weeks and I can’t wait to be back out in the mountains hiking and climbing.

All up, life is pretty good, wouldn’t be dead for quids…

And remember, if all else fails, remain out of control and see what happens, or just take a leap of faith!

Baz and TomO - Just remain out of control...!
Baz and TomO – Just remain out of control…!

Dropping into the office (sure beats taking the lift)

Baz and Janet on the AMP Building, Sydney
Baz and Janet on the AMP Building, Sydney

Speaking about returning to work after my sojurn in New Zealand, there is no truth in the rumour that I abseil in each day.

 But it would be fun!

 Janet and I abseiled off the AMP Building in Sydney’s Central Business District to raise money and aid in the awareness of the Sir David Martin Foundation, an organisation committed to helping young people in crisis.

A very worthwhile cause…

Baz on the AMP Building, Sydney
Baz on the AMP Building, Sydney

And yes, Janet beat me to the bottom, who said she wasn’t competitive!

Janet on the AMP Building, Sydney
Janet on the AMP Building, Sydney

Crampons, Ice Axes, and Mountains (Crikey – it gets the thumbs up)

 

Climbing the south face of Aurora, Southern Alps, New Zealand
Climbing the south face of Aurora, Southern Alps, New Zealand

Mountains have a way of drawing you in like a magnet, whether you want to view them, walk up them, or perhaps climb them.

 For me it has been about climbing them and the Southern Alps on New Zealand’s South Island has provided me with a great place to do just that over the past two weeks.

Baz on Aurora - Southern Alps, New Zealand
Baz on Aurora – Southern Alps, New Zealand
Baz on Aurora, Southern Alps, New Zealand
Baz on Aurora, Southern Alps, New Zealand

 And sure, there has been a day here or there that the weather was not suitable, but that is an opportunity to wrap yourself in a warm down sleeping bag way up high in an alpine hut with a good book…

Talking about Alpine Huts, I spent a week at Centennial Hut, situated on the West Coast, and from its position, perched high on an exposed ridge, you could see all the way down to the Tasman Sea…the sunsets were fantastic from our alpine hideaway!

Sunset over the Tasman Sea - Centennial Hut
Sunset over the Tasman Sea – Centennial Hut

I have learned much over the past two weeks under the supervision of the team from Adventure Consultants who are high altitude climbing specialists based at Wanaka and it has prepared me very well for an expedition to climb in Nepal later this year.

In fact, the climbing in Nepal will not be as technical as the climbing I have been doing these past two weeks, but the summits will be in excess of 6,000 metres!

Baz - traversing on Aurora Southern Alps, New Zealand
Baz – traversing on Aurora Southern Alps, New Zealand

And whilst I am still surrounded by the magnificent mountains of the Southern Alps I will be putting away the crampons and ice picks for the next few days as Janet, TomO, and I are going to spend some time just relaxing in this wonderful country they call New Zealand…

Tasman Glacier viewed from Graham Saddle, Souther Alps, New Zealand
Tasman Glacier viewed from Graham Saddle, Southern Alps, New Zealand

 Crikey…did I say relax – I mean relaxing, as we know how.

All three of us will be stepping off a platform high above a canyon near Queenstown, in what is billed as the world’s largest canyon swing. Once you depart the platform you free-fall 60 metres down into the canyon until the ropes smoothly swings you into a giant 200 metre swing. You then complete a couple of massive swings before you slowly come to rest approximately 100 metres below the departure platform.

Strewth, I’ll let you know how that goes!

And all I can say is – “thumbs up” to climbing in New Zealand…

New Zealand's Southern Alps - Gets the "Thumbs Up"
New Zealand’s Southern Alps – Gets the “Thumbs Up”

Summiting is optional – getting down is mandatory (Mt Aspiring)

Mt Aspiring - viewed from Colin Todd Hut
Mt Aspiring – viewed from Colin Todd Hut

It is said that summiting a mountain is optional and getting back down is mandatory.

 And with this in my mind, with climbing partner, Richard Raynes, I headed off for my climb of Mt Aspiring in the pre-dawn hours of Monday 7 January.

Richard is an exceptionally experienced mountaineer and specializes in mountain rescues, so I was in extremely good hands. For me, this was a great opportunity to learn.

Richard - on Bevan Col
Richard – on Bevan Col

We had planned to climb on Thursday, however the weather was forecast to deteriorate over the week and our climbing window had narrowed significantly.

This was it…

I was feeling rather daunted as we headed off across the Bonar Glacier towards the “Matterhorn of the South” which was standing tall ahead of us.

Baz - Bonar Glacier
Baz – Bonar Glacier

The moon was rising over the mountain and as we climbed the steep snow and ice slope towards the rock buttress a thin golden line was appearing on the eastern horizon signalling the dawn of a new day.

I remember thinking this was the dawn of just more than the sun rising on a new day, but of a wonderful new world for me.

The Buttress - Mt Aspiring
The Buttress – Mt Aspiring

There were two other climbing parties of two ahead of us and we could see their headlamps bobbing up and down as they made their way.

The weather had been forecast to be better than we had earlier expected and according to the most up to date report we had received the previous evening. So far the report was proving accurate.

But as we climbed onto the exposed side of the mountain and climbed up through the rock formation, called The Buttress, the weather started to turn.  We had made it through the most technical section of the climb, and now had a long slog up the steep snow and ice towards the summit.

The peak shrouded in cloud and high winds
The peak shrouded in cloud and high winds

We could see the summit and the winds were roaring over it at least 100 kilometres an hour and the cloud was now starting to obscure the top.

The groups ahead had turned back by now and as we made our way back down through the rock buttress, abseiling our way back to the snow, we were being buffeted by sleet and strong winds.

Baz on the Buttress - Mt Aspiring
Baz on the Buttress – Mt Aspiring

It was not to be our day on the summit…

But that is not to say it wasn’t a great experience. Of course our goal was to make it to the top, but above all else, I was here to learn the craft and skills necessary to become a competent mountaineer.

 Perhaps the mountain understood this and she gave me an experience that provided a great learning opportunity, so it is hard to be disappointed…

Climb Every Mountain…(Can’t wait!)

Baz - Chancellor Dome in the background
Baz – Chancellor Dome in the background

Can you believe that 2013 has rolled around already? And how good were those fireworks on Sydney Harbour to see in the New Year!

 Anyway, I know I’ve been shouting it very loudly at every opportunity of late, but just in case you’ve missed it, 2013 will be a big year for me in terms of mountaineering and climbing, and it starts at the end of this week as I head to New Zealand’s Southern Alps…

Southern Alps, New Zealand
Southern Alps, New Zealand

 Janet, TomO, and I were just looking at some of the climbing and mountaineering photos from 2012 so I thought I’d put up some favourites (again)…it motivates me to get out there…

 Crikey, almost forgot…Happy New Year to all from dowunder!

 And remember, if all else fails, remain out of control and see what develops…!

Dope on a Rope (Strewth – I’m getting very excited)

I feel like I’ve eaten far too much over the festive season, although I do need to have a little extra body fat as I head to climb Mt Aspiring in New Zealand’s Southern Alps for a couple of weeks.

Well, it is a great theory and the one I will be running in any case.

Mt Aspiring
Mt Aspiring

However, training is back on in earnest,  and I was lucky enough to get out for a couple of paddles on the lake over the past few days, despite the weather being less favourable.

Although, being out on the lake is more than just training or exercise, it is great for the soul watching the pelicans glide over the water, and other people out and about with family and friends, just having fun, the kite-surfers, the wind-surfers, and paddle-boarders…

Narrabeen Lake, Australia
Narrabeen Lake, Australia

But as time is ticking away I will be doing a full gear check over the next few days, and that will raise the excitement level in our household – it will be reaching fever pitch in another few days!

And of course, Janet and TomO are very excited, as they will be following me to New Zealand a few days after I depart.

Janet and TomO
Janet and TomO

You just wouldn’t want to be dead for quids…

And of course, if all else fails, remember, just remain out of control and see what develops!

Talking about Adventure (Strewth – I want a para-glider)

I know that many of you have heard me sing the praises of the Blue Mountains, which is about an hours drive to the west of Sydney, many times before, but let me just say, I’m singing its praises once again.

 It is such a beautiful area where you can hike, climb mountains, or if you’re more inclined, just kickback in one of the many cafés and relax.

 And we did all of those things  this weekend!

We were fortunate that my parents, Brian and Fay, who are visiting for Christmas, were able to join us for a weekend of fun in the mountains…

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I did some abseiling and rock-climbing to keep my skills current ahead of my mountaineering trip in New Zealand this coming January.

And I had a great time doing that.

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We had intended to climb Tom Thumb, however a slightly later start than planed, and weather that looked questionable had us making other plans, so Gemma Woldendorp, from the Australian School of Mountaineering, and myself headed off to an old favourite, Boar’s Head.

DSCN0021

Boar’s Head is a multi-pitch abseil, and a very easy climb out in a very scenic part of the mountains, and only a stone’s throw from Katoomba.

And it was such a great day, for not only were we out and about in the mountains, but we talked extensively about Gemma’s trip to Greenland earlier this year, when she, and good friend Natasha Sebire climbed many peaks, and Para-glided off them in a very remote area of the country.

 Janet already wants to sign up for the next trip!

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And when the climbing was over for the day we headed to the Carrington Hotel, arriving, oddly enough, just on the cocktail hour…

Of course, it was a very lazy start to Sunday morning. But isn’t that what Sundays’ are all about?

What’s Baz up to now? (Climb on – Tom Thumb)

DSCN1460

It is hard to beat the Blue Mountains as a playground.

 I’m heading off tomorrow morning to climb Tom Thumb, and I will be joined later in the day by Janet, TomO, and my parents, who are visiting for Christmas,  for an evening in the mountains…

 Two of my greatest passions coming together in the mountains this weekend; family and climbing.

 Crikey, it doesn’t get much better than that, hey!

Enjoy your weekend whatever you choose to do, remembering, life is too short not to be enjoying yourself…

Just be yourself, and feel free to go nuts – that’s my plan anyway!

Climbing Tom Thumb (Back to the Blue Mountains)

Where's Baz?

I am preparing for another weekend of climbing after what seems to have been a long hiatus since my last foray into the mountains.

In reality, it has only been two weeks since I suffered an acute illness after climbing “Sweet Dreams” a couple of Sunday’s ago.

Baz - Climbing Sweet Dreams, Blue Mountains, Australia

And with only three weeks to go before heading to climb in New Zealand’s Southern Alps, an attempt on Mt Aspiring and a number of other peaks, I can’t get enough training in…

This weekend we are going to climb Tom Thumb, a relatively easy grade 12 climb of around 180 metres, situated near the small and picturesque village of Leura in the Blue Mountains. We will abseil in, and climb out.

Tom Thumb Climb, Blue Mountains, Australia (photo credit climb.org.au)
Tom Thumb Climb, Blue Mountains, Australia (photo credit climb.org.au)

Palais Royale, Katoomba

We’ll be making it a weekend in the mountains staying at the Palais Royale, and we might even be able to sneak a couple of cocktails in at the old Carrington Hotel after the climbing is done.

Janet is looking forward to visiting some of the boutiques, and TomO will be heading for his favourite bookshop in Leura...

Crikey, this is the life, hey?

And remember, if all else fails, remain out of control and see what develops…

Vertigo Alert (Where’s Baz?)

Baz - Climbing Sweet Dream, Blue Mountains, Australia
Baz – Climbing Sweet Dream, Blue Mountains, Australia

Crikey Baz, what are you doing down there?

 Strewth, having fun, what else what I be doing down there…!

Geez, can’t wait to get back to the mountains for a climb.  The virus has kept me away for a couple of weeks, but another week to go and we are going to have a go at climbing “Tom Thumb”…

Hey, check out the countdown to New Zealand – 29 days to go. Hell, talk about getting excited!

And remember, if all else fails, remain out of control and see what develops…

Baz - Climbing Sweet Dream, Blue Mountains, Australia
Baz – Climbing Sweet Dream, Blue Mountains, Australia

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DCIM100GOPRO

DCIM100GOPRO

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Baz on final pitch - Sweet Dreams, Blue Mountains, AustraliaDCIM100GOPRO

Strewth – You’ve been where? (In Hospital)

Baz climbing Sweet Dreams, Blue Mountains, Australia

It is often said that 24 hours can be a long time and I’m hearing that loud and clear at present and counting my lucky stars that I managed to do my climb up Sweet Dreams last Sunday without any problem. It might have been so different, but for 12 hours…

 I’ve only managed to be hospitalised three times over the years, and one I’m not really counting as I really shouldn’t have been there, but more on that later. However, there was no doubting this time around, hospital was the best place for me…

Sublime Point, Sweet Dreams – Not the place to get sick!

 The Blue Mountains is about a 90-minute drive from Sydney and after Sunday’s climb up Sweet Dreams I headed for home, ensuring to hydrate well as I drove as it had been quite a warm day out there on the cliff-face and I was beginning to feel quite fatigued…

It was an ominous sign that went unrecognised …

Sunday night I woke up feeling cold and I was starting to shiver despite it being a reasonably warm night, but I didn’t think much of it.

Janet rolled the other way mumbling something about me being hot.

I just said, “I know!” 

By Monday something had taken hold of me and was giving a real good kicking, so I rested in bed, sweating profusely.

Perhaps this is what Janet meant when she called me hot, I thought?

There was a rapid deterioration on Tuesday and our family doctor sent me straight to hospital where I was admitted for assessment and observation. It turns out I had contracted a form of pneumonia called, mycoplasma, the walking pneumonia”.

Well, at least that is how they are treating it…

After 24 hours on an intravenous drip and blood tests showing some improvement, especially in terms of hydration, they elected to send me home for some more rest…

Some rest?

 Crikey, I had to look that term up…

I thought you got to rest when the “big guy” upstairs blows the “full-time whistle” on you…

Anyway, I am well on the way to recovery thanks to the wonderful medical team at the Seventh Day Adventist Hospital in Sydney’s northern suburbs.

And I’m back home now and in Janet and TomO’s tender care! The little fella was a bit upset at seeing his Dad all hooked-up to a machine last night, but he gave me a big long-hug and told me to get better soon!

Geez, he was brave, and he made me feel real proud!

And Janet, she winked at the nurses and said don’t worry I’ll make sure he rests, with that look that you never cross! So rest it will be…for a few days anyway!

And how is this for a co-incidence, as the wardman was taking me down for a chest x-ray, I said how lucky I was that it didn’t happen on a climb I was doing on the Sunday.

He said, “Yeah, that’s for sure”

“What were you climbing?” he asked,

“Sweet Dreams”…

Baz – Climbing Sweet Dreams, Blue Mountains, Australia

Awesome was his response, he had climbed it just recently so we were able to share a discussion on the climb while I was getting x-rayed!

But, geez, just how lucky was I that my condition didn’t become acute 12 hours earlier while I was half-way up Sweet Dreams. It has been a good reminder to me that you must always consider your physical well-being at all times when undertaking something like mountaineering and climbing, or any activity that exposes you for that matter…

Not that I didn’t consider my well-being mind you, I felt fine, but it did highlight what might be lurking just around the corner, anywhere, anytime!

And on those other times in hospital?

Well, I did break my “bum” in 2008 in a mid-air incident whilst skydiving, which resulted in doctors’ needing to reattach my hamstring to my right butt and a spell in hospital! And what a great job they did, it just so happens that a local surgeon is world renown for this very type of surgery…

And the one in dispute?

Strewth, I was 5 years old and I feel that I fell victim to a misdiagnosis. Well that is the way I’m calling it.

I threw up mum’s cooking one night and she swore there were “toadstools” amongst the “throw-up”.

A lollipop?

 Stone the flamin’ crows, how would you know what was in that mess I made?

I swear to this day I never ate them on the way home from school, but worn down by the constant questioning I simply said; they just “popped in my mouth” – what else could I say?

It got me a 5-day hospital sleepover whilst under observation!

Crikey, I don’t remember eating them, and maybe that was just the point.

It’s no wonder the Noddy and Big- Ears television show took on a new dimension that afternoon on the tellie…

Anyway, as usual, if all else fails, just remain out of control and see what develops…

Ps: I’m all good!

Dope on a Rope – (Smokin’ on Sweet-dreams)

Baz climbing Sweet Dreams, Blue Mountains, Australia

Dope on a Rope, sweet-dreams, you might just be left wondering what has Baz, The Landy, been getting up to.

 Don’t worry, I haven’t taken to peddling anything down a back-alley, but I was climbing today in one of the world’s greatest outdoor playgrounds, the Blue Mountains, which is situated about 100 kilometres to the west of Sydney.

Baz on Belay – Sweet Dreams Climb, Blue Mountains, Australia

And why Dope on a Rope I hear you ask…

Strewth, I must tell you that is how it feels sometimes!

Baz on final pitch – Sweet Dreams, Blue Mountains, Australia
Baz on final pitch – Sweet Dreams, Blue Mountains, Australia

 

Baz on final pitch – Sweet Dreams, Blue Mountains, Australia

And the first section today certainly challenged me.

But I’m pleased to say my skill base continues to improve ahead of my attempt to climb Mt Aspiring in New Zealand’s Southern Alps in just over a month’s time.

Today, I climbed with Rachael from the Australian School of Mountaineering, which is based in Katoomba and it was at her suggestion we climb Sweet-Dreams, situated at Sublime Point near the village of Leura.

Rachael – Leading Climbing

I have to say we had a lot of fun and laughs as we scaled the 110-metre wall in 5 phases; a pitch is the technical term.  We walked into the start of the climb, which is 100 metres above the valley floor, so by the time we reach the top of the climb you are over 200 metres above the ground!

Throughout out the climb we were rewarded with a spectacular view of the Blue Mountains most spectacular rock formation, The Three Sisters, and I have to say, I never get tired of that view…

The Three Sisters, Blue Mountains, Australia

 Geez, you just wouldn’t want to be dead-for-quid’s!

And by crikey, the temperature was quite warm and whilst we try to keep gear to a minimum on these climbs we had plenty of water with us, but let me tell you, by the time I got to the top my throat was as dry as a pommie’s bath towel…

 Dope on a Rope?

 Sweet-dreams?

 You betcha!

Baz – The Landy

And remember, if all else fails, remain out of control and see what develops

Sweet Dreams (I’m going to climb all over you)

Baz – Boar’s Head, Blue Mountains, Australia

I am heading to the Blue Mountains tomorrow to climb at Sublime Point, not too far from the picturesque village of Leura.

The Blue Mountains is a World Heritage listed area where you can participate in many types of outdoor recreational pursuits, and it is a pleasant 90-minute drive from Sydney.

Baz – Climbing at Boar’s Head, Blue Mountains, Australia

 And if you don’t feel like driving, the train trip will have you at the village of Katoomba, the gateway to the area, within two-hours of leaving Sydney.

We are so lucky to have this outdoor playground right on our doorstep where abseiling, canyoning, and climbing are popular recreational activities.

The Three Sisters, Blue Mountains, Australia

Tomorrow, my climbing partner, Rachael, and I will climb, Sweet Dreams, situated at Sublime Point.

Sublime Point is a west-facing cliff standing about 200 metres above the valley floor and is very spectacular looking.

And the weather is forecast to be fairly warm, with bright blue skies, as we nudge closer towards the start of summer…

 More Dope on a Rope, strewth, you bet!

Baz – Dope on a Rope?

 And remember, if all else fails,  just remain out of control and see what develops…

Don’t go falling between the cracks (Just embrace life)

Baz – Boar’s Head, Blue Mountains, Austalia

Are there times that you feel like you are falling between the cracks, swallowed up by a world that just doesn’t seem to slow down?

 I’ll confess I do sometimes…

Baz – sliding through the crack, Boar’s Head, Australia

 But whenever I do I get a little echo in my mind, a little ditty that TomO said to me before competing in New Zealand’s Speight’s Coast to Coast Adventure Race earlier this year.

 “Dad just go out there and embrace it, enjoy yourself” TomO said,

Baz – Mountain Run, Coast to Coast Race, New Zealand
Now would be a good time to embrace it Baz!

 Crikey, it blew me away at the time, but you know, it sounds like damn good advice to me…

 So I’m going to get out there and embrace the day, hit it head-on…

Baz& TomO – embracing the moment

And remember, if all else fails, just Like The Landy on Facebookremain out of control and see what develops…

Strewth – talk about an Angel (But Janet’s no wall flower)

Crikey I have spent a lot of time talking about what I’m doing and that audacious plan I have to climb big mountains. Often I am asked, what about Janet, what is she doing while you’re gallivanting around Out and About.

 And let me put this out there right upfront, didn’t TomO and I luck out with such a great mum, and wonderful partner!

Literally, she was the girl next door and that is how we came to meet, and boy, what an angel.

Strewth, you’d have to be to put up with the antics of two boys in one household who spend most of their waking hours egging each on!

Janet and one of her “boys”

Anyway, she isn’t the sort of person that will race across New Zealand in some adventure race, or for that matter, done a backpack and walk some ridiculous distance in 24 hours, just because you can. But she’ll be there to support you…

But she does like the finer things in life and has a wonderful family and circle of friends that she spends time with in between looking after her boys.

Sisters – Janet & Leah
Great Friends

And talk about looking after us, crikey, she has to be the best cook around, even Out and About in the bush.

But let me tell you, when it comes to having fun, Janet is no wall flower.  I mean, she’ll have no hesitation abseiling off a skyscraper in Sydney’s Central Business District, or hopping behind the controls of an aircraft.

Janet & Baz abseiling the AMP Building in Sydney

And speaking of aircraft, perhaps she hasn’t flown as much as myself, but strewth she’ll have no hesitation in putting on a parachute and beating you out the door of one!

Talk about if you can’t beat them, just join them, that is her mantra…

Janet – going crazy over Picton
Janet – upside down waving – she’s no wallflower

And without a doubt she is one of the most courageous people I have ever met; some of the things I do she worries about, but then she always sends me on my way with her blessing and support – that takes tremendous courage!

Yeah, talk about an angel; she’s one in a million, that’s for sure!

The special people in your life just go give them a big hug and tell them you love them…

And remember, if all else fails, just Like The Landy on Facebookremain out of control and see what develops…

On a Ledge – Where Eagles Dare (Where’s Baz)

Where's Baz?

I was looking over some of the weekend’s climbing photos and I was admiring one in particular.  A beautiful shot of one of the walls we climbed.

 A very special place where you could just linger and contemplate the world passing you by.

Anyway, I looked at this photo, quite a few times and to my surprise, there I was sitting on a ledge, where eagles dare!

Janet, TomO, and I looked at this photo numerous times and none of us noticed me sitting there initially (story of my life!).

The photo was snapped by Nick, my climbing partner, after he lead climbed to our next pitch while I belayed him.

TomO

It reminded me of the special moments that TomO and I have had looking at his Where’s Wally books that I bought for me him. We loved them, and spent many hours flicking through the pages. And I was actually pretty good at it, maybe that is because I am colour-blind or something!

 So, can you pick out “Where’s Baz” in the photo…

Special moments, how good are they, hey?

And remember, if all else fails, just Like The Landy on Facebookremain out of control and see what develops…

Dope on a Rope (Just hanging out – in the Blue Mountains)

Life in our household is just one big ball of fun, frivolity and adventure. And I must say, we work hard to make sure it is. 

Mind you I’m wondering who invented this work thing that seems to wedge itself between the fun days…

And if we do need to suffer this work thing, couldn’t have they come up with a better plan? I mean wouldn’t something like five days of fun, two days of work suit us all just a little bit better?

 Actually, I do like my job and I can’t complain too much. I have a great employer, work with a fun bunch of people and besides, it pays the bills and keeps TomO in X-box games.

Okay, yes, it is true, my boss does occasionally read this, so I like to toss him a bone every now and then!

Anyway, today, TomO managed to get through his first date emotionally unscarred, Janet read the Sunday papers on the couch with a hot cup of tea and Milo the wonder dog kept her company…

And long before they surfaced to see if the sun had risen today, I was on my way to the Blue Mountains for a day of abseiling and climbing. It was a fantastic day abseiling from Boar’s Head, and then climbing back out. It is quite a remarkable rock-formation situated not too far from downtown Katoomba.

I have been trying too do as much rope handling, abseiling, and climbing as I can ahead of the ascent of Mount Aspiring, in New Zealand’s Southern Alps this coming January.

The Blue Mountains is a fantastic playground, with something for everyone, and if you love adventure you could get yourself lost there for a thousand life times!

Crikey, I was just looking at some of today’s piccies and thinking, strewth Baz, you can’t even tie your own shoelaces and you’re hanging off the side of a cliff, with a rope you tied a knot in!

Clearly, I’m having better success with rope climbing knots, thankfully!

But back to work tomorrow and that’s another adventure altogether!

And remember, if all else fails, just Like The Landy on Facebook, remain out of control and see what develops…

 

You wouldn’t be dead for quids – (How good is living)

Baz – Boar’s Head, Blue Mountains, Australia

A beautiful day is once again shaping up in one of the world’s greatest cities, the Harbour City, Sydney, Australia.

The dogs have been fed, Janet and TomO are still in dreamland, and I’m heading to the Blue Mountains to climb and abseil at Malatia Point.

 This is a stunningly spectacular part of the mountains, not too far from downtown Katoomba, that will offer us a great view of the “Three Sisters” as we descend and climb.

And a big day for TomO, he’s meeting up with a couple of friends, with one eye on someone special, and heading to the movies – he’s as anxious as a gold fish in a blender!

Watching him grow and develop – You’ve just got to love it!

And Janet?

Well, she declared the couch and a book is her destination today, with a mug of hot tea!

Life, you wouldn’t be “dead for quids, hey”…

So what is happening in your part of the world today?

Ps: And remember, if all else fails – just stay out of control and see what develops…

Dope on a Rope – The Saga Continues (What – You can’t tie shoelaces?)

Okay, confession time, I can’t tie my shoelaces.

Phew! That wasn’t too bad now I’ve finally got it off my chest, in fact, I don’t think I’ve ever admitted that before.

Actually, I did admit it to TomO, my 12 year-old son a few years back when he was struggling with the concept. And I recall being a little snookered at the time, especially when he asked for a demo of how it was done.

I just didn’t want to go there and let’s face it there are plenty of things that can mess around with a young mind and this didn’t need to be one of them. So I ‘fessed up and sent him to speak with his mother.

And speaking of his mother, I did mention it to Janet, as there was some risk of tripping over as I led her arm-in-arm down the aisle on our wedding day. Believe me, I’m assured of tripping at least once a week with the way I tie my shoelaces. Imagine the wedding shots with me sporting a black eye in them, all because I tripped on a rogue shoelace that had come undone.

I’m sure many would find the recounting of such a story funny, but I’d be the brunt of endless jokes down at the local football club.

“Hey Baz, you didn’t even get down the aisle and you’re sporting a black eye already”. Bluey and the boys would be on to me with the ferocity of a ‘pit-bull terrier’ nipping at your heels…”

I ran the gauntlet when playing football as a pre-pubescent teenager growing up in Townsville. The other boys were always impressed my mother turned up for every single game we played, always on the sideline cheering away, but of course I never told them that mum and I ducked around to the back of the sheds before the game so she could tie my boots up.

Only a loving mother could do that, and boy it saved me from embarrassment at a very delicate age. We won every game that year and the boys nominated mum as our lucky charm.

I think I can even trace back my life-long habit of sleeping without bed-clothes, you know, in the nuddy, due to this problem, despite telling Janet I was just a new-age type of guy. It did start a trend though…

Remember those flannelette pyjamas, the ones with the draw-cord that you had to tie off?

I still have nightmares over them and go into a cold-sweat whenever I pass a rack of jarmies at our local K-Mart store…

I used to tie them off in my usual way, but after a few tosses and turns in the bed my bow would become a knot.  Invariably I’d wake up needing to visit the little room, you know, the call of nature, make a quick dash down the hallway worried I might only just make it, only to find the knot at the last critical moment.

Talk about panic, sheer panic!

No one ever owned up to who hid the scissors in the little room, although I think mum has always suspected me.  Perhaps the tell tale sign was a severed cord in my pyjamas, but funny as it seems now, she never asked why I didn’t need any new pyjamas from that moment on.

And what about Dunlop Volleys, I had stacks of those in my young adult years. The first thing I did when I opened the box was to rip the laces out and throw them away, problem solved.  I thought it looked so cool walking around in them without laces. Mind you it should come as no surprise that I would put that sort of spin on it.

It did look cool, didn’t it?

I mean Janet never said it didn’t, but back then we were freshly wedded and you know how those things work, nodding yes, but thinking no! Mind you she never criticised those yellow pants I used to wear, well not back then anyway, but she’s managed to toss that one out there a couple of times recently…

These days if I had a pair of the old Dunlop’s on without laces someone would be offering me 5 bucks to buy some and telling me to keep the change to get myself a feed.

While we’re on shoes, how good are running shoes these days? The ones with the Quicklace for one pull tightening, no need to tie anything. I was right on to them when they first came out.

My running mates were impressed and I was singing their virtues so often that I’m sure they must have been thinking I was on some sort of retainer from the company. The unfortunate downside is they made my stockpile of Dunlop Volley’s redundant, after all how am I supposed to offload a dozen pair without shoelaces?

So by now you are probably thinking, okay Baz, bravo, but what’s with it? I’m sure there are others with a similar problem even if we’ve never come across them…

Well you see any mountaineer worth his or her salt will have a repertoire of some complex knots that they can perform blindfolded. And I’m sure there is one knot for every letter in the alphabet, and then a hundred more!

The girth hitch, a water knot, a figure eight fisherman’s knot, the munter hitch, and something called a stopper knot that sounds like it’s a pretty important one.

On a recent abseiling course my marker was finally called in…

I had a quick mental debate over whether I should admit to our instructor that I couldn’t tie my shoelaces, but thought better of it because it might be me first up on the rope after I’ve tied it off.

Besides, I’m sure there is a climber’s creed that says something like, you tied it, you try it!

And it would save them any embarrassment when under cross-examination in a coronial inquiry.

Imagine having to defend a fact that you allowed someone who could not tie their shoelaces to tie off the anchor points on top of the cliff that lead to the sudden demise of some poor family man with a dozen mouths to feed.

Yep, there’d be no doubting they’d be too smart to be caught out like that, so it was more likely to be me abseiling at 100 kilometres an hour with one end of the rope in each hand.

Mind you I did think of mum, but a fear of heights ruled her out. Besides, would I really want my mother with me asking have I got my handkerchief just as I’m about to abseil over the edge?

So here it was, my moment of truth. 

Actually it wasn’t too bad.

They all thought it was a great joke and everyone laughed loudly. Even though this was serious business it could still be fun and there is nothing like a rope joke to break the ice.

But the laughing floated away into the valley below when I explained it was true!

I could even see a couple of them processing this and clearly questioning in their minds whether it was in fact a tree root I tripped on as we made our way down to the cliff-face from the carpark. And like wandering eyes drawn to the busom of a woman in a low cut dress, they spent the rest of the day fixated on my shoes.

Our instructor was quite good about it really and offered some comforting words and said I shouldn’t worry as there are probably many people like me, and thinking they probably weren’t abseilers though.

As soon as I turned my back he was right on to those knots I tied. Strewth, I would have been if I was him, especially as he was clipped on a safety line that I had just tied-off. The colour drained from his face as he stepped back from the cliff edge, shaking visibly!

But we did work away at those knots; the figure eight was popular, very strong and guaranteed to hold everything in place, just as long as you got it right.  I practised away, at times feeling like I had a fistful of thumbs as I worked on those fisherman’s knots. But I was mastering it, on my way to becoming a pro!

And my rigging was successfully put to the test; but mind you I still have a problem of sorts.

I’ve been working so fervently on my climber’s knots that I still haven’t got around to working out how to tie my shoelaces.

Remember as a kid when you got your first pair of shiny black shoes?

I do. I refused to take them off for a week, even insisting on wearing them to bed despite being offered as much ice-cream I could eat in return for removing them.

You see I’ve been practicing my fisherman’s knot on my work shoes (Doh!) and anyone with even a basic understanding of knots will know the fisherman’s knot is designed to never come undone, something I overlooked as I was high-fiving TomO.

The penny dropped as I headed for a shower and I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry, and a couple of those naughty words did slip out.

But there we have it, tonight it looks like I’m going to bed with my shoes on for the first time in years and no amount of ice-cream is going to save the situation. I just need to broach the topic with Janet.

It’s kind of funny really; here I am dressed to the nines for bed in just my work shoes. Who would have thought my mountaineering journey would have a twist like this in it?

Am I alone on this one, or is there a huge group, inspired by my confession, about to come-out?

Come on; join the movement… if you belong, I’ve got some Dunlop Volley’s you can have for the asking!

A Charmed Life (Lobster for breakfast please) – now published in Bucket List Publications

You could be forgiven for thinking I’m living a charmed life at present. Currently I’m sitting in the wonderful setting of Yasawa Island, overlooking the beach, eating my way through a sumptuous breakfast of fresh tropical fruits and lobster omelette, under a balmy, but slightly overcast sky.

 The food at Yasawa has been fantastic! I’ve eaten far too much already…

And what a change that is to only one week ago when I was climbing in the Southern Alps of New Zealand’s south island. It was freezing cold at Pioneer Hut, even the thought of extracting yourself from a warm down-sleeping bag took some effort, and food was basic camp food.

Not that I’m complaining about that mind you, after all there is something very comforting about camp food, a warming tea, sweetened with sugar, before heading out onto the glacier.

My week of instruction under the guidance of Dean Staples, one of New Zealand’s most accomplished high altitude climbers was fantastic.  And with eight Everest summits to his credit it puts him in a very elite club, so I count myself very lucky to be able to tap into his knowledge.

After a gear check at Adventure Consultant’s Wanaka headquarters, the nerve centre for its climbing operations that span the seven continents, Dean and I headed for Foxtown on the west coast, a drive of around 3 hours that takes you over the top of New Zealand’s dividing range.

It was a great opportunity for me to hear about the climbing that Dean has done around the world. It also enabled me to discuss my climbing ambitions and what I was looking to achieve during the week ahead.

We spoke of Cho Oyu and Mount Everest in a way that there is no reason why either won’t be possible for me to achieve. Ambition, mental drive, fitness, and climbing skills can be achieved by those who desire it badly enough.

It is all up to the individual!

Originally we had planned to fly into Pioneer Hut by helicopter on the Saturday afternoon, but low cloud in the valley meant this would not be possible, so we stayed in one of the Alpine Association’s huts at Foxtown, or Fox, as it is known to the locals.

The Fox Glacier is the town’s drawcard and there are numerous helicopter companies offering flights over the glacier, which is situated very nearby.

We managed to fly into Pioneer Hut on the Sunday morning, along with Caroline from Adventure Consultants, who was taking a few days off from work to ski in the backcountry with her friend, Aviette.

The 15 minute helicopter ride straight up the glacier was spectacular, in fact it is hard to find the right adjective to best describe it, so I’ll leave it at spectacular!

I had to take a couple of deep breathes to take it all in as I stood there watching the helicopter depart, apart from the air being a little thinner, the scenery was simply breathtaking.  We wasted little time and headed out for some time on the snow, to give Dean a chance to assess where my skill levels stood in terms of glacier travel, cramponing, and ice-climbing.  We did a little of all these things, including climbing a small peak, before heading back to the hut in the freezing cold and deteriorating weather.

It was a great opportunity for me to test out some of my new gear and those thousand dollar boots…

It all worked perfectly and those boots were as warm as a piece of freshly popped toast!

The following day was snowing and visibility was severely limited so we spent the day doing some skill-based training in the hut. Dean literally had me hanging from the rafters, prussiking and doing self-rescues.

The rest of the day was spent in the warmth of my sleeping bag!

But we were rewarded with great weather on the Tuesday and with snow shoes strapped on we headed towards Grey’s Peak. Now I must say judging distances across the snow is perhaps a learned thing as it didn’t look that far away, but it still took a number of hours to get to the summit, and travel slowed as we made our way across the glacier.

Dean had to slow my pace from time to time as I was trying to push it too hard.  He was quick to point out that good mountaineering means travelling at a pace that you can go all day and the higher you go the harder it becomes, adjust your pace was his catch-cry, advice well heeded!

The hut was quite full on Tuesday night with a couple of other groups flying in and swelling the number to nine. But the atmosphere was fantastic as we had our evening meal, before settling into those warm down-sleeping bags for the night.

I would have loved to stay another night, but as I was leaving for Fiji in a couple of days I could not afford to be “snowed in” at the hut.  And the weather looked like it was deteriorating once again.

Note to self, next time you climb in New Zealand’s Alps do it just before heading back to work, that way you can happily be snowed in, on the boss’s time!

Wednesday morning we made our way down the glacier towards Chancellor Hut, a distance of about 8-kilometres, although distance is better measured in time.  Travel was slow initially as the snow was deeper and the slope made travel in snowshoes too difficult, especially with some ice in parts.

And how was that view!

We stopped on the glacier against the backdrop of Chancellor Dome. We were debating whether to climb it, which would take around 3-4 hours up and down, or find a suitable crevasse to do some ice climbing and rescue training.

We decided on ice climbing and rescue training, eventually finding the perfect spot for it.  I’m glad we elected to as it was a lot of fun. It did wonders for my confidence and helped build on my skill base.

Closer to Chancellor Hut travel became slower as the snow was much softer by now with the temperature rising as we descended in altitude. And despite still being near sub zero temperatures, travel across the glacier was hot and hard work, especially with a 25-kilogram pack on my back!

It was a wise move to choose to leave Pioneer Hut on the Wednesday as the cloud base was sitting not too far above Chancellor Hut on the Thursday morning, and around 8am we could hear the thump-thump sound of the helicopter making its way up the glacier towards us. Loading the helicopter with our gear probably took longer than the ride back down to Fox.

By mid-afternoon we had arrived back in Wanaka and after saying our good-byes I was on my way to Queenstown and an early Friday morning flight back to Australia.

And as I cleared customs, Janet and TomO were waiting eagerly, glad I had a great time, and wanting to know all the details…

It was a great week and one in which I can anchor my climbing ambitions to.

The feeling of standing on top of Grey’s Peak, a small peak by any standard, was one of great satisfaction and something that will remain with me forever, no matter where my climbing takes me…

Bucket List Publications

Lesley Carter.wordpress.com

I’m Excited, Very Excited – More tales of a dope on a rope

Baz – Boar’s Head, Blue Mountains, Australia

I spent today spent in the wonderful Blue Mountains, just to the west of Sydney, doing a multi-pitch abseil and hike out. And what a wonderful playground to develop a high level of rope handling proficiency.

 Over the past two weekends I have concentrated on multi-pitch abseils of at least 250 metres done in sections (pitches) of around 40-50 metres each. And I’ve had my fair share of self-rescues thrown in without warning to ensure I have the necessary skills to do just that, rescue myself, or someone else, with confidence!

Boar’s Head, Multi-Pitch Abseil

I want to achieve an extremely high standard to ensure that when I am in Nepal next year, and eventually on an 8,000 peak, that my rope handling skills are completely second nature and can be done, quickly, safely, and confidently…

Under the watchful eye of the Shane and the fantastic team from the Australian School of Mountaineering I am well on my way to achieving this standard.

Mt Aspiring, Southern Alps, New Zealand

In less then two months I will be back in New Zealand for an attempt on the summit of Mt Aspiring, and without wanting to wish my life away – I can’t wait! But the journey can only be made one day at a time, and what a day it was.

There is nothing better than putting yourself in a position where you must simply trust the set-up you have built and locked yourself onto it…

The confidence to do this comes from practice, and the rewards are great. Simply lying back “into thin air”  and going over the edge is exhilarating.

Shane, Boar's Head, Blue Mountains, Australia
Shane, Boar’s Head, Blue Mountains, Australia

The Blue Mountains provides such a wonderful natural backdrop to pursue this activity.

 Boar’s Head, a natural rock formation was our abseiling destination of choice today.  It is a short walk-in from the main cliff-drive not too far from downtown Katoomba. And the vista at the start of it is spectacular, overlooking Narrow Neck, a prominent plateau that stretches to the south…

The total abseil is around 250 metres and we used two 60 metre ropes to drop to the valley floor in five pitches. The walk-out required some “scrub bashing” to join up with the main Devil’s Hole track, that took us back up to our transport.

Multi-pitch Abseil, Boar’s Head, Blue Mountains, Australia

The thick undergrowth made for a humid traverse of the gullies, before we started our climb up through Devil’s Hole.

I’ve tried to capture the beauty of the day in photos…hopefully it gives you a glimpse of our wonderful backyard and the fun we had, just being “Out and About”

Dope on a Rope (An ongoing saga of a mountaineering journey)

Jamison Valley & the Three Sisters, Katoomba
Jamison Valley and The Three Sisters, Katoomba, Australia

Yesterday promised so much and I can happily say, it delivered.

 I have been itching to get out and about in the mountains since returning from my climb in New Zealand about one month ago and there is little that will beat a beautiful spring day in the mountains.

 I packed The Landy and was on the road by 7am heading to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, about a 90 minute drive to the west of Sydney.

And the Blue Mountains is a great adventure playground. The area is an internationally recognised World Heritage Area where you can bush walk, mountain bike, abseil, climb and canyon in any number of spectacular locations.

As part of my mountaineering training I want to do plenty of multi-pitch abseiling to ensure I can do it quickly, safely, and with a high level of proficiency.

Malatia Wall, Katoomba
Malatia Wall, Katoomba

Our choice was Malatia Wall, which is not too far from the main street of Katoomba and close to the scenic railway, a very popular tourist destination.

The plan was to abseil into the Jamison Valley and walk back out via the Furber Stairs, a short, but very spectacular bush-walk which starts at the base of the scenic railway.

Bushwalking Katoomba
Katoomba Falls, Blue Mountains

The descent is around 230 metres in total requiring five abseils on two 60-metre ropes. On average each abseil was around 40-50 metres. On the first pitch I just had to stop on the wall and take in the view over the Jamison Valley and The Three Sisters. In the valley below cockatoos and lorikeets flew amongst the tall standing trees.

Overlooking the Three Sisters, Katomba
Malatia Wall, Multi-pitch Abseil
Three Sisters
Malatia Wall over looking the Jamison Valley

I marveled at the view as I hung in my harness.

 And if everything goes to plan I’ll be back up in the mountains next weekend to multi-pitch off of Boar’s Head, with a climb back out…

 And speaking of a Dope on a Rope, if the hat fits wear it I say – I forgot to charge my Go-Pro battery, so I had limited footage!

High Altitude Climbing and Acute Mountain Sickness

I have been researching the impact that high altitude climbing will have on my body, what I can expect, what I can do to assist my body’s ability to cope, and importantly, to be able to recognise the onset of Acute Mountain Sickness in its more serious forms.

Acute Mountain Sickness, AMS as it is often referred to, is the effect the declining number of molecules of oxygen in the atmosphere has on our body as we ascend in altitude. It can range from a mild illness, to the more severe life-threatening forms of the illness, such as High Altitude Pulmonary Edema (HAPE), and High Altitude Cerebral Edema (HACE).

The latter two conditions require immediate attention and descent from altitude otherwise death is the most likely outcome.

I’m not intending to go into a great discussion on either, nor am I qualified to do so, but as part of my “journey to the mountains” and extreme  altitude climbing I want to gain a better understanding of both conditions.

High altitude is defined as 5,000 to 11,500 feet, very high altitude 11,500 to 18,000, and extreme altitude as 18,000 feet and above.  At extreme altitudes physiologic function will outstrip  acclimatisation eventually.

My reading has taken me across a wide variety of topics, but the one that caught my attention was the connection between muscle and the requirement to fuel our muscles with oxygen when under exertion.

Over the years I have trained as a power-lifter for strength purposes and I have achieved results I am happy with.  As a consequence I have grown muscularly and currently weigh-in around the 95 kilogram mark.  This has given me a good power-for-weight ratio and has enhanced my speed on the kayak, and rowing machine over the short to mid sprint distances.

Power-lifting has helped me develop strong legs, especially my quads through the nature of the exercise; squatting, and dead-lifting.  I can squat around 180 kilograms (400lbs) and dead-lift 220 kilograms (460 lbs).

Will this muscle help, or hinder me on the mountain as I trudge up the side of an 8,000 metre peak??

When exercising, the body, or more specifically the contracting muscles, have an increased need for oxygen, and this is usually achieved by a higher blood flow to these muscles.  And herein lies the dilemma as I see it.  Due to the less dense air at altitude the number of oxygen molecules for any given mass of air will drop. Consequently, mental and physical performance will decline. The larger the muscles, the larger the requirement for oxygen to prevent muscular fatigue…

So what can I do?

There is not a lot that you can do to prepare for the effect of AMS, some people will adapt and perform better at altitude than others, and this is hard to predict from one individual to another.

What I can do is decrease my muscle mass. Whilst that will mean a decrease in overall strength I can try and maintain the power for weight ratio balance.

The upshot of all this is that ahead of my climb in New Zealand in January, and later next year in Nepal where I will be climbing three 6,000 metre peaks, including Lobuche East, I will deliberately take around 12-15 kilograms out of my frame…

The climbs in Nepal will be done without the aid of supplemental oxygen.

Essentially, I will not change my training routine at all, I will maintain my same level of weight training, kayaking, rowing, and other activities. I have found the best way to control weight change, either gaining, or losing, is via the kitchen, and diet. In fact I won’t even modify my diet to any great extent, simply quantity control.

Narrabeen Lake, Sydney, Australia

If you have any thoughts on the topic I’d welcome your insight!

Roll-over and give me a laugh (Eskimo Style)…

It was a weekend of birthday celebrations for Janet, my partner, with family and friends. Janet is a party type of girl and loved the attention and the Chanel perfume!

 And with near perfect weather in Sydney we also took the opportunity to be out on the kayaks at Narrabeen Lake on Saturday, and The Haven at Terrigal on Sunday.

My usual training partner, brother-in-law Ray Tong, and I have been practicing our Eskimo roll in his kayak, the same type of boat we used in this year’s Speight’s Coast-to-Coast adventure race across New Zealand. The race involves a 67-kilometre kayak leg, and includes around 35-kilometres of white water to be negotiated.

We both had an unintentional swim in the cold Waimakariri River during the race…

And whilst we are not intending to line up for next February’s event we are keeping our options open and want to perfect our technique before heading back down the Waimak River.

Did I say perfect?

We’d settle for being able to roll up a little more consistently without half-drowning each time!

Anyway, we have been having a lot of laughs as we go about this training, and hats off to Ray, he spun the boat around so fast at one stage that he went around twice, the look on his face was priceless and the source of much laughter.

We’re almost ready to hit Penrith white-water stadium once again. This is a purpose built white-water course covering around four-hundred metres of grade three rapids. It is fair to say both Ray and I have spent plenty of time upside down through the rapids on this course…

And while we were at The Haven, TomO, my son, was expertly catching waves on his rescue paddle board, in between riding his skateboard down “The Skillion” a large grassy slope that features prominently in the local landscape. Laying down on his skateboard he rode it down the hill like a Luge.

He had the Go-Pro camera on the helmet to capture his daredevil exploits and is already working on  a short video, coupled together with background music he has composed. We can’t wait to see the result as he was travelling quite fast and it looked fun!

Speaking of training, I’m back into the mountains this weekend to further my rock climbing and abseiling skills, along with general rope handling.  My intention over the next few weeks is to do multi-pitch abseils off Boar’s Head in the Blue Mountains.

Boar’s Head is one of the most recognisable rock formations in the Blue Mountains, situated not too far from downtown Katoomba. It is a popular place to do multi-pitch abseils and involves around five pitches, the second and third into a large chasm, with a relatively easy rock climb back out at the end.

Janet said she is looking forward to another weekend in the mountains and as much as she loves the outdoors and seeing me advance in my training, she can’t wait to get back into the small boutiques after all it has been a couple of months.

So I look forward to updating the ongoing saga of a “Dope on a Rope” over the coming weeks!


A Helicopter Ride – Fox Glacier (New Zealand)

The Fox Glacier, situated on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island is spectacular and especially so when viewed from the air.

On my recent climbing trip to this region we were ‘choppered into Pioneer Hut high up on the glacier.

 The Glacier, situated close to Fox town, or Fox as it is know to locals, is one of the most accessible glaciers in the world and the terminal face can be accessed with relative ease.

The helicopter trip to Pioneer Hut takes around 15 minutes and you travel approximately 15 kilometres to the top of the glacier, climbing from sea level to around 8,000 feet.

A number of helicopter companies operate from the township taking tourists on a short ride to view the glacier and if you ever get the chance be sure to take a ride…

 In the meantime, strap yourself in and join me on the ride to Pioneer Hut…

A Charmed Life (Lobster for breakfast please)

You could be forgiven for thinking I’m living a charmed life at present. Currently I’m sitting in the wonderful setting of Yasawa Island, overlooking the beach, eating my way through a sumptuous breakfast of fresh tropical fruits and lobster omelette, under a balmy, but slightly overcast sky.

 The food at Yasawa has been fantastic! I’ve eaten far too much already…

And what a change that is to only one week ago when I was climbing in the Southern Alps of New Zealand’s south island. It was freezing cold at Pioneer Hut, even the thought of extracting yourself from a warm down-sleeping bag took some effort, and food was basic camp food.

Not that I’m complaining about that mind you, after all there is something very comforting about camp food, a warming tea, sweetened with sugar, before heading out onto the glacier.

My week of instruction under the guidance of Dean Staples, one of New Zealand’s most accomplished high altitude climbers was fantastic.  And with eight Everest summits to his credit it puts him in a very elite club, so I count myself very lucky to be able to tap into his knowledge.

After a gear check at Adventure Consultant’s Wanaka headquarters, the nerve centre for its climbing operations that span the seven continents, Dean and I headed for Foxtown on the west coast, a drive of around 3 hours that takes you over the top of New Zealand’s dividing range.

It was a great opportunity for me to hear about the climbing that Dean has done around the world. It also enabled me to discuss my climbing ambitions and what I was looking to achieve during the week ahead.

We spoke of Cho Oyu and Mount Everest in a way that there is no reason why either won’t be possible for me to achieve. Ambition, mental drive, fitness, and climbing skills can be achieved by those who desire it badly enough.

It is all up to the individual!

Originally we had planned to fly into Pioneer Hut by helicopter on the Saturday afternoon, but low cloud in the valley meant this would not be possible, so we stayed in one of the Alpine Association’s huts at Foxtown, or Fox, as it is known to the locals.

The Fox Glacier is the town’s drawcard and there are numerous helicopter companies offering flights over the glacier, which is situated very nearby.

We managed to fly into Pioneer Hut on the Sunday morning, along with Caroline from Adventure Consultants, who was taking a few days off from work to ski in the backcountry with her friend, Aviette.

The 15 minute helicopter ride straight up the glacier was spectacular, in fact it is hard to find the right adjective to best describe it, so I’ll leave it at spectacular!

I had to take a couple of deep breathes to take it all in as I stood there watching the helicopter depart, apart from the air being a little thinner, the scenery was simply breathtaking.  We wasted little time and headed out for some time on the snow, to give Dean a chance to assess where my skill levels stood in terms of glacier travel, cramponing, and ice-climbing.  We did a little of all these things, including climbing a small peak, before heading back to the hut in the freezing cold and deteriorating weather.

It was a great opportunity for me to test out some of my new gear and those thousand dollar boots…

It all worked perfectly and those boots were as warm as a piece of freshly popped toast!

The following day was snowing and visibility was severely limited so we spent the day doing some skill-based training in the hut. Dean literally had me hanging from the rafters, prussiking and doing self-rescues.

The rest of the day was spent in the warmth of my sleeping bag!

But we were rewarded with great weather on the Tuesday and with snow shoes strapped on we headed towards Grey’s Peak. Now I must say judging distances across the snow is perhaps a learned thing as it didn’t look that far away, but it still took a number of hours to get to the summit, and travel slowed as we made our way across the glacier.

Dean had to slow my pace from time to time as I was trying to push it too hard.  He was quick to point out that good mountaineering means travelling at a pace that you can go all day and the higher you go the harder it becomes, adjust your pace was his catch-cry, advice well heeded!

The hut was quite full on Tuesday night with a couple of other groups flying in and swelling the number to nine. But the atmosphere was fantastic as we had our evening meal, before settling into those warm down-sleeping bags for the night.

I would have loved to stay another night, but as I was leaving for Fiji in a couple of days I could not afford to be “snowed in” at the hut.  And the weather looked like it was deteriorating once again.

Note to self, next time you climb in New Zealand’s Alps do it just before heading back to work, that way you can happily be snowed in, on the boss’s time!

Wednesday morning we made our way down the glacier towards Chancellor Hut, a distance of about 8-kilometres, although distance is better measured in time.  Travel was slow initially as the snow was deeper and the slope made travel in snowshoes too difficult, especially with some ice in parts.

And how was that view!

We stopped on the glacier against the backdrop of Chancellor Dome. We were debating whether to climb it, which would take around 3-4 hours up and down, or find a suitable crevasse to do some ice climbing and rescue training.

We decided on ice climbing and rescue training, eventually finding the perfect spot for it.  I’m glad we elected to as it was a lot of fun. It did wonders for my confidence and helped build on my skill base.

Closer to Chancellor Hut travel became slower as the snow was much softer by now with the temperature rising as we descended in altitude. And despite still being near sub zero temperatures, travel across the glacier was hot and hard work, especially with a 25-kilogram pack on my back!

It was a wise move to choose to leave Pioneer Hut on the Wednesday as the cloud base was sitting not too far above Chancellor Hut on the Thursday morning, and around 8am we could hear the thump-thump sound of the helicopter making its way up the glacier towards us. Loading the helicopter with our gear probably took longer than the ride back down to Fox.

By mid-afternoon we had arrived back in Wanaka and after saying our good-byes I was on my way to Queenstown and an early Friday morning flight back to Australia.

And as I cleared customs, Janet and TomO were waiting eagerly, glad I had a great time, and wanting to know all the details…

It was a great week and one in which I can anchor my climbing ambitions to.

The feeling of standing on top of Grey’s Peak, a small peak by any standard, was one of great satisfaction and something that will remain with me forever, no matter where my climbing takes me…

I’m excited today (very excited)

Mt Aspiring, Southern Alps, New Zealand

Well to be honest, most days excite me, perhaps some more than others, but today I booked a week of mountaineering in the Southern Alps of New Zealand leaving in two weeks time, and I’m really excited about the prospect of getting out and about…

Hinchinbrook Island, Australia

I was intending to walk the Thornsborne Trail on Hinchinbrook Island, in North Queensland as it has been on my list of walks to do for as long as I can remember. However, each time I have planned to walk it something else has come along to interrupt the plan. Usually something that I have had no control over.

I’ve often joked that there is an unknown force at work that prevents me from going. Perhaps it is saving me from the jaws of one of those pre-historic reptiles, the crocodile, that inhabit the region, but I digress…

 I already have a trip booked to climb Mt Aspiring located in the Southern Alps of New Zealand this coming January. But January seems so far away, so I thought, why not give those hand-crafted mountaineering boots I just purchased a run for their money instead of walking the Thornsborne Trail?

Yep, I had no trouble rationalising that one in my own mind.

A quick call to our travel agent, was followed up with a call to the wonderful team at Adventure Consultants, located at Wanaka on New Zealand’s South Island, to confirm I was on my way.

New Zealand is recognised around the world as a great training ground for mountaineering, and although most peaks are only around 3,000 metres in height, they are similar in ruggedness and valley to summit altitude gains as the higher peaks in the Himalayas.

English: Southern Alps from Mt Hutt, New Zealand
Southern Alps, New Zealand

The week of guiding and instruction, the Seven Summits Course, is designed for people like me who are looking to progress to high altitude climbing, to gain exposure to snow camping, improve on crampon and ice axe skills, master ladder crossings over crevasses, along with other general mountaineering skills.

In Australia, it is more difficult to gain this type of exposure.

I have elected to undertake as much tuition as I possibly can, especially in the earlier stages of my journey to Cho Oyu, and Beyond, as this will hopefully make me safer on the mountain, and give me a strong base to build from and to assist in achieving my goals.

One area I will be focussing heavily on is my decision making skills, and I’ll be getting the team at Adventure Consultants to put me to the test on this aspect…

And I still need to break the news to Janet, my partner, that there is plenty more gear I need to buy before I go.

Mind you, Janet has not been watching the bank balance, but has asked only one thing of me, and that is to be safe at all times, reminding me there is always another day.

Her words of wisdom constantly echo in my mind, “summiting is optional, getting down is mandatory.”

 Who has a mountaineering story they can share?

Dope on a Rope (an ongoing saga)

I’ve just spent the past four days with the team from the Australian School of Mountaineering, ASM, learning more about rock-climbing and advancing my rope handling skills.

This was done in the Blue Mountains, just to the west of Sydney, a place where I am finding myself with increasing frequency of late, and not surprisingly as there is plenty of opportunity to hone my abseiling and climbing skills on the abundance of cliff faces in the region.

And what better place to do it than one of the world’s great mountain heritage areas.

Whilst my ultimate goal is high-altitude climbing, there are basic skills that can’t be practiced enough, much like military drilling, to ensure that the skills are second nature and can be performed under extreme conditions. I have been placing a lot of focus on rescue skills, after all, it is good fun until something goes wrong, and whilst there is always a chance of that how you respond will have a great bearing on the outcome…

That isn’t to say it shouldn’t be fun, and when I embarked on this journey I made a promise to myself that if I stopped having fun it is game over and time to do something else…

And we did have a lot of fun, and Shane, who instructed me on my advanced abseiling and rope rescue course, laughed as we welcomed each other and asked whether I can tie my shoelaces yet?  Sadly, I had to tell him I couldn’t, but I had mastered quite a few other knots.

There were three other people on the first two days of the course as it has various stages that can be done separately, and with some time due off from work, I decided to spend four days in the mountains to cover as much as possible.

Our climbing was done in the spectacular Mt York area, not too far from the small township of Mt Victoria, against a very scenery backdrop.

The course began in the headquarters of ASM located in Katoomba covering important aspects such as safe movement on and around the cliffs.

On the first day we undertook a series of small climbs at Mt York, in near freezing conditions. These climbs left me wondering what they call larger climbs!

It was great to be on the rock-face, improving skills under the guidance of our very experienced instructors, and there were even some moments where I happily found myself outside my comfort zone!

Our second day was spent entirely on the rock-face, climbing and learning, and we managed around five climbs of varying degrees of difficulty.

It was nice to have the weekend pass knowing that I still had another two days in the mountains learning and climbing. I did this with Nathan, another ASM instructor who was covering important areas like route selection, hazard assessment, and protection systems. We did some revision work on rescues using Z-drags, and abseiling an injured climber in tandem. I hope the need never arises, but it is important to be proficient just in case either is called upon as a rescue tool.

We were greeted with fantastic weather for the final day which was spent setting up climbs, climbing, and moving on to another climb.

It was quite an exhilarating weekend of climbing, learning new skills, getting outside the comfort zone and just having fun out and about. I can’t wait to get back out there for another crawl up the wall.

As for Dope on a Rope, let’s just say I’ve improved greatly!!

Blue Mountains Climbing – Chomping at the bit

On the Rope, Mt York, Blue Mountains

I’m off to climb in the Blue Mountains this weekend to further advance my skills with the team from the Australian School of Mountaineering, the weather is perfect and I’m chomping at the bit…

 I am currently investing time in developing and advancing my rope handling skills with a big focus on self-rescue and rescue techniques generally in preparation for a climb I am doing in New Zealand this coming January, Mt Aspiring in the country’s South Island.

I’ll be spending a total of two weeks in New Zealand, training and practising my skills and working on steep technical climbs as well as crevice rescues.