Whispers from the past…

Standing amongst the wooden and corrugated iron buildings in the old silver mining town of Yerranderie, my mind’s eye could hear the whispers, the laughter of people long gone drifting on the breeze…

Yerranderie is a small bush town not too far from the centre of the bustling metropolis of Australia’s capital city, Sydney – at least as the crow flies.

In reality it is about a six-hour drive, depending on the route you take.

The town is nestled beneath Bartlett’s Head, an impressive rock that stands proud and from its vantage point provides a wonderful panoramic view of the surrounding bush and the Kanangra Boyd Wilderness Area.

The hike to the top is well worth the effort and takes little more than an hour.

And at day’s end there is a rich golden glow as the setting sun reflects off its cliff walls before it glides below the mountain peaks, beyond the horizon, heralding in nightfall as wombats awaken from their daytime burrows…

From Bartlett’s Head you can view the Burragorang Valley and backwaters of Warragamba Dam, which provides Sydney with its water supply.

Prior to the construction of the dam in the late 1950s the Burragorang Valley was home to a small farming community and it provided a more direct access route to Yerranderie from the township of Camden to Sydney’s south-west.

Yerranderie has a history closely linked to the people of Burragorang Valley…

On Easter Sunday a service is held in the local Catholic Church to commemorate the pioneering people of the valley and their association with the town.

An opportunity for old friends to “catch-up”…

Whilst it is a reasonable trek to get to this little gem in the Australian Bush, if you have an adventurous spirit, enjoy a freshness in the air that only the mountains can provide, and a day or two to spare, I encourage you to pack some camping gear and your favourite bottle of red wine to share with friends around the warmth of a glowing campfire – better still pack another bottle and stay one more night!

Photos: Janet & Baz


About us…

We love the colours of the Australian Outback, the red earth touching a blue sky on a faraway horizon; and the fabulous coastline of our sunburnt country, where a golden sandy beach is washed over by a warm turquoise blue sea…

A few years ago we graduated from work and re-entered the classroom of life where an education is guaranteed and all that is needed is an open mind.

Cheers, Baz & Janet

A giant wave that no surfer can ride (In the Australian Outback…)

Catching a wave is usually associated with a trip to the beach during our long, hot and lazy Australian summers.

But this is one Wave that no surfer can ride; in fact you won’t even find it rolling in off the ocean.

This “Wave” is situated in the wheat belt growing region of West Australia and is quite a remarkable rock formation in the Australian bush. It stands at 15 metres tall and 110 metres long and whilst you can’t “ride” it water still was a major contributor to its formation.

Tiny lichens, moss, and algae resulting in a marvelous contrast of orange and black produce the colour in the rock estimated to be thousand’s of millions of years old.

Wave Rock is part of the Hyden Rock formation and is well worth the visit, but hey, just a tip; leave your surfboard at home…!

Photos: Baz and Janet-Planet, Out & About in the Australian Outback…

About us…

We have always loved the colours of the Australian Outback, the ochre red earth touching a deep blue sky on a faraway horizon; and the fabulous coastline of our sunburnt country, where a golden sandy beach is washed over by a turquoise blue sea; and the characters you meet in a quiet country pub, where it is nothing flash, but you are enriched by the encounter…

A couple of years ago we decided that after many years of paid and unpaid work that it was time for us to “graduate from work” and re-enter “the classroom of life” where an education is guaranteed and all that is needed is an open mind.

Thanks for joining us in the adventure…!

The Glasshouse Mountains…

Climbing to the top of Mt Ngungun on a crisp winter’s morning rewarded me with a magnificent view of Mt Tibrogargan and Mt Beerwah.

In the language of the Gubbi Gubbi people, Ngungun means “faces” and  is pronounced “Noo Noo”…
Photo: Baz – The Landy, Australia…

Yerranderie – Whispers from the past…

Standing amongst the wooden and corrugated iron buildings in the old silver mining town of Yerranderie, my mind’s eye could hear the whispers, the laughter of people long gone drifting on the breeze…

Yerranderie is a small bush town not too far from the centre of the bustling metropolis of Australia’s capital city, Sydney – at least as the crow flies.

In reality it is about a six-hour drive, depending on the route you take.

Recently, I travelled via Oberon, the Kowmung River and along the historic Colong Stock Route. A dusty, but scenic route, and I was sure to wile away some time sitting next to the Kowmung River with a mug of steaming black tea as black cockatoos passed overhead…

With a few days up my sleeve I decided to spend a couple of them exploring, photographing, and hiking around the wonderful bush surrounds the town is situated in.

My visit was mid-week and I literally had the place to myself, apart from the caretaker who lives on-site. And the only sound one could hear was the constant chiming of the bellbirds’ call, ringing as they flittered through the trees.

The town is nestled beneath Bartlett’s Head, an impressive rock that stands proud and from its vantage point provides a wonderful panoramic view of the surrounding bush and the Kanangra Boyd Wilderness Area.

The hike to the top is well worth the effort and takes little more than an hour.

And at day’s end there is a rich golden glow as the setting sun reflects off its cliff walls before it glides below the mountain peaks, beyond the horizon, heralding in nightfall as wombats awaken from their daytime burrows…

From Bartlett’s Head you can view the Burragorang Valley and backwaters of Warragamba Dam, which provides Sydney with its water supply.

Prior to the construction of the dam in the late 1950s the Burragorang Valley was home to a small farming community and it provided a more direct access route to Yerranderie from the township of Camden to Sydney’s south-west.

Yerranderie has a history closely linked to the people of Burragorang Valley…

On Easter Sunday a service is held in the local Catholic Church to commemorate the pioneering people of the valley and their association with the town.

An opportunity for old friends to “catch-up”…

Whilst it is a reasonable trek to get to this little gem in the Australian Bush, if you have an adventurous spirit, enjoy a freshness in the air that only the mountains can provide, and a day or two to spare, I encourage you to pack some camping gear and your favourite bottle of red wine to share with friends around the warmth of a glowing campfire – better still pack another bottle and stay one more night!

Photos: Baz – The Landy, Yerranderie, Australia…

 

Selfishness – A simple word (With a complex meaning)

Selfishness is a word that we are likely to be confronted with every day…

But what does it really mean and how should it be applied to our daily lives, if at all?

Most dictionaries define selfishness as…

“Devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.”

I pondered on this definition and eventually came to a conclusion that this is possibly one of the most misused words in the English vocabulary.

I asked myself the question..

Is it selfish to pursue our dreams, to live the life we desire, to see what we can achieve; to explore new horizons and to develop as individuals; to stand at the edge and look at the world through a different lens…?

 

As individuals our life and the way we lead it creates a mosaic of who we are.

The pieces of a jigsaw puzzle randomly sitting in a box are meaningless unless they are joined.

In much the same way the pieces of our lives, scattered, cannot portray or project anything about who we are or what we seek to be until pieced together.

Interlocked they provide a mosaic of whom we really are…

The picture unfolds…

Whom or what would we be if we were not able to join the random pieces together and pursue our dreams?

Would we ever achieve our real potential, or would a fear of selfishness limit us and how we develop as individuals?

Baz – The Landy

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro (through youthful eyes)

Tanzania

With a spectacularly rugged coastline, an enormous diversity of wildlife and plants, and not to forget wonderful local produce, including some very nice boutique wineries, Kangaroo Island should be on everyone’s bucket list to visit…

And rest assured, Janet-Planet and myself have indulged every aspect of this adventure to KI, an island nestled just off the southern coast of Australia, with quite some vigour whilst TomO is in Africa!

TomO, the Crown Prince, along with a number of his fellow schoolmates, who are mostly aged 16 or 17 years old, have been helping to paint classrooms at the School of St Jude before attempting to climb Africa’s highest mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro.

The School of St Jude was established in Tanzania by an Australian, Gemma Sisia, in 2002 to educate the poorest of the poor.  Gemma’s belief remains that a free, high-quality education should be the right of all children in the world and that education is the strongest weapon in the fight against poverty.

Janet and I enjoy adventure and jump at any chance to XPLORE and as parents we have been blessed with a son who has embraced the opportunity; the challenges that exploring remote parts of Australia and the world brings.

We believe the experiences we have exposed TomO to through our pursuits has enabled him to develop skills of judgment and risk assessment well beyond what a lifetime in a classroom could ever teach.

Importantly, we have always taught him not to use the “F” word (failure, and yes, the other one as well!).

A little over 24-hours ago TomO and his mates began their final push to the summit of “Kili” from Kibo Hut after spending a few days of acclimitisation on the mountain.

Following is a message we received in the pre-dawn hours this morning.

Needless to say, we are extremely proud of TomO’s achievement, of all in his group, and despite the hardships endured, the fatigue created by this journey, he had the presence to be able to write to us in detail, via SMS, an account of his experience just after arriving back from the Rooftop of Africa…

And it’s alright if your eye moistens a little as you read, ours did.

Bravo TomO, you are an inspiration to all…!

Hey there, randomly got phone reception, but anyway just wanted to let you know that we just walked back from Kibo Hut about 3-hours ago. Yesterday we walked into Kibo around 3pm in the afternoon and slept through till dinner at 5. Had dinner packed then went to bed waiting for the 11pm wake up.

Got up then lined up outside in sub-zero temps and then began to walk up the mountain.

Was really cold which made it harder than it already was, slowly made our way up a gravel like track (hard to explain what it looked like) and the higher we got the more snow we began to see next to us. We then got higher and higher above the hut and people began to drop out, was really, really cold couldn’t feel my toes.

Thought about sitting down at some points but I kept going on because I knew I sat down I wouldn’t make it. Kept going and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done my feet were just so so heavy and I started swaying at one point but I kept going.

We were just before Gillmans Point when we began to see the sun on the horizon. Got there and was really excited, had a break there for like 5 and then kept on going to the full summit, was so so so hard like I was so exhausted and everything, but eventually I got there and was so happy. Didn’t get much video or pictures because it was too cold (so cold my phone died).

Others got a fair few shots, so yeah there will be a fair few photos going around.

I’ll call when I get to Springlands and tell you the rest, can’t be bothered to write anymore I’m really tired, missing you both though, talk later…

 

Baz – The Landy (On Kangaroo Island, but more on that later)

Ps: Tanzania works on Eastern African Time (EAT) which is 8 hours behind Sydney Australia. Mount Kilimanjaro stands at 19,340 feet above the African Plains. TomO and his mates will be resting up in a Safari Park before returning home on Christmas Eve…

 

Are we being ripped off?

Camping in a tent on the side of a mountain at heights above 6,000 metres has a number of considerations to take into account. 

Selection of the site, safety from environmental factors, and of course, staying warm is paramount!

Much of my camping above the snow line has been in New Zealand’s mountain huts, and whilst it can still be cold, the huts provide protection from the elements. So up until now my sleeping bags have been sufficiently warm enough.

Fox Glacier

But they are unlikely to provide the protection I need for this year’s two expeditions to Nepal which involve camping above 6,000 metres. So I have needed to add another sleeping to the many that already reside in our “gear room”.

There are numerous choices available from the obvious manufacturers’ such as The North Face and other popular brands. The quality produced by North Face is first rate, and this is a piece of equipment that shouldn’t be driven by cost considerations.

You want the best and it won’t necessarily be the cheapest!

But I am very reluctant and discriminating when it comes to supporting these major brands due to the differential pricing they have in place. Dependent on which country you reside in it may cost more, despite the product being precisely the same.

Try and buy a sleeping bag from the North Face in the United States and you find that it will direct you back to the Australian website and the price increases considerably.

This is a hotly debated topic in Australia covering a range of major companies!

I like to support local businesses and Australian manufacturers, whom are a dying breed mind you due to the high cost of producing anything in Australia, but a company I have supported many times is One Planet.

One Planet is an Australian based manufacturer of sleeping bags of extremely high quality and I have used and tested them on my mountaineering trips to New Zealand’s Southern Alps.

Without hesitation I contacted the company’s owner and asked would he make me a specialist sleeping bag suitable for temperatures of around minus 20 degrees Celsius – yes, no problem was the reply; we’ll get on to that straight away…

Today I took delivery of this important piece of equipment, which came at a cost far less than the equivalent from the major global brands here in Australia.

Hey, I can’t wait to be wrapped up all snuggly and warm inside it on a Himalayan mountain!

Photos, Baz – The Landy

Reality – It is what we choose to believe

Mountaineering

Do we underestimate the power of the mind, the power of positive thought?

Is anything possible, without limitation, if you give your mind’s eye a vision and allow it to believe you have already achieved it?

Okay, it will take much more than an hour or so in the lotus position every other day telling yourself you are a brain surgeon before you get to pick up a scalpel, but it all starts with a vision, right?

My countdown for this year’s two expeditions to Nepal is well underway and I am undertaking plenty of physical activity to prepare and rest assured the body is feeling it sometimes.

But just as important as my physical preparation is that I am mentally prepared.  And to take my mind off the 20-kilogram pack strapped to my back when I am out walking at silly o’clock I fill it with visions of standing atop those mountain peaks.

I picture myself telephoning my family, telling them I have summited and returned to the base-camp safely and sharing different aspects of the climb with them whilst sipping a warm mug of Sherpa tea.

Those conversations with my mind, with Janet and TomO, go right down to the detail of what is said!

Oh don’t worry, I’ve been practicing many other aspects of mountaineering these past few years, after all there are things to be learnt and practised – but that just reinforces what the mind knows it can do, right?

There are people who believe in positive affirmation, some who are not sure, and others with whom no amount of discussion will convince them it does. But let me share my own personal insight of why I know it does.

It was the mid- 1970s, I had just left school to join one of Australia’s largest banks and a month earlier I celebrated my 15th birthday. At the time the company produced a quarterly magazine called “The Etruscan” and in the very first edition I received was a story describing a day in the life of the people who undertook the bank’s money market operation…

I was enthralled, I wanted a job like that so in my mind’s eye I play-acted the people in the article, not that I actually had a clue what they really did, after all it was a short article, so I just made it up as I went – I was a natural.

Perhaps it was a bit unusual for someone of my age to be getting into this esoteric stuff, but that is what daydreamers do and I am a daydreamer. And I’m sure many will agree that a very fine line exists between dreams and reality confirmed by the days you wake up thinking, the dream I had was real….

Shortly I will have spent 40-years with this institution. Yes, 40-years, it wasn’t a typing error and for most of that time I have been managing and trading currencies in the bank’s money market operation.

You see a few years after convincing myself I was a natural at doing whatever it was they did, and following a set of events which were unrelated, I “woke” up in the bank’s trading room in front of a trading screen…

My vision of how it worked all those years ago is quite different to the sophistication of today’s global financial market, but that is just detail. I didn’t have to get the detail right all I had to do was to chant that mantra long and loud, to have a vision, to daydream and play act my part.

To simply believe!

After all, reality is what we choose to believe in…

Climb-on!

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”)

 

Nepal Mountaineering Expeditions – Gearing up

DSCN0576

The call to climb amongst the highest mountains in the world has been echoing in me for a long time.

The allure of standing on top of the world and looking out, and importantly, looking down, has proven far too great to ignore these past few years…

I had expected to be in Nepal in 2013 and 2014 after spending 2012 and the early part of 2013 training in New Zealand with the world’s best high altitude experts.

But, somehow life has the propensity to throw a curved ball every so often, and I’ve had a couple to catch over the past 12-months!

Whilst New Zealand has some of the world’s most magnificent mountain peaks, it doesn’t have the altitude of the Himalayas’. My ability to adapt to the altitude is an unknown, but it will be put to the test on two expeditions to Nepal in 2015.

The first will be in April to climb Mera Peak, which stands at 6,476 metres, 21,246 feet, and in September I will attempt Himlung, a peak that stands at 7,162 metres, 23,497 feet.

Both of these climbs will be done without the use of supplemental oxygen, but there will be a rigorous acclimitisation process to ensure the best chance of success.

And hopefully these climbs will set-me up for an ascent of Cho Oyu, an 8,000 metre peak bordering Tibet and Nepal.

I am confident of my ability to adapt; certainly I don’t expect expedition life will be a problem given my remote outback experience and the hardship that often brings.

Training is in full swing, but as always, remains a work in progress, and I will be spending time climbing in the wonderful Blue Mountains in the weeks ahead…

The first ascent of Mera Peak was made on 20 May 1953, using what has now become the standard route from Mera La and no subsequent ascent occurred until 1975. We will just miss the anniversary of the first climb in 1953 by a couple of days.

We will have two camps on the mountain, camp one at Mera La and camp two, our high camp, at 5,800 metres. Our summit day will typically start before dawn and we are hopeful to summit in 4-5 hours. Some fix rope will be used near the summit where it becomes very steep.

As 2014 draws to a close, grab your climbing harness and a rope, or perhaps if you prefer, a coffee or tea and a nice comfy couch.

Either way please be sure to join me in on these climbs; one step at a time, we can do it together…

 

Baz – The Landy

Cancer and Courage, our Mount Everest

Mt Aspiring

Courage is a very powerful word when you look behind its meaning…

“…to have courage is to have the ability and willingness to confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation”.

The word courage has been casually discussed around our dinner table amongst family and close friends in the context of my journey to the mountains, a journey that one day will lead me towards the summit of Mount Everest, fulfilling the dream of a young boy who has always believed that anything is possible –  just believe in that dream!

This week my sister Debbie, who is affectionately known to us as Merle, and I spoke about my journey and what it meant for her. Whilst she is an exceptionally talented musician and accomplished athlete it seems she never got that climbing and mountaineering gene.

And rest assured, I never got that musical gene. If they handed out awards for singing in the shower I’d still go home empty handed.

But as we spoke on the telephone tears rolled silently down my face…

Recently, Deb was diagnosed with cancer, a cancer that has taken a significant hold on her body in a relatively short period of time.

And here she was encouraging me to chase my dream, assuring me that she took great strength from my dream and my journey – and making me promise that no matter what happens to her that I must continue on my journey.

As we spoke she explained that the cancer that has infected her precious body is her own Mount Everest.

She reached out and said…

“Baz, take my hand and we will climb our own Mount Everest together, one step at a time, for that is the only way”.

Deb, Merle sent the following note to her many friends recently and I want to share it with you. I’m hopeful that it will inspire, inspire those who perhaps face their own Mount Everest…

Yes, courage is a very powerful word and I learnt its true meaning this week…

 The Beginning of a New Chapter

By “Merle”

A wonderful sister...
Merle, A  beautiful sister…

I am beginning a very important journey. So much to achieve, new directions to take, challenges to overcome, happiness to be found….endless opportunities to grab hold of. A time to redefine, evolve and embrace life to the fullest.

With the love and support of my family and dear friends, long standing and new, it will hopefully be a celebration of the human spirit that lives within us all. I am blessed that I have today and the time to make each moment count… moments that we can reflect and smile upon. Moments of “BEING” whatever that may be and wherever it may takes us.

I will be taking each precious day at a time and endeavouring to seek all the happiness and joy each of them bring. I will be promoting and encouraging all who know me to do the same. My one wish and only wish is for everyone to not focus on the disease (that is the doctor’s job) it is what it is. Find the love, joy, precious “ididocic” (idiotic) moments filled with laughter and all the happiness in the world during this time. NOT EASY…CHALLENGES NEVER ARE…DEFINITELY DOABLE!!!!

I understand this is a big ask for all who stand on the perimeter of watching someone they love go through this. To me, it is counter-productive to dissect and try to analyse and make sense of this disease consuming my body. It would obscure the human spirit that defines ME as a person…I am most afraid of losing sight of who I am in all this. If you can help, it would be beneficial not only for me, but ALL of us, please participate however and in whatever way you can to… HELP ME…REMIND ME…REMEMBER AND ENHANCE THE MEMORIES!!! For after all, this chapter is NOT ALL ABOUT ME. It is about ALL of us and what we gain from this experience.

CONFRONTING…yes, very much so. If not confronted we have not the opportunity to overcome this.

SCARY…mmmm!!! I imagine it could be at times. I do believe, always have, that knowledge and sharing is powerful. The understanding gained and shared puts things in perspective and allows you to take away or minimise the “scariness” to some degree.

SAD….definitely, we will all feel it. Sadness is a positive emotion, I believe it shows how much we truly treasure, connect and love each other. It is an emotion to not hide…we cannot be BRAVE all the time, that would be counter-productive, and we would go insane. Release the tears, smile and begin again.

“IDIDOCIC” MOMENTS…Yes please, lots and lots of them!!!   Also remember past “ididocic” experiences and share with everyone who will listen. Laugh, BIG belly laughs and rejoice!!!!

I am looking forward to the moments we will all share and I am truly blessed, humbled and consider myself the most fortunate person on this earth to have such beautiful people in my life. Thank you for being you and hold on…this journey is going to be a big one with lots of opportunities.

Love Merle x x x

Dreams come true (For those who believe)

“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in name, nor do the children of man as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

I have always been encouraged by these words penned by Helen Keller.

Living life to the fullest, taking risks, knowing your limitations, these are questions I frequently ponder.

Janet thinks the same way, and is the anchor that questions the balance between risk and reward, whether you have prepared as best you could, and are you ready?

My mountaineering goals are as high as the largest mountains. I want to explore further the joy and satisfaction, the freedom and beauty that mountains bring into my life.

But I have been cognisant of the impact it has on our son, TomO, negative and positive.

We are bringing TomO up in an environment where he is encouraged to pursue his dreams and to believe that anything is possible, and from an early age he has demonstrated a willingness to throw himself at life with no holds barred…

The exuberance of youth!

Next year I will travel to Nepal in both the pre and post monsoon periods climbing on two different expeditions, first and foremost to enjoy the experience.  But the expeditions will also help prepare me for an attempt on  Cho Oyu, the world’s 6th highest mountain peak, standing at 8,200 metres.

“And what about  Mt Everest” TomO has asked.

“Do you want to climb it”

“Yes” I told him.

Prior to climbing in New Zealand’s Southern Alps  he  wrote me a note to say that one day he might be standing on top of Mt Everest with me.

I said to him “One step at a time”…

Explaining I am on a journey  that may take me there, but it isn’t my real focus just at the moment.

In fact, the journey isn’t about climbing Mt Everest either, but hopefully it will form part of the dream, the journey, to experience high altitude climbing, to see what I am capable of.

I went on to tell him that having dreams and aspirations define who we are and is part of the mosaic that is life itself.

Perhaps it is no more than a child’s feeling of wanting to follow in the footsteps of those close to them, to emulate them. But it made me smile to think that he is developing a line of thought that gives him the confidence to pursue his dreams, whatever they are.

As parents, we couldn’t ask for anything more, besides it would be wrong to dismiss or ignore…

I’ve always been a dreamer, and always will be – dreams come true if you believe in them…

I asked him was that truly a goal he would like to pursue and what motivated him?

“Yes” he said.

“How great it would be to experience that feeling of the mountains you have described to me and doing it together makes it special”.

Janet told him there is plenty of time to think it through, adding that he will need to prepare for it if that is his dream…

Perhaps the enormity of the task is lost on him presently and we place no expectations on him whatsoever, but simply want to help him understand it is important to develop and set one’s own expectations of themselves.

But it puts to the test our resolve to support him in any endeavour he wants to undertake.

I asked Janet what she thought of “her boys” heading off to Mt Everest together?

Her reply was simple and uncomplicated.

“It scares me” she said.

“But if that time comes I will proudly walk every step of the way to base camp with you and will find the inner strength and courage to wait for news from the mountain, for after all, life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.”

 

Baz – The Landy

Beer – Magical and Medicinal

Outback AustraliaLike a couple of old Holden cars in the Australian Outback, I was feeling just a little rusty and worse-for-wear this morning as I headed out on a 10-kilometre pack walk with the mandatory 20-kilograms strapped to my back.

In the pre-dawn darkness the kookaburra’s were just stirring in the Harbour City, laughing as I trudged on up the hill…

As part of my training to prepare for two climbing expeditions to Nepal in both the pre and post monsoon periods in 2015 I pack-walk between 10-20 kilometres with a 20-kilogram backpack every other day, and do sprint running on the other days.

Unfortunately, a recurring injury I have suffered over the past 12 months or so has been a tight calf-muscle in my left leg. Well to be more specific, and for the medically inclined, it is the peroneus muscle group.

Over the weekend “The Kiwi” was in town so there was plenty of training on Saturday in the mountains and given the extreme heat a few beers were consumed at the day’s end!

Water would have been better wouldn’t have cut it…

Of course, many will know “The Kiwi” as my partner in endurance events both in Australia and his homeland of New Zealand, and he is the bloke who has dreamed up a 250-kilometre run, come walk, from Newcastle to Sydney in March next year – apparently in 60-hours!

Oddly, 250-kilometres seems to figure often in the things he dreams up, last time that number came up it was a 250-kilometre cycle, run, and kayak from the west to the east coast of New Zealand’s south island.

Yes, these plans have usually been hatched over a few beers, and you’d think I would have learnt by now that one always needs to be cautious of Kiwis’ bearing gifts of free beers…

Crikey, I wouldn’t have it any other way though!

But on beers, the pain in my left calf muscle was absent on my pack walk at silly o’clock this morning, confirming, I’m sure, that beer is full of magical medicinal properties – truly, nectar of the Gods’.

Well that is the story I’m sticking with anyway, let’s face it – when you’re on a good thing!

 Photo:  Baz – The Landy (on Trilby Station in Outback Australia)

Dope on a Rope

(Big Bad) Baz on  Sweet Dream, Blue Mountains, Australia

 Just hanging out, on a climb called “Sweet Dreams”…

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

An Outhouse (With a view)

An Outhouse (With a view)

How is this one at Pioneer Hut high up on Fox Glacier, New Zealand’s Southern Alps.

Almost an expedition to get to the little Red House from the hut and the drop off is quite dramatic, but hey, you’ve got to love the view!

 

Photo: 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

Beware of Trojan Horses (“The Kiwi” strikes again)

Heatons Gap, AustraliaI have a couple of things to say about this photo.

Firstly, it is Heatons Gap in the Watagan Mountains to the north of Sydney. It starts off steep and then it really gets steep. This photograph of me was taken on a training run with a backpack loaded with a 20-kilo sand bag.

Yeah I know it seemed like a good idea down in the car park, hindsight is a marvellous thing…

Secondly, if you are wondering what I’m saying, I’ll give you the sanitized version – if I ever catch up to “The Kiwi” he’ll be plucked…

“The Kiwi” is my brother-in-law.

The Kiwi - I often wondered how he arrived "Across the Ditch"
The Kiwi – I’ve often wondered how he arrived “Across the Ditch”
Baz - Mountain Run, Coast to Coast Race, New Zealand
Baz – Mountain Run, Coast to Coast Race, New Zealand

Yeah that’s right, the bloke that had me signed up for a run, cycle, and kayak, from the West Coast of New Zealand to the East Coast in less than 24 hours, a couple of years back…

Now I will admit there was beer involved in the lead-up to being “pressed ganged” by “The Kiwi” to the start line on that occasion. Come to think about it my skydiving career had its genesis in the bottom of a beer glass in the early 1980s during a session with Bluey and the boys at the Breakfast Creek hotel in Brisbane.

Skydiving at Picton, Australia
Skydiving at Picton, Australia

Yes, I heard you saying there’s a bit of a pattern developing here…

But hey, in my defence, I was young and stupid back then.

At least I can say that I have moved forward over the years, now I’m only stupid!

I didn’t know “The Kiwi” back then, he was too busy jumping off cliffs with a parachute on his back, paragliding around New Zealand’s north island.

Anyway, “The Kiwi” calls me up a little while back…

“Baz, I’m turning 50-years young on 13 September and I thought we could have a few beers”.

Now you’ve got to be very cautious of Kiwi’s offering to buy you a beer, especially if you’re an Aussie. It’s a long story, but there was an under-arm bowling incident in a cricket game way back in 1981 from which they cannot move on. So if they are being nice, there is bound to be a catch, if you’ll pardon the pun…

“What is the catch”, I asked…

“None”, he said, “but I thought we might walk to the pub”.

“That’s sounds sensible”

Alarm bells were ringing inside my head, after all this is months away, but his shout, so why not?

“Walk” I said,

“We’ll, walk and run, after all the quicker we get there the more time we get before the girls come looking for us”.

Um, that would be Leah and Janet.

Leah and Janet (You boy's don't know how lucky you are!)
Leah and Janet (You boy’s don’t know how lucky you are!)

Strewth, I’m thinking “The Kiwi” is actually talking sense for a change!

“Yep, sign me up” I said without further delay…

Well sign me up he did…

Today our entries for the Great North Walk 100, a 100-kilometre run through the Australian bush on September 13, up and down a mountain range that will take us around 18-20 hours to complete, was accepted.

Fortunately we are no strangers to the area and we’ll be doing a training run up Heatons Gap this weekend, the first of many…

Strewth, I’m starting to feel thirsty just thinking about it…

Wish us luck; we’ll need it that’s for sure!

Anyway, the moral of the story (if there needs to be one) is if you are going to drink beer with a Kiwi, The Kiwi, then accept all may not be what it seems – so just gulp it down and enjoy the experience!

 Footnote (for the uninitiated):

“Kiwi” is the name given to a small flightless bird that is native to New Zealand, and New Zealander’s are usually referred to as Kiwi’s…

And where is New Zealand I hear you ask?

Well, it is not too far across “The Ditch” – The Tasman Sea; just think of it as an outpost of Sydney’s Bondi Beach! 😉

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

The Shed (The Sweat Room)

The Shed - The font of all worldy knowledge
The Shed – The Sweat Room

The training shed up in the backyard was in full action this morning with a 10,000-metre row to the sounds of Deep Purple at silly o’clock…

 As much as I enjoy strength and weight training, I can’t expect to be a 100-kilogram gorilla and climb mountains, but the weight training has kept me going over these past few months…

Baz - A daily dose of weight bearing exercise
Baz – A daily dose of weight bearing exercise

 Hey, keep your fingers crossed that my Achilles tendon that I had surgically repaired earlier this year holds up!

And it seems to be as I start ramping up the cardio exercise and I must say it makes a pleasant change to the weight training.

As part of training for the mountains I am working towards a 100 kilometre-running race (I use the term running sparingly) through the mountains that I regularly hike and that takes place in September 2014.

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

And I’ll need every bit of that time to prepare, and the last mountain running I did was in one of the world’s toughest endurance races, the Speight’s Coast to Coast Adventure Race in New Zealand in 2012.

And yes, that Kiwi brother-in-law of mine is hot on my heels pushing me, again!

Tongio "the Kiwi" and baz
Tongio “the Kiwi” and Baz

I’m also planning to cycle the iconic Birdsville Track in outback Australia in April 2014.  It is roughly 500 kilometres in length and the aim is to ride as much as I can on my Canondale 29-er Mountain Bike.

Dream big I say, and of course, live to the motto that  “those that don’t think it can be done shouldn’t bother the person doing it.”

Grey's Peak New Zealand
Baz on top of Grey’s Peak, New Zealand

 Cheers, Baz – The Landy

Nobby’s Beach (Newcastle, East Coast Australia)

beach pavilion
Nobby’s Beach, Newcastle, Australia

How good is this, a bike ride to the beach and some lap swimming in the ocean pool just as the sun pierced the eastern horizon…

And boy, do I need to get some exercise and fitness back into me, after all there are mountains to climb, eventually!

But for now, two weeks of cycling, swimming and kayaking, strewth, it’s a tough life, but us Aussies’ are used to this tough life 😉

Photo: Baz, The Landy

Dope on a Rope (Over Australia)

How good is this… just hanging out, a dope on a rope…

Sublime Point, Blue Mountains, Australia
Sublime Point, Blue Mountains, Australia
(Big Bad) Baz on  Sweet Dream, Blue Mountains, Australia
(Big Bad) Baz on Sweet Dream, Blue Mountains, Australia
Just hanging out - On Sweet Dreams
Just hanging out – On Sweet Dreams

 

Ever played Twister? It helps!
Ever played Twister? It helps!

Strewth I’ve got to get back to some climbing, and what better place than a climb on Sweet Dreams in the Blue Mountains just to the west of Sydney…now there’s a thought!

And hey, remember, if all else fails, just take a running leap at life, see what develops and live to the motto…

“Those that don’t think it can be done shouldn’t bother the person doing it”…

If all else fails, just take a running leap at life...
If all else fails, just take a running leap at life…

(Big Bad) Baz…

White Cliffs – Outback Australia (Where’s Baz)

Underground Motel
White Cliffs, Outback Australia

I’ve had a little bit of hiatus from the keyboard over the past couple of weeks and perhaps you’ve may have been thinking where’s Baz, has he gone underground or something…

Well talking about going underground, I took this photo late in the afternoon at White Cliffs, Outback Australia on one of our recent trips…

And just below the surface is the Underground Motel where we stayed in rooms fashioned out of an old mine.  White Cliffs is an opal mining town, whose day time temperatures in summer can be above a ‘hundred on the old Fahrenheit scale for weeks on end and below zero at night in the depths of winter.

White Cliffs, Underground Motel
White Cliffs, Underground Motel

Seemingly, there is little happening on the climbing front just at the moment, even though I have recovered sufficiently from the operations earlier in the year, I’ve just lost a bit of zest for it.

Baz, Southern Alps, New Zealand
Baz, Southern Alps, New Zealand

Isn’t life funny sometimes, hey!

I wanted to be on those high mountains so badly earlier this year, in fact I was scheduled to be in Nepal climbing this month, and now I’m struggling to get motivated enough to get back out there – so fingers crossed for me!

And crikey, in the meantime, it is Janet’s scones cooked in a camp oven in the Outback and TomO’s antics whilst on tour– and there’s nothing wrong with that!

Photos: Baz, The Landy

Mutawintji Gorge (Outback Australia)

Australian landscapes

Mutawintji Gorge is spectacular for its towering rusty red rock cliffs and overhangs, its magnificent rock pool, cool and soothing on a hot outback day…

 We took the time to wile away the hours at the base of the cliffs, and later climbing them…an oasis in the desert, a timeless place, inhabited by an ancient people.

 Photo: Baz, The Landy

The Bush Christening (On the outer Barcoo)

Welford National Park
The Barcoo River

Rivers, creeks, and billabongs, they have a way of drawing you in, somewhat like a divining rod in search of water.

Australia has a wonderful maze of inland river systems, which, at times dry up leaving waterholes, or billabongs, as we know them…

They feature heavily in stories and poems, songs and prose, of the Australian Outback.

Recently we camped beside a billabong, nearby to the Darling River, one of Australia’s largest, which slowly meanders its way towards a confluence with the mighty Murray River at Wentworth.

Steamboats plied their trade along the river as far north as Bourke, carrying supplies to the towns that dotted the Darling, transporting wool bales back to the cities on the return trip. Of course, drought, of which there were many, could see the boats stranded for long periods of time.

This land attracted many writers, inspired by the wide open spaces of the Australian Outback, and included Henry Lawson, whom I wrote about recently, and Banjo Paterson.

Jundah
The (Dusty) Road less Travelled

They are two of my favourite Australian writers.

Simply, their writings are timeless, despite both passing long-ago, you can sit by a billabong or a river and hear the echo of the men, and women, they wrote about, the friendly banter, the sorrow, the laughs, the tears, the highs and the lows.

Both men travelled extensively in some of my favourite parts of the Australian Outback.

One such place is the Barcoo River, nearby to the town of Jundah and the Welford National Park in far western-Queensland.  A small town of not too many people, where the pub, owned and operated by Monica, is the go to place to hear news, a social epicentre for the area.

Parched and Dry Country
Parched and Dry Country

Lawson and Paterson, parched from travelling the dusty land, would have quenched their thirst at establishments just like the Jundah Pub!

Banjo Paterson was especially inspired by the Barcoo and surrounding area.

We travelled to this area to visit the site of Maggee’s Shanty and Richard Magoffin’s Grave which were not too far from Jundah and the Welford National Park. Those familiar with the writing’s of Banjo Paterson will recognise this is the place immortalised in his poem A Bush Christening.

Jundah
Maggee Shanty – A Bush Christening

The grave of Richard Magoffin, who perished in 1885, is nearby.

Magoffin came to Australia from County Down in Ireland in 1853, digging for gold in Victoria and fighting at Eureka. Later he settled with a brother at Chiltern, Victoria, before moving to Bourke, where they sank dams and ran a carting business before tough times sent them further north, to Queensland.

There was very little to see of Maggee’s Shanty, although a plaque indicated its site, but Magoffin’s Grave was very well kept.

And under darkened skies, with the threat of rain present, we huddled together at the site of Maggee’s Shanty, and read…

The Bush Christening – By AB ‘Banjo’ Paterson

On the outer Barcoo where the churches are few,

                  And men of religion are scanty,

On a road never cross’d ‘cept by folk that are lost,

                  One Michael Magee had a shanty.

Now this Mike was the dad of a ten-year-old lad,

                  Plump, healthy, and stoutly conditioned;

He was strong as the best, but poor Mike had no rest

                  For the youngster had never been christened,

And his wife used to cry, “If the darlin’ should die

                  Saint Peter would not recognise him.”

But by luck he survived till a preacher arrived,

                  Who agreed straightaway to baptise him.

Now the artful young rogue, while they held their collogue,

                  With his ear to the keyhole was listenin’,

And he muttered in fright while his features turned white,

                  “What the divil and all is this christenin’?”

He was none of your dolts, he had seen them brand colts,

                  And it seemed to his small understanding,

If the man in the frock made him one of the flock,

                  It must mean something very like branding.

So away with a rush he set off for the bush,

                  While the tears in his eyelids they glistened-

“‘Tis outrageous,” says he, “to brand youngsters like me,

                  I’ll be dashed if I’ll stop to be christened!”

Like a young native dog he ran into a log,

                  And his father with language uncivil,

Never heeding the “praste” cried aloud in his haste,

                  “Come out and be christened, you divil!”

But he lay there as snug as a bug in a rug,

                  And his parents in vain might reprove him,

Till his reverence spoke (he was fond of a joke)

                  “I’ve a notion,” says he, “that’ll move him.”

“Poke a stick up the log, give the spalpeen a prog;

                  Poke him aisy-don’t hurt him or maim him,

‘Tis not long that he’ll stand, I’ve the water at hand,

                  As he rushes out this end I’ll name him.

“Here he comes, and for shame! ye’ve forgotten the name-

                  Is it Patsy or Michael or Dinnis?”

Here the youngster ran out, and the priest gave a shout-

                  “Take your chance, anyhow, wid ‘Maginnis’!”

As the howling young cub ran away to the scrub

                  Where he knew that pursuit would be risky,

The priest, as he fled, flung a flask at his head

                  That was labelled “Maginnis’s Whisky!”

And Maginnis Magee has been made a J.P.,

                  And the one thing he hates more than sin is

To be asked by the folk who have heard of the joke,

                  How he came to be christened “Maginnis”!

The Bulletin, 16 December 1893.

As a footnote, the heavens opened up as we walked back to the vehicle bringing much needed rain to the area, but turning the roads into a slippery brown sludge.

Defender 130 Twin Cab
Covered in mud

The Landy, with Tvan in tow, arrived in Quilpie a few hours later covered in mud!

Such is life, but what a great day with my two favourite people…

By the Billabong
By the Billabong with Janet and TomO (the walking hat!)
Photos by: Baz, The Landy

A Weapon of Mass Destruction (The Fantastic Plastic Card)

The Landy and Tvan, Outback Australia
“The Landy” and T-Van, Outback Australia

Regular visitors to my much rambling blog will know that apart from trying to climb mountains, and run around the bush with a back-pack, that we frequently get “Out and About” in a four-wheel drive vehicle.

A Landrover Defender that co-incidentally goes by the name of “The Landy”. A vehicle that you’ve got to love, even if it is too slow to keep worms in a tin.

Janet is suggesting you go and grab yourself a cocktail to sip on, after all it is approaching the cocktail hour, and she knows too well I can be Harry-have-a-chat, you know, the sort of bloke that can talk under wet cement with a mouthful of marbles.

Um, I see you made yourself two, good, it is nice to have company.

Strewth, you’re going to drink them both?

Anyway, where were we?

Oh, yes, and don’t we love “The Landy” as it gets Janet, TomO, and me “Out and About” in the Australian Outback, soaking up the big blue sky country.

Mayne Range, Diamantina NP, Outback Australia
Mayne Range, Diamantina NP, Outback Australia

Recently, around the camp fire with “Bluey and the Boys”, the conversation got around to the money we spend on our toys.

A self-confessed newbie to off-road travelling and touring posed the question…

 “What should I buy and how should I equip my vehicle”…

Crikey, these types of questions are welcomed around the camp-fire as it means at least another couple of beers while answers are given and debated, and besides there is no such thing as a silly question.

Around the fire - Trilby Station, Outback Australia
Around the fire – Trilby Station, Outback Australia

Janet is hovering a bit and has just suggested silly questions are highly probable if it involves, four-wheel drive vehicles, beer and  boy’s around a camp-fire.

But this question got me thinking that perhaps it is asked the wrong way around.

I thought, how much better our bank balance would be money one could save if the question was turned around to read…

“What equipment shouldn’t I buy?”

An often held view is that today’s modern four-wheel drive vehicle needs to be optioned up and fitted with all kinds of after-market gadgetry.

In reality, late model examples of the most the popular brands, including Toyota Land Cruisers, Nissan Patrols, and heaven forbid, Landrovers , yes I have two Defenders, are quite adequate straight out of the box, right off the showroom floor.

Red Rover, The other Defender
Red Rover, The other Defender

The vehicle after-market parts industry would have us believe that a five-inch lift, winch, diff-locks, a bull bar big enough to push over a small building, and an over-haul of the suspension system is required…

And that is just to get you down the front-driveway to the gate of your house!

The Landy and T-Van heading down the driveway
The Landy and T-Van heading down the driveway (On another adventure)

But strewth, the reality is quite different, and a slightly different approach could have you banking cash to spend whilst on a trip, or something to put away for the next.

Whoops, Janet is still looking over my shoulder…

Yes I’m hearing you sweetie… or that new dress!

Mind you, after that big event you went in whilst in London recently, you remember shop till you drop, will mean “The Landy” won’t be getting any new gadgets for at least another week a long, long time.

Crikey, when it comes to vehicle modifications I reckon you’d be best to just go out and enjoy the country and “suck it and see” on any short-falls you might find.

So I tossed this little list of “things you can do without” into the discussion around the fire…

Bull bars, nice to have, but adds a lot of weight to the front-end almost guaranteeing you’ll need a suspension upgrade.

And yes, I know your uncle lives out at whoop, whoop and he hits a “kangaroo-a-week” and no doubting he needs one.

But I have never hit one in years of travelling the outback.

Kangaroos, Trilby Station, Outback Australia
Kangaroos, Trilby Station, Outback Australia

A Winch… no Bluey, I said winch, so watch your tongue and go and grab yourself another beer…

Well if you get a bull bar, a winch is a great accessory to adorn it.

But really, unless you actually “intend” to go into areas where it is almost guaranteed to be required, than save your money.

Many want to add it for insurance, just in case, and it usually dies from under-use.

A suspension upgrade – crikey, this can be a tricky one, if you have wasted spent money on the first two then you’ll probably need to chuck some money at this as well. Besides, your Toyota Prado will look great in traffic driving across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, head and shoulders above everything else.

Crossing Sydney Harbour Bridge in Red Rover (Head and Shoulders above everything)
Crossing Sydney Harbour Bridge in Red Rover (Head and Shoulders above everything)

But if you can drive with caution and approach obstacles carefully, and not like you’re in the Paris to Dakar rally, you might get away with the stock standard system that was fitted to the vehicle when you drove it out of the show room.

Riversleigh World Heritage Site, Outback Australia (Would test any Paris to Dakar Rally Car)
Riversleigh World Heritage Site, Outback Australia (Would test any Paris to Dakar Rally Car)

Communication radios – okay, if you like colourful language and you’re as lonely as a country dunny, it might be a useful addition to an already cluttered dashboard.

Otherwise, if your wife blushes at the thought of a four-letter word, or you have got three kids strapped in the back, then save your money, you can do without it.

If you keep a look out the front windscreen you’ll probably avoid most vehicles coming the other way, after all seeing is believing, or so they say!

Although, come to think of it, if you have got three kids in the back, it might make a change from the “are we there yet” whine.

The Landy, Outback Australia (with antennas for the communication radios)
“The Landy”, Outback Australia (with antennas for the communication radios fully visible)

Power and Engine upgrades – strewth, isn’t that the beauty of modern motor vehicle engines that use computer technology.

You can just plug a few leads in and spend lots of your hard earned cash tweaking something the vehicle manufacturer and its engineers’ spent tens of millions of dollars on ensuring was the best combination when they made it.

Sure, if you want to tow a caravan half-the-size of a Hollywood Mansion behind you, or you have a need to cover the breadth of Australia in record time, then I can see you might need it…

But hey, don’t get me wrong, there are people out there doing chip-upgrades and they need a retirement fund, so live in the knowledge you’ll be making it a more comfortable retirement for them.

A Fridge – hell, this is heading into dangerous territory, after all how do you keep Janet’s wine TomO’s milk refrigerated without it?

The Landy - Outback Australia (that looks like a fridge to me!)
The Landy – Outback Australia (that looks like a fridge to me!)

Back in a ‘sec, Janet has just suggested that it would be best if I went to the fridge and get her a top up from that lovely bottle of Hunter Valley Chardonnay she has almost knocked off bought the other day.

Janet - Cheeky as ever
Janet – Cheeky as ever

Dual Battery System – well, if you need a fridge to keep things refrigerated then you’ll need a second battery to run it, and perhaps a couple of beers to get you over the bill when it comes in from the auto-electrician.

Roof Rack – have you ever lifted one of those things, they’re usually pretty heavy if you want a good one and another reason you’ll probably need a chip-upgrade and better suspension.

But if you can leave a few items at home, like three-quarters of the things that Janet tries to stuff in “The Landy” you think you’ll need, then you may be able to say no thanks to your local four-wheel drive warehouse, I’ll not be needing one.

The Landy - packed full of Janet's stuff toys
The Landy – packed full of Janet’s stuff toys

Spot Lights – the bigger the better, after all if you’re going to spend money on those shiny things that go up front, you might as well get a pair that would spot a Spinifex Hoping Mouse at three miles.

But many of the people I see with them on the front of the vehicle are tucked up in bed at one-minute-past-sunset, which sort of makes them a bit redundant…

Um, the spotlights that is.

But hey, what better way to let someone into your wallet again.

Anyway, I hope you’re still around and not rolling around on the floor somewhere as I can see you finished off those two cocktails…

See, reading a long rambling post does have its merits.

So what makes me an expert anyway?

Yes, I heard you whispering!

A four-wheel drive named “The Landy” that is full of gadgets, and an empty bank account to go with it…

Hey, and good luck out there, wherever there is!

Come on, you can relate to this can’t you?

After all you don’t need a four-wheel drive to whip out that “Fantastic Plastic” and do some damage with that  “Weapon of Mass Destruction”…

Photos: Baz, The Landy

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

We all die (But how many of us truly live?)

Ourimperee Water Hole - Outback Australia
Sunrise – Ourimperee Water Hole – Outback Australia

Recently I had an exchange of thoughts around the notion that “we all die but how many of us truly live”.

But what does “truly live” really mean?

Does it mean we need to push beyond what others are doing, or scale the tallest mountain, travel the world endlessly, perhaps run the fastest marathon or lift the heaviest weight?

Maybe it could just mean sitting with a loved one and watching the sun pierce the eastern horizon as another day dawns…

And with plenty of time on my hands as I recover from recent surgery I pondered this question, in between snoozing on the day-bed, of course!

Baz and MilO
Baz and MilO

I am strongly of the view there are no ordinary moments; no ordinary people; no ordinary lives.

Crikey, therein lies the key, I thought!

There are no ordinary moments…

Whether you are travelling the world, caring for a loved one, climbing the tallest mountain, putting out the garbage, or even eating brussel sprouts.

Treat all the moments of your life, whatever you are doing, as something special and then you are truly living.

Baz traversing Mt Aurora
Baz –  traversing Mt Aurora, New Zealand

Being a climber and mountaineer, of sorts, I am inspired by Sir Edmund Hillary, not just because he was the first person, along with Tenzing Norgay, to summit and descend Mt Everest, but because he was a very humble man, a man that always had his hand out to help others, a man who truly lived his life.

And Sir Edmund had this to say…

“I have had the world lie beneath my clumsy boots and saw the red sun slip over the horizon after the dark Antarctic winter. I have been given more than my share of excitement, beauty, laughter and friendship.

Each of us has to discover his own path – of that I am sure.

Some paths will be spectacular and others peaceful and quiet – who is to say which is the most important? For me, the most rewarding moments have not always been the great moments, for what can surpass a tear on your departure, joy on your return, and a trusting hand in yours?” Sir Edmund Hilary…

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!

The Road to Recovery (Back at home)

Baz - Recovering
Baz – Recovering in the backyard

The miracle of modern medicine and surgery has me at home already, recovering from the surgery I had on both of my ankles late last week…

My doctor is very happy with the procedures and results.

I had an endoscopy on my right ankle to clear some bone debris from a skydiving accident in 2008, and a couple of spurs that had formed.

The left heel was opened completely and the Achilles tendon detached to repair a split which apparently was mostly due to degeneration and to clean the heel of a couple of spurs and a boney protrusion, commonly known as a Haglund’s Bump.  Because it was detached I have had to have two anchor screws placed to enable the Achilles to be sewn back on.

My sport’s doctor had tried some conventional and non-conventional non-surgical therapy on my left foot, including Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injections that provided only moderate results.

I’m now recuperating at home and the doctor has suggested two to three weeks of complete rest to hopefully assist in a quicker recovery. Mobility is a problem as my left foot cannot take any weight at all, although my right foot can take weight, which is useful for getting around.

The plan is to progressively introduce some weight and physiotherapy to both feet over the coming month and we are hoping for a full recovery within three months.

Of course, that is the plan, and whilst it is unlikely to be earlier, it may take longer.

Baz - Grey's Peak, New Zealand
Baz – New Zealand

I have until mid-August to confirm my place on the expedition to Nepal in November, so plenty of time to recover and train, hopefully.

And to all, thanks very much for your kind words of support and I’m confident I’ll be back to doing what I love very soon…just being Out and About having fun!

Baz - Southern Alps, New Zealand
Baz – The Landy, Out and About having fun

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!

What – Me Inspiring? (Someone’s had the beer googles on)

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

Recently I was nominated for an Inspiring Blogger Award, for which I am truly humbled.

 I understand there is a protocol for responding to these nominations, kindly made by Christina Waschko, author and owner of the “Strawberry Lounge” in the Netherlands, and by Kevan, a Canadian Expat living in the Czech Republic.  

Christina authors a blog Very Berry Extraordinary, and Kevan’s writing can be viewed at Beyond Prague.  

First and foremost I would like to say to both Christina and Kevan, thankyou!

I am overwhelmed by the many comments I receive on a daily basis in support of my journey and in response to what I have written, my rantings. 

Baz - The Landy
Baz – The Landy

I’m just an ordinary Aussie bloke who tries not to take life too seriously, but to simply enjoy life for what it is, to take it on the chin when I need to, have a good laugh at myself at other times, and to take the mickey out of anyone that is fair game!

Strewth, who would ever have thought you lot would be interested in the ramblings of someone with a few ‘roos loose in the top paddock, and who wants to climb the world’s tallest mountains.

But crikey, I do love talking about the sun-drenched country I live in with my wonderful family…

In fact, given half a chance, I’d talk the leg off a kitchen table telling you about it…

Oh, for crying out loud Baz, just say it, you’re amongst friends here, Australia’s the best flamin’ country in the world, mate…

And I can’t help but write about my very supportive family, the beautiful people in my life, Janet and TomO, and of the love they give me, unconditionally…

Janet and TomO
Janet and TomO

Writing of lazy afternoons down by the lake with friends, of rock-faces in the Blue Mountains, and of course, my rather audacious plan to climb high mountains, of the dream I have to go to the top of the world, to climb Mt Everest…

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 lows…

About their very own Mt Everest…

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

Baz - Climb on
Baz – Climb on

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.

The Shed
The Shed

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

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

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

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 – they are you!

Each and every one of you is helping me to find the courage to overcome the challenges and barriers that sometimes stand in the way of my own dreams…

I take great inspiration from you all and I won’t single any one person out, for you are all very special to me – and from the bottom of my heart thank you for enriching my life by rewarding me with a window into yours!

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

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

We're always out of control - and loving it!
We’re always out of control – and loving it!

Sydney Harbour and the Coat Hangar (Life Down-under)

Sydney Harbour Bridge
Sydney Harbour Bridge

This week marked the passing of another year in the history of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, it turned 81 years old.

 It was officially opened on 19 March, 1932.

Southern Approach - Sydney Harbour Bridge
Southern Approach – Sydney Harbour Bridge

An icon around the world, in more recent times it has become a focal point for New Year celebrations as Sydney-siders herald in another year with the bridge festooned in colourful fireworks.

Of course it is more than that, it is a life-line to those travelling from the north of Sydney to the south and whilst many years ago the Sydney Harbour tunnel was built, taking vehicular traffic under the harbour, it still doesn’t match a trip over the Coat-Hangar.

Sydney Harbour and the Sydney Opera House
Sydney Harbour and the Sydney Opera House

And New Yorkers’ might be just left wondering where you had seen our bridge before. The design of the bridge was heavily influenced by the Hell Gate Bridge in New York.

I drive over the bridge each day on my way to work in Sydney’s central business district and I always take in the view it gives of the harbour and marvel at the engineering feat.

Northern Approach, Sydney Harbour Bridge
Northern Approach, Sydney Harbour Bridge

 Of course, for those who are inclined, make sure you take the bridge climb if you ever visit Sydney – the views of Sydney Harbour are spectacular…

Crikey, you’ve just got to love Sydney, hey?

photos: Baz, The Landy

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

Shelter from the storm (Almer Hut – New Zealand)

Shelter from the storm (Almer Hut - New Zealand)

Almer Hut is situated high on top of the Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand’s Southern Alps.

The red building has been a welcome sight to many who have traversed this fantastic country.

At the time I passed through it was sitting just below the snow line and the area offered great views to the mountains and the Tasman Sea.

New Zealand, you’ve got to love it, an adventurer’s playground…

photo: Baz, The Landy 

Stop using the “F” Word – There is no such thing as failure

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

Recently I was invited to give a talk about my journey into the mountains and my quest to climb amongst the world’s highest peaks.

And crikey, let me tell you, I could talk the leg off a kitchen table if given half-a-chance to do so, especially when it is something I feel passionate about, so I jumped at the chance…

But what was the message I wanted to give was a question I asked myself.

After all, not everyone wants to climb mountains, but we all have our “own” Mt Everest that we want to scale.

Seemingly, all too often we hold ourselves back because of a fear of failure and I thought this would be the perfect theme for my talk…

I have written on this topic previously, but it was great to be able to talk it out aloud…

Grey's Peak New Zealand
Baz on top of Grey’s Peak, New Zealand

 Stop using the “F” Word – There is no such thing as failure

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you about my rather audacious plan to climb the world’s highest mountains.

To climb as many of the world’s 8,000 metre peaks as I can.

Heaven forbid to climb to the top of Mt Everest.

Of course, standing on top of Mt Everest is an aspiration, not a goal in its own right, but part of a journey I have embarked on.

My reason is no simpler, or more complicated than wanting to see what I am capable of, what I can achieve, to explore new horizons, to develop as a person and to grow in the face of difficulty.

If there is one thing I have discovered since embarking on this journey of discovery is the  need to be brutally honest as you come face to face with yourself.

It is a place where your ego is best left at the bottom of the mountain and you must be true to yourself at all times.

Of course, you don’t need to head to the mountains to practice that attribute.

And I’ll talk more about the mountains later.

I have themed today’s discussion around the notion that that there is no such thing as failure.

Failure is a word I’ve never been comfortable with and I’m sure it doesn’t sit well with others. But for many, not achieving a goal they’ve set out to achieve often leads to despair, feelings of not succeeding.

It can be deflating…

Life is a learning experience, a journey that we are all on and we should never consider anything we do as a failure.

Maybe there are times we wish that we might have done something differently and there is nothing wrong with that.

But we should all think of our experiences as the building blocks that create the mosaic of who we are.

A review of most dictionaries will give a number of definitions of failure, but the common theme is “the condition or fact of not achieving the desired end or ends”.

Now I understand that many of you are students and are looking at me and thinking that when I do a test I will either obtain a pass mark or a fail mark.

So how could you say there is no such thing as failure.

My answer to you is it is the way in which we interpret the signal that the mark or result is giving us.

An exam result tells us the level of understanding we have, a high mark might indicate a greater level of understanding and a lower mark that more work on the topic is required.

Importantly, it gives us feedback that we can move forward with and if it signals a need for greater understanding on the subject than the exam result has been successful in conveying that to us.

That doesn’t sound like failure to me?

Mind you during my school days I received plenty of feedback that more learning was indeed needed.

But let me tell you a bit more about my journey into the mountains.

I have always had a keen interest in hiking and camping and have spent many nights out under the stars in the Australian bush, in the outback.

Shared in the company of friends, or alone at other times.

There is something quite satisfying about walking across open plains, over hills, to sit down by a campfire at the end of the day to reflect on the journey.

And yes, I am a daydreamer, so I spend plenty of time reflecting, dreaming on what I would like to do, what path I would like my life to take.

In fact I often play role games with myself, picturing myself doing the exact thing I desire to do.

As a young and new entrant to the Bank of New South Wales, I recall reading an article in “The Etruscan” a publication the bank produced for its staff that talked about money market traders in the bank’s head office..

It was 1975 and the money market operations would have been significantly different to those in operation today.

I must have only been about five-years old at the time, surely?

It sounded exciting even if I didn’t quite understand what they really did. But I played out that role of money market dealer many times in my dreams, in my mind’s eye.

I wanted to do this, to be one of these people, whoever “these” people were.

Today I sit in the bank’s Sydney financial markets dealing room transacting billions of dollars of foreign exchange, money market and commodity transactions weekly for the bank.

It started as a simple day dream…

The seeds were sown in my mind’s eye.

Perhaps I was far too young and care-free to think that I would ever fail…

The power of the mind is not fully understood and I’m no expert on the subject, but I came to the realisation a long time ago that your mind can be fooled into believing anything.

In fact, it doesn’t seem to know what is real or what is not real.

Seemingly, it just accepts what we tell it as truth.

The importance of positive reinforcement in our mind is clear to me and the reason I never use the “F” word.

Have I seen myself standing on top of Mt Everest?

You bet I have, but of course there is still a lot of work I need to do before I make an attempt on the summit of the world’s highest mountain.

But many times I have seen myself waving to the folks at home from the top of the world.

Returning to the safety of loved ones and friends.

A couple of years ago someone casually mentioned to me that they were surprised I hadn’t climbed Mt Everest.

At the time I was rather taken by this comment.

Sure I love the outdoors and keep very active and fit – and I must confess to having thought about Mt Everest in passing at different times.

And I have been an avid reader of books about those who had tried and succeeded.

But climb it myself?

I pondered on this quietly for a long time not even sharing my thoughts with close family.

Eventually I realised the seed that had been planted was already flourishing in the fertile soils of an adventurous spirit.

I wanted to experience the feeling of standing on top of a mountain that I had climbed.

But not any mountain, the world’s highest mountains.

And what a great opportunity this would present to learn new skills and to test my boundaries, to see what I was truly capable of.

Of course it would also give me a reason to keep training and to be fit.

I am constantly working on my fitness and ultimately you can probably never be fit enough to climb at high altitude, in the death-zone above 7,000 metres.

Most days I train in the pre-dawn hours up in my Shed which is full of various weight lifting and exercise equipment. And on weekends, kayaking on Narrabeen Lake on Sydney’s northern beaches, or climbing and hiking in the mountains.

But it isn’t just about physical training.

Training your mind is just as important, if not more so…

You can practice by reinforcing it with positives each and every day.

By picturing yourself achieving and guarding against negative thoughts and self-doubt.

I am focussing on the technical skills of mountaineering that I need to master. Rope handling skills, tying knots, learning to walk across snow and ice in crampons.

It has been like learning to walk all over again.

These are all new skills to be learnt, that I am learning.

And for someone who grew up in tropical North Queensland and played in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, my exposure to snow and ice up until recent times has been limited to a European holiday many years ago.

I am fortunate to have a very supportive partner, Janet, and son, TomO, who have both chorused they’re support loudly.

And when it comes to the mountains and high altitude climbing, we have discussed the risks associated with it, but never to the point of dwelling on it.

We  understand the risks and Janet simply said get the best training that money will buy, apply what you learn, be safe and remember to leave always your ego at the base of the mountain.

And Janet frequently reminds me that getting to the top of the mountain is optional, knowing how to get back down safely is mandatory.

I’m sure you will agree that is sound advice indeed.

Thankfully I am being tutored by the great team at the Australian School of Mountaineering in Katoomba, and Guy Cotter and his team from Adventure Consultants in New Zealand.

Both organisations are leaders in their fields…

The task has seemed overwhelming at times, especially for someone that has trouble tying his shoe-laces.

Yes, I have trouble tying my shoelaces, although with Tomo’s expert guidance I have made great inroads into mastering this task in recent times.

A sound accomplishment in an environment where successfully tying the appropriate knot is a good skill to have.

At least you would think so, wouldn’t you?

I have found a love of climbing in the Blue Mountains and whilst there is always a serious side to scaling rock walls and cliffs, we have managed to have many laughs along the way.

I can recall a very nervous laugh from one of my climbing partners, an instructor from the Australia School of Mountaineering, when I casually mentioned that I could not tie my shoe laces.

That was after I had just tied a safety rope that he was attached to.

I did see him checking that knot soon after.

And who would blame him for that I would have if I was him.

And at the end of each climb we have sat back and reflected on what went well and what could be improved on.

But even on less successful days the “F” word has never used because it is a learning experience and on each of my forays into the Bluey’s we have identified plenty of things that I can improve on.

In January this year I travelled to New Zealand’s South Island to further my experience and to climb Mt Aspiring.

Mt Aspiring, the Matterhorn of the South as it is often referred to as, stands at just over 3,000 metres and is a very impressive and majestic mountain.

This was a follow up to some training I did on the Fox Glacier in New Zealand perfecting my ice and snow skills last September, but I still needed some revision work prior to our ascent of Aspiring.

Unfortunately the weather was conspiring against us and we had little preparation time.

Arriving at Colin Todd Hut high on the Bonar Glacier we needed to make our attempt the very next morning as the weather was forecast to deteriorate as the week progressed, making an attempt less likely as time passed by.

In some ways I was pleased that I had little time to think about the climb, but I was anxious that it was going to happen the very next day.

How would I go?

We headed off around 4am in the morning under clear skies and whilst progress was slow we were advancing towards our objective.

As we climbed to around the half-way point and having passed through some of the more difficult sections, the weather took a turn for the worse, the wind started to blow a gale over the summit and it would be impossible to continue safely.

We were exposed to sleet, strong winds and rain as we descended, necessitating quick and efficient application of the skills I had been learning.

This was the real deal…and efficient use of time to minimise our exposure was paramount.

Now was not the time to be fumbling around with ropes in the cold on the side of a mountain.

Eventually we returned to the hut, tired after about 8 hours of mountaineering.

Over a warm cup of tea we were able to reflect on the climb.

Of course the objective was to summit, to climb to the top. It would have been all too easy to think that we had failed in our objective.

But this was anything but a failure, the lessons learned on the mountain were invaluable.

Lessons of judgement, skills and confidence.

In fact, I feel I gained more from not making it to the summit that day and whilst you wouldn’t always want that as an outcome – this was no failure.

The lessons learned on Mt Aspiring will assist me greatly as I have joined an expedition to climb in Nepal later this year.

In November I will be heading to Kathmandu and into the Himalaya’s to climb three 6,000 metre high peaks.

Loubche East, Island Peak and Pokalde.

These mountains range in height from 5,800 to 6,200 metres and at those heights another complexity will be added.

A lack of oxygen.

The available oxygen declines as we go higher in altitude making tasks that would be simple and easy at sea level much more difficult in the rarefied air.

This is the post-monsoon season in the Himalaya’s and temperatures will also be quite cold, especially at altitude.

The expedition will provide me with a great introduction to climbing at higher altitudes and will hopefully provide the much needed experience to climb my first 8,000 metre peak, Cho Oyu in Tibet, in 2014.

Of course, it will also be an opportunity to take in the stunning views of the world’s highest mountains.

And Janet and TomO will travel to Nepal at the end of the expedition so we can experience the culture and warmth of the Nepalese people together.

Something we are all looking forward to.

It is important to us that we share the experience together as a family and whilst neither will climb the mountains with me, they both show tremendous courage as all whom wait for news from the mountains does.

Although TomO has already declared that one day he hopes we will stand together, arm-in-arm, on top of Mt Everest.

We are committed to bringing him up in an environment that encourages him to believe he can achieve anything he wants to, whatever that might be.

To understand that the possibilities will only be limited by his own imagination, his own insecurities.

Lead by example has always been our motto and what greater feedback could you receive than your son telling you he is ready and willing to take on the world and believing he can!

I think it is important to never lose sight of the fact that all journeys can only be made one step at a time and that each and every one of those steps is a learning opportunity for us all.

Use each of these steps, these moments, to reinforce the positive aspects of learning and reject anything negative.

And as you make your journey through this year, through life, accept everything as a learning experience.

Don’t ever let the fear of failure hold you back, but better still…

Never use the “F” word.

Parkour for Agility and Fitness (If you’re game enough)

Exercise forms part of the daily routine of a large part of the population and it can take many forms. 

Keeping it interesting, fun, and relevant is the challenge for most of us…

In our household, TomO spends a lot of his waking hours on our Olympic Standard trampoline and I usually get a bounce in most days as it is great for core strength and stability.

TomO - Urban Tramp
TomO – Urban Tramp
TomO -  In full flight
TomO – Just Hanging 

And Janet is out walking the MilO every day in between pilates classes and is our chief gardener, pushing the lawn mower over the yard regularly. This makes for a solid workout, especially given how fast our lawn grows during the warmer months.

Yes, I know lawn mowing is typically a man’s domain, but strewth, if I was to ever touch that lawn mower I’d be in strife, that’s for sure.

And of course, most days I can be found up in The Shed in the pre-dawn hours, or in the mountains and on the lake in my kayak most weekends.

The Shed
The Shed

But we are always on the lookout for new ways to exercise and of course, it has to be enjoyable.

Recently, TomO decided he wanted to give Parkour a go.

Par what I hear you say…

Don’t worry, I said the same thing!

It roughly translates to “the art of displacement” and like many training disciplines it was borne out of a military background.

The idea is that you move, jump, run, and tumble between and over obstacles of various shapes and sizes, even scaling walls.

We did a search to see if anyone was teaching Parkour in Sydney and found a group of young people at Jump Squad HQ teaching it on Sydney’s northern beaches, not too far from Narrabeen Lake where I train on my kayak.

Baz - kayaking Narrabeen Lake, Sydney, Australia
Baz – kayaking Narrabeen Lake, Sydney, Australia

This weekend TomO commenced his basic training and all I can say it was awesome, well TomO said that as well.  I was watching from the sidelines, but wishing I was in amongst it.

This is a discipline that teaches balance, agility, core strength, and judgement.  All the things I need to focus on as I head to the world’s highest mountains…

Balancing on top of a mountain with a severe drop either side with crampons on is quite an art! Self-preservation helps mind you…

Baz, Southern Alps, New Zealand
Baz, Southern Alps, New Zealand – All a balancing act

What really took my interest was an old round trampoline frame that they had the kids walking around for balance and agility.  I have been racking my brains as to how I could improve this skill myself, and there it was.

And we have a large trampoline in our backyard.

Now I might just look a little conspicuous and out of place joining TomO’s class, but I’ve already spoken to them about private lessons, and I might even be able to rope my partner in all things outdoors and adventurous, brother-in-law, Ray, into a session.

He’d be up for it no doubting…

So if you are looking for something to liven up your training you could always give Parkour a go…

And remember, if all else fails, just remain out of control and enjoy yourself…

We're always out of control - and loving it!
We’re always out of control – and loving it!
photos: Janet, Baz, and TomO…
YouTube: Jump Squad HQ, Sydney

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

Cox’s River (Out and About in the Australian Bush)

Cox's River on the Six Foot Track

I could never tire of this part of the Blue Mountains.

This section is on the six-foot walking track, which winds its way from Katoomba to the Jenolan Caves.

I often do the 45 kilometre walk in a day, a long day given the mountainous terrain!

And I’ll be doing this walk frequently over the next few months, lucky me!

You’ve just got to love the Blue Mountains…

I signed up to do what? (Mates – Out and About)

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

It is been just over one month since I returned from my mountaineering training in New Zealand and I haven’t so much as touched a rope or any of my climbing gear.

 Mind you I need little encouragement to get “Out and About” in the mountains and with only eight months to go before I head to Nepal I need to be training as much as I can.

Unfortunately, my Achilles tendon remains sore although treatment is progressing. I’m working on the basis that rest is best, but it does test the patience!

I just need to get an adventure under my belt!

This past weekend we had a visit from Janet’s sister Leah, partner, Ray and their beautiful son, Aubrey. We always look forward to the time we spend together and usually it involves signing up for an adventure or two with Ray.

Ray, Leah and Aubrey
Ray, Leah and Aubrey

And we always have a good laugh as we dream up another adventure…

 But strewth, I’ve just been doing a list of the things I’ve agreed to participate in and it starts with a trip on the mountain bike this coming weekend. It will take us along a road built by convicts in the early days of European settlement in Australia.

 It is quite a pretty place, but there are plenty of hills and it won’t be any walk in the park. 

Although, Ray reckons he’s letting me off lightly because of my foot injury. I’ll be on the bike, he’ll be running the 50 kilometres (phew – I won’t complain too much about the Achillies any more!)

And hot on the heels of that we’ll be lining up for the next Tough Mudder Event in Sydney early April.  We completed it in September last year, twenty kilometres of running, tackling obstacles, and of course tons of mud, getting zapped by electric charges, running through fire – all good fun, seemingly!

Baz and Ray "survive" Tough Mudder
Baz and Ray “survive” Tough Mudder

Next, while we were out paddling on the lake early on Sunday morning Ray casually mentioned that I’d better be fit for the Coast-to-Coast Adventure Race across New Zealand’s South Island as he is putting our entries in shortly.

Ray - Beachcomber Kayak
Ray – Beachcomber Kayak
The Boys, Terrigal, Australia
The Boys, Terrigal, Australia

I don’t remember signing up for it, but it looks like I’m going next February. Actually, I’m looking forward to training for it; after all I need to be super fit for the Nepal expedition in November so I say, bring it on…

I made him do a 1-kilometre sprint in his kayak after that pronouncement!

 Whoops, note to self – tell the boss I need more time off!  Better still, with a bit of luck he’ll read this and come and pat me on the back and say, Baz, do you want a week off in February…

Baz crossing Goat's Pass - Coast to Coast Race New Zealand
Baz crossing Goat’s Pass – Coast to Coast Race New Zealand

But not to be outdone I raised the ante with all the finesse of a Mississippi River boat gambler and tossed in that we’ll need to do the 111-kilometre Hawkesbury Classic Kayak Race in October as preparation for the Coast-to-Coast race. After all the Coast-to-Coast has a 70-kilometre paddle down the fast flowing Waimak River.

Baz leads the field out in the Bridge to Bridge - 111 kilometre Hawkesbury Classic Kayak Race
Baz leads the field out in the Bridge to Bridge – 111 kilometre Hawkesbury Classic Kayak Race

You’d think he would have folded by now, but strewth, he’s still got those cards close to his chest, so I’m wondering what is going to get thrown into the pot next…

One thing is for sure; he’ll come up with something as there is plenty of free time on that calendar still, in between rock climbing in the Blue Mountains, of course.

But hey, you’ve got to love this stuff and doing it with mates is what it is all about!

Just go easy on me Ray…!

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

Baz and Ray, Tough Mudder, Sydney
Mates…Baz and Ray, Tough Mudder, Sydney
Ps: Oddly enough no alcohol was consumed in the planning of these adventures…

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!

One step at a time (The only way forward)

Baz, Southern Alps, New Zealand
One step at a time – Baz, Southern Alps, New Zealand

Often I’m awe-struck when I think about the journey I have embarked on to climb amongst the world’s highest mountains. 

Sometimes it is so big that I just think about all the small steps I have taken so far.

The fun I’ve had… the fun and tears that are yet to come.

Yes, one step at a time Baz, it’s the only way forward…

Hey, by the way, thanks for joining me on this journey, I’ll need all the support I can get to help me climb to the summit…and back down again!

Baz, Blue Mountains, Australia
Baz, Blue Mountains, Australia

Climbing Mt Everest (Drinking Ovaltine all the way)

Mt Everest
Mt Everest

Looking back at old photographs is like opening a time capsule, you just never know what you are going to find and usually there are one or two little gems to bring a smile to your face.

I was at Janet’s parents home recently, Clare and Archie who are 83 and 98 years of age, and over a cup of tea we were flicking through books of old photographs. 

The themes varied from trips overseas, the children growing up, and of Archie’s  childhood in India.

Archie and younger sister Marjorie
Archie and younger sister Marjorie

You could pick any photograph and Archie would narrate a rich account of when it was taken, and the story behind those who were in it.

And there were photographs of Clare’s childhood days, growing up in far western Queensland on the family’s sheep property and of her days at boarding school in Charters Towers, far North Queensland.

Clare's Family Home - Charters Towers, North Queensland, Australia
Clare’s Family Home – Charters Towers, North Queensland, Australia

The conversation turned to our upcoming adventures and my journey to climb Cho Oyu, an 8,000 metre peak,  which is close to where Archie grew up, and if all goes well, Mt Everest.

Over the years I have listened to the many stories of Archie’s trips to Darjeeling, situated  in the foothills of the Himalaya’s and in later years of visits both he and Clare made back to Calcutta.

One story that always brings a good laugh is about a mountaineering expedition group  who turned up at the offices of James Wright and Company, General Merchants, the family business in Calcutta.  The suave and handsome couple heading the expedition  were in a rather irate mood as they stepped out of the taxi, demanding to know why they had not been met at the ship upon their arrival.

Being general merchants, Archie and his father dealt in all kind of goods, and were the agent’s in India for the popular drink Ovaltine.

“These mountaineers were here to climb Mt Everest and they were going to drink Ovaltine all the way to the top, extolling its virtues to the world.”

It had all been arranged in England prior to their departure and there was surprise and indignation that they had not been afforded the courtesies expected upon their arrival. They even had a copy of the telegram from the Head of the company that made Ovaltine in England informing of their visit.

This was a gentlemanly age and young Archie arranged for the expedition to be put up at a first class hotel where they could rest after their long sea voyage and ahead of their attempt to climb Mt Everest.

Archie
A Young Archie

And rest and avail themselves they did indeed…

Of course, there was to be no attempt on Mt Everest as the mountaineers were well practiced con people. After spending a number of nights in the luxury of the first class hotel, taking advantage of the young Fawthrop’s generous hospitality, they disappeared into the night, leaving Archie with an expensive hotel bill and the need to provide an account to his father of how he had been done by a slick group of con artists’.

But he could be forgiven, after all Ovaltine accompanied Sir Edmund Hilary on his ascent of Mt Everest with Tenzing Norgay in 1953 and the company went on to sponsor Chris Bonnington’s 1975 Everest expedition.

Archie, Clare and Tenzing

And speaking of Tenzing Norgay, as we continued our journey through the albums one particular photograph caught my attention, a black and white snapshot of Clare and Archie, with Tenzing Norgay standing beside them.

On a visit to Darjeeling, Archie and Clare met and spoke with Tenzing, a remarkable and quietly spoken man they said, whilst dining at the Darjeeling Club.

TomO was very excited at the discovery, a link to where we will travel this year when I attempt to climb three 6,000 metre peaks, Lobuche East, Island Peak, and Pokalde, all situated not too far from Mt Everest.

Baz traversing Mt Aurora
Baz traversing Mt Aurora

Was the Ovaltine story and the photograph a sign-post on our own journey, I thought.  

A connection to the region brought about from Archie’s younger days?   In the least, it will enrich the experience for us…

And as I climb in  the Himalaya’s Archie’s Ovaltine story will be sure to put a smile on my face, warming me like a hot cup of Ovaltine on a bleak winter’s night…

Baz - Meteor Peak
Baz – Meteor Peak

Don’t use the “F” word – Failure is Success (If we learn from it)

The Buttress - Mt Aspiring
The Buttress – Mt Aspiring

January was such a whirlwind of fun, mountaineering in the Southern Alps of one of the best countries in the world, New Zealand.

 Of course, it wasn’t all mountaineering and there was plenty of family time doing some crazy things together.

 Now I do have this rather audacious plan to climb some of the world’s highest mountains, heaven forbid, Mt Everest does beckon, but of course even contemplating that is some time off just at the moment.

My next major expedition will be to Nepal in November of this year. It sounds so far away doesn’t it?

Baz - Pack-walk up Heaton's Gap
Baz – Pack-walk up Heaton’s Gap

I have much preparation to do ahead of it and I suspect time will fly past very quickly. I need to increase my fitness with plenty of long-distance pack walking, as well as hone my climbing and rope handling skills; after all as they say practice makes us perfect.

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

And of course, climbing to altitudes in excess of 6,000 metres will require some new equipment, so plenty of gear reviews and shopping lie in the months ahead.

Shoosh, I might just not let on to Janet about that just yet!

But anyway, I’m starting to rabbit on a bit now, so I’ll get to my point…

Many people have asked about how the trip went and did I get to the summit of Mt Aspiring.

Mt Aspiring viewed from Bevan Col
Mt Aspiring viewed from Bevan Col

Unfortunately the answer was no. The weather conspired against us about halfway up and  we decided to turn back, to continue on would have been dangerous…

But none-the-less, it was a successful climb.

It would be easy to think of it as a failure…but I had a great smile on my face!

Not hard to smile in this spectacular place!
Not hard to smile in this spectacular place!

Failure is a word I’ve never been comfortable with and I’m sure it doesn’t sit well with many others. But for many, not achieving a goal you’ve set out to achieve often leads to despair, feelings of not succeeding – of failure.

 It can be deflating…

For me, not getting to the summit of Mt Aspiring was not a failure; in fact I found it a great learning experience.  Turning back involved taking account of many factors; of course the most important was weather, which was pretty much a no-brainer as the wind was raging in excess of 100 kilometres per hour over the summit.

Weather closing in
Weather closing in

Assessing the situation, making the correct decision at the appropriate time, and of course acting on it was an important lesson in human factors” especially as we stood on the mountain, exposed to the elements; to the increasing wind and sleet…

All too often it has been found that people have identified that a new course of action needs to be taken and whilst they’ve understood what it was they needed to do they’ve failed to implement the new plan until it was too late.

The experience highlighted the importance of being efficient and proficient whilst remaining safe, especially at a time when external factors were having an adverse affect on the undertaking.

Baz - upwards and onwards
Baz – upwards and onwards

A very important lesson, especially given my rather audacious plan of climbing high mountains!

So should we get rid of “failure” from our vocabulary?

No, I think it has a place.

After all, Janet did highlight to me the other day that I had failed to take out the garbage, and for sure it could count as a learning experience, but failure summed it up perfectly…

The garbage truck had just passed our home and wouldn’t be back for another week and those words “you failed a very simple task” are still ringing in my ears…

So next time you haven’t achieved your goal will you use the “F word?”

I know you won’t…  Just think of it has a learning experience on your way to success…

But mind you, if all else does fail,  just feel free to remain out of control and see what develops…

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