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…?
Baz – Boar’s Head, Blue Mountains, Australia
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?
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…
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.
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!
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…
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.
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…
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
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.