No Ordinary Moments; No Ordinary People; No Ordinary Lives

Baz - Almer Hut, Franz Joseph Glacier, New Zealand
Baz – Almer Hut, Franz Joseph Glacier, New Zealand

As I stood outside Almer Hut waiting for a helicopter to arrive to take me down from the mountains I looked back up Franz Joseph Glacier and reflected on the two weeks of climbing I have had in New Zealand.

TomO and Baz over Wanaka
TomO and Baz over Wanaka

 Of time spent with loved ones; chasing TomO in a Tiger Moth in the skies over Lake Wanaka, with Janet, moments shared together, and of time spent on the top of mountains with newly made friends…

Janet, TomO and Baz - Wanaka, New Zealand
Janet, TomO and Baz – Wanaka, New Zealand

 Take nothing for granted, for truly, there are no ordinary moments; no ordinary people; no ordinary lives…

Thanks New Zealand!

A Charmed Life (Climbing New Zealand’s South Island)

Baz - Bonar Glacier

I’m heading to the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island today for another week of climbing in the mountains.

 We will drive from Wanaka over the Haast Pass to Fox where we will helicopter into Centennial Hut on the Franz Joseph Glacier. Our alternative will be Pioneer Hut on the Fox Glacier

I spent a week last September climbing this region using Pioneer Hut as a base, and all I can say is the scenery is spectacular.

Sunset from Pioneer Hut
Sunset from Pioneer Hut

You can sit on the balcony of the hut at 2,000 metres and watch the sun slowly set over the Tasman Sea.

How good is that!

And the weather looks okay for the next few days at least!

Climbing Mt Bevan - Baz
Climbing Mt Bevan – Baz

A couple of Kangaroos loose in the top paddock (Thankyou)

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

I have been nominated for a couple of Blogger Awards, including 2012 Blogger of the Year.

 I know there is a protocol for responding to these nominations, and two more recently came from The Wish Factor, and Desert Rose.

Normally, I would take the time to respond in the appropriate way.

But as I am heading to New Zealand in a day or two for my next mountaineering adventure I fear that I would not do it the right justice by rushing a response, so please forgive me for not doing so…

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

But I would like to say to all my friends around the world, many whom I have come to know right here on WordPress – thank you!

I am humbled by the many comments I receive on a daily basis in response to what I have written, to my rantings…

Who, me, Baz – The Landy?

Damper and Golden Syrup

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, and to have a good laugh at myself all other times…

Strewth, who would ever have thought youse lot would be interested in the ramblings of someone with “a few ‘roos loose in the top paddock”?

But by crikey, I do love talking about this wonderful sunburnt country I live in…

Oh for crying out loud Baz, just say it, 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…

TomO
TomO
Janet - Cheeky as ever
Janet – Cheeky as ever

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.

Weight lifting in "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…

Take care you ‘all…Baz

Baz and a Hero, Menari Village, Papua New Guinea
Baz and a Hero, Menari Village, Papua New Guinea

Strewth – You wouldn’t be dead for quids (Out on the Lake)

Baz - Narrabeen Lake, Sydney
Baz – Narrabeen Lake, Sydney

With less than one week to go before I head off to climb in New Zealand I spent Saturday morning preparing my gear and getting it all packed away.

 It is hard to imagine that most of it will find its way into a 65-litre backpack.

Snow shoes, crampons, my best pair of Italian Leather boots, climbing hardware in the form of carabineers, devices and ropes, and plenty of thermals to keep warm up on the glacier and in the mountains…

Climbing gear
Climbing gear

But once that was out of the way we headed straight for Narrabeen Lake on Sydney’s northern beach’s, our second home, for a paddle with long-time paddling partner, Bob.

Bob, Narrabeen Lake, Sydney
Bob, Narrabeen Lake, Sydney

Janet, Annette, Bob’s partner, and Debbie, my sister chatted on the lake’s edge, while the younger “boys” were out on the lake in various watercraft.

TomO even had a paddle in one of the bigger boats, which resulted in a couple of “swims” for him!

TomO paddling "The Fenn"
TomO paddling “The Fenn”
TomO "Swims"
TomO “Swims”

And crikey, how good is the sun setting over the lake – you wouldn’t want to be dead for quids!

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

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

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

Mt Aspiring
Mt Aspiring

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

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

Narrabeen Lake, Australia
Narrabeen Lake, Australia

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

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

Janet and TomO
Janet and TomO

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

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

An awkward tumble – Ouch! (TomO on the trampoline)

Urban Tramp
TomO – “The Urban Tramp”

With the balance of a cat, the carefree attitude of youth, and fitness beyond his years, TomO is quite an amazing trampolinist.

He got his first trampoline at age 2-years, and outgrew two of them before advancing to an Olympic size mat about two-years ago.

Initially, he undertook training at the local YMCA, but he has never wanted to compete, preferring to think of himself as  “TomO – The Urban Tramp”.

And in many ways the YMCA was all about winning the Olympics…

“It’s all about free-style these days, Mum and Dad…”

And I must say, I’m with him on this.

TomO and Milo
“The Boys” and Milo (The wonder dog)

He is a delight to watch and it takes me back to his age when I also did a lot of trampolining, and to all of you out there that want taut muscles and fantastic abs, do yourself a favour and buy a trampoline. I still get up and have a jump with him in the back yard!

We’ve had 10 years of injury-free trampolining…up until last evening!

We we’re having a get-together for family arriving for the Christmas break, and TomO always likes to put on a bit of a show and was “on the mat” doing his thing.

TomO on the mat
TomO on the mat

DSC_2111

Oddly enough, no one saw the awkward way he landed on the mat, but he came down to the house, holding an elbow and tears streaming down his little angelic face.

He wasn’t used to this happening, and the shock and pain were taking its toll on our little bloke!

TomO
TomO

 We secured his arm and headed straight for the hospital.  And thankfully on the way his spirits started to lift; he was asking whether he would still be able to use his iPad – yes a good sign that he was at least settling and recovering from the shock!

After numerous x-rays, and an examination by an emergency room doctor it would appear to be a soft-tissue injury, however they are going to take another look on Christmas Eve, just in case there is a small fracture that they couldn’t see due to the swelling, which wasn’t actually too bad.

Our biggest challenge lies ahead – keeping him off the trampoline to allow the injury to recover, as TomO isn’t one to dwell, he’s stoic just like his mother, two peas in a pod!

Janet and TomO
Janet and TomO

 And we wouldn’t have him any other way.

 Get better soon mate!

ps: You may notice two springs missing on this mat. This mat has been replaced…

Mountaineering Expeditions in 2013 (Climb-on)

Climbers nearing summit of Mt Everest

Well 2012 is disappearing very quickly and before we know it the guy in the big red suit will be popping down chimneys, eating the cake, drinking the milk, and enjoying rum that has been left out for him as he makes his annual run from the North Pole.

Crikey, how do you get a job like that? I mean, you work one day a year, get the spoils of the job, and make lots of people happy!

And a nano-second later we’ll all be joining hands and singing old langsyne as we see off 2012 and welcome in 2013.

In our household 2013 signals the start of quite an ambitious travel program, brought about by my desire to climb the world’s highest mountain peaks.

It kicks off early in January when I make my way to New Zealand to climb Mt Aspiring which is situated in New Zealand’s Southern Alps.  Janet and TomO will be following shortly after and will spend a few days travelling before we meet up in the picturesque town of Wanaka.

Wanaka
Wanaka, New Zealand

Mt Aspiring is called Tititea by the indigenous Maori people and stands at 3,027 metres and it is described as having sheer faces and graceful lines.

We will travel from the headquarters of Adventure Consultants in Wanaka to Bonar Glacier by helicopter as it is usually a 12-14 hour walk otherwise. We then have a 2-3 hour walk on the glacier to reach our destination, Colin Todd hut.  And depending on how many people are at the hut we may need to camp out in our bivvy bags on Bevan Col.

The View - From the Dunny
A typical New Zealand Alpine Hut

The first couple of days will be spent acclimatising and revising cramponing skills, ascending steep snow and ice, and of course, importantly, crevasse rescue. I have spent a lot of time on rescues in the Blue Mountains in recent times and I have a strong belief that you can’t do enough of it – it may save your own, or someone else’s life and the skill needs to be second nature.

Baz - Blue Mountains, Australia
Baz – Blue Mountains, Australia

Prior to an attempt on the summit of Mt Aspiring we will spend a day climbing some smaller peaks in the area, such as Mt Bevan. It stands at 2,030 metres and they say the view from the top is glorious.

There is something like 27 different routes that can be taken to the summit of Mt Aspiring all of varying degrees of difficulty. Many of these routes will not be available to us due to the time of year we are attempting it. We are anticipating our route to the summit will be the classic North West Ridge route, but a final decision will be made at the time.

Mt Aspiring
Mt Aspiring

Ascent day will begin at 3am in the morning and may finish as late as 7pm that evening and we can expect a mixture of snow, ice, and rock as we progress towards the summit.

The second week in the mountains will most likely be spent in the Mt Cook region, where we will concentrate on some ice climbing as well as a number of ascents over the week. The structure of the week will be decided at the time and where we climb will be dictated to by the prevailing conditions.

Baz - Ice CLimbing, Fox Glacier, New Zealand
Cramponing Skills and Crevasse Rescues

There are a number of possibilities, including Mt Aylmer which stands at 2,699 metres, Mt Elie de Beaumont which gives commanding views of the Tasman Sea from its 3,109 metre summit.  Other likely climbs include Mt Green and Mt Walter, which both stand just less than 3,000 metres.

After making our way back to Wanaka once again, I will be meeting up with Janet and TomO who will also be full of tales of adventure after their week travelling around in the Southern Alps. They are planning a helicopter trip to Fox Glacier as well as taking in the scenery of the fabulous Southern Alps…

Mid-year, I will be returning to New Zealand to hone in my ice-climbing skills while Janet and TomO spend some time on the ski slopes around Wanaka and Queenstown.

Baz - Ice-climbing, Fox Glacier, New Zealand
Baz – Ice-climbing, Fox Glacier, New Zealand

And the big trip is at the end of 2013 when I head off to Nepal to experience the Himalayan Mountain range.  This is an expedition to climb three peaks, Lobuche East, Island Peak, and Pokalde.  The first two are just over 6,000 metres in height, and Pokalde stands at just over 5,800 metres.

Mountaineering
High Altitude Climbing

This expedition will provide me with the stepping stone towards an 8,000 metre peak, either Cho Oyu, or Manaslu in 2014. It seems so far away, but time will go very quickly, and there is still much to learn, and 2013 will also be spent taking my fitness to a complete new level.

Janet and TomO will be travelling to Kathmandu where we will spend a week resting together and hopefully visiting some of the Sherpa villages.

We believe this is a great opportunity for TomO to experience different countries and cultures, and he is relishing the opportunity.

Tomo's note

Of course, he has already made noises about standing on top of Mt Everest with me, and perhaps that day will come.  But it is one step at a time, one foot after another, and hopefully the program over the next 12 to 18 months will set me up for an attempt on Mt Everest in 2015…

 But crikey, there is plenty of time between now and then and the three of us will be using every minute of it to have fun, just being Out and About…

Together
TomO, Baz, and Janet

Trust and Faith (Just embrace it)

TomO Flys
TomO Flys

Trust and faith, sometimes there are situations in your life when you just have to trust something outside of your control, and have faith in your own ability.

 Embrace it, as TomO, our beautiful son says…

 And even at such a young age, he has great confidence and faith in himself, and embraces everything he does with so much enthusiasm.

 The daring of the young, crikey, you’ve just got to love it…

And as I head to the shed for a row today, I’ll be chanting that mantra…just embrace it!

Jump on board – I’ll take you for a paddle (Narrabeen Lake)

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

Narrabeen Lake, situated on the northern beaches of Sydney, Australia, is a beautiful sun-drenched oasis situated right on the ocean.

 It is a mecca for kayakers, windsurfers, and paddle board riders alike, a place where you can spend a lazy afternoon with family and friends under a shady tree just wiling away time…

Narrabeen Lake, Sydney, Australia
Narrabeen Lake, Sydney, Australia

 The lake, which is 10-kilometres in circumference, is my choice for kayaking as it has very few power boats on it and it makes for a great change from the daily rows on my static C2 rowing machine.

 Without fail, a pelican will glide by whilst out on the lake and how majestic are they to watch, something you don’t get to see on the rowing machine up in “The Shed“.

Rowing in the Shed
Baz on the C2 Rower

 Crikey, as much as I love climbing and mountaineering, and let’s face it you’d have to if you intend to climb Mt Everest, the other past-time I enjoy equally is just being out in one of my kayaks. Whether it is a training session, or just more of a laid-back paddle with friends…

 These days, I mostly find myself paddling my 6.5 metre long Epic kayak, a beautifully crafted and sleek boat which is quite fast, well in the right set of hands it is – but I’m working on that!

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

Next year this will be my choice of racing boat in the winter marathon series, a series of 20-kilmetre races run monthly for about nine-months.

And no, our winter doesn’t go for nine-months, so I’m not sure how that works out!

 Over the Christmas break I’ll be hanging up my climbing gear and heading for the lake with family, friends and the kayaks, to get some training in, and to simply enjoy the smell of the fresh sea air…

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

 Now, I’ll let you in on a little secret, so don’t tell TomO, but he’s got a paddle-board coming for Christmas, so maybe he’ll get it a day or two early, just so he can get Out and About on it this weekend coming. After all, it’s pretty hard to hide it up in “The Shed” with him seeing it…

TomO, The Haven, Terrigal, Australia
TomO, The Haven, Terrigal, Australia

 And after a lap or two of the lake there is nothing better than kicking back and watching the sun cast a golden hue over the water as it sinks into the western horizon…

Anyway, jump on board, I’ll take you for a spin around the Lake!

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

DSCN1460

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climbing Tom Thumb (Back to the Blue Mountains)

Where's Baz?

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

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

Baz - Climbing Sweet Dreams, Blue Mountains, Australia

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

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

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

Palais Royale, Katoomba

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

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

Crikey, this is the life, hey?

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

Ordinary People – Achieving Great Things

Climbers nearing summit of Mt Everest“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.

At the time when he penned them he was making a broader comment on climbers heading to Mt Everest.

 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…

Sweet Dreams Climb, Blue Mountains, Australia

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.

Baz over Picton, Australia

 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.

Summit of Grey's Peak

 Acknowledging your dreams is probably the greatest step you can make towards them becoming a reality…

The power of thought should never be under estimated, both positive, and negative.

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…

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

Baz - Mountain Run, Coast to Coast Race, New Zealand

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.

Weight lifting in "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, 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…

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…

PNG Kokoda

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…

Menari Village, Papua New Guinea

Strewth – Who put the sandbag in my backpack (Heaton’s Gap)

Sunset over Bimbadgen Estate
Sunset over Bimbadgen Estate

After spending a wonderful Saturday evening at a Day on the Green which was held at Bimbadgen Wine Estate in the Hunter Valley, the alarm was ringing out that Sunday morning had arrived.

 I don’t normally wake to an alarm as my body is well regulated to getting up early to exercise, however after a late night I didn’t want to miss the Sunday morning action.

My usual partner in all things adventure, brother-in-law, Ray, and I were heading to a favourite training haunt of ours, Heaton’s Gap.

The Boys
The Boys

Heaton’s Gap is located half way between his home in Newcastle, and the Hunter Valley wine-growing region. There is a power line track running up a rather steep hill and we regularly train up and down the hill. Sometimes we run as much as we can, and storm the rest, other times we wear heavy packs laden with a sandbag.

Heaton's Gap
Heaton’s Gap

Usually halfway up we are cursing the hill, but when we get to the top and take in the view, the cursing stops, the heart rate slows, and we’re sure happy it is downhill on the way back.

The view from the top
The view from the top

 Today, Ray’s nephew, Daniel, joined us, and along with Ray, the pair ran to the top as fast as they could go…

I elected to wear a 25-kilogram backpack, and headed off to further break-in a new pair of Alpine hiking boots, the ones I will be wearing on my ascent of Mt Aspiring in New Zealand just after Christmas.

Crikey, it was not much past 7am in the morning, but the sun already had a sting in it, and the humidity was high.

The boys were heading back down as I was approaching the steeper section of the hill, and Daniel even came back up for “seconds” after completing his first lap.

And Ray, well he was suffering from the flu like symptoms I had only a week ago, but still posted a very healthy time.

Ray
Ray
Daniel
Daniel

And me?

In true alpine mountaineering style I just put one foot after the other all the way up, and all the way back down, just taking in the scenery and letting the world float by…

Talk about floating by; Strewth, I was perspiring so much, I could have literally floated away!

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

It was a great morning, but what of the rest of the day?

…Well, that was spent lazing about with family and friends!

And how good is living and lazy afternoons in a hammock, hey…

Strewth – Talk about an Aussie Icon (The Shed)

The Shed

You’ve got to love the Aussie Shed, a beacon in a sea of green grass, usually found near the back fence on any Australian suburban house block.

I love my shed and even though it was designed to house a couple of cars and all that other stuff that you accumulate over the years, you know, the Christmas presents that you couldn’t stand but didn’t have the heart to send to the refuse tip, they all invariably end up hidden away in a dark corner of the shed.

As a long-term fitness junkie, my shed houses surfboards, more kayaks than you can poke a stick at, a Concept C2 rower and my weight-lifting racks and associated equipment, as well as numerous bikes collected over the years.

Weight lifting in "The Shed"

Mind you, not all Aussie sheds house exercise equipment, unless of course you count the bar fridge in the corner, which is standard equipment in any shed. Often you’ll see the men-folk doing some elbow bending as they drink a toast to the day passed, usually just around the time the sun is going down over the yard-arm.

DSC_1157

Crikey, like a bunch of Cockatoos, high on the fermenting nectar of fruit consumed under a hot Aussie sun, the squawking tends to increase as the amber fluid flows.

And you can be sure a fair amount of advice is passed around, an exchange of ideas, thoughts, happenings, and the odd joke or two. A  bit like Speakers Corner where everyone is given a chance to say their bit, to tell their yarn in a not too serious way.

But I’m digressing…

Each morning around 4.30am, or silly-o’clock, as Janet suggests, I make the journey out the back door and up the driveway to the shed. Even the dogs, Milo and Jack, can’t be bothered to get out of their beds, preferring to wave me through. Although, usually after about 30 minutes or so one of them will wander up to see what is going on, but I suspect if they could speak they’d actually be asking for a feed, seemingly oblivious to anything else.

Such is a dog’s life.

Rowing in "The Shed"

Depending on the day I’ll either pursue my strength training, or use the rower for my daily cardio fix and although I would prefer to be out on the water kayaking it isn’t always convenient during the week, so the rowing machine is a great substitute.

I must confess upfront to being an early morning person, I guess you’d have to be to manage a 4.30am start each day, but it does have its advantages. In between the clanging of weight plates being moved, or interval sets on the rower, I can stand outside in the pre-dawn silence and marvel at the stars in the sky, the wondrous universe with you at its centre.

Or once a month watch a full moon setting in the western sky, and if I’m lucky even a shooting star to ponder a thought on.

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Strewth, what of the neighbours I hear you ask, what if they don’t share my love of the early morning?

I must say it is hard not to be tempted into playing some heavy metal, AC/DC or Led Zeppelin to help the mood and give that much needed pump for the session. But alas, it is mostly done in silence, apart from a moan or groan under the weight of a squat bar, or the last 500 metres on the rower.

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Hey, but it is fair to say, if I head up for an afternoon session, which is more often than not, it is always accompanied by some loud rock or heavy metal music. I’ve always said that Theo, our next door neighbour, is a closet heavy metal fan, so the relationship has never been strained, he doesn’t always say much mind you, but smiles a lot, so maybe he’s actually deaf.

And I’m frequently visited by Janet and TomO during these sessions, which is always welcome, mind you there would never be any chance of that happening in the morning, in fact I don’t think they know what 4.30am actually looks like.

Janet & TomO

There was a suggestion not too long ago that maybe the shed could be converted and upgraded to have a loft, an upstairs area where TomO and his mates could hang out, maybe even move into as he advances in his teenage years.

You know, a brand new building without the cracks that have accumulated over the years, possibly from too much heavy metal music resonating through the walls, or perhaps just cracking up from the tall stories that have echoed from within – but it just wouldn’t be cricket, and besides where would I put the bar fridge?

No thanks, I like my shed just the way it is, and as the sun slowly breaks the eastern horizon I’m heading to the shed for a row…

And as I do, I’ll leave you with a thought for today, one of my all-time favourites…

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

Hey, and if you get around to it, don’t forget to  Like The Landy on Facebook and check out some of the photos…

Vertigo Alert (Where’s Baz?)

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

Crikey Baz, what are you doing down there?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out this money saving tip (The Great North Walk)

  

The Great North Walk - Sydney to Newcastle
The Great North Walk – Sydney to Newcastle

If you ever harboured an inclination to walk from Sydney to Newcastle it is worth knowing that the price of a one-way rail ticket is $18, the journey takes approximately two hours and it is a pleasant trip.

On the other hand if you want to save the train fare and have around ten days to spare, then I thoroughly recommend you take The Great North Walk.

The Great North Walk was constructed as a celebration of Australia’s Bicentenary in 1988.

Brother-in-law, and fellow adventurer, Ray Tong, and I decided to save the train fare and walk.

The walk commences in Sydney’s Central Business District and the first couple of days are spent walking through the inner and outer northern suburbs of Sydney, mostly along bush tracks, before arriving at the Hawkesbury River.

Ray approaching the Hawkesbury River
Ray approaching the Hawkesbury River

There are two ways to get to the other side of the Hawkesbury. One is via a ferry to Patonga, and the second on a train. We elected to take the train, and its departure marked our moment of truth as we stood there, back-packs loaded with twenty kilograms of gear and water, another seven days ahead of us.

The train departs
The train departs

The half-way point of the walk was marked at the small locality of Yarramalong nestled in the Central Coast hinterland. And similar to previous this day it had its fair share of hills, gullies, and at times, open forestry trails.

Baz - one step at a time
Baz – one step at a time

We were greeted to the sleepy township by a scarecrow at almost every house, part of the area’s welcome to spring celebrations.

I’d venture to suggest that had we stood still many would have been forgiven for mistaking this couple of weary and dishevelled walkers as just another pair of scarecrows.

A couple of scarecrows
A couple of scarecrows

As we turned in for the night Ray suggested the next day was going to be a real slog and that we should get an early start. But when the alarm clock went off a two-thirty something in the morning I was left to ponder, half comatose, just how far this days walk was going to be if we had to rise so early.

It turns out the alarm clock in the next room, which was unoccupied, had been set for this time, and Ray was still blissfully asleep as I lay there listening to the mind-numbing sound for two hours leaving me an hour’s sleep before needing to rise and get underway on the day’s walk..

The walk took us along a quiet country road to Cedar Brush track head, the point from which we would launch our assault, and long climb, into the Watagan Mountains.

Ray crossing a foot bridge
Ray crossing a foot bridge

After six full days on the walk you would think the hills would come just a little easier, especially as our fitness levels were increasing each day. Our walk to Barraba Trig threw a number of hills and gullies at us, but it saved the best till last.  This was an hour and half’s walk up the side of a hill that got steeper with every step we took.

The Watagan Mountains is a beautiful place with many walking tracks and fire trails to be explored.

Overlooking the Hunter Valley
Overlooking the Hunter Valley

The view from our campsite was magnificent and took in parts of the Hunter Valley wine growing region.

The next day was spent wandering in quiet contemplation along shaded fire trails before arriving at Heaton’s Lookout, and a wonderful panorama of the hinterland through to the ocean.

We can see the finish - 50 kilometres away
We can see the finish – 50 kilometres away

From here we could even see our destination, a mere forty-five kilometres away.

However, before we could wind down for the day and relax at the cabins located at Heaton’s Gap we had to negotiate our way down a steep power line track. The bottom of the hill would signify a couple of things though, a refreshing shower, and importantly, we would be rid of some of the gear out of our back-packs as we were to be joined by Janet, my partner, and our son TomO that evening.

Heaton's Gap
Heaton’s Gap

In fact, we even had a visit from friends Michael and Emma, to see how we were going. The term ambulance chasing did come to mind briefly after all this was day eight. Michael had actually walked the same trek some months earlier and was well aware of how we might just be feeling right now, and the night quickly passed though with good company, ample food and plenty of good humour…

However, there is a downside to most things, and over dinner Michael casually mentioned that with the sign suggesting it was only forty-one kilometres to the Brewery Pub at Newcastle, yes the walk finishes at a pub, that we should give consideration to knocking it off tomorrow instead of over the planned two days.

There was an awkward, but silent moment, as Ray and I caught glances, and Michael with a hint of a wry smile on the corner of his mouth recognised the bombshell he had just dropped.

I thought, that confirms my thinking, and Ray had a look of disbelief and no doubt was hoping that I hadn’t actually heard what Michael had said.

But the penny had dropped!

The next day we were greeted to a lovely sunny spring day and with a hug and a kiss from Janet and TomO we headed off on what was to be our last day on the walk.

The Boys
The Boys

Oddly, there was no discussion of Michael’s suggestion; I didn’t want to raise it too early, and Ray surely didn’t want to remind me of what Michael had said. But like an irritating blister on the heel of your foot I raised it with Ray just as we walked into what was supposed to be our night’s rest spot at Warner’s Bay.

There was an animated discussion at that point.

But to his credit, Ray, a Kiwi, pushed through the pain of his blisters, egged on by my promise that I would have us sitting at the Brewery Pub downing a pint of lager as the sun set over Newcastle harbour.

Michael joined us at Burwood Beach and walked the final six kilometre’s to the centre of Newcastle where Janet, TomO, and Leah we waiting for us, with a pint of beer…

On the beach - almost at the finish
On the beach – almost at the finish

And was the nine day walk worth the saving of an $18 train fare – you bet it was!

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

No ordinary moments (Crikey – that’s for sure!)

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

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

That has to be my all-time favourite mantra that I like to chant to myself, it energisers my mind, body, and spirit whenever I do. 

Strewth, I’m probably sounding like one of those weirdos’, but in any case, as I headed to the shed for my first row since falling ill with a viral infection just over one week ago, that little ditty was revolving through my mind.

I didn’t push myself on the 10,000-metre row, preferring to simply let me body find and regulate its own pace.  Consequently, this wasn’t my fastest or strongest row, in fact it would more resemble something I would do as a warm-up, or warm-down.

Baz - Kayaking off Terrigal Beach, Australia
Baz – Kayaking off Terrigal Beach, Australia

But you know, it didn’t matter, this was one of my best rows ever, after all it signalled my body was getting stronger once again, back to normal.

And yes, as I headed back down to the usual spa bath and cold shower I had a beaming smile on my face.

Truly, even in the face of adversity, there are no ordinary moments, no ordinary people, no ordinary lives…

 Chant that mantra a few times to yourself today and you might find that the world takes on a whole new and wonderful dimension!

Crikey, I guarantee that strangers will smile at you, you’ll feel better inside, and you’ll feel empowered to tackle anything that life throws at you…

But of course, if all else fails, simply remain out of control and see what develops…

Baz - Out of control on the Waimak River, New Zealand
Baz – Out of control on the Waimak River, New Zealand

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

Baz climbing Sweet Dreams, Blue Mountains, Australia

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

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

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

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

It was an ominous sign that went unrecognised …

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

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

I just said, “I know!” 

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

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

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

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

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

Some rest?

 Crikey, I had to look that term up…

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

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

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

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

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

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

He said, “Yeah, that’s for sure”

“What were you climbing?” he asked,

“Sweet Dreams”…

Baz – Climbing Sweet Dreams, Blue Mountains, Australia

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

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

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

And on those other times in hospital?

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

And the one in dispute?

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

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

A lollipop?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ps: I’m all good!

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

Baz climbing Sweet Dreams, Blue Mountains, Australia

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

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

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

And why Dope on a Rope I hear you ask…

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

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

 

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

And the first section today certainly challenged me.

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

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

Rachael – Leading Climbing

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

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

The Three Sisters, Blue Mountains, Australia

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

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

 Dope on a Rope?

 Sweet-dreams?

 You betcha!

Baz – The Landy

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

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

Baz – Boar’s Head, Blue Mountains, Australia

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

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

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

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

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

The Three Sisters, Blue Mountains, Australia

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

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

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

 More Dope on a Rope, strewth, you bet!

Baz – Dope on a Rope?

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

Inspiration and Motivation (We all need it sometimes)

TomO – Freshly Pressed!

That is what I was thinking as I headed for the shed this morning for my daily row on a C2 rowing machine, it was 4.30am… 

Exercise is a daily habit for me and always includes rowing, possibly a 10 kilometre walk with a 30 kilo backpack, or some sort of strength training later in the evening.

My friends often comment how much I must like exercise and how easy it seems for me, and true, for the most part I do enjoy it, but as for it being easy, no way, I tell them it is no easier for me than it is for anyone else.

The key is, I tell them, you need to be motivated to do it.

The Shed

This morning as I made my way up the pathway to the shed  in the pre-dawn darkness, a time of day I usually revel in, I was searching for that motivation, something to inspire me, to push me towards my own goal of climbing big mountains…

As I wiped the sleep from my eyes, there it was, a vision of why I am doing this, my inspiration… 

Twelve years ago, TomO, our son, was born almost six weeks prematurely.

There wasn’t any medical problem for Janet, my partner, in fact everything progressed as normal, but seemingly the little bloke was ready to take on the world and he wasn’t going to wait a moment longer…

A large contingent of medical staff was assembled, ready to provide the life-support that might be needed, it was a humbling moment, but he announced his way into the world in the usual way and was strong enough to take his first breathe without the assistance of the gathered team.

Those first moments cradled in the security of his mother’s loving arms…

He spent three weeks in the intensive care unit of the hospital, growing stronger every day. This was his struggle, his challenge, and he met it head-on, unflinchingly…

 Yes, this was my inspiration, my motivation, the miracle of life, and the will to live…

Hey – Whatever Floats Your Boat (Just as long as you’re happy)

Concept2 Rowing Machine in “The Shed”

One way I keep fit and healthy is through rowing, something I do up in “The Shed” on my Concept2 rowing machine  most days.

Mind you, I would much rather be out on the water in one of my kayaks, which is a regular feature of our weekend when we aren’t Out and About in the mountains, but time constraints can make this more difficult during the week.

Baz on his Epic V10 – Narrabeen Lake, Sydney, Australia

And whilst it is a solitary pursuit in the predawn darkness up in the shed, I’m never alone when I row thanks to my fellow team-mates in our virtual rowing team.

I belong to a global team of about 80 rowers, a great bunch of people mostly based in North America and we go by the name of The Lun-atics

The team was set up many years ago by a group of NASA employees with the intention of collectively rowing to the moon and back. Yes that’s right something like 384,000 kilometres, or as those in the rowing community tend to express distance in metres, a whopping 384 billion metres.

Crikey, let’s just settle on – it’s a long way there and back.

Well that is something we achieved in 2011 and we are now on the return voyage back to earth!

As a matter of interest, over the past four years I have covered the equivalent distance from Sydney to New York on my rowing machine, some 16,000 kilometres of rowing!

Rowing in “The Shed”

Anyway, a couple of days ago I was having a chat with one of my rowing mates and it got around to best times rowed, typically over 10,000 metres, a distance I train for. The 10,000 metre distance requires a good balance between speed and endurance and my best time is just under 38 minutes.

Our inclination as mere human beings is to want to compare ourselves, to see how we shape up against our peers.  It might be in the gym, comparing how much you can lift versus someone else, or how fast you can cover 50 metres in the pool.

Weight Training – In “The Shed”

But I always question, is this the right comparison to make?

Sure, if you’re in a competition, where time taken or weight lifted, determines who wins the gong and who goes home empty handed, it is important. But for those of us who exercise mostly for health and fitness it is almost pointless, and might even be demotivating.

There will always be someone doing more, or going faster, depending on where you are and who you are with.

The true comparison is at what level you are pushing yourself and this might be measured by what zone you are training in determined by your heart-rate, or how much you are lifting versus your one-repetition maximum.

If you are training to the maximum of your ability, it doesn’t matter how fast, or how much, you are as equal to anyone else doing the same.

Anyone giving 100 percent is giving 100 percent, right?

Baz – Coast to Coast Adventure Race, New Zealand

Life is much the same, it doesn’t matter what you are doing that counts as much as whether you are getting satisfaction and happiness from it.

Strewth, my sister does quilting, and at the risk of upsetting all those quilters out there, all three of them, I don’t get it myself, but then she doesn’t quite understand the need for me to stand on top of big mountains. She’s not the only one mind you!

Mt Aspiring, Southern Alps, New Zealand

But you know what – we both love pursuing our individual interests and we’re equals because of the happiness it brings to our lives…

That is what truly counts, it isn’t the what, or how much – unless of course you’re going for gold, but that’s another story altogether – those Quilters’ are a competitive bunch!

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

Baz – Boar’s Head, Blue Mountains, Austalia

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

 I’ll confess I do sometimes…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baz& TomO – embracing the moment

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

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

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

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

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

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

Janet and one of her “boys”

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

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

Sisters – Janet & Leah
Great Friends

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

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

Janet & Baz abseiling the AMP Building in Sydney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where's Baz?

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

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

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

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

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

TomO

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

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

Special moments, how good are they, hey?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Baz – Boar’s Head, Blue Mountains, Australia

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

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

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

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

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

And Janet?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Talk about panic, sheer panic!

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

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

It did look cool, didn’t it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So here it was, my moment of truth. 

Actually it wasn’t too bad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Strewth – I’m in strife (I think I’ve woken them up)

The Shed

Okay, so many of you will know that I am a self-confessed lover of the pre-dawn. At this time of the day I can usually be found up in the “shed” having a row to kick-start the day.

Or I might be doing a weight training session.

 Crikey, I just love standing at the door of the shed between sets of weights, looking up and gazing at the stars. Yes, for sure I’m a bit of a dreamer, and what better way to dream than looking out at the universe.

And while I’m on the universe, have you ever wondered where the centre of it is?

Well, I got to thinking as I looked at all the stars, no matter where they appeared, I was at the centre, all points back to me – pretty cool hey?

But maybe that’s a little deep for this time of the day.

I’ll be back in a sec, another set of squats to do.

Baz – squatting

 I’m back…

Sorry, that took a little longer as I needed to set-up for my next group of exercises, the bench press.

Baz – Bench Press

 Geez, where was I?

Oh yeah, right, speaking about being a little deep for this time of the day. I was flicking through my iPod thinking what should I listen to this morning?

By the way, did I tell you someone stole my iPod from Red Rover the other day? Okay it was parked out on the front driveway of the house, and yes it was unlocked, but crikey, thieving mongrels! Vent over…

Red Rover

 Anyway, back in a sec…

Pearl Jam, there it was, obvious, why not put on Pearl Jam’s “Ten”? One of my all-time favourites.

Don’t worry; I haven’t got it cranked up too loud. Well, just slightly louder than I should probably have it for this time of day. But, I think I’ll get away with it, after all, Theo, our good friend and next door neighbor is a touch deaf (I think), either that or he doesn’t mind the music I play, cause he never complains!

Another set to do, don’t go away…

As I was doing that set there was a clash of sounds happening. A guitar rift squealing out of my set of Bose speakers, a kookaburra heralding in the first rays of light on the eastern horizon, and the sound of half-a-dozen wines bottles being emptied into the garbage truck outside our house.

Today is rubbish bin day and they turn up at the crack of dawn. And by the way, I don’t drink wine (okay a glass here or there!) so hey, if Theo hates that sound on (every) a Thursday morning he can take it up with Janet, my lovely wife!

Janet - she's wonderful!

And speaking of the rubbish truck, and that Kookaburra (he’s still going), I couldn’t help but snicker smile at the thought of all those people rolling in their beds right now pulling that pillow over the head to drown out those sounds.

I have just tweaked up the sound on the iPod a smidgeon; after all at least there is a melody happening here…

 Garbage truck, Kookaburra, Pearl Jam?  Take your pick…

Best I move this yarn and training session along a touch here…

Strewth, a light has just come on in the house and there are signs of people stirring and it isn’t even 6am yet (unheard of in our place!).

Crikey, Janet is up, and looking just a tad unhappy. Mind you, she’s a pretty happy go lucky sort of person…usually!

Oops!

One of a couple of things happening here.

She’s been woken early by the sound of those wine bottles of hers Pearl Jam’s Ten cranking out on the iPod, it can’t be the Kookaburra even if they have a habit of waking you up because she loves wildlife, especially birds, or she’s found that new pair of mountaineering boots I bought.

Yes, another pair of mountaineering boots, but that story is best kept for another day ‘cause Janet usually reads my blog most days, and I don’t want to “dob” myself in yet, just in case it is just the sound of those wine… Pearl Jam that has woken her.

Okay, catch you lot later, I’ve gotta quickly finish this last set of weights, and go and jump in the hot tub make Janet a cup of tea, give her a kiss and tell her I love her…

But just quickly,

Wadda you reckon?

I’ve had a shot of caffeine, a dose of Pearl Jam’s Ten, and pumped a few ton of iron and it is only 6am in the morning.

 How do you think my day is going to go!

(Hint – Amped up!)

I’ll chat to you blokes and sheilas’ later…C-YA!

It’s a Cracka of a day dawning (Wouldn’t be dead for quids)

Baz power-lifting

Crikey, what a great day dawning over Sydney. The full moon is setting in the western sky as the first strands of light are appearing in the eastern sky, and the lorikeets are chirping already…

I’m up in the shed weight-lifting with the dogs keeping me company.

Strewth, I wouldn’t be dead for quids, that’s for sure!

What are you doing today?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Malatia Wall, Katoomba
Malatia Wall, Katoomba

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

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

Bushwalking Katoomba
Katoomba Falls, Blue Mountains

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

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

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

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

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

Crikey – Wire me up and check if I have a heart (beat)

Recently I wrote about Acute Mountain Sickness and the effects it can have on the body as you gain altitude when climbing. As we all know the human body was never designed to function at extremely high altitudes and supplemental oxygen is usually required.

And although Mt Everest and other 8,000 metre peaks have been climbed many times without the assistance of supplemental oxygen, the occurrence is rare.

I am taking a number of steps to help prepare for the climbing I am doing over the coming year. I’m training intensely to ensure I am in a peak physical condition, eating a well-balanced diet, and another consideration is to ensure that I do not have any medical conditions that might create issues for myself or others.

Monitoring the latter is an important process.

Grey's Peak New Zealand
Grey’s Peak, New Zealand

I routinely see a Specialist Sports Doctor for ailments and issues associated with exercising. I just saw him a week ago to discuss my high altitude climbing and to obtain a referral to a cardiologist so I can undergo a full coronary check-up, which is something we discussed a few months back.

I don’t expect the tests to reveal anything adverse as all indications are I am in good shape and have no family history of coronary disease. Mind you, if they do produce a negative result at least I can deal with it now!

Friday this week is my appointment day.

Well, as it would turn out I have been suffering a low level cold for the past couple of weeks, you know the type, nothing too serious to cause concern, just enough to be irritating. Janet, my partner has been suffering a full-blown cold for the past few days, although she is recovering now, and TomO, our son has also had one.

On Tuesday this week I woke up feeling a little tight in the chest, wheezing, runny nose, and feeling a little short of breathe. I’m making it sound worse than it was, but I’m a mere male and you know what we are like when it comes to being sick!

And with some rock climbing coming up this weekend in the Blue Mountains, just to the west of Sydney, I wanted to ensure I nipped this in the bud before it got any worse. Later in the day I visited my local General Medical Practitioner in the hope he had some instant cure…

mountaineering
Rock-climbing, Blue Mountains

Crikey, didn’t I open a can of worms!

After describing my symptoms he immediately sent me for an ECG, chest x-ray, and a plethora of other tests, including cholesterol, blood sugar, prostate (phew, at least I got the pathological test) and a couple of others for good measure.

I did suggest that I would be having most of these tests this Friday, but he wouldn’t be swayed. Just as well as I didn’t hear any sirens at the time otherwise I would have been in a mild big panic thinking it was an ambulance coming to collect me!

And don’t get me wrong, better to be safe than sorry, after all he has my health at forefront of mind for sure.

So there I was, lying on the bed, I had more wires on me than you could poke a stick at, and everyone asking did I have any chest pains.

It was just a common cold surely and I just wanted something to make me feel better!

As an aside, when I arrived at the reception of the pathology company the nurse reviewed my requirements, but asked would I mind waiting while she finished ordering her stores for the week. I wasn’t sure whether she meant her groceries or something for the medical practice.

Either way I didn’t mind, it was just a common cold after all I reassured myself. Geez, my heart was starting to beat a little faster by now…

About 10 minutes later when we entered the ECG room she immediately asked whether I had any chest pains.

I just chuckled to myself and said,  “no”. Really I was glad she got her stores done!

Must be an insurance thingy, maybe the waiting room is still on my watch, not theirs? Cark it in the waiting room, well bad luck, but just don’t do it in the consultation room, that’s far too much paper work…

I’m pleased to say all the tests were normal and I still have my specialist appointment tomorrow which will include a stress-test. In fact, for the most part, the results are above average for my age…

But as I was having my ECG I got to thinking that many of us exercise for fitness, health, and general well-being and we assume that it goes a long way towards that goal.

I’m sure it does.

Rowing in the Shed
Baz on the C2 Rower

But equally, there is most likely a point where you can push the body too far, a point at which the exercise undertaken may become detrimental to your health…

I can’t imagine changing anything I do, despite that possibility as I enjoy pushing to the limits, but it is always something to be mindful of!

So how much is too much, what do you reckon?

The Landy – Packed ready for adventure

We just spent a wonderful weekend on the Central Tablelands area to the west of Sydney.  Turon Gates, a private property that is dotted with numerous cabins and cottages, and a wonderful camping area was our destination.

We were intending to do some climbing and abseiling in the Blue Mountains over the weekend however my climbing partner was unable to make it.

We hadn’t been to Turon Gates for quite some time, so after TomO, our son, finished his Saturday sport at school we headed off in The Landy with the T-Van in tow.

I’ve often been asked where The Landy name comes from, well it is a Landrover Defender that we have rebuilt for long-range touring in Australia. The T-Van is a rugged camper trailer designed for travel in extreme places, and it does live up to its claim, we can attest to that!

And The Landy is no speed machine, which suits us perfectly, so it was a slow drive up and over the mountains and towards the wine growing area of Mudgee.

TomO wasted little time becoming acquainted with a group of kids who were there for the weekend and played a game of cricket while Janet, my partner, and I set up our camp. Mind you, that is a fairly quick affair as the The Landy is always in touring mode with everything stored inside, including a inflatable boat with a mercury outboard motor, and the T-Van is ready to sleep in with little set-up required.

The Turon River meanders through the property and it wasn’t long before TomO was in the water beckoning me to join, which I did. It was refreshing to say the least.

Janet spent time sitting on the river bank watching and speaking with another group of campers who we joined for a few drinks and a camp fire later…

So, whilst we missed out on climbing we had a fantastic weekend out and about in the Landy, and climbing is on this coming weekend – for sure.

High Altitude Climbing and Acute Mountain Sickness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what can I do?

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

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

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

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

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

Narrabeen Lake, Sydney, Australia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Did I say perfect?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A Kayaking encounter with a Crocodile – (I survived the deadly Puk-Puk)

It isn’t too often that you get to have one up on a crocodile and live to recount the experience, let’s face it, they are one of nature’s most efficient hunters.

And it will always be the one that you didn’t see that will get you…

 A few years ago, Janet, my partner, and I lived in Papua New Guinea, an independent Nation just to the north of Australia. During our time there we tried to experience much that the country has to offer, and we travelled as much as we could.

Each day I paddled the coastline on my surf ski, a sit-on-top kayak measuring around 6 metres in length.  At the time there were no other craft like mine in this area, if not the country, and it always caught the interest of the villagers’. It was sleek and glided effortlessly through the water…

There was much to explore and the local villages I passed were always friendly and welcoming.

The tropical waters of the Papuan Coast are full of marine life, large stingrays, and majestic turtles, some of the most colourful reef fish you will ever see and of course sharks of many varieties.

I’m pleased to be able to say that the most common sharks I encountered where the black tip reef sharks which are mostly harmless if left alone. And I was often told they are well fed… Just on what and how often seemingly was an unanswered question.

Of course, the tropical waters are also home to the more menacing and much larger tiger shark.

From a hill top vantage point near Port Moresby, the capital city, I once observed the largest tiger shark I have ever seen.

It was following a pod of dolphins heading towards Local Island, which is situated about 3-kilometres offshore from the local beach, Ela beach.

We lived within a stone’s throw of this beach and it was a paddle I did regularly and after this encounter I was left wondering how many times I may have been stalked as I crossed to the island.

Papua New Guinea is also home to the saltwater crocodile, or Puk-Puk as it is known in the local language. I was always alert for the possibility of one of these creatures being present in the waterways I paddled. Realistically, I’m not sure what I would have done if I encountered one, and it is unlikely there would ever have been any forewarning before encountering the “death roll”.

The sight of local villagers’ fishing in the water from the shore was always a comforting sign, as they are also alert for the Puk-Puk’s presence. And normally there are telltale signs they may be present.

Recently, a friend and I were discussing paddling in Papua New Guinea and an encounter I did have with one of these creatures.

It was in the mountains about 40 kilometres from Port Moresby at a place not to far from the start of the Kokoda Trail, a place immortalised in Australian Military history.

I had decided to take my kayak into the mountains for a paddle down one of the rivers just for a change to the coastal paddling I was more accustomed to. During a two-hour paddle I was rewarded with magnificent scenery and a couple of friendly villages along the way.

I had Janet drop me off and I was to meet her at the Kokoda Trail Motel, a small pub, after negotiating my way along the river. I was a little nervous at first and any bump underneath the kayak left me wondering if these were to be my final moments before the jaws of one of these pre-historic creatures crushed the kayak, or worse!

There was an element of excitement about it…

As I made my way with the flow of the river I was observing the muddy banks for any telltale signs of a slide. Places where a crocodile may have slipped into the water from its resting point.

Crikey, in an instant my heart skipped a beat…

There was no doubting what I saw heading my way.

Isn’t it funny how sometimes every thing around you can go into slow motion?

Strewth, this was a moment suspended in time.

Was it to be my one and only encounter with a crocodile?

The final scorecard reading, Puk-Puk, one; Baz, nil…

I’m pleased to say it wasn’t…

Upon sighting my arrival on the banks of the river beside the motel, Janet ordered me a Puk-Puk steak for lunch and it was heading my way, suitably seasoned, and on a plate…

And to this day, the sight of Janet always makes my heart skip a beat!

I had many more visits to the mountains where I enjoyed a paddle, a Puk-Puk steak, and a couple of ice-cold beers with Janet…

And if you have never tried Puk-Puk, do yourself a favour, it is delicious; just make sure it is on a plate…

Here’s a recipe, just in case you’re tempted…

Sa yawa (Awesome)

Awesome is a word I love to use regularly, in fact I try to use it each and every day. Even better if you can express it in someone else’s language and as we are currently in Fiji I am going to use the local translation, which is sa yawa, pronounced sah-yah-wah.

 Those who have visited Fiji will understand how easy it is to use the expression sa yawa. The Fijian people are awesome, their friendly smiling faces warming your heart from the inside and wherever you travel you’ll be greeted with Bula and a big smile…

 The coastline and beaches are inviting.

Today we took a 45-minute boat ride along the coast to the Blue Lagoon Caves. These are limestone caves made famous in the 1980’s movie, Blue Lagoon, starring Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins. But putting aside the movie, the caves, one of which you need to dive underwater to access, are absolutely spectacular, dare I say sa yawa!

Our guide swam ahead and lit up the cave with a torch and as we followed we were struck by the cave’s beauty. Swimming in a cave was a first for Janet, TomO, and myself, and many of the others who had joined us today.

The boat ride along the coast was just as rewarding, and we were lucky to encounter a large pod of dolphins that swam around the boat, performing amazing jumps up out of the water.

The food has also been sa yawa. We’ve enjoyed a traditional Fijian Lovo, where the food is prepared in a pit over hot coals and we feasted on various meats, including freshly caught lobster from the surrounding area.

And while we waited for the Lovo to be ready local villagers performed traditional dances.

Crikey, it would be easy to write much more, but why don’t I just let the photos do the talking…

Sa yawa.

Just Trick Your Brain (It works for me!)

Most days I get out and about and do some form of exercise. One of my staples is rowing, and I belong to a virtual rowing team based in America, with members scattered around the globe.

The Luna-tics was formed by a group of NASA people many years ago with the intention of rowing to the moon and back on C2 rowing machines. Members log their metres whenever they row, advancing the journey.  We have been to the moon and back and we are on the return journey.

Currently I am standing at around 15,000 kilometres of  rowing over the past  4 years.

But I’m digressing, as usual, mind you if you are a rower we are always on the look-out for “space travellers” to join the journey…

Most, if not almost every day I will do some form of strength training, which will either be body-weight exercises such as push-ups, or chin-ups. Alternatively, I will do all the bigger compound lifts with weighted barbells.

I follow a progressive 5×5 program, which involves 5 sets of 5 repetitions with weights advancing in a periodised way over an 8 week cycle. There is plenty of information available on this style of lifting and it works best for me as I want strength development, rather than too much bulky muscular development.

And when I can I put some indoor climbing in there, or better still a climb up in the Blue Mountains with TomO, our son…

Since this year’s Coast to Coast race across New Zealand I have placed more focus on strength training during the winter months which requires some calorie excess to gain muscle. But over the next 3-4 months I will be looking to cut up to 10 kilograms out of my frame to prepare for the mountaineering and climbs I have planned next year.  I’ll do this progressively through diet management whilst continuing with the same exercise regime.

And on other days, if I haven’t run out of my quota of seven, I will grab my “sled” and load it with a sandbag and drag it around the park while carrying dumbbells or do sprints dragging it behind me, even go for a run…

But sleds are an awesome workout!

Of course there is my other passion, kayaking.

We try to spend weekends on the water, especially through the summer months.  And this is a family affair at Narrabeen Lake, on Sydney’s northern beaches. Well, Janet, my partner, is more inclined to be lazing around on the shore with the weekend papers, taking a well earned rest from the weekly grind.

She loves being part of it all, but is happy to get her exercise with a daily walk of our dogs, MilO and JackO, which can be quite a sociable affair with lattes and morning tea afterwards. Mind you, she’s first in line for the adventure bits, like skydiving, but less inclined if it involves a “Landy” style endurance walk…which can be a non-stop overnight affair…

If you’ve never experienced an overnight walk or run, give it a go. It is a different world out there in the dark, just pop a Petzl light on your head and go!

And including family is the key to my training. I don’t use a gym, preferring to work-out in the shed at home, and down at the beach or lake, that way we are all together…

And on diet, I don’t stress too much about the actual composition of what I eat, focussing more on controlling weight through portion size.  The formula is pretty simple, eat more than you need and weight increases, if that is what you need, or eat less and it declines.

Mind you, I am  pretty much a meat and three veggie man, so the diet is fairly well balanced by the time I add some fruit. And Janet is a wonderful (the world’s greatest) cook…

 But my point is this, it doesn’t matter what you do, or even how long you do it for, the main thing is you try and do something every day.

Consistency leads to habit…habits lead to life-long health benefits…

But don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day either, just get back to it the next day, sometimes a good snooze under the mango tree is just what the body needs!

The Shed

Having said all this, I ceased all weight-lifting this week as I don’t want to run the risk of injury ahead of climbing in New Zealand this coming week.

I manage injury risk through daily stretching, weekly massages and chiropractic adjustments.  I see these three things as just as important as anything else I do. But Murphy’s Law say this will be the week I’ll injure myself, so by stopping it I can manage the risk. It won’t make any difference to my fitness levels.

And none of this comes easy for me, but I try and look through the daily routine to what it is I am trying to achieve.

I visualise where I want to be.

The brain is an amazing thing, give it a thought and it will simply accept it without qualification. If you tell it you’ve already climbed that high mountain, or run that marathon, or just done a new PR in weight-lifting, it will believe you.

Next time you come to do it, it just happens…well, as long as you put the work in!

Every day I see myself on the summit of Cho Oyu, of people congratulating me on my return…

 Believe in yourself, your inner strength and Just Do It….

Cold Rose-Hip-Soup (You’re kidding me, right?)

Cold Rose-Hip Soup, it should be bottled and dispensed from a chemist, a pharmacy, drug store, but eaten to be enjoyed, surely not?

 Whilst being a self-confessed meat and three veggie man myself, I am always happy to try something new, after all I love my food, but for me this was pushing the boundaries and I’m no wall-flower when it calls for pushing boundaries…

 I have a wonderful mother-in-law, Clare, with whom I enjoy a very good relationship, she tells me what she thinks, pulls me into line if I need it, but loves me to bits; she’s only human after all, I guess!

Yes, I lucked out, a beautiful partner and wife, Janet, and a great mother-in-law. Many would call that Nirvana!

English: Some rose hips in close-up

But the relationship was put to the test when we were called upon to try out a new culinary offering from Clare. You see as part of a group that Clare, and her husband, Archie, belong to, The Beef, Steak, and Burgundy Club, it was her turn to produce a menu for an upcoming dinner.

Now family dinners around the Fawthrop table are always enjoyable affairs, plenty of fun and laughter, the usual offering of early childhood stories of Archie’s upbringing in Colonial India, and of Clare’s on the family’s sheep station in far Western Queensland; Outback Australia.

And Clare is a wonderful cook, very home-style just how I like it. So it was with great trepidation that I approached the first course, a rather large bowl of cold rose-hip soup.

 It’s okay if you’re feeling a little squeamish. I was at the mere thought of it.

Now being the only son-in-law present it somehow fell to me to be the taster and by the look on the faces of all those present they appeared more than happy with this arrangement.

I faced the bowl off, like a man condemned, and raised the spoon, feebly, to my lips, like it would be the last thing I would ever do…

Fair dinkum, this was the worst thing I had ever tasted in my life.

Well, there were a couple of doses of castor oil in my younger days, and by now I’m thinking this could be bottled as an alternative!

Clare, anxiously awaiting endorsement of the wonderful soup she toiled over, looked my way, expectantly.

If we were not on such great terms I could be forgiven for thinking this soup would be better named mother-in-law’s revenge.

I weighed up my options…

I could do the right thing and tell her it was fantastic, but crikey, then I would have to finish this bowl, plus another helping for sure.

I was still gagging on the first spoonful…

Or I could tell her the truth, usually a good policy, as I tell our son TomO, unless a little white lie is called for!

Self-preservation is a wonderful instinct that we mere humans are well adapted to…

“Clare, this soup is bloody terrible”

There was a pregnant pause around the table, followed by the sound of half-a-dozen spoons being quickly placed back in their bowls, soup untouched!

The look on everyone’s faces confirmed the verdict, I was safe – phew!

 So a question to you, my good friends out there…

Is there such a thing as a good, cold, rose-hip-soup, and do you have a recipe, or am I on-the-money and it really is “mother-in-law’s revenge?”