Selfishness – A simple word (With a complex meaning)

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

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

Most dictionaries define selfishness as…

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

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

I asked myself the question..

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

 

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

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

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

Interlocked they provide a mosaic of whom we really are…

The picture unfolds…

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

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

Baz – The Landy

High Altitude Climbing and Acute Mountain Sickness

everest-top

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And therein lies the dilemma as I see it.

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

So what can I do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

No Ordinary Moments; No Ordinary People; No Ordinary Lives

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

No matter who you are, where you are, or what you are doing…

 This photograph was captured in the village of Menari, in the jungles of Papua New Guinea with myself and a truly remarkable man.

He was one of the “fuzzy-wuzzy angels” who helped Australian and American troops in the fierce jungle battles along the Kokoda Track and other places along the Papuan Coast during the second world war.

 We have much to thank them for…

 

More dope on a rope (High altitude climbing)

Baz - Chancellor Dome in Background, New ZealandFor a simple bloke who can’t even tie his shoe laces properly the prospect of climbing some of the world’s highest mountain peaks would seem just a little ambitious.

At least that would be the conventional thinking.

Not that I have ever thought of myself as conventional…

And let’s face it, Castle Hill, which prominently stands out as a feature of Townsville, the wonderful tropical North Queensland town I grew up in, is merely a speed hump when compared to the Himalayan Mountains.

But in a similar way that I am drawn to the rugged beauty of Australia’s Outback, I am lured to the mountains for much the same reason.  The solitude and magnificent beauty, a feeling that you are insignificant in the broader landscape, but equally, an important part of this picture seemingly painted on the canvas of life…

Plans are now well under way for two expeditions I will be undertaking to Nepal in 2015, my place on the expeditions confirmed, and plane tickets are booked.

The first expedition will be in April when I head to Kathmandu to climb Mera Peak.

Standing at 6,500 metres, Mera will provide a fantastic view of Cho Oyu and Mount Everest from its summit.   The trip will introduce me to the culturally stimulating world of Nepal and will assist in refining my technical skills at altitude in preparation for three other peaks I will climb in the post-monsoon period in November.

The peaks, Island Peak, Lobuche East, and Pokalde will be more technical and another opportunity to enjoy the people, culture and landscapes of the Himalayan region of Nepal.

And training for high altitude mountaineering is something I look forward to and will require lots of cardio-vascular work, and nothing beats putting on a 20-kilogram pack and walking in the hills for a few hours.

I’m excited to be back on track once again, so be sure to join me on the climbs – one step at a time, as that is what it will take as I progress towards an expedition to climb Cho Oyu, the world’s 6th highest mountain peak standing at well over 8,000 metres. That is set down for the 2016.

Strewth, I’m as excited as a rooster in a chook pen!

Baz – The Landy

Watagan Mountains (The Australian Bush)

The Watagan’s is a great place to spend a weekend or  few more days hiking.  Situated just to the north of Sydney, it is a lush mountainous area full of wonderful flora and fauna.

We hiked a familiar route, the Great North Walk, overnighting at  Barraba Trig, a picturesque site that overlooks the famous Hunter Valley wine growing region from its vantage point high on a ridge top…

The girl’s, Janet and Leah, packed their men, TomO, me, brother-in-law Ray (the Kiwi) and young Aubrey, off on Saturday afternoon, before glamming up and heading to a beautiful French restaurant in Newcastle…

And what an awesome effort by nephew 5-year old Aubrey, he walked half of the 25 kilometre hike!

And the Kiwi showed some great endurance carrying him and a 20-kilo pack the rest of the way! Mind you he did run 100-kilometres of this route just a couple of weeks back in 20-hours!

The Australian Bush hey, you’ve got to love it.

 Photos: Baz – The Landy

An Outhouse (With a view)

An Outhouse (With a view)

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

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

 

Photo: Baz – The Landy

Living the Dream (You have imagined)

Southern Alps, New Zealand

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

Henry David Thoreau

Sound advice Henry!

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

Living Works Of Art (In the Australian Bush)

Wildflowers
A Fringed Lily – Minute and as Delicate as life itself…

Perhaps this will come as little surprise, but today we were Out and About in the Australian Bush…

TomO was having a sleep over at a friends place, although the term sleepover is used merely to highlight that he wasn’t at home with us, because if I know those boys there would have been little sleep happening.

Hell, come to think of it, the poor bloke was probably cleaning up the aftermath of the dinner party we enjoyed with the parents of TomO’s mate last night…

Now nothing ever seems to happen in our house before a cup of tea has been taken, which shouldn’t be that surprising as Janet’s father, Archie, was a tea importer, so after our mandatory cup of tea this morning we boarded The Landy, camera gear at the ready, and headed about 50-kilometres to the north of Sydney into Yengo National Park.

This park is a favourite of ours and we have spent many hours atop Devil’s Mountain watching the sun set on the the park’s western horizon, or Burragurra as it is known by Australia’s first inhabitants.

The mountain has many aboriginal rock engravings etched into its surface, including the spirit footprints of Wa-boo-ee, the creator of heaven and earth.  In aboriginal legend he stepped from here to Mount Yengo in one stride and then ascended back into the sky.

Yengo National Park
Mt Yengo, Australia

All this, just to the north of Australia’s most populous city, strewth, how did we Aussies’s get so lucky?

And you know how I tend to rave on about the Australian Bush and Outback, well just take another look at the beautiful example of a Fringed Lily.  They are so minute and in flower presently.

And as harsh as the Australian Bush can be it is such a fragile environment producing what can only be described as Living Works of Art…just like the Fringed Lily!

Crikey, all together now, say it!

(Big Bad) Baz, we wouldn’t wouldn’t be dead for quid’s!

Photos: (Big Bad) Baz, The Landy

Dawn breaks over Australia’s Outback (In a brilliance of colour)

Dawn break over Australia’s Outback (In a brilliance of colour)

Dawn and the hour or so before the sun pierces the eastern horizon is a favourite time of day for me.

And when travelling in the Australian Outback I am often rewarded with a view like this one, captured at Welford National Park…

Crikey, tickle me pink, how good is this sunrise over in the Outback.

Photo by: Baz, The Landy (how can I tell? Janet and TomO aren’t early risers!)

Sand Dune Country (In the Australian Outback)

National Parks in Australia

I love the colours in this photo they take me to the Outback, no matter where I am…

What do you reckon?

Photo by: Baz, The Landy

Outback Australia (Mutawintji National Park)

Dawn breaks over Mutawintji
Dawn breaks over Mutawintji

Have you ever wondered what it is like to stay in an underground motel, a room dug into a side of a hill?

Tonight our accommodation is the Underground Motel at White Cliffs in far-western New South Wales.

TomO and I have been frequent visitors over the years, stopping off on our way to and from the Outback, but seemingly, Janet has never been on those trips, so tonight is a first for her.

And what a welcome sight the reception was, standing tall on Smith’s Hill, about the only hill in sight for a hundred or so miles, well not quite, but the landscape is very flat and barren.

We have spent the past three days in Mutawinji National Park undertaking a number of walks through the magnificent gorges set in the rugged and fiery red Byngnano Range. And the wildlife was beautiful…

Kangaroo - Mutawintji NP
Kangaroo – Mutawintji NP

Mutawintji is the tribal area of the Makyankapa and Pandjikali people.

Aboriginal people have lived and hunted in this area for thousands of years and during our stay in the park we spent time with an aboriginal elder who took us to view some rock art and engravings of great significance to his people.

Mutawintji Hand Painting
Mutawintji Hand Painting

Mark shared the love of his land, his people, his culture with great passion and enthusiasm and we look forward to meeting up with him once again in the future, to share the experience of this great land together…

Strewth, you wouldn’t be dead for quid’s, hey!

Photos: Baz, The Landy

Crikey – Talking about Neighbour’s (Don’t mess with this bloke)

Ever had a next door neighbour that you wish would just go away? You’ll know the ones I’m talking about, loud, unruly, parties until all hours, beer bottles chiming to the sounds of cheers!

Mind you, it almost sounds fun when it put is that way, but it does wear thin after a while.

 And then there are the silent ones, no noise, no parties, pretty much keep to themselves, but shikes, they sure can give you the creeps.

Strewth, we’ve had our fair share of them over the years, but we are lucky to have great neighbours all around us these days!

But I’ll share a yarn about one neighbour that we had a while back, in the outback.

We were out touring in Far North-Queensland, FNQ (pronounced ef-fen-Q), up in the Gulf Savannah Country where Janet has her roots.  Mott’s are still grazing sheep and cattle in that region to this day, and for me this region was my backyard as I grew up in Townsville…

Over the past few years we have made the 7,000 kilometre round-trip to one of our most favourite spots in the Australian bush, Lawn Hill Gorge.

Now let me tell you, this is one heck of a beautiful spot that we first visited back in the 1990s. It was literally a flying visit in an aircraft we owned, a Piper Arrow, call sign Foxtrot-Tango-Hotel.

This was before the little tacka, TomO,  came along, and we flew it extensively over the Australian outback before selling it some years back.

These days we enjoy the drive north through the outback in The Landy just as much as we did flying over it.

The Aussie Outback, it’s a great place to just stand still and take it all in, a place where the barren land and ochre red soil meets the deep blue of the never-ending sky…

Anyway…

When we were last up there we had no problem securing a great spot beside the creek, which surprised us as there were a few others around at Adel’s Grove, a small tourist resort that caters for travellers just nearby to the main gorge.

It turns out our neighbour was a magnificent Olive Python measuring about 5 metres in length.

A beautiful specimen and apparently they are only known to eat small children…

Just kiddin’…

It had taken up residence just on the bank where we had set up camp.  Despite their size they are not an aggressive snake and they are not venomous. And we have our fair share of those venomous ones.

Crikey, we’ve got a bagful of the world’s most deadly snakes, and none of those “rattling” things that they have elsewhere, just hard-core mean and downright dangerous ones!

Okay, fair’s fair, the North American rattle snake does make it into the top ten…

Most passing by our camp were totally oblivious to it being there, many who saw it thought they were about to be eaten alive, others were curious at a seemingly chance encounter with something so wonderful.

Late in the day, as the sun drifted low into the western horizon and shadows started to cast long, it would move on, returning first thing the next morning to take up its position once again.

Yep, neighbours, they come in all shapes and sizes, some you love to bits, others you’d be happy to see the back of, but for sure, we’d be happy to have this bloke as our neighbour anytime – best “guard dog” we’ve ever had…

Ps. For those who might be wondering, Janet was the photographer and loved it. Um, I must’ve been busy with something… 😉

High Altitude Climbing and Acute Mountain Sickness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And therein lies the dilemma as I see it.

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

So what can I do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baz - Meteor Peak
Baz – Meteor Peak

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

Cox's River on the Six Foot Track

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

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

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

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

You’ve just got to love the Blue Mountains…

Talk about Cute (Characters you meet – Out and About)

Ta-Ta Lizard
Ta-Ta Lizard

Geez, how cute is this little bloke?

 It is affectionately known as the Ta-Ta Lizard due to its peculiar habit of waving its front leg before running away, oddly enough almost in an upright position.  The waving is possibly due to standing on hot surfaces, as they do reside in the northern and hotter parts of Australia.

Its actual name is the Gilbert’s Dragon, Amphibolurus Gilbert.

But that’s a bit like calling Baz – The Landy, Barry Thomas O’Malley, so let’s just stick with Ta-Ta Lizard…

And checkout the size of its tail and back feet!

We took this photograph whilst Out and About in one of our favourite outback places, Lawn Hill Gorge, a spectacular oasis in a barren land…

And okay, I get it, not everyone likes reptiles, and we’ve got plenty of them over here, many that are best avoided, but crikey, he is cute, don’t you think so?

Lawn Hill Gorge, Gulf Savannah, Australia
Lawn Hill Gorge, Gulf Savannah, Australia
photos by: Baz, Janet, and TomO

Blooming Fantastic (Wildflowers in the Outback)

Water Lilly's, Lawn Hill Gorge, Gulf Savvanah, Australia
Water Lilly’s, Lawn Hill Gorge, Gulf Savannah, Australia

Recently I’ve been sharing some of the photographs we have taken whilst travelling this fantastic country of ours, Australia.

 Whether it is a climber’s perspective of the mountains that I frequently get to view, or perhaps some of the dunes in that part of the country we call The Outback, Australia is a contrast of spectacular colour amongst what is often a harsh and barren land…

Coongie Lake, Outback Australia
Coongie Lake, Outback Australia

But there is a delicate beauty to be found, everywhere, you just need to look.

Wildflowers, Lawn Hill Gorge, Gulf Savvanh, Australia
Wildflowers, Lawn Hill Gorge, Gulf Savannah, Australia

Janet will spend countless hours searching for, observing, and photographing our wonderful wildflowers, of which there are countless numbers, she never tires of it, saying just one more, another five minutes and I’ll be finished…

 Yes, Janet, she does stand out like a beautiful wild flower, in full bloom!

Janet - she's wonderful!
Janet, a beautiful flower in full bloom
 Photos: Baz, Janet & TomO

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

The Shed
The Shed

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

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

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

Rowing in the Shed
Baz on the C2 Rower

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Something that I will be revelling in!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jungle Life – Papua New Guinea (Alola Village)

Jungle Life - Papua New Guinea

Alola village, remotely located deep in the steamy jungle of Papua New Guinea.

The only way in is to walk for a couple of days…

Janet and I lived in Papua New Guinea for three years, working and exploring…

A wonderful country, full of wonderful people and teeming with spectacular wildlife.

No ordinary moments, no ordinary people, no ordinary lives!

photo: Baz

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!