Dreams come true (For those who believe)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The exuberance of youth!

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

“And what about  Mt Everest” TomO has asked.

“Do you want to climb it”

“Yes” I told him.

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

I said to him “One step at a time”…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

Her reply was simple and uncomplicated.

“It scares me” she said.

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


Baz – The Landy

Get this – Climbed Mt Everest (Eight times)

Well I was excited a few weeks ago when I booked a mountaineering and climbing trip to the Southern Alps in New Zealand south island…

 Now I’m bloody excited, you know, like when you can barely control yourself, excited like when you still thought Santa came down the chimney!

 After an early morning paddle down at Narrabeen Lakes this morning, which I almost had to myself along with a few pelicans, I headed home for a final gear check and pack as I depart this coming Friday.

Whilst in New Zealand I’ll be climbing under the instruction of Dean Staples who is Adventure Consultants Chief Guide for New Zealand.

Dean is a highly skilled IFMA Guide and has guided many expeditions around the world for the company.  These include three ascents of Cho Oyu, two times to Ama Dablam, and the Vinson Massif.

He’s also travelled to the Antarctic Peninsular.

If that all sounds very impressive, get this, this year Dean summited Mount Everest for the eighth time, yes that’s right eight times.

My current goal is to summit Cho Oyu, the world’s sixth largest mountain peak, which measures in at 8,201 metres (26,906 feet).  But there is plenty of preparation and training to be done before I head off on that expedition, hopefully in 2014.

Under Dean’s guidance I’m hoping to learn some very valuable skills during my week in New Zealand, or N-Zed, as us Aussies affectionately call it…

We will spend the week in either Westland National Park, Mt Cook National Park, or Aspiring National Park, depending on where conditions are best suited. And as it is still very cold we will be staying in mountain huts rather than camping on the glaciers.

We will fly into the glaciers by helicopter or ski plane and at this stage we are planning to fly out at the end of the week, but that will depend on the weather and aircraft availability at the time, otherwise it will be a hike out.

Our focus over the week will be on crampon and ice axe skills, and crevasse rescues, with a few other mountain skills thrown in for good measure. So there should be a fair amount of ice-climbing.

This is designed to prepare mountaineers for climbing the “seven summits” the highest peaks on each of the world’s continents.

Mt Aspiring, Southern Alps, New Zealand

I’m also going back to N-Zed in January for a summit attempt on Mt Aspiring.

What makes this a real challenge for me is that I grew up in tropical Northern Australia, my playground was the Australian outback, and the tropical waters of the Great Barrier Reef.

 I was almost thirty years of age before I even set foot on snow, and I’ve never snow skied in my life.

And as I confessed in an earlier musing, I can’t even tie my shoe-laces! But I can tie quite a few mountaineering knots, lucky that!

 And what of Everest you ask?

Well let’s see if I can get to the top of Cho Oyu first…but Janet, my partner, has penciled it in the diary already, saying she knows me too well.

For me, I will be very happy to get to a position of where I could reasonably contemplate having a go for it…

 And thanks for the vote of confidence Janet…I’m taking it as tacit approval for the funding of that trip if it ever eventuates…

If you’re inclined, I’ll be updating Facebook when I can, check out The Landy there, just click ‘like’…

Climbing Mt Everest drinking Ovaltine all the way

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

I was at my partner’s parents home recently, Clare and Archie who are 83 and 98 years old, and over a cup of tea we were flicking through books of old photographs.  The themes varied from trips overseas, the children growing up, and of Archie’s  childhood in India.

You could pick any photograph and Archie would narrate a rich account of when it was taken, and the story behind those who were in it. And there were photographs of Clare’s childhood days, growing up in far western Queensland on the family’s sheep property, and of her days at boarding school in Charters Towers.

The conversation turned to our upcoming adventures, and my journey to climb an 8,000 metre peak close to where Archie grew up. Over the years I have listened to the many stories of Archie’s trips to Darjeeling, situated  in the foothills of the Himalaya’s, and in later years of visits both he and Clare made back to Calcutta.

One story is about a mountaineering expedition group  who turned up at the offices of James Wright and Company, General Merchants, the family business in Calcutta.  The suave and handsome couple were in a rather irate mood as they stepped out of the taxi, demanding to know why they had not been met at the ship upon their arrival.  Being general merchants, Archie and his father dealt in all kind of goods, and were the agent’s in India for the popular drink Ovaltine.

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

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

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

And rest and avail themselves they did indeed…

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

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

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

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

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

“Was the Ovaltine story and the photograph a sign-post on our own journey, a connection to the region brought about from Archie’s younger days?  In the least, it enriches the experience for us…”

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