Stretching between the villages of Salamaua and Wau in the island Nation of Papua New Guinea is a long-forgotten second world war track called “The Black Cat Track”.
It has it all…dangerous river crossings, swamps, cliffs, precarious rock-ledges, venomous snakes, and leeches that will suck the blood from your veins after the malaria carrying mosquito’s have finished with you…
The Lonely Planet guidebook describes the Black Cat Track as “suitable only for masochists and Israeli Paratroopers”.
This region of Papua New Guinea has some of the most spectacular jungle scenery on the planet and is the habitat of the country’s national emblem, the superbly beautiful Bird of Paradise.
I had to postpone a trek along the Black Cat Track a few years back due to civil unrest in the region, something it has been prone to from time-to-time, but I have been anxious to undertake this adventure and revisit a country Janet-Planet (Mrs Landy) and I lived in as newly weds many years ago…
And whilst I have not given up on my desire to climb amongst the world’s highest peaks in the Himalayas, the earthquake and tragic devastation it caused to Nepal and its people earlier this year has added a layer of complexity to that ambition!
But crikey, I need to “feed the rat” with adventure and an opportunity has arisen to join a trek along the Black Cat Track in May 2016 with a group of Papua New Guinean Nationals – “Legends” as they are rightly referred to and ably led by Aidan Grimes.
Co-incidentally, it will be almost 10-years to the day that I walked the Kokoda Track with Aidan, a veteran of 100 traverses of the Kokoda Track; a track that is synonymous with Papua New Guinea and the battles fought by our brave and courageous “diggers” during World War Two.
It will make a change to the Australian Outback and snow covered mountain peaks…
What an adventure, hey!
So strap on your backpack and get your hiking boots out…there is plenty of training to be done…
The opportunity to visit an extremely remote and arid part of Australia came my way the other day, an opportunity to spend time in country with a group of traditional landowners and aboriginal elders deep in the desert region of Western Australia.
“The Landy” will be pointed westward travelling deep into the desert region, crossing sand dunes and making tracks as our small convoy travels deep into the desert.
We will make tracks where no other European Australian’s have previously been as much of this trip will be completely across country, no roads or tracks to follow.
They say one door closes and another opens and crikey, isn’t that the truth!
Recently I wrote a piece on “Fate, are you a Believer” after forgoing a trip to climb a 6,500-metre peak in Nepal, but missing the terrible natural disaster that devastated the country following last week’s earthquake; a tumultuous event that has sadly taken the life of many Nepalese people.
I was due to arrive in Nepal last Wednesday, as it turns out the day our son, TomO, broke his kneecap in the school gym.
And yes, he is making a great recovery…thanks!
Mind you when I’m not climbing I am travelling the great Australian Outback, photographing a parched red earth that stretches from horizon to horizon, kissed by a deep blue sky that provides a canopy over our sunburnt country.
As fate would have it, I received a telephone call from an acquaintance this week, a fellow kindred spirit and outback traveller who is assembling a team of people to assist a group of traditional owners, indigenous Australians, build a structure to house a pump in an extremely remote part of Australia; an area rich in aboriginal history and culture, but rarely seen by European Australians.
It was less than 40 years ago that an elderly couple came in from this desert region after living a nomadic life with no European contact at all. Their’s is a remarkable story and told in a book “The Last of the Nomads” by WJ Peasley.
I vowed to visit this area one day…
Strewth, I’m more excited than a rooster in a hen house and there isn’t a lot of time to prepare so I’d better get cracking – I look forward to sharing the stories and photographs I capture in between wielding a shovel, pick, and hammer!
A couple of months ago I decided to put aside my climbing ambitions in Nepal this year after my sister, Debbie, was diagnosed with advanced cancer.
Instead Deb and I went on a road trip a week or so ago with our mother to the Queensland country town where she grew up, having a wonderful time together as a family.
Last Wednesday, TomO, the crown prince, broke his patella, his knee cap as it is more commonly known, in a bad fall in the school gym.
Needless to say it was a traumatic time for Janetand me to see the little bloke in so much pain.
This happened on the day I was due to arrive in Kathmandu to climb Mera Peak and just ahead of the tragic news overnight of a severe earthquake involving large loss of life in Kathmandu.
TomO had surgery on Thursday to repair his patella and all went well and he is recovering at home with lots of ice-cream! Unfortunately this will keep an active young man on the benches for the next few months, but the young bounce back quickly!
My climbing partners on this trip to Nepal headed to Lukla just prior to the earthquake and I’ve had news they are okay…
Janet has always been behind my mountaineering ambition and adventures one-hundred percent, but gave me a hug this morning and said,
“Glad you didn’t go you were needed here for reasons we didn’t know at the time…”
If it had not have been for Deb’s condition, which we would change in a heart beat if we could, I would have been in Nepal. But despite her condition Deb is still looking out for her little brother in ways that big sister’s do and perhaps only the “universe” will ever understand…
Our thoughts go out to all those affected in Nepal and if you are able to support the wonderful Nepalese people via a relief fund, please do.
Camping in a tent on the side of a mountain at heights above 6,000 metres has a number of considerations to take into account.
Selection of the site, safety from environmental factors, and of course, staying warm is paramount!
Much of my camping above the snow line has been in New Zealand’s mountain huts, and whilst it can still be cold, the huts provide protection from the elements. So up until now my sleeping bags have been sufficiently warm enough.
But they are unlikely to provide the protection I need for this year’s two expeditions to Nepal which involve camping above 6,000 metres. So I have needed to add another sleeping to the many that already reside in our “gear room”.
There are numerous choices available from the obvious manufacturers’ such as The North Face and other popular brands. The quality produced by North Face is first rate, and this is a piece of equipment that shouldn’t be driven by cost considerations.
You want the best and it won’t necessarily be the cheapest!
But I am very reluctant and discriminating when it comes to supporting these major brands due to the differential pricing they have in place. Dependent on which country you reside in it may cost more, despite the product being precisely the same.
Try and buy a sleeping bag from the North Face in the United States and you find that it will direct you back to the Australian website and the price increases considerably.
This is a hotly debated topic in Australia covering a range of major companies!
I like to support local businesses and Australian manufacturers, whom are a dying breed mind you due to the high cost of producing anything in Australia, but a company I have supported many times is One Planet.
One Planet is an Australian based manufacturer of sleeping bags of extremely high quality and I have used and tested them on my mountaineering trips to New Zealand’s Southern Alps.
Without hesitation I contacted the company’s owner and asked would he make me a specialist sleeping bag suitable for temperatures of around minus 20 degrees Celsius – yes, no problem was the reply; we’ll get on to that straight away…
Today I took delivery of this important piece of equipment, which came at a cost far less than the equivalent from the major global brands here in Australia.
Hey, I can’t wait to be wrapped up all snuggly and warm inside it on a Himalayan mountain!
Do we underestimate the power of the mind, the power of positive thought?
Is anything possible, without limitation, if you give your mind’s eye a vision and allow it to believe you have already achieved it?
Okay, it will take much more than an hour or so in the lotus position every other day telling yourself you are a brain surgeon before you get to pick up a scalpel, but it all starts with a vision, right?
My countdown for this year’s two expeditions to Nepal is well underway and I am undertaking plenty of physical activity to prepare and rest assured the body is feeling it sometimes.
But just as important as my physical preparation is that I am mentally prepared. And to take my mind off the 20-kilogram pack strapped to my back when I am out walking at silly o’clock I fill it with visions of standing atop those mountain peaks.
I picture myself telephoning my family, telling them I have summited and returned to the base-camp safely and sharing different aspects of the climb with them whilst sipping a warm mug of Sherpa tea.
Those conversations with my mind, with Janet and TomO, go right down to the detail of what is said!
Oh don’t worry, I’ve been practicing many other aspects of mountaineering these past few years, after all there are things to be learnt and practised – but that just reinforces what the mind knows it can do, right?
There are people who believe in positive affirmation, some who are not sure, and others with whom no amount of discussion will convince them it does. But let me share my own personal insight of why I know it does.
It was the mid- 1970s, I had just left school to join one of Australia’s largest banks and a month earlier I celebrated my 15th birthday. At the time the company produced a quarterly magazine called “The Etruscan” and in the very first edition I received was a story describing a day in the life of the people who undertook the bank’s money market operation…
I was enthralled, I wanted a job like that so in my mind’s eye I play-acted the people in the article, not that I actually had a clue what they really did, after all it was a short article, so I just made it up as I went – I was a natural.
Perhaps it was a bit unusual for someone of my age to be getting into this esoteric stuff, but that is what daydreamers do and I am a daydreamer. And I’m sure many will agree that a very fine line exists between dreams and reality confirmed by the days you wake up thinking, the dream I had was real….
Shortly I will have spent 40-years with this institution. Yes, 40-years, it wasn’t a typing error and for most of that time I have been managing and trading currencies in the bank’s money market operation.
You see a few years after convincing myself I was a natural at doing whatever it was they did, and following a set of events which were unrelated, I “woke” up in the bank’s trading room in front of a trading screen…
My vision of how it worked all those years ago is quite different to the sophistication of today’s global financial market, but that is just detail. I didn’t have to get the detail right all I had to do was to chant that mantra long and loud, to have a vision, to daydream and play act my part.
To simply believe!
After all, reality is what we choose to believe in…
It started as a chronicle of my mountaineering journey so it will now be known as…
“To Climb a Mountain…with Baz – The Landy”
Mind you, I have approached this decision with some trepidation…
They say it is bad luck to change the name of a boat as it may anger the Gods of the Seas, and given I will be climbing in a “Sea of Mountains” this year, caution is king!
As many will know I have been on a journey to climb amongst some of the world’s highest mountain peaks and have spent a good deal of time in recent years training and progressing to the point where hopefully I can reach out and touch the sky from an 8,000 metre peak in the Himalaya’s.
They say it is all about the journey and I’m a great believer in that notion. I am climbing mountains because I enjoy standing at the top and looking out, and down – the freedom this brings me is overwhelming…
And who knows where this journey will take me, Janet (Planet), and TomO!
I am heading into a pointy end of the journey with two trips to Nepal this year so I now want to bring greater focus on the journey and hence the name change.
Think of it as chanting a mantra!
Every time you see it, just say “To Climb a Mountain…” – I am firm believer in the power of the universe and that it will help me greatly.
Okay, so I’m a little weird, you knew that anyway, right!
And crikey, are you kidding me? I’ll need all the mantras and support I can get my hands on so don’t hold back!
Oh don’t worry, I’ll still post some of those Outback Australia photos from time-to-time that many of you have come to love, after all I live in the greatest country in the world and I’m happy to share it with you…
And rest assured, I’ll still be handing out a bit of a cheek when the circumstances warrant it.
But as for bad luck in changing the title.
I don’t think so, with all you wonderful people supporting me, and I’m overwhelmed at the support I am shown, there is no way bad luck will get in our way…
The call to climb amongst the highest mountains in the world has been echoing in me for a long time.
The allure of standing on top of the world and looking out, and importantly, looking down, has proven far too great to ignore these past few years…
I had expected to be in Nepal in 2013 and 2014 after spending 2012 and the early part of 2013 training in New Zealand with the world’s best high altitude experts.
But, somehow life has the propensity to throw a curved ball every so often, and I’ve had a couple to catch over the past 12-months!
Whilst New Zealand has some of the world’s most magnificent mountain peaks, it doesn’t have the altitude of the Himalayas’. My ability to adapt to the altitude is an unknown, but it will be put to the test on two expeditions to Nepal in 2015.
The first will be in April to climb Mera Peak, which stands at 6,476 metres, 21,246 feet, and in September I will attempt Himlung, a peak that stands at 7,162 metres, 23,497 feet.
Both of these climbs will be done without the use of supplemental oxygen, but there will be a rigorous acclimitisation process to ensure the best chance of success.
And hopefully these climbs will set-me up for an ascent of Cho Oyu, an 8,000 metre peak bordering Tibet and Nepal.
I am confident of my ability to adapt; certainly I don’t expect expedition life will be a problem given my remote outback experience and the hardship that often brings.
Training is in full swing, but as always, remains a work in progress, and I will be spending time climbing in the wonderful Blue Mountains in the weeks ahead…
The first ascent of Mera Peak was made on 20 May 1953, using what has now become the standard route from Mera La and no subsequent ascent occurred until 1975. We will just miss the anniversary of the first climb in 1953 by a couple of days.
We will have two camps on the mountain, camp one at Mera La and camp two, our high camp, at 5,800 metres. Our summit day will typically start before dawn and we are hopeful to summit in 4-5 hours. Some fix rope will be used near the summit where it becomes very steep.
As 2014 draws to a close, grab your climbing harness and a rope, or perhaps if you prefer, a coffee or tea and a nice comfy couch.
Either way please be sure to join me in on these climbs; one step at a time, we can do it together…
“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.”
For 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!
“But there are men for whom the unattainable has a special attraction. Usually they are not experts: their ambitions and fantasies are strong enough to brush aside the doubts which more cautious men might have.” Walt Unsworth.
Walt must have had me in mind when he penned that!
I’m gearing back up, slowly but surely and aiming for a Himalayan trip to climb three 6,000 metre peaks in the not too distant future
And of course, Cho Oyu, the world’s sixth highest and one of fourteen 8,000 metre peaks, still beckons…
This has been my goal for sometime and you might be left wondering when is Baz going to get around to doing it…and I must say I’m a bit behind schedule after the injuries and personal setbacks of the past twelve months – but I’m getting it back on track, slowly, but surely!
In the meantime I’ll be travelling in Australia’s wonderful outback in June and July, including a crossing of Australia’s Great Victoria Desert and a visit to the site of the Atomic Bomb testing from the 1950s– so be sure to stay in touch!
And crikey, just remember, if all else fails, remain out of control and see what develops…
“But there are men for whom the unattainable has a special attraction. Usually they are not experts; their ambitions and fantasies are strong enough to brush aside the doubts which more cautious men might have.
Determination and faith are their strongest weapons. At best such men are regarded as eccentric; at worst, mad…”
These are words penned by the legendary mountaineer, Walt Unsworth, and they have had a profound effect on me since I read them a number of years ago.
These words summed me up perfectly, I thought.
I’m sure many will be able to relate to them equally, regardless of what your pursuits are…
Over the years I have pursued a whole range of activities, some adventurous, others less so – but I have always been driven by a desire to simply embrace life…
And I have never considered myself an expert in any of them, but it has always been a fierce determination that has seen me through; a strong faith in my ability to grasp the key things, to put them into practice.
I’ve never considered anything I’ve done as a failure, but I’ve had plenty of learning experiences, set-backs that have helped me to learn, to grow, and to develop. I’m thankful for those set-backs, as they have made me stronger.
Eccentric; mad; yes, I’ve been referred in that way many times.
Today, I wear those comments proudly, like a badge.
Walt’s words have encouraged me to have the confidence to pursue my dream of climbing large mountains, to consider making an attempt on the summit of Mt Everest, in the least, to have the courage to admit that I want to climb it.
Every day on Wordspress, millions of words are written by ordinary people, stories about the challenges life has thrown at them, what they have done, and continue to do to overcome them.
About their dreams and aspirations; their highs and their lows…
Ordinary people who want to improve their fitness, to lose weight, to cycle across a city, or across the world.
Many have their sights set on a fun run, and others having completed one, setting their sights towards running a marathon.
For others, it is their challenge to become stronger, to be able to lift more, or about capturing that once in a life-time photograph, perhaps testing a new recipe to share with friends, or with people they have never met.
Others talk about health and lifestyle challenges they struggle with, that they have overcome.
I read as many of them as I can, they motivate me and they provide me with much needed inspiration…
Seemingly, there is always someone in this cyberspace community ready to reach out, to congratulate, to console…
Usually these people aren’t super-elite athletes, or neither five-star chefs, nor are they fitness gurus.
They have a much greater status than that, for they are simply ordinary people, the same people that Walt Unsworth wrote about when he penned those words…
To those who aspire to do their best, to challenge themselves, I say never give in, you’re not alone out there, dream big, and pursue your dreams…
But on ordinary people, yes I’ve referred to people as ordinary, but in reality, there is no such thing as ordinary people, we are all unique, we all contribute to the mosaic that makes up the world we live in…
It would be a boring place if we were all the same…
We’d never learn, grow, or develop as people.
Take the time to read over Walt’s musings a couple of times, because he was speaking about you…
Draw on the strength of his writing, it is powerful…
Above all else remember,
There are no ordinary moments, no ordinary people, no ordinary lives…
Isurava Village, situated along the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea.
I am making plans to head back into the Papuan New Guinean jungle in April next year to walk the Black Cat Track.
I tried to get there a couple of years ago, but civil unrest in the area prevented it. So plans have been made once again, and will provide a great lead in for some climbing in Nepal later in the year!
This area has some of the most pristine jungle in the world…
“But there are men for whom the unattainable has a special attraction. Usually they are not experts: their ambitions and fantasies are strong enough to brush aside the doubts which more cautious men might have.
Determination and faith are their strongest weapons. At best such men are regarded as eccentric; at worst, mad…” Walt Unsworth.
I’m gearing back up, slowly but surely…
Initially into the Blue Mountains, just to the west of Sydney, for some rock climbing to hone the skills and aiming for a Nepal trip to climb three 6,000 metre peaks in November.
Cho Oyu, the world’s sixth highest and one of fourteen 8,000 metre peaks, beckons in 2015…
This has been my goal for sometime I’m just one-year behind after the injuries and some personal setbacks over the past twelve months.
But I’ll be doing plenty of travel in Australia’s wonderful outback over the coming months also – so be sure to stay in touch!
And crikey, if all else fails, just remain out of control and see what develops…
Today marks the first day of TomO’s mid year break from school, and let me say it seems like only yesterday the school term had begun.
Crikey, why wasn’t school like that when I was a young whipper snipper?
Hell, hang-on I’m still a young whipper snipper, at heart…
Janet and TomO aren’t ones to waste a moment of living, so today they will jet-set out of Sydney, accompanying Janet’s mother, Clare, on a visit to her sister who lives in the wonderful Devon area in the south of England.
For those who visit regularly you may recall that Janet’s father, Archie, passed away about a month ago after a long and wonderful life and not too far short of his 100th year.
Archie always had a passion for travel and seemingly with all the travel TomO has done over the past twelve months it is becoming quite obvious there is only a “sheet of tissue paper” between Poppa Archie and grandson TomO!
It’ll only be a matter of time before TomO will turn up in a Pith Helmet, for sure!
Of course, as many will recall we had all planned to be in Nepal later this year for my climbing expedition, but as I am still recovering from my recent Achilles tendon operation we’ve put those plans aside for the moment.
After all the mountains aren’t going anywhere!
Usually, we travel as a family to experience this wonderful world together…
But now is the time for both of us to spend time with our families. Janet in support of her mother Clare, and me with my family.
It would almost seem a cruel twist of fate, but having just lost a great mate in Janet’s father, Archie, my father, Brian, has been admitted to palliative care in his hometown on the Redcliffe Peninsular, suffering from an illness that will take him from us shortly.
Mind you, he is a man of great faith and he is showing tremendous courage at this time. I said at the time of Archie’s passing that it was hard to be sad when we have so much to be happy about, to have shared our lives with them.
Life, you never know what it is going to dish out to you, but one thing for sure is all you can ever do is live the best way you can…and only one moment at a time.
After seven weeks of rest, recuperation, rehabilitation, and a bit of hibernation I found it very liberating to be back up in the shed this week doing what I love, something that is part of my everyday existence, my every day ritual – exercise.
A little over a week ago I gave the rehabilitation boot, the boot, literally, after getting the all okay from the doctor, and strewth, how good was that!
Geez, you never want to take mobility for granted, it’s a bugger when you lose it!
For those that are new, having a seniors moment, or maybe just missed it, I had an Achilles operation on my left foot, and a spur clearance on my right ankle about seven weeks ago…
Yes, to legs out of action at the same time, lucky for me though I had Janet and TomO taking good care of me!
After climbing in New Zealand during January it became very obvious to me that if I am to continue pursuing my dream of scaling some of the world’s highest mountains, heaven forbid, maybe even Mount Everest, than something had to be done to fix these problems that had been progressively getting worse.
The rehabilitation phase is well under way I am being extremely well cared for by my wonderful physiotherapist, Paula, from the Joint Health Clinic in downtown Sydney.
And can I just say this, crikey, how good is it to be back up in the shed.
A bit of The Angels, one of my favourite Aussie rock bands, belting out of those little Bose speakers to get me motivated, the sound of free weights moving and some time on my new spin bike.
Even the neighbours are happy to hear that music signifying that I am slowly, but surely, returning to normal. Yeah, okay, maybe they could do with a little less of The Angels.
And on climbing?
Well it is far too early to return to the mountains, in fact I wouldn’t be able to squeeze on my rock climbing shoes, that is a hard task even under normal circumstances, but the swelling would make it an impossible task presently.
And what about those big mountains?
Well, if I were to be brutally honest with myself, I would most likely come to the conclusion that my trip to Nepal this year is slowly slipping away from me. Whilst the recovery is right on track, it was always going to be a very marginal thing as to whether I recover in time or not.
But in the true style of an eternal and ever optimistic Sagittarian I’m not discounting it yet.
But here is the deal, climbing mountains isn’t a bucket list thing for me that I can just tick off, but something I want to live, enjoy, relish in, and return from. So being in peak condition is key to my safety and that of those around me.
The mountains will always be there.
But there is plenty of adventure in my sights regardless, including this year’s Hawkesbury Classic Kayak Race, 111-gruelling kilometres down the Hawkesbury River, and if I don’t get to Nepal, I’m confident of lining up in next year’s Coast-to-Coast Race, a cycle, run, and kayak race that takes you 243-kilometresacross New Zealand’s South Island…
Strewth, far too much fun ahead, you just wouldn’t want to be dead for quid’s…
Recently I had an exchange of thoughts around the notion that “we all die but how many of us truly live”.
But what does “truly live” really mean?
Does it mean we need to push beyond what others are doing, or scale the tallest mountain, travel the world endlessly, perhaps run the fastest marathon or lift the heaviest weight?
Maybe it could just mean sitting with a loved one and watching the sun pierce the eastern horizon as another day dawns…
And with plenty of time on my hands as I recover from recent surgery I pondered this question, in between snoozing on the day-bed, of course!
I am strongly of the view there are no ordinary moments; no ordinary people; no ordinary lives.
Crikey, therein lies the key, I thought!
There are no ordinary moments…
Whether you are travelling the world, caring for a loved one, climbing the tallest mountain, putting out the garbage, or even eating brussel sprouts.
Treat all the moments of your life, whatever you are doing, as something special and then you are truly living.
Being a climber and mountaineer, of sorts, I am inspired by Sir Edmund Hillary, not just because he was the first person, along with Tenzing Norgay, to summit and descend Mt Everest, but because he was a very humble man, a man that always had his hand out to help others, a man who truly lived his life.
And Sir Edmund had this to say…
“I have had the world lie beneath my clumsy boots and saw the red sun slip over the horizon after the dark Antarctic winter. I have been given more than my share of excitement, beauty, laughter and friendship.
Each of us has to discover his own path – of that I am sure.
Some paths will be spectacular and others peaceful and quiet – who is to say which is the most important? For me, the most rewarding moments have not always been the great moments, for what can surpass a tear on your departure, joy on your return, and a trusting hand in yours?”– Sir Edmund Hilary…
Almost two weeks have passed since I had surgery on both ankles and recovery seems to be going well. I’ve been getting plenty of rest on the couch, a few books, some movies, and lots of sleep.
I’ll be seeing the Doctor tomorrow and will have the stitches out and my first physiotherapy session.
But I can’t wait to get back into training for the climb in Nepal this coming November, but slowly does it…
And Janet & TomO have been fantastic, as usual, although Janet was heard to quip to a friend the other day, that keeping me resting is like telling our beautiful Border Collie, MilO, to sit still.
A bit like herding cats, she laughed…
Thanks to all for your wonderful messages of support, the best way I can repay your kind thoughts is to stand tall on those big mountains I want to climb, and give you a window into the beautiful Australian Outback at other times…
I’m sure we’ve all had one of those nights where you toss and turn, unable to sleep, your mind solving the problems of the world.
And with plenty of time to spare reviewing that bucket list that has been gathering dust…
I had one last night…
I tossed and turned in the early hours this morning, hindered by a plaster cast on my left leg, some minor discomfort in my right foot, and an aching neck, possibly brought about by not sleeping in the usual position I might normally.
I’m not one to create bucket lists to be honest, but my mind’s eye did turn to the climbing I have planned over the next few years, I could see those tall peaks in Nepal and Tibet with me making my way to the summits.
I think it even brought a smile to my face…
And of course my attention focused back to the here and now, the recovery I need to make from the recent surgery, the exercise program I need to undertake, which will include trail running and hill running; high intensity training on the rowing machine and out on the water on one of my racing kayaks, and I’m even contemplating Muay Thai boxing for specific conditioning.
Not to forget the technical mountaineering skills, getting back out into the Blue Mountains to hone those skills with the team from the Australian School of Mountaineering, especially self-rescue skills.
After all it is great until it goes all wrong, so best I have the skills to deal with that!
Even practicing something seemingly easy, but in reality is quite difficult, handling ropes and tying knots with large snow gloves on.
I’m sure I must have breezed in and of sleep, but as the first rays of light were piercing the eastern skyline that “crink” in my neck ruled out any more sleep for me. Mind you, normally I would be heading for The Shed at this time of the day to exercise…
I lay there, this time no thought of a bucket list, or climbing, or exercising, just my mind’s eye counting down the minutes to my chiropractic appointment with Greg, the owner of Sydney Spine and Sports Clinic in downtown Sydney.
I have had my body adjusted by the team at the clinic at least once every fortnight for years, and needless to say I am a great fan of this centuries old treatment…
And we usually get a couple of laughs in between the contorted positions I’m placed in.
The miracle of modern medicine and surgery has me at home already, recovering from the surgery I had on both of my ankles late last week…
My doctor is very happy with the procedures and results.
I had an endoscopy on my right ankle to clear some bone debris from a skydiving accident in 2008, and a couple of spurs that had formed.
The left heel was opened completely and the Achilles tendon detached to repair a split which apparently was mostly due to degeneration and to clean the heel of a couple of spurs and a boney protrusion, commonly known as a Haglund’s Bump. Because it was detached I have had to have two anchor screws placed to enable the Achilles to be sewn back on.
My sport’s doctor had tried some conventional and non-conventional non-surgical therapy on my left foot, including Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injections that provided only moderate results.
I’m now recuperating at home and the doctor has suggested two to three weeks of complete rest to hopefully assist in a quicker recovery. Mobility is a problem as my left foot cannot take any weight at all, although my right foot can take weight, which is useful for getting around.
The plan is to progressively introduce some weight and physiotherapy to both feet over the coming month and we are hoping for a full recovery within three months.
Of course, that is the plan, and whilst it is unlikely to be earlier, it may take longer.
I have until mid-August to confirm my place on the expedition to Nepal in November, so plenty of time to recover and train, hopefully.
And to all, thanks very much for your kind words of support and I’m confident I’ll be back to doing what I love very soon…just being Out and About having fun!
Now I know some of you might just be wondering when is Baz going to get Out and About in those mountains again and take us on that journey to the really big mountains.
Don’t worry, I’m with you on this one, I’ve been wondering the same thing!
I am missing the mountains.
Anyway, as I was telling you recently, I have had an Achilles Tendon problem that has not responded to conventional treatment, so tomorrow, Thursday, I will be going “under the knife” so to speak to have the problem surgically corrected!
I’m quite positive about the outcome and can’t wait, in fact, I’m quite looking forward to it as it signals the road to recovery, another step forward on the journey to the top of the world’s highest mountains, heaven forbid, the aspiration I have to climb Mt Everest…
There is so much to learn, to absorb, and I guess I’ll have plenty of “free reading time” over the next couple of weeks while I rehabilitate from the initial surgery, which by the way is on both ankles!
Two for the price of one (Yeah, okay Doc, I know you never said that).
But crikey, bring it on I say
My lovely sister-in-law, that would be Janet’s sister, Leah, has suggested it is best I take a rest from my blog, Baz – The Landy (Out and About having fun) for a day or two. She reckons all you’ll be getting is a morphine induced rambling of strewth’s and crikey’s from the hospital bed. 😉
Good advice, perhaps!
Fair dinkum, she can read me like a book…
So see you mob in a few days, hey!
And hey, I’ll accept all “likes” as a hang in there and get better quickly, Baz!
Knife or Scalpel, the choice is yours, but the mere utterance of the word scalpel has me reaching for my head, the thought of being scalped sends a shiver up my spine!
A little while back I wrote about an Achilles tendon issue I was having in my left foot.
This has been a longer term problem, my Achilles Heel literally, that has plagued my training, at times, and climbing on other occasions. It has certainly become worse recently.
A course of treatment using PRP injections has been moderately successful, but not fixed the problem.
As it stands presently it needs to be resolved ahead of my climbing expedition to Nepal in November for two reasons, firstly I cannot achieve the level of training I need to undertake, and secondly, and most importantly, it will compromise my climbing ability, with a potential flow on effect to others.
So the surgeon has booked me in for next Thursday to treat the affected area, by scrapping the bone, and “cleaning up” the tendon area. This involves a partial detachment of the Achilles tendon. The procedure on the right ankle is very straight forward; they simply chisel off the spurs which may have been caused by a sky diving mishap from a few years back!
And you can see from my clinical description of the problem that I’m no medico, but I’m working on the principle that the bigger the medical words, the bigger the doctor’s bill.
In all fairness though, he could have at least waited until I had left the clinic before upgrading his vacation flight to the South of France from cattle class to first class…
But I’m digressing!
Having two legs out of action at the same time will literally see me flat out on my back for at least for a couple of weeks, before I become more mobile once again.
Whilst not ideal to have both done at the same time from a recovery perspective, it will at least give me the best chance of making the expedition to Nepal in November.
At this time I have put the expedition to the back of my mind as I need to have this resolved before giving it any more thought. Although my surgeon is confident I can recover quickly and get back to training. We are hoping for a full 4 months of intense training.
Now I know that sounds disappointing and it may not come to pass, but if it does I am simply viewing it as another step in the climb towards the world’s highest peaks. So rest assured I won’t be beating myself up about it…that would just be a waste of time and energy!
There is only one way – forward; and only one speed setting – go!
I told TomO I am buying one of those little bells you see in the Manor Houses, so I can give it a ring when I need something!
Like on Downton Abbey.
Crikey, not that I watch Downton Abbey (fair dinkum, I’ve opened a can of worms for myself, haven’t I)
I think I read about it on the back of a cereal box…(you do believe me, don’t you – no?)
Okay I watch Downton Abbey, but only every episode!
But back to TomO, his eyes rolled, and Janet chirped in with “in your dreams Baz, in your dreams”…
I’m sure they’ll take good care of me though and I’ll keep you all posted!
In the meantime, if all else fails, just remain out of control and see what develops!
This approach seems to work well for us, well mostly, broken butt’s aside!
Recently I was invited to give a talk about my journey into the mountains and my quest to climb amongst the world’s highest peaks.
And crikey, let me tell you, I could talk the leg off a kitchen table if given half-a-chance to do so, especially when it is something I feel passionate about, so I jumped at the chance…
But what was the message I wanted to give was a question I asked myself.
After all, not everyone wants to climb mountains, but we all have our “own” Mt Everest that we want to scale.
Seemingly, all too often we hold ourselves back because of a fear of failure and I thought this would be the perfect theme for my talk…
I have written on this topic previously, but it was great to be able to talk it out aloud…
Stop using the “F” Word – There is no such thing as failure
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you about my rather audacious plan to climb the world’s highest mountains.
To climb as many of the world’s 8,000 metre peaks as I can.
Heaven forbid to climb to the top of Mt Everest.
Of course, standing on top of Mt Everest is an aspiration, not a goal in its own right, but part of a journey I have embarked on.
My reason is no simpler, or more complicated than wanting to see what I am capable of, what I can achieve, to explore new horizons, to develop as a person and to grow in the face of difficulty.
If there is one thing I have discovered since embarking on this journey of discovery is the need to be brutally honest as you come face to face with yourself.
It is a place where your ego is best left at the bottom of the mountain and you must be true to yourself at all times.
Of course, you don’t need to head to the mountains to practice that attribute.
And I’ll talk more about the mountains later.
I have themed today’s discussion around the notion that that there is no such thing as failure.
Failure is a word I’ve never been comfortable with and I’m sure it doesn’t sit well with others. But for many, not achieving a goal they’ve set out to achieve often leads to despair, feelings of not succeeding.
It can be deflating…
Life is a learning experience, a journey that we are all on and we should never consider anything we do as a failure.
Maybe there are times we wish that we might have done something differently and there is nothing wrong with that.
But we should all think of our experiences as the building blocks that create the mosaic of who we are.
A review of most dictionaries will give a number of definitions of failure, but the common theme is “the condition or fact of not achieving the desired end or ends”.
Now I understand that many of you are students and are looking at me and thinking that when I do a test I will either obtain a pass mark or a fail mark.
So how could you say there is no such thing as failure.
My answer to you is it is the way in which we interpret the signal that the mark or result is giving us.
An exam result tells us the level of understanding we have, a high mark might indicate a greater level of understanding and a lower mark that more work on the topic is required.
Importantly, it gives us feedback that we can move forward with and if it signals a need for greater understanding on the subject than the exam result has been successful in conveying that to us.
That doesn’t sound like failure to me?
Mind you during my school days I received plenty of feedback that more learning was indeed needed.
But let me tell you a bit more about my journey into the mountains.
I have always had a keen interest in hiking and camping and have spent many nights out under the stars in the Australian bush, in the outback.
Shared in the company of friends, or alone at other times.
There is something quite satisfying about walking across open plains, over hills, to sit down by a campfire at the end of the day to reflect on the journey.
And yes, I am a daydreamer, so I spend plenty of time reflecting, dreaming on what I would like to do, what path I would like my life to take.
In fact I often play role games with myself, picturing myself doing the exact thing I desire to do.
As a young and new entrant to the Bank of New South Wales, I recall reading an article in “The Etruscan” a publication the bank produced for its staff that talked about money market traders in the bank’s head office..
It was 1975 and the money market operations would have been significantly different to those in operation today.
I must have only been about five-years old at the time, surely?
It sounded exciting even if I didn’t quite understand what they really did. But I played out that role of money market dealer many times in my dreams, in my mind’s eye.
I wanted to do this, to be one of these people, whoever “these” people were.
Today I sit in the bank’s Sydney financial markets dealing room transacting billions of dollars of foreign exchange, money market and commodity transactions weekly for the bank.
It started as a simple day dream…
The seeds were sown in my mind’s eye.
Perhaps I was far too young and care-free to think that I would ever fail…
The power of the mind is not fully understood and I’m no expert on the subject, but I came to the realisation a long time ago that your mind can be fooled into believing anything.
In fact, it doesn’t seem to know what is real or what is not real.
Seemingly, it just accepts what we tell it as truth.
The importance of positive reinforcement in our mind is clear to me and the reason I never use the “F” word.
Have I seen myself standing on top of Mt Everest?
You bet I have, but of course there is still a lot of work I need to do before I make an attempt on the summit of the world’s highest mountain.
But many times I have seen myself waving to the folks at home from the top of the world.
Returning to the safety of loved ones and friends.
A couple of years ago someone casually mentioned to me that they were surprised I hadn’t climbed Mt Everest.
At the time I was rather taken by this comment.
Sure I love the outdoors and keep very active and fit – and I must confess to having thought about Mt Everest in passing at different times.
And I have been an avid reader of books about those who had tried and succeeded.
But climb it myself?
I pondered on this quietly for a long time not even sharing my thoughts with close family.
Eventually I realised the seed that had been planted was already flourishing in the fertile soils of an adventurous spirit.
I wanted to experience the feeling of standing on top of a mountain that I had climbed.
But not any mountain, the world’s highest mountains.
And what a great opportunity this would present to learn new skills and to test my boundaries, to see what I was truly capable of.
Of course it would also give me a reason to keep training and to be fit.
I am constantly working on my fitness and ultimately you can probably never be fit enough to climb at high altitude, in the death-zone above 7,000 metres.
Most days I train in the pre-dawn hours up in my Shed which is full of various weight lifting and exercise equipment. And on weekends, kayaking on Narrabeen Lake on Sydney’s northern beaches, or climbing and hiking in the mountains.
But it isn’t just about physical training.
Training your mind is just as important, if not more so…
You can practice by reinforcing it with positives each and every day.
By picturing yourself achieving and guarding against negative thoughts and self-doubt.
I am focussing on the technical skills of mountaineering that I need to master. Rope handling skills, tying knots, learning to walk across snow and ice in crampons.
It has been like learning to walk all over again.
These are all new skills to be learnt, that I am learning.
And for someone who grew up in tropical North Queensland and played in the jungles of Papua New Guinea, my exposure to snow and ice up until recent times has been limited to a European holiday many years ago.
I am fortunate to have a very supportive partner, Janet, and son, TomO, who have both chorused they’re support loudly.
And when it comes to the mountains and high altitude climbing, we have discussed the risks associated with it, but never to the point of dwelling on it.
We understand the risks and Janet simply said get the best training that money will buy, apply what you learn, be safe and remember to leave always your ego at the base of the mountain.
And Janet frequently reminds me that getting to the top of the mountain is optional, knowing how to get back down safely is mandatory.
I’m sure you will agree that is sound advice indeed.
Thankfully I am being tutored by the great team at the Australian School of Mountaineering in Katoomba, and Guy Cotter and his team from Adventure Consultants in New Zealand.
Both organisations are leaders in their fields…
The task has seemed overwhelming at times, especially for someone that has trouble tying his shoe-laces.
Yes, I have trouble tying my shoelaces, although with Tomo’s expert guidance I have made great inroads into mastering this task in recent times.
A sound accomplishment in an environment where successfully tying the appropriate knot is a good skill to have.
At least you would think so, wouldn’t you?
I have found a love of climbing in the Blue Mountains and whilst there is always a serious side to scaling rock walls and cliffs, we have managed to have many laughs along the way.
I can recall a very nervous laugh from one of my climbing partners, an instructor from the Australia School of Mountaineering, when I casually mentioned that I could not tie my shoe laces.
That was after I had just tied a safety rope that he was attached to.
I did see him checking that knot soon after.
And who would blame him for that I would have if I was him.
And at the end of each climb we have sat back and reflected on what went well and what could be improved on.
But even on less successful days the “F” word has never used because it is a learning experience and on each of my forays into the Bluey’s we have identified plenty of things that I can improve on.
In January this year I travelled to New Zealand’s South Island to further my experience and to climb Mt Aspiring.
Mt Aspiring, the Matterhorn of the South as it is often referred to as, stands at just over 3,000 metres and is a very impressive and majestic mountain.
This was a follow up to some training I did on the Fox Glacier in New Zealand perfecting my ice and snow skills last September, but I still needed some revision work prior to our ascent of Aspiring.
Unfortunately the weather was conspiring against us and we had little preparation time.
Arriving at Colin Todd Hut high on the Bonar Glacier we needed to make our attempt the very next morning as the weather was forecast to deteriorate as the week progressed, making an attempt less likely as time passed by.
In some ways I was pleased that I had little time to think about the climb, but I was anxious that it was going to happen the very next day.
How would I go?
We headed off around 4am in the morning under clear skies and whilst progress was slow we were advancing towards our objective.
As we climbed to around the half-way point and having passed through some of the more difficult sections, the weather took a turn for the worse, the wind started to blow a gale over the summit and it would be impossible to continue safely.
We were exposed to sleet, strong winds and rain as we descended, necessitating quick and efficient application of the skills I had been learning.
This was the real deal…and efficient use of time to minimise our exposure was paramount.
Now was not the time to be fumbling around with ropes in the cold on the side of a mountain.
Eventually we returned to the hut, tired after about 8 hours of mountaineering.
Over a warm cup of tea we were able to reflect on the climb.
Of course the objective was to summit, to climb to the top. It would have been all too easy to think that we had failed in our objective.
But this was anything but a failure, the lessons learned on the mountain were invaluable.
Lessons of judgement, skills and confidence.
In fact, I feel I gained more from not making it to the summit that day and whilst you wouldn’t always want that as an outcome – this was no failure.
The lessons learned on Mt Aspiring will assist me greatly as I have joined an expedition to climb in Nepal later this year.
In November I will be heading to Kathmandu and into the Himalaya’s to climb three 6,000 metre high peaks.
Loubche East, Island Peak and Pokalde.
These mountains range in height from 5,800 to 6,200 metres and at those heights another complexity will be added.
A lack of oxygen.
The available oxygen declines as we go higher in altitude making tasks that would be simple and easy at sea level much more difficult in the rarefied air.
This is the post-monsoon season in the Himalaya’s and temperatures will also be quite cold, especially at altitude.
The expedition will provide me with a great introduction to climbing at higher altitudes and will hopefully provide the much needed experience to climb my first 8,000 metre peak, Cho Oyu in Tibet, in 2014.
Of course, it will also be an opportunity to take in the stunning views of the world’s highest mountains.
And Janet and TomO will travel to Nepal at the end of the expedition so we can experience the culture and warmth of the Nepalese people together.
Something we are all looking forward to.
It is important to us that we share the experience together as a family and whilst neither will climb the mountains with me, they both show tremendous courage as all whom wait for news from the mountains does.
Although TomO has already declared that one day he hopes we will stand together, arm-in-arm, on top of Mt Everest.
We are committed to bringing him up in an environment that encourages him to believe he can achieve anything he wants to, whatever that might be.
To understand that the possibilities will only be limited by his own imagination, his own insecurities.
Lead by example has always been our motto and what greater feedback could you receive than your son telling you he is ready and willing to take on the world and believing he can!
I think it is important to never lose sight of the fact that all journeys can only be made one step at a time and that each and every one of those steps is a learning opportunity for us all.
Use each of these steps, these moments, to reinforce the positive aspects of learning and reject anything negative.
And as you make your journey through this year, through life, accept everything as a learning experience.
Don’t ever let the fear of failure hold you back, but better still…
There is something invigorating about starting the day in the pre-dawn hours with an exercise routine.
Your body awakens as the world rises to a new day, the golden hue of the sun rising over the eastern horizon, stars fading into an ever brightening sky…
Just like Linus and his blanket, I find something comforting about this routine.
Most days start with a row on a Concept C2 rower, one of the best value for money pieces of exercise equipment you could invest in. The row might be 10-kilometres at a steady pace, aiming for 39-40 minutes, or it might be 10×500 metre sprints with 20 push-ups between each one, it certainly kick-starts the day into action.
And everyday, without fail, involves some form of resistance training, squatting, and deadlifts, all the big compound exercises. Without a doubt, weight-bearing exercises should be undertaken by all to assist muscle tone as our body’s age.
There is plenty of good research available on the topic!
Perhaps it is fair to say I push it to the limits, but that is my thing, always testing the boundaries, I never want to be wondering what I might have achieved, but you know, apart from anything else it is fun.
The Shed, the font of all knowledge in this modern age, is my training arena and I’ve just added a new piece of training equipment, a reconditioned LeMond spin bike, supplied by Gray’s Fitness Equipment in Melbourne, Australia.
Now I’m sure there are many who are very familiar with spin bikes, and anyone who has taken a spin-class will attest to its effectiveness when you push to your limits.
So as I prepare for my mountaineering expedition to Nepal later this year, and the Coast-to Coast Adventure Race in New Zealand not long after, the swoosh of the spin-bike, the clink of the chain on the rowing machine, and the sound of weights being lifted, will be heard heralding in a new day in the world’s greatest harbour city, Sydney, Australia…
Hey, if you’ve got a favourite spin-bike workout, shout it out to me…
Anyway, the sun is shining, there’s a light breeze, and we’re all heading down to the lake for a paddle…
Strewth, you wouldn’t be dead for quids, hey!
Ps: Just in case you are wondering and as the picture of The Shed attests, you can never have enough paddling craft…
It is been just over one month since I returned from my mountaineering training in New Zealand and I haven’t so much as touched a rope or any of my climbing gear.
Mind you I need little encouragement to get “Out and About” in the mountains and with only eight months to go before I head to Nepal I need to be training as much as I can.
Unfortunately, my Achilles tendon remains sore although treatment is progressing. I’m working on the basis that rest is best, but it does test the patience!
I just need to get an adventure under my belt!
This past weekend we had a visit from Janet’s sister Leah, partner, Ray and their beautiful son, Aubrey. We always look forward to the time we spend together and usually it involves signing up for an adventure or two with Ray.
And we always have a good laugh as we dream up another adventure…
But strewth, I’ve just been doing a list of the things I’ve agreed to participate in and it starts with a trip on the mountain bike this coming weekend. It will take us along a road built by convicts in the early days of European settlement in Australia.
It is quite a pretty place, but there are plenty of hills and it won’t be any walk in the park.
Although, Ray reckons he’s letting me off lightly because of my foot injury. I’ll be on the bike, he’ll be running the 50 kilometres (phew – I won’t complain too much about the Achillies any more!)
And hot on the heels of that we’ll be lining up for the next Tough Mudder Event in Sydney early April. We completed it in September last year, twenty kilometres of running, tackling obstacles, and of course tons of mud, getting zapped by electric charges, running through fire – all good fun, seemingly!
Next, while we were out paddling on the lake early on Sunday morning Ray casually mentioned that I’d better be fit for the Coast-to-Coast Adventure Race across New Zealand’s South Island as he is putting our entries in shortly.
I don’t remember signing up for it, but it looks like I’m going next February. Actually, I’m looking forward to training for it; after all I need to be super fit for the Nepal expedition in November so I say, bring it on…
I made him do a 1-kilometre sprint in his kayak after that pronouncement!
Whoops, note to self – tell the boss I need more time off! Better still, with a bit of luck he’ll read this and come and pat me on the back and say, Baz, do you want a week off in February…
But not to be outdone I raised the ante with all the finesse of a Mississippi River boat gambler and tossed in that we’ll need to do the 111-kilometreHawkesbury Classic Kayak Race in October as preparation for the Coast-to-Coast race. After all the Coast-to-Coast has a 70-kilometre paddle down the fast flowing Waimak River.
You’d think he would have folded by now, but strewth, he’s still got those cards close to his chest, so I’m wondering what is going to get thrown into the pot next…
One thing is for sure; he’ll come up with something as there is plenty of free time on that calendar still, in between rock climbing in the Blue Mountains, of course.
But hey, you’ve got to love this stuff and doing it with mates is what it is all about!
Just go easy on me Ray…!
And remember, if all else fails, just remain out of control and see what develops…
Ps: Oddly enough no alcohol was consumed in the planning of these adventures…
For those of us who run, walk, jog, exercise on a regular basis the term achillies tendonitis is probably equally as familiar as the dog that always chases you half-way through your usual running route.
I suspect the achillies is blamed for most of the pain occurring in that region, but it can also be from other sources.
Over a period of time I have been suffering from Retrocalcaneal Bursitis.
Retro what, I hear you ask.
And just to be clear and to avoid any confusion, the condition and associated pain is in my heel, well below, um, my rear-end.
So what is this ailment, what causes it, and more importantly, what makes it go away?
My sports physician and I have been working on the last part of that answer for some time now. Bursitis is an inflammation of a little fluid sac found around most of the major joints in our body and it is designed to provide lubrication against friction where muscle and tendons are sliding over bones.
Retrocalcaneal bursitis is the area specifically located around the ankle and heel area of the foot.
Causes for the condition can be varied, but for the most part it is an overuse type of injury that can be induced by walking, running, jogging, and can be accentuated by walking uphill.
For me, that is a tick on all counts. Jogging, tick, running, tick…
Women People wearing high heel shoes can often suffer from the condition.
Last year when I was training for the Coast to Coast Adventure race, a race from the West to East coast ofNew Zealand ,the condition came and went and was usually treated with plenty of stretching and some anti-inflammatory medication. However, the condition has worsened over the past few months, corresponding to an increase in my mountaineering endeavours, which involves plenty of uphill walking on steep inclines.
A recent x-ray confirmed that a small bone spur is triggering my condition.
And now that we know precisely what we are dealing with remedial treatment has commenced. My sports physician has elected to use Platelet Rich Plasma injections, or PRP as it is referred to as. This is a relatively new technology that involves taking a sample of your own blood, in the same way you would normally do so if having a blood test, and this is placed in a centrifuge to extract the plasma which is then injected into the injured area.
The science behind the treatment is that the platelets contain growth factors which stimulate an inflammatory and healing process.
Okay, I’m sure it is far more technical than that, but crikey, the last time I played doctors and nurses it was with the Kelly girls when I was 10 years old, and it was nothing as complex as PRP treatments.
But I’m digressing…
I had one PRP treatment about two weeks ago, along with a cortisone injection and I will be having a follow up injection in a week’s time to assist the healing process.
And whilst the treatment does not correct the bone spur at this time, it will help strengthen and thicken the achillies tendon and help protect against the aggravation, well that is what we are hoping for as surgery usually takes quite some time to recover from, but may be necessary eventually.
So another couple of weeks of rest away from the normal exercise routine, but I’m chomping at the bit and need to get extremely fit for the climbing expedition to Nepal later this year.
Strewth, can’t wait for that…
And remember, if all else fails, just remain out of control and take a big leap of faith!
Looking back at old photographs is like opening a time capsule, you just never know what you are going to find and usually there are one or two little gems to bring a smile to your face.
I was at Janet’s parents home recently, Clare and Archie who are 83 and 98 years of age, and over a cup of tea we were flicking through books of old photographs.
The themes varied from trips overseas, the children growing up, and of Archie’s childhood in India.
You could pick any photograph and Archie would narrate a rich account of when it was taken, and the story behind those who were in it.
And there were photographs of Clare’s childhood days, growing up in far western Queensland on the family’s sheep property and of her days at boarding school in Charters Towers, far North Queensland.
The conversation turned to our upcoming adventures and my journey to climb Cho Oyu, an 8,000 metre peak, which is close to where Archie grew up, and if all goes well, Mt Everest.
Over the years I have listened to the many stories of Archie’s trips to Darjeeling, situated in the foothills of the Himalaya’s and in later years of visits both he and Clare made back to Calcutta.
One story that always brings a good laugh is about a mountaineering expedition group who turned up at the offices of James Wright and Company, General Merchants, the family business in Calcutta. The suave and handsome couple heading the expedition were in a rather irate mood as they stepped out of the taxi, demanding to know why they had not been met at the ship upon their arrival.
Being general merchants, Archie and his father dealt in all kind of goods, and were the agent’s in India for the popular drink Ovaltine.
“These mountaineers were here to climb Mt Everest and they were going to drink Ovaltine all the way to the top, extolling its virtues to the world.”
It had all been arranged in England prior to their departure and there was surprise and indignation that they had not been afforded the courtesies expected upon their arrival. They even had a copy of the telegram from the Head of the company that made Ovaltine in England informing of their visit.
This was a gentlemanly age and young Archie arranged for the expedition to be put up at a first class hotel where they could rest after their long sea voyage and ahead of their attempt to climb Mt Everest.
And rest and avail themselves they did indeed…
Of course, there was to be no attempt on Mt Everest as the mountaineers were well practiced con people. After spending a number of nights in the luxury of the first class hotel, taking advantage of the young Fawthrop’s generous hospitality, they disappeared into the night, leaving Archie with an expensive hotel bill and the need to provide an account to his father of how he had been done by a slick group of con artists’.
And speaking of Tenzing Norgay, as we continued our journey through the albums one particular photograph caught my attention, a black and white snapshot of Clare and Archie, with Tenzing Norgay standing beside them.
On a visit to Darjeeling, Archie and Clare met and spoke with Tenzing, a remarkable and quietly spoken man they said, whilst dining at the Darjeeling Club.
TomO was very excited at the discovery, a link to where we will travel this year when I attempt to climb three 6,000 metre peaks,Lobuche East, Island Peak, and Pokalde, all situated not too far from Mt Everest.
Was the Ovaltine story and the photograph a sign-post on our own journey, I thought.
A connection to the region brought about from Archie’s younger days? In the least, it will enrich the experience for us…
And as I climb in the Himalaya’s Archie’s Ovaltine story will be sure to put a smile on my face, warming me like a hot cup of Ovaltine on a bleak winter’s night…
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.
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.
I’m always happy to be out hiking in the Australian Bush…and kayaking on our magnificent ocean beaches and inland waterways!
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 Mountainsto hone my rope handling skills and efficiency.
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!
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.
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!
It is often said that too much of a good thing, is not such a good thing.
And after three weeks in the spectacular South Island of New Zealand, mountaineering, climbing, jet-boating, taking to the skies in a Tiger Moth, and leaping 100 metres into a canyon screaming at the top of my lungs, seemingly a good thing came to an abrupt end this week.
It was back to work…
Yes I do work, although my colleagues have often said, with a wink, that at times there is too much day dreaming going on and not enough work.
But putting that aside…
My usual daily routine starts around 4am each day up in the shed with a row, a weight session, or perhaps even a bit of both. Other days it is a walk with a 25 or 30-kilogram backpack for company.
But I must say it was a little tough getting motivated these past few days, not so much because of the early start, after all, I had a few alpine starts these past three weeks where you rise around 3am in the morning to ready for a day of climbing.
Initially I put it down to a change in routine, let’s face it, it is pretty easy to get out of bed for a day of climbing in the spectacular Southern Alps; the walk to the shed just didn’t cut it.
Maybe it was cabin fever I thought, after all “the shed” is about the size of some of the alpine huts.
Now let me say the alpine huts dotted throughout the alpine regions are basic, but comfortable and what you would expect of this type of shelter and accommodation.
Mind you, heating is limited to clothing and a warm sleeping bag.
And given there is one big refrigerator outside, keeping perishable food is no great problem, just bury it in the snow and hope the Keas’don’t find it before you eat it. So you can actually eat very well, which is great given the mountains tend to give you a solid appetite.
But back to this cabin fever thing, the weather turned particularly bad, and I mean badass bad, during the week I was attempting to climb Mt Aspiring.
We had two quite reasonable days before it all went pear-shaped and the wind howled gusting at up to 180 kilometres an hour at times, sleet, snow and rain, pounded Colin Todd Hutt relentlessly for almost three days and nights.
The lightening was striking all around the hut, but its flashes struck silently because you couldn’t hear the thunder over the roar of the wind.
We did keep ourselves occupied during the storm with plenty of knot tying, practicing rescue techniques, cups of sweet tea, and book reading tucked up in a warm down sleeping bag.
But there was some floor pacing as well…
Actually, it was a great experience, if you had to have it, as it demonstrated what nature will toss at you in the mountains, a good lesson in patience.
I’ve just given myself a bit of a slap…
C’mon Baz, you’re not suffering cabin fever, you love theshed, and after all it isa sanctuary, the font of all knowledge and some tall tales.
And besides you have plenty of training ahead of that climbing you are going to do in Nepal later this year.
Best you get reacquainted with theshed sooner, rather than later…
Hey, and remember, if all else fails, remain out of control and see what develops…
New Zealand is often referred to as the land of the “long white cloud” and during my two weeks of climbing I saw many variations of that long white cloud.
At times there was not a cloud in the sky, at other times there was white out conditions in the mountains due to violent storms. During my first week in the mountains we had a storm that raged for three days…
Winds were howling and gusting at up to 180 kilometres per hour.
The aim of my visit to New Zealand was to learn more of the craft of alpine mountaineering, and to attempt an ascent on Mt Aspiring, the Matterhorn of the South.
And whilst disappointed we had to turn back from the summit of Mt Aspiring due to deteriorating weather, the experience gained over the two weeks under the expert guidance of Richard Raynes and Steve Moffat from Adventure Consultants, was invaluable.
The focus now switches to my expedition to Nepal in November this year and whilst it is some months away there is little doubt that time will pass quickly…
So there’ll be plenty of long hikes with my backpack, something I relish, and of course climbing in my own back yard, the wonderful Blue Mountains.
I have just been looking at the climbing photos of the past of couple weeks over a cup of tea and here are some of my favourites…
Mountains have a way of drawing you in like a magnet, whether you want to view them, walk up them, or perhaps climb them.
For me it has been about climbing them and the Southern Alps on New Zealand’s South Island has provided me with a great place to do just that over the past two weeks.
And sure, there has been a day here or there that the weather was not suitable, but that is an opportunity to wrap yourself in a warm down sleeping bag way up high in an alpine hut with a good book…
Talking about Alpine Huts, I spent a week at Centennial Hut, situated on the West Coast, and from its position, perched high on an exposed ridge, you could see all the way down to the Tasman Sea…the sunsets were fantastic from our alpine hideaway!
I have learned much over the past two weeks under the supervision of the team from Adventure Consultants who are high altitude climbing specialists based at Wanaka and it has prepared me very well for an expedition to climb in Nepal later this year.
In fact, the climbing in Nepal will not be as technical as the climbing I have been doing these past two weeks, but the summits will be in excess of 6,000 metres!
And whilst I am still surrounded by the magnificent mountains of the Southern Alps I will be putting away the crampons and ice picks for the next few days as Janet, TomO, and I are going to spend some time just relaxing in this wonderful country they call New Zealand…
Crikey…did I say relax – I mean relaxing, as we know how.
All three of us will be stepping off a platform high above a canyon near Queenstown, in what is billed as the world’s largest canyon swing. Once you depart the platform you free-fall 60 metres down into the canyon until the ropes smoothly swings you into a giant 200 metre swing. You then complete a couple of massive swings before you slowly come to rest approximately 100 metres below the departure platform.
Strewth, I’ll let you know how that goes!
And all I can say is – “thumbs up” to climbing in New Zealand…
I spent today spent in the wonderful Blue Mountains, just to the west of Sydney, doing a multi-pitch abseil and hike out. And what a wonderful playground to develop a high level of rope handling proficiency.
Over the past two weekends I have concentrated on multi-pitch abseils of at least 250 metres done in sections (pitches) of around 40-50 metres each. And I’ve had my fair share of self-rescues thrown in without warning to ensure I have the necessary skills to do just that, rescue myself, or someone else, with confidence!
I want to achieve an extremely high standard to ensure that when I am in Nepal next year, and eventually on an 8,000 peak, that my rope handling skills are completely second nature and can be done, quickly, safely, and confidently…
Under the watchful eye of the Shane and the fantastic team from the Australian School of Mountaineering I am well on my way to achieving this standard.
In less then two months I will be back in New Zealand for an attempt on the summit of Mt Aspiring, and without wanting to wish my life away – I can’t wait! But the journey can only be made one day at a time, and what a day it was.
There is nothing better than putting yourself in a position where you must simply trust the set-up you have built and locked yourself onto it…
The confidence to do this comes from practice, and the rewards are great. Simply lying back “into thin air” and going over the edge is exhilarating.
The Blue Mountains provides such a wonderful natural backdrop to pursue this activity.
Boar’s Head, a natural rock formation was our abseiling destination of choice today. It is a short walk-in from the main cliff-drive not too far from downtown Katoomba. And the vista at the start of it is spectacular, overlooking Narrow Neck, a prominent plateau that stretches to the south…
The total abseil is around 250 metres and we used two 60 metre ropes to drop to the valley floor in five pitches. The walk-out required some “scrub bashing” to join up with the main Devil’s Hole track, that took us back up to our transport.
The thick undergrowth made for a humid traverse of the gullies, before we started our climb up through Devil’s Hole.
I’ve tried to capture the beauty of the day in photos…hopefully it gives you a glimpse of our wonderful backyard and the fun we had, just being “Out and About”
In between sets of squats, dead-lifts, and bench presses up in “The Shed” this morning, I was browsing Explorers web, a website dedicated to adventure, exploration, and expeditions.
I find it a very motivating and inspirational website to visit and it never ceases to amaze me the number of people who are out and about at this very moment, quietly achieving some incredible things.
There are polar expeditions, people on the high seas, mountaineering always figures very heavily, cycling is always represented exceptionally well, and even space exploration with a number of astronauts on the International Space Station…
But one that especially caught my attention was Carlos Soria, a Spaniard who has summitted eleven of the world’s fourteen 8,000 metre peaks and isn’t about to stop. His aim is to be the oldest person to have climbed all fourteen.
What makes it noteworthy is Carlos’s age, he is 73 years (young).
Carlos is headed to climb Dhaulagiri which is situated in Nepal and is the world’s seventh highest mountain peak standing at 8,167 metres (26,795 feet)
Very inspiring, and goes to the point of a quote I remind myself of frequently.
“If you didn’t know how old you are, how old would you be?”
It looks like age is no barrier to Carlos and it serves as a reminder to live life the way you want to, pursue your dreams and never let age get in the way, besides age is merely a ‘statistic’ that seemingly we all need to have…
And it doesn’t mean we should all be climbing 8,000 metre peaks when we are 70 years of age, just don’t let age be your barrier, your insurmountable peak, your glass ceiling…
I have purchased a beautiful pair of hand-crafted Italian made shoes, built for comfort, and warmth, maybe not so much for aesthetics, and they are yellow in colour.
Yes, I hear you, he’s colour-blind, or out of his mind, after all, who would buy Italian hand-crafted shoes in the colour of yellow and hand over $1,000…
Oops, no offence intended to those who have, each to their own!
And for the record, I have never bought a pair of shoes that cost over $1,000, or anything near that price, well up until today that is.
In fact, neither has Janet, my partner, at least not that I’m aware of, but then, what would a mere male like me know about the cost of women’s shoes.
And it wasn’t by mistake, or due to my colour deficiency.
I purchased a pair of La Sportiva Spantik Mountaineering Boots that will be put to good use in New Zealand in about three weeks time, and again this coming January, and the Himalayas next year…
I spent a fair amount of time researching boots, and decided on these, even if they might be a little on the warm side for New Zealand, lest I’ll have a cupboard full of mountaineering shoes for each occasion. They will be perfect for the 6,000 metre peaks I will be climbing in Nepal.
Seemingly there is nothing cheap about mountaineering boots, well at least if you want to keep five toes on each foot and not succumb to frost-bite…
And that will be the line I’ll run when I discuss the purchase with the person in charge of finances, Janet – honey , I’ve something to discuss…
And they say mountaineering is full of unexpected challenges!!