Are we being ripped off?

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.

Fox Glacier

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!

Photos, Baz – The Landy

Nepal Mountaineering Expeditions – Gearing up

DSCN0576

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…

 

Baz – The Landy

Feed the Rat (It’s gnawing away)

 

Baz - The Landy, Southern Alps, New Zealand
Baz – The Landy, Southern Alps, New Zealand

Since a young  age I have been fascinated by the majestic beauty of mountains, of the peaks that poke through the clouds reaching ever higher into a deep blue sky.

Growing up in Australia has had mountaineering limitations given our highest is Mt Kosciuszko, a mere 2,228 metres high.

So I contented myself with walking through and over the hills and mountains, developing a love of the Australian Bush, the magnificent Australian Bush…

Like an unsatisfied lover, in recent years I started to look further afield with a desire to experience more from my affair with the mountains…

Three years ago I commenced training designed to assist and enable me to contemplate  climbing an 8,000 metre peak in the Himalayan Mountain Range.  The mountain of choice Cho Oyu borders Tibet and Nepal and is the world’s sixth highest mountain peak and possibly the most accessible of the world’s fourteen 8,000 metre peaks.

The fun is in the journey, right?

I have had some great times developing my rope skills climbing in the Blue Mountains not far from Sydney as well as undertaking an extreme fitness regime.

And talk about a good laugh here and there, strewth, I can’t even tie my shoelaces properly (it’s a long story) but here I am tying myself off on vertical rock-faces!

 

Unfortunately injuries over the past year or more proved to be a significant setback and at times had me questioning whether I should continue!  But the injuries are now behind me and a solid fitness regime is under way to get me on track!

My head is back in the right place, the switch has been flicked once again…

And crikey, the “rat” is gnawing away and it needs to be fed – that’s a good sign, for me anyway, as Janet rolls her eyes with a wry smile breaking through ever so slyly.

Janet knows the rat well, it has led us on many wonderful adventures…

And how good is New Zealand’s Southern Alps playground – truly a mountaineer’s playground.

After a reasonably steep multi-pitch climb I crossed this snow covered Arête in the cover photo on the way to the summit of Auroa.

Whenever I view this photograph it reminds me that “standing back from the edge is safe, but the view is never as good” – it reminds me what I love so much about the mountains, it inspires me to pursue my goal…

So, one step at a time, let’s do this together!

Baz – The Landy

An Outhouse (With a view)

An Outhouse (With a view)

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

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

 

Photo: Baz – The Landy

Standing back from the edge is safe (But the view is never as good)

 

Baz - The Landy, Southern Alps, New Zealand
Baz – The Landy, Southern Alps, New Zealand

After a reasonably steep multi-pitch climb I crossed this snow covered Arête on the way to the summit of Auroa Peak in New Zealand’s Southern Alps.

What a great playground, hey?

Baz – The Landy

Those who don’t think it can be done (shouldn’t bother the person doing it)

 DSCN0576“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…

DSCN0282

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!

Welford NP Sand Dune 1

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

Photos: Baz, The Landy, and Janet Planet

Living the Dream (You have imagined)

Southern Alps, New Zealand

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

Henry David Thoreau

Sound advice Henry!

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

Success Isn’t Permanent (And Failure Isn’t fatal)

Not a bad thought to keep in mind, and it is one of the things I like to remind myself of each day as I chase my dreams…

 

Those who don’t think it can be done (shouldn’t bother the person doing it)

Grey's Peak New Zealand

 “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…

Sweet Dreams, Blue Montains

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!

Welford NP Sand Dune 1

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

Photos: Baz, The Landy, and Janet Planet

The Shed (The Sweat Room)

The Shed - The font of all worldy knowledge
The Shed – The Sweat Room

The training shed up in the backyard was in full action this morning with a 10,000-metre row to the sounds of Deep Purple at silly o’clock…

 As much as I enjoy strength and weight training, I can’t expect to be a 100-kilogram gorilla and climb mountains, but the weight training has kept me going over these past few months…

Baz - A daily dose of weight bearing exercise
Baz – A daily dose of weight bearing exercise

 Hey, keep your fingers crossed that my Achilles tendon that I had surgically repaired earlier this year holds up!

And it seems to be as I start ramping up the cardio exercise and I must say it makes a pleasant change to the weight training.

As part of training for the mountains I am working towards a 100 kilometre-running race (I use the term running sparingly) through the mountains that I regularly hike and that takes place in September 2014.

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

And I’ll need every bit of that time to prepare, and the last mountain running I did was in one of the world’s toughest endurance races, the Speight’s Coast to Coast Adventure Race in New Zealand in 2012.

And yes, that Kiwi brother-in-law of mine is hot on my heels pushing me, again!

Tongio "the Kiwi" and baz
Tongio “the Kiwi” and Baz

I’m also planning to cycle the iconic Birdsville Track in outback Australia in April 2014.  It is roughly 500 kilometres in length and the aim is to ride as much as I can on my Canondale 29-er Mountain Bike.

Dream big I say, and of course, live to the motto that  “those that don’t think it can be done shouldn’t bother the person doing it.”

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

 Cheers, Baz – The Landy

White Cliffs – Outback Australia (Where’s Baz)

Underground Motel
White Cliffs, Outback Australia

I’ve had a little bit of hiatus from the keyboard over the past couple of weeks and perhaps you’ve may have been thinking where’s Baz, has he gone underground or something…

Well talking about going underground, I took this photo late in the afternoon at White Cliffs, Outback Australia on one of our recent trips…

And just below the surface is the Underground Motel where we stayed in rooms fashioned out of an old mine.  White Cliffs is an opal mining town, whose day time temperatures in summer can be above a ‘hundred on the old Fahrenheit scale for weeks on end and below zero at night in the depths of winter.

White Cliffs, Underground Motel
White Cliffs, Underground Motel

Seemingly, there is little happening on the climbing front just at the moment, even though I have recovered sufficiently from the operations earlier in the year, I’ve just lost a bit of zest for it.

Baz, Southern Alps, New Zealand
Baz, Southern Alps, New Zealand

Isn’t life funny sometimes, hey!

I wanted to be on those high mountains so badly earlier this year, in fact I was scheduled to be in Nepal climbing this month, and now I’m struggling to get motivated enough to get back out there – so fingers crossed for me!

And crikey, in the meantime, it is Janet’s scones cooked in a camp oven in the Outback and TomO’s antics whilst on tour– and there’s nothing wrong with that!

Photos: Baz, The Landy

You’re doing what? (Seriously)

Coalcliff Beach, Australia
Coalcliff Beach, Australia

Crikey TomO, how do you do that, you know, levitate!

 He’s only been a teenager for a couple of months, and already he’s messing with our heads!

If only he tidied his room with the same energy…

 Seriously…you’ve just got to love them,

What do you think?

Fox Glacier, New Zealand
Fox Glacier, New Zealand
Photo’s: Baz, The Landy, and Janet (Planet)

Dope on a Rope – Dreaming of “Sweet-Dreams”

Baz climbing Sweet Dreams, Blue Mountains, Australia

Last night I dreamt I was back in the Blue Mountains climbing “Sweet Dreams” in the spectacular Blue Mountains, Australia…

And if you are going to dream, it might as well be a sweet dream!

I’m taking it as a good sign!

The foot is recovering extremely well from the surgery and clearly the desire to return is prodding my subconscious!

Perhaps, Brian, my father, is providing some divine intervention already, after all he spent a life time helping others and I can’t imagine he is going to stop just because he’s now pushing up daisies!

And Janet’s father, Archie, well he always thought I was a bit of “a dope” for wanting to climb amongst the world’s highest mountains, and for running around the outback and crossing deserts in a four-wheel drive, Janet and TomO in tow…

So a return to climbing and mountaineering is long overdue and will be a welcome change to the events of the past three months.

And I know many of you are great supporters in my quest to summit an 8,000-metre peak, heaven forbid, Mt Everest, and are cheering me back into the mountains…

And why Dope on a Rope I hear you ask?

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

Baz - Southern Alps, New Zealand
Baz – Southern Alps, New Zealand

Reacquainted with an old mate (The shed!)

Baz - What a view
Baz – What a view

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!

Recovery

 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.

Baz - Climbing in New Zealand
Baz – Climbing in New Zealand

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.

The Shed
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.

Baz - just stretch yourself
Baz – just stretch yourself

 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-kilometres across New Zealand’s South Island…

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

Strewth, far too much fun ahead, you just wouldn’t want to be dead for quid’s…

 And hey, good to see you again…!

Photo’s: Baz – The Landy

We all die (But how many of us truly live?)

Ourimperee Water Hole - Outback Australia
Sunrise – Ourimperee Water Hole – Outback Australia

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!

Baz and MilO
Baz and MilO

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.

Baz traversing Mt Aurora
Baz –  traversing Mt Aurora, New Zealand

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…

What – Me Inspiring? (Someone’s had the beer googles on)

Baz - Mt Aurora, Southern Alps, New Zealand
Baz – Mt Aurora, Southern Alps, New Zealand

Recently I was nominated for an Inspiring Blogger Award, for which I am truly humbled.

 I understand there is a protocol for responding to these nominations, kindly made by Christina Waschko, author and owner of the “Strawberry Lounge” in the Netherlands, and by Kevan, a Canadian Expat living in the Czech Republic.  

Christina authors a blog Very Berry Extraordinary, and Kevan’s writing can be viewed at Beyond Prague.  

First and foremost I would like to say to both Christina and Kevan, thankyou!

I am overwhelmed by the many comments I receive on a daily basis in support of my journey and in response to what I have written, my rantings. 

Baz - The Landy
Baz – The Landy

I’m just an ordinary Aussie bloke who tries not to take life too seriously, but to simply enjoy life for what it is, to take it on the chin when I need to, have a good laugh at myself at other times, and to take the mickey out of anyone that is fair game!

Strewth, who would ever have thought you lot would be interested in the ramblings of someone with a few ‘roos loose in the top paddock, and who wants to climb the world’s tallest mountains.

But crikey, I do love talking about the sun-drenched country I live in with my wonderful family…

In fact, given half a chance, I’d talk the leg off a kitchen table telling you about it…

Oh, for crying out loud Baz, just say it, you’re amongst friends here, Australia’s the best flamin’ country in the world, mate…

And I can’t help but write about my very supportive family, the beautiful people in my life, Janet and TomO, and of the love they give me, unconditionally…

Janet and TomO
Janet and TomO

Writing of lazy afternoons down by the lake with friends, of rock-faces in the Blue Mountains, and of course, my rather audacious plan to climb high mountains, of the dream I have to go to the top of the world, to climb Mt Everest…

Every day on Wordspress, millions of words are written by ordinary people, stories about the challenges life has thrown at them, what they have done, and continue to do to overcome them.

About their dreams and aspirations, their highs and lows…

About their very own Mt Everest…

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

Baz - Climb on
Baz – Climb on

Many have their sights set on a fun run, and others having completed one, setting their sights towards running a marathon.

For others, it is their challenge to become stronger, to be able to lift more, or about capturing that once in a life-time photograph, perhaps testing a new recipe to share with friends, or with people they have never met.

The Shed
The Shed

Others talk about health and lifestyle challenges they struggle with, that they have overcome.

I read as many of them as I can, for they motivate me and  provide me with much needed inspiration…

Seemingly, there is always someone in this cyberspace community ready to reach out, to congratulate, to console…

These people aren’t super-elite athletes, or neither five-star chefs, nor are they fitness gurus.

They have a much greater status than that, for they are simply ordinary people – they are you!

Each and every one of you is helping me to find the courage to overcome the challenges and barriers that sometimes stand in the way of my own dreams…

I take great inspiration from you all and I won’t single any one person out, for you are all very special to me – and from the bottom of my heart thank you for enriching my life by rewarding me with a window into yours!

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

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

We're always out of control - and loving it!
We’re always out of control – and loving it!

Shelter from the storm (Almer Hut – New Zealand)

Shelter from the storm (Almer Hut - New Zealand)

Almer Hut is situated high on top of the Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand’s Southern Alps.

The red building has been a welcome sight to many who have traversed this fantastic country.

At the time I passed through it was sitting just below the snow line and the area offered great views to the mountains and the Tasman Sea.

New Zealand, you’ve got to love it, an adventurer’s playground…

photo: Baz, The Landy 

Stop using the “F” Word – There is no such thing as failure

Baz - Climbing in New Zealand
Baz – Climbing in New Zealand

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…

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

 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…

Never use the “F” word.

I signed up to do what? (Mates – Out and About)

Baz - Southern Alps, New Zealand
Baz – Southern Alps, New Zealand

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.

Ray, Leah and Aubrey
Ray, Leah and Aubrey

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!

Baz and Ray "survive" Tough Mudder
Baz and Ray “survive” Tough Mudder

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.

Ray - Beachcomber Kayak
Ray – Beachcomber Kayak
The Boys, Terrigal, Australia
The Boys, Terrigal, Australia

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…

Baz crossing Goat's Pass - Coast to Coast Race New Zealand
Baz crossing Goat’s Pass – Coast to Coast Race New Zealand

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-kilometre Hawkesbury 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.

Baz leads the field out in the Bridge to Bridge - 111 kilometre Hawkesbury Classic Kayak Race
Baz leads the field out in the Bridge to Bridge – 111 kilometre Hawkesbury Classic Kayak Race

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…

Baz and Ray, Tough Mudder, Sydney
Mates…Baz and Ray, Tough Mudder, Sydney
Ps: Oddly enough no alcohol was consumed in the planning of these adventures…