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…

One step at a time (The only way forward)

Baz, Southern Alps, New Zealand
One step at a time – Baz, Southern Alps, New Zealand

Often I’m awe-struck when I think about the journey I have embarked on to climb amongst the world’s highest mountains. 

Sometimes it is so big that I just think about all the small steps I have taken so far.

The fun I’ve had… the fun and tears that are yet to come.

Yes, one step at a time Baz, it’s the only way forward…

Hey, by the way, thanks for joining me on this journey, I’ll need all the support I can get to help me climb to the summit…and back down again!

Baz, Blue Mountains, Australia
Baz, Blue Mountains, Australia

You’re suffering from what? (Retrocalcaneal Bursitis)

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

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 Bursa(photo A.D.A.M Inc)
Retrocalcaneal Bursa
(photo credit  A.D.A.M Inc)

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 of New 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.

Baz - The Landy
Baz – The Landy

A recent x-ray confirmed that a small bone spur is triggering my condition.

Preparing blood for PRP Treatment
Preparing blood for PRP Treatment

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.

A boy who dreamed of big mountains
A boy who dreamed of big mountains

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!

Baz and TomO (two peas in a pod?)
Baz and TomO (two peas in a pod?)

Don’t use the “F” word – Failure is Success (If we learn from it)

The Buttress - Mt Aspiring
The Buttress – Mt Aspiring

January was such a whirlwind of fun, mountaineering in the Southern Alps of one of the best countries in the world, New Zealand.

 Of course, it wasn’t all mountaineering and there was plenty of family time doing some crazy things together.

 Now I do have this rather audacious plan to climb some of the world’s highest mountains, heaven forbid, Mt Everest does beckon, but of course even contemplating that is some time off just at the moment.

My next major expedition will be to Nepal in November of this year. It sounds so far away doesn’t it?

Baz - Pack-walk up Heaton's Gap
Baz – Pack-walk up Heaton’s Gap

I have much preparation to do ahead of it and I suspect time will fly past very quickly. I need to increase my fitness with plenty of long-distance pack walking, as well as hone my climbing and rope handling skills; after all as they say practice makes us perfect.

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

And of course, climbing to altitudes in excess of 6,000 metres will require some new equipment, so plenty of gear reviews and shopping lie in the months ahead.

Shoosh, I might just not let on to Janet about that just yet!

But anyway, I’m starting to rabbit on a bit now, so I’ll get to my point…

Many people have asked about how the trip went and did I get to the summit of Mt Aspiring.

Mt Aspiring viewed from Bevan Col
Mt Aspiring viewed from Bevan Col

Unfortunately the answer was no. The weather conspired against us about halfway up and  we decided to turn back, to continue on would have been dangerous…

But none-the-less, it was a successful climb.

It would be easy to think of it as a failure…but I had a great smile on my face!

Not hard to smile in this spectacular place!
Not hard to smile in this spectacular place!

Failure is a word I’ve never been comfortable with and I’m sure it doesn’t sit well with many others. But for many, not achieving a goal you’ve set out to achieve often leads to despair, feelings of not succeeding – of failure.

 It can be deflating…

For me, not getting to the summit of Mt Aspiring was not a failure; in fact I found it a great learning experience.  Turning back involved taking account of many factors; of course the most important was weather, which was pretty much a no-brainer as the wind was raging in excess of 100 kilometres per hour over the summit.

Weather closing in
Weather closing in

Assessing the situation, making the correct decision at the appropriate time, and of course acting on it was an important lesson in human factors” especially as we stood on the mountain, exposed to the elements; to the increasing wind and sleet…

All too often it has been found that people have identified that a new course of action needs to be taken and whilst they’ve understood what it was they needed to do they’ve failed to implement the new plan until it was too late.

The experience highlighted the importance of being efficient and proficient whilst remaining safe, especially at a time when external factors were having an adverse affect on the undertaking.

Baz - upwards and onwards
Baz – upwards and onwards

A very important lesson, especially given my rather audacious plan of climbing high mountains!

So should we get rid of “failure” from our vocabulary?

No, I think it has a place.

After all, Janet did highlight to me the other day that I had failed to take out the garbage, and for sure it could count as a learning experience, but failure summed it up perfectly…

The garbage truck had just passed our home and wouldn’t be back for another week and those words “you failed a very simple task” are still ringing in my ears…

So next time you haven’t achieved your goal will you use the “F word?”

I know you won’t…  Just think of it has a learning experience on your way to success…

But mind you, if all else does fail,  just feel free to remain out of control and see what develops…

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

Jet-Boating on the Matukituki – Awesome Fun (Jump Aboard)

Whilst we were holidaying and climbing in New Zealand’s Southern Alps, we took time to skim across the Matukituki River with Wanaka River Journeys.

It was a great trip and as well as journeying the river we took a walk through a fantastic Beech Tree Forest and marveled at the many waterfalls and cold mountain streams.

Anyway, grab a life-vest and jump aboard…if you’re game!

Cabin Fever High on the Mountain – Shelter from the storm

Pioneer Hut, Fox Glacier, New Zealand
Pioneer Hut, Fox Glacier, New Zealand

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.

Baz traversing Mt Aurora
Baz traversing Mt Aurora

 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.

Jet-boating with Janet & TomO, New Zealand
Jet-boating with Janet & TomO, New Zealand

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.

Baz over Wanaka
Baz over Wanaka

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.

Franz Joseph Glacier - Centennial Hut
Franz Joseph Glacier – Centennial Hut

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.

Good food - Colin Todd Hutt
Good food – Colin Todd Hutt

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.

Practicing rope rescue techniques
Practicing rope rescue techniques

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.

Relaxing during the storm, Colin Todd Hut
Relaxing during the storm, Colin Todd Hut

 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 the shed, and after all it is a sanctuary, the font of all knowledge and some tall tales.

The Shed - Font of all knowledge
The Shed – Font of all knowledge

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 the shed sooner, rather than later…

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

Baz climbing Sweet Dreams, Blue Mountains, Australia
Baz climbing Sweet Dreams, Blue Mountains, Australia

Antics in a Bi-Plane (Tigers’ over Wanaka)

Baz & TomO - ready to take to the skies
Baz & TomO – ready to take to the skies

A flight in a Tiger Moth from a by-gone era sounded far too good an opportunity to pass up.

On a recent visit to the South Island of New Zealand and in between climbing in the Southern Alps, I did just that, accompanied by my adventurous son, TomO…

 And TomO, being a bit of a military buff, relished the opportunity to chase his father around the skies over Wanaka, while Mum, Janet, watched from a vantage point on the lake foreshore below.

TomO and Baz over Wanaka
TomO and Baz over Wanaka

The Tiger Moths are owned and operated by Peter Hendriks at Classic Flights, Wanaka.

 Peter, along with his flying partner, Andy Hailey, who recently left the RAF after trading a seat in the supersonic Euro-fighter for something just a bit slower, expertly piloted the aircraft.

It even had me reminiscing over my own flying days, another time when Janet and I flew the length and breadth of Australia in our own aircraft, a Piper Arrow.

VH-FTH
Piper Arrow
VH-FTH

TomO and I kitted up in the flight room, donning flying gear of the Tiger Moth era, including a silk scarf, and with the smell of aviation fuel in our nostrils took to the blue skies over Wanaka.

Anyway, why don’t you just jump on board with us and join the flight…don’t forget to strap yourself in, we don’t want you falling out when we do a loop!

And how good is that smile on TomO’s face!

Dope on a Rope (A boy with a dream)

A boy who dreamed of big mountains
A boy who dreamed of big mountains

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. 

Mt Aspiring
Mt Aspiring

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.

Where's Baz?

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…

Gravity is a toy – Should we be proud or worried?

Baz and TomO (two peas in a pod?)
Baz and TomO (two peas in a pod?)

After the climbing I have been doing in New Zealand, and the travelling that Janet and TomO have done whilst I was in the mountains, we decided today would be a good opportunity to all relax together in the beautiful town of Queenstown.

 Well, when I said relax, I mean relax in our own special way…

 So we headed to a canyon with a high cliff, and jumped – courtesy of the great team from Shotover Canyon Swing, Queenstown.

TomO - you're insane
TomO – you’re insane

 TomO led the charge with a solo jump; doing a spectacular pin-drop, apparently one of the youngest to do this style.  Janet and I followed shortly after, and in case you are wondering, we thought we’d chuck TomO off first just to make sure it all held together…

What chance did TomO ever have - with this pair as parents
What chance did TomO ever have – with this pair as parents

And perhaps because we are just a little “insane” TomO and I took another leap together!

A chip off the “old block” ?

 Yes – perhaps, I’m just not sure whether I should be proud or just a little bit worried…

Oh, don’t  worry, we’re very proud (and just a tad worried!)

Anyway, pictures speak louder than words…Jumpppppppp!

(Ps: No trying this at home 😉 )

No Ordinary Moments; No Ordinary People; No Ordinary Lives

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

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

TomO and Baz over Wanaka
TomO and Baz over Wanaka

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

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

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

Thanks New Zealand!

Crampons, Ice Axes, and Mountains (Crikey – it gets the thumbs up)

 

Climbing the south face of Aurora, Southern Alps, New Zealand
Climbing the south face of Aurora, Southern Alps, New Zealand

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.

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

 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!

Sunset over the Tasman Sea - Centennial Hut
Sunset over the Tasman Sea – Centennial Hut

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!

Baz - traversing on Aurora Southern Alps, New Zealand
Baz – traversing on Aurora Southern Alps, New Zealand

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…

Tasman Glacier viewed from Graham Saddle, Souther Alps, New Zealand
Tasman Glacier viewed from Graham Saddle, Southern Alps, 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…

New Zealand's Southern Alps - Gets the "Thumbs Up"
New Zealand’s Southern Alps – Gets the “Thumbs Up”

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

Baz - Bonar Glacier

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

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

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

Sunset from Pioneer Hut
Sunset from Pioneer Hut

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

How good is that!

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

Climbing Mt Bevan - Baz
Climbing Mt Bevan – Baz

Crikey – Talk about making a splash (Jet-boating on the Matukituki River)

Wanaka River Journeys

If you want to see some fantastic New Zealand scenery, take in a couple of the sights of where Lord of the Rings was filmed, and you’re a bit of an adrenalin junkie, than a jet boat ride up the Matukituki River is the thing for you…

 I was supposed to be heading to New Zealand’s west coast for another week of climbing in the Southern Alps, however with weather forecast to be less than favourable we decided to postpone our departure by two days.

Mind you, the weather around Wanaka has been perfect during our stay and we’ve been making the most of it!

After a short drive through grazing lands just outside of Wanaka we arrived at our departure point for the trip up the river.

Jet Boat

Janet and TomO
Janet and TomO

Strewth, what a great ride it was!

Our guide expertly pointed the boat through the various water channels on the braided river, which was still flowing quite fast due to all the recent rain. Yes, the same rain I experienced whilst on the Bonar Glacier trying to climb Mt Aspiring last week.

Beech forest
Beech forest

After about half-an-hour we hopped out of the boat and took a nature walk, marvelling at the giant beech tree forests. These trees are very old and quite spectacular.

And the view of Avalanche Glacier was breathtaking.

Avalanche Glacier
Avalanche Glacier

Back on the boat we made our way towards Lake Wanaka, stopping at one of the spots where Lord of the Rings was filmed.

If you are a Lord of the Rings fan, you will recall a scene where Frodo Baggins is standing on a hill and is stabbed in the shoulder by one of the Ringwraiths.

This scene was filmed in the Matukituki Valley.

Lord of the Rings
Lord of the Rings

I must confess to being a big fan of the series, and as I walked out of Mt Aspiring a week ago, down the valley and through the forest it truly felt like I was in “middle-earth”.

 After bidding our guides farewell, Janet and I relaxed by the shores of Lake Wanaka, while TomO went for a swim…

TomO
TomO

Life is too short to eat bad ice-cream
Life is too short to eat bad ice-cream

Crikey, what a great day in a beautiful part of the world – and how good is that ice-cream!

Tiger Moth’s over Wanaka (TomO and Baz take to the skies)

 TomO and Baz over Wanaka

Climbing mountains is one way to get your head in the clouds and tomorrow I will be travelling to the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island for another week of adventure in the mountains. 

I climbed this breath-taking area last September and I am looking forward to being there again…

 And I am certainly hoping for better weather than the blizzard conditions I experienced last week whilst climbing Mt Aspiring and neighbouring peaks.

But mind you, there is more than one way to get your head in the clouds and this morning TomO and I took to the skies over Wanaka, chasing each other in two vintage Tiger Moths”.

Crikey, I could go on about how good it was, and it is fair to say TomO still has a smile as big as the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but why don’t I just let the photo’s do the talking…

TomO - always smiling
TomO – always smiling 
TomO going into a loop
TomO going into a loop

 

Summiting is optional – getting down is mandatory (Mt Aspiring)

Mt Aspiring - viewed from Colin Todd Hut
Mt Aspiring – viewed from Colin Todd Hut

It is said that summiting a mountain is optional and getting back down is mandatory.

 And with this in my mind, with climbing partner, Richard Raynes, I headed off for my climb of Mt Aspiring in the pre-dawn hours of Monday 7 January.

Richard is an exceptionally experienced mountaineer and specializes in mountain rescues, so I was in extremely good hands. For me, this was a great opportunity to learn.

Richard - on Bevan Col
Richard – on Bevan Col

We had planned to climb on Thursday, however the weather was forecast to deteriorate over the week and our climbing window had narrowed significantly.

This was it…

I was feeling rather daunted as we headed off across the Bonar Glacier towards the “Matterhorn of the South” which was standing tall ahead of us.

Baz - Bonar Glacier
Baz – Bonar Glacier

The moon was rising over the mountain and as we climbed the steep snow and ice slope towards the rock buttress a thin golden line was appearing on the eastern horizon signalling the dawn of a new day.

I remember thinking this was the dawn of just more than the sun rising on a new day, but of a wonderful new world for me.

The Buttress - Mt Aspiring
The Buttress – Mt Aspiring

There were two other climbing parties of two ahead of us and we could see their headlamps bobbing up and down as they made their way.

The weather had been forecast to be better than we had earlier expected and according to the most up to date report we had received the previous evening. So far the report was proving accurate.

But as we climbed onto the exposed side of the mountain and climbed up through the rock formation, called The Buttress, the weather started to turn.  We had made it through the most technical section of the climb, and now had a long slog up the steep snow and ice towards the summit.

The peak shrouded in cloud and high winds
The peak shrouded in cloud and high winds

We could see the summit and the winds were roaring over it at least 100 kilometres an hour and the cloud was now starting to obscure the top.

The groups ahead had turned back by now and as we made our way back down through the rock buttress, abseiling our way back to the snow, we were being buffeted by sleet and strong winds.

Baz on the Buttress - Mt Aspiring
Baz on the Buttress – Mt Aspiring

It was not to be our day on the summit…

But that is not to say it wasn’t a great experience. Of course our goal was to make it to the top, but above all else, I was here to learn the craft and skills necessary to become a competent mountaineer.

 Perhaps the mountain understood this and she gave me an experience that provided a great learning opportunity, so it is hard to be disappointed…

Send a St Bernard to the rescue (If you haven’t heard from me in a week)

It seems like a long time has passed since I booked my trip to climb in the Southern Alps of New Zealand. 

But the time has arrived.

St Bernard Rescue DogI head off early Saturday morning, flying across “The Ditch” into Queenstown in the South Island, before making my way by bus to Wanaka, about an hour’s drive away.

On Sunday I will be flying into the mountains by either helicopter or ski-plane with Richard Raynes, from Adventure Consultants.

Richard has a first class climbing pedigree and has previously worked for the Mt Cook Search and Rescue team. We will spend a couple of hours walking across the Bonar Glacier to Colin Todd Hut, although we may elect to camp out on Bevan Col, depending on the Hut availability and weather conditions at the time.

Mt Aspiring

On or around day five, which should be Thursday 10 January, we will make our summit attempt on Mt Aspiring.  The day will be long, starting around 3am in the morning and finishing as late as 7pm.

And there are no guarantees on making it to the summit, but of course that is our goal and we will be giving it our best shot!

After a hike out from Mt Aspiring I will be returning to Wanaka to spend a few days resting with Janet and TomO, by the shores of Lake Wanaka, before heading back into the mountains for another week of climbing, this time with Steve Moffatt, Adventure Consultant’s program co-ordinator.

Steve has climbed all around the world, has summitted Mt Everest, and lead many mountaineering trips, including Lobuche East in Nepal. I will be travelling to Nepal in November this year to climb Lobuche East, Island Peak, and Pokalde. The first two are in excess of 6,000 metres, and Pokalde is just under 6,000 metres.

Baz - Fox Glacier, New Zealand

My second week will be less structured and we will look to climb a variety of peaks focussing on different aspects of mountaineering.

I am in good hands and I have a great opportunity to learn from these two very experienced climbers.

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

And although the peaks in the Southern Alps of New Zealand are only just over 3,000 metres in height, they are similar in ruggedness and valley to summit altitude gains to the higher peaks of the Himalaya’s, and for this reason it is a great training ground for my rather audacious plan to climb Mt Everest…

Mind you, it is also a wonderful place to visit and the people are friendly and welcoming.

And at the end of two weeks of climbing, Janet, TomO, and I will be spending a few days in Wanaka taking in the local sights and resting by the lake, before heading to Queenstown for a few days.

Janet and TomO

Janet and TomO won’t be sitting around whilst I’m climbing and their activities include a helicopter flight onto Fox Glacier, giving them a first hand view of where I was climbing last September, before heading down to Milford Sound for a couple of days.

They will also be retracing the Coast to Coast Adventure Race route. Janet and TomO assisted me in getting through this event across New Zealand last February…and will no doubt be there to support me in 2014’s race!

Anyway, there will be no communication access, other than satellite phone for emergencies, so I’ll let you know how it goes, along with some pictures, when I get back to Wanaka.

Hopefully I will be able to report a successful summit of Mt Aspiring, but even if I don’t there is little doubt in my mind that I will be reporting two weeks of fantastic climbing and fun…

Janet will be updating The Landy on Facebook and hopefully with news on Mt Aspiring so be sure to click on the link and follow our adventures!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who, me, Baz – The Landy?

Damper and Golden Syrup

I’m just an ordinary Aussie bloke who tries not to take life too seriously, but to simply enjoy life for what it is, to take it on the chin when I need to, and to have a good laugh at myself all other times…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About their dreams and aspirations, their highs and lows…

About their very own Mt Everest…

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

Baz - Climb on
Baz – Climb on

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

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

Weight lifting in "The Shed"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care you ‘all…Baz

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

Climb Every Mountain…(Can’t wait!)

Baz - Chancellor Dome in the background
Baz – Chancellor Dome in the background

Can you believe that 2013 has rolled around already? And how good were those fireworks on Sydney Harbour to see in the New Year!

 Anyway, I know I’ve been shouting it very loudly at every opportunity of late, but just in case you’ve missed it, 2013 will be a big year for me in terms of mountaineering and climbing, and it starts at the end of this week as I head to New Zealand’s Southern Alps…

Southern Alps, New Zealand
Southern Alps, New Zealand

 Janet, TomO, and I were just looking at some of the climbing and mountaineering photos from 2012 so I thought I’d put up some favourites (again)…it motivates me to get out there…

 Crikey, almost forgot…Happy New Year to all from dowunder!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climbing gear
Climbing gear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mt Aspiring
Mt Aspiring

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

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

Narrabeen Lake, Australia
Narrabeen Lake, Australia

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

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

Janet and TomO
Janet and TomO

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

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

Mountaineering Expeditions in 2013 (Climb-on)

Climbers nearing summit of Mt Everest

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

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

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

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

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

Wanaka
Wanaka, New Zealand

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mt Aspiring
Mt Aspiring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mountaineering
High Altitude Climbing

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

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

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

Tomo's note

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

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

Together
TomO, Baz, and Janet

Climbing Tom Thumb (Back to the Blue Mountains)

Where's Baz?

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

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

Baz - Climbing Sweet Dreams, Blue Mountains, Australia

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

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

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

Palais Royale, Katoomba

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

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

Crikey, this is the life, hey?

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

Climbing Mt Aspiring – Crikey (I’m getting excited)

Mt Aspiring, Southern Alps, New Zealand
Mt Aspiring, Southern Alps, New Zealand

It is now one month from my next mountaineering experience in New Zealand, an ascent of Mt Aspiring in the Southern Alps and the excitement level in our household is reaching fever pitch.

 The trip is significant as it kicks-off a big year and hopefully some big steps towards that audaciously big goal I have to climb some of the world’s largest mountains, including Mt Everest.

 My last trip to New Zealand was in September this year when I spent time with the team from Adventure Consultants on Pioneer Glacier, in New Zealand’s Southern Alps.

Pioneer Hut, Fox Glacier
Pioneer Hut, Fox Glacier, New Zealand
Pioneer Hut, looking west to the Tasman Sea
Pioneer Hut, looking west to the Tasman Sea

That trip was a true eye opener as to what lies ahead.

Mt Aspiring is known to the Maori people of New Zealand as Tititea, the glistening one, rising 3,027 metres out of the landscape to tower over anything nearby.

It is described as having sheer faces and graceful lines.

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

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

Baz - Fox Glacier, practising crevasse rescues
Baz – Fox Glacier, practising crevasse rescues

Prior to an attempt on the summit of Mt Aspiring we will spend a day climbing some smaller peaks in the area, such as Mt Bevan. It stands at 2,030 metres and they say the view from the top is glorious. It was also the scene of a rescue of a number of people trapped on Bevan Col and recounted in the book by Paul Powell, Men Aspiring.

There is something like 27 different routes that can be taken to the summit of Mt Aspiring all of varying degrees of difficulty. Many of these routes will not be available to us due to the time of year we are attempting it.

We are anticipating our route to the summit will be the classic North West Ridge route, but a final decision will be made at the time.

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

After spending 7-days on the glacier, and hopefully with a successful summit of Mt Aspiring under the belt, we will return to Wanaka where I’ll be joined by Janet and TomO for a few days of rest and relaxation, before once again heading into the mountains.

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

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

Baz - Chancellor Dome in the background
Baz – Chancellor Dome in the background

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

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

Before we leave for home, we will strap ourselves in the world’s largest canyon swing located near Queenstown. TomO can’t wait, and he’ll go twice he says, a tandem with both Janet and myself.

I am hoping to achieve as many summits as possible on this trip, especially Mt Aspiring, however there could be many reasons why a summit is not possible. Above all else, what I am looking to achieve is safe mountaineering as that is what will assist me the most as I head to Nepal at the end of 2013 – but that is a story for another time, for now it is simply, one step at a time!

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

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

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

Baz climbing Sweet Dreams, Blue Mountains, Australia

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

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

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

And why Dope on a Rope I hear you ask…

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

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

 

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

And the first section today certainly challenged me.

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

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

Rachael – Leading Climbing

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

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

The Three Sisters, Blue Mountains, Australia

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

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

 Dope on a Rope?

 Sweet-dreams?

 You betcha!

Baz – The Landy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Charmed Life (Lobster for breakfast please) – now published in Bucket List Publications

You could be forgiven for thinking I’m living a charmed life at present. Currently I’m sitting in the wonderful setting of Yasawa Island, overlooking the beach, eating my way through a sumptuous breakfast of fresh tropical fruits and lobster omelette, under a balmy, but slightly overcast sky.

 The food at Yasawa has been fantastic! I’ve eaten far too much already…

And what a change that is to only one week ago when I was climbing in the Southern Alps of New Zealand’s south island. It was freezing cold at Pioneer Hut, even the thought of extracting yourself from a warm down-sleeping bag took some effort, and food was basic camp food.

Not that I’m complaining about that mind you, after all there is something very comforting about camp food, a warming tea, sweetened with sugar, before heading out onto the glacier.

My week of instruction under the guidance of Dean Staples, one of New Zealand’s most accomplished high altitude climbers was fantastic.  And with eight Everest summits to his credit it puts him in a very elite club, so I count myself very lucky to be able to tap into his knowledge.

After a gear check at Adventure Consultant’s Wanaka headquarters, the nerve centre for its climbing operations that span the seven continents, Dean and I headed for Foxtown on the west coast, a drive of around 3 hours that takes you over the top of New Zealand’s dividing range.

It was a great opportunity for me to hear about the climbing that Dean has done around the world. It also enabled me to discuss my climbing ambitions and what I was looking to achieve during the week ahead.

We spoke of Cho Oyu and Mount Everest in a way that there is no reason why either won’t be possible for me to achieve. Ambition, mental drive, fitness, and climbing skills can be achieved by those who desire it badly enough.

It is all up to the individual!

Originally we had planned to fly into Pioneer Hut by helicopter on the Saturday afternoon, but low cloud in the valley meant this would not be possible, so we stayed in one of the Alpine Association’s huts at Foxtown, or Fox, as it is known to the locals.

The Fox Glacier is the town’s drawcard and there are numerous helicopter companies offering flights over the glacier, which is situated very nearby.

We managed to fly into Pioneer Hut on the Sunday morning, along with Caroline from Adventure Consultants, who was taking a few days off from work to ski in the backcountry with her friend, Aviette.

The 15 minute helicopter ride straight up the glacier was spectacular, in fact it is hard to find the right adjective to best describe it, so I’ll leave it at spectacular!

I had to take a couple of deep breathes to take it all in as I stood there watching the helicopter depart, apart from the air being a little thinner, the scenery was simply breathtaking.  We wasted little time and headed out for some time on the snow, to give Dean a chance to assess where my skill levels stood in terms of glacier travel, cramponing, and ice-climbing.  We did a little of all these things, including climbing a small peak, before heading back to the hut in the freezing cold and deteriorating weather.

It was a great opportunity for me to test out some of my new gear and those thousand dollar boots…

It all worked perfectly and those boots were as warm as a piece of freshly popped toast!

The following day was snowing and visibility was severely limited so we spent the day doing some skill-based training in the hut. Dean literally had me hanging from the rafters, prussiking and doing self-rescues.

The rest of the day was spent in the warmth of my sleeping bag!