Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Weather in the Cairngorms

I just realised that it's only a few weeks until the winter survival course (!!!). Oh, I am SOOO excited. I wish Christmas was just over so I could get up there. It's been snowing like crazy there too so it should be good but I'm watching the weather like a hawk (or a mental patient - you choose).

Monday, 12 December 2011

Trekker's Christmas Wish List

Dear Santa,

I've been a very good trekker this year, what with the Everest BC thing for Bletchley Park and all so could you please bring me the following to help make my next trek more comfortable...

Rab Microlight Jacket

Some new boots

Sleeping bag

A helmet

water purifier

and a coffee machine

Oh, and a puppy.



Sunday, 27 November 2011

Smoking is Good for Endurance Sports

More evidence that smoking is actually good for athletes.


Told ya so. I especially like the bit when they explain the the benefits are probably most notable in those who are older and started smoking in childhood. :-)

Big thanks to Ben Goldacre for bringing this to my attention.

Flight to Inverness

I've booked my flights for the winter survival course at Glenmore Lodge. I'll be flying up to Inverness on January 6th via bloody Easyjet. And booked baggage as well so I can check my equipment. All for just £67 so that's not so bad.

I'm glad I've got all of that sorted and paid for. And the lodge will handle the transfers to and from Inverness airport.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Bear Grylls

Have been watching Bear Grylls videos. Wow. I love it when he has to do something like jump into a glacial stream because you know he's gonna have to get naked and do pushups to warm up as soon as he gets out.

He is much man. Pity about the god-bothering.

Thursday, 24 November 2011


My back is aching from adding the weighted backpack to my regime. But I guess it's better to have a little ache now than a big ache on the trail.

Tomorrow I add my first litre of water to the weight.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Training Update

So I'm regularly doing 60 flights of steps per day and have now stepped up my training by adding a weighted backpack. It's only my developer rig and a litre of water but it makes a big difference. I'm doing this because on the everest trek my legs and feet were fine but my back was in agony so I thought it might be wise to build up my back muscles this time. Ideally I should work my way up to 100 flights and 20 lb. of weight but I don't see how I can do that at work without looking utterly ridiculous.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Back into Training

So I've now officialy set aside my cute office dresses and have reverted to Sporty Asti. ::sigh:: Actually, once I've put on my kit including the neck bib and gloves I look like a bloody ninja. But I have explained to my client that I'm back in training and the poor things know in far too much detail about my mountain climbing aspirations.

Anyhoo, as of this morning I've gone back to climbing stairs. I was a bit trepidatious about my first 10 story schlep but, as it turned out, it was ok. I still have a fair amount of fitness left over from my prep and completion of Everest Base Camp trek. In actual fact, I was barely puffed after dashing up 10 flights. So I spent my day running up and down stairs betwixt each of my back-to-back meetings.

And the new boots are ok. I'm glad I'm breaking them in as, toward the end of the day, they became a tad uncomfy. They're very well structured so it's important that I start breaking them in now. But wearing them does remind me that I wish I was out of the office and out on the mountains right now. I really wish someone would sponsor me so I could just spend my days climbing and travelling and writing about it.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Winter Survival Skills

I confess that I'm really excited about the winter survival skills course. I wish that I had booked on a weekend closer to today but I wanted to make sure that there would actually be snow. ::harumph::

Nonetheless, I thin it's important that I get some actual experience using my equipment and learning about things like avalanche safety before I get out in the wild in Morocco. At least this way I'll be able to determine if my kit is up to snuff, right?

But the wait is utterly agonising. Anyway, tomorrow I go back into training mode. No more wearing cute clothes to work - it'll be functional, functional, functional so that I can get back to climbing 10 flights of stairs every hour.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Tap tap tap - is this thing on?

Dunno if anyone is still following this thing but I'm planning my next trek and I thought I would document it here to keep everything together.

So, next trip is to Mt. Toubkal to start learning how to ice climb. I'll be leaving January 20th and it will be an 8 day trip.

So I began my preparations yesterday. I need some different equipment than for Everest Base camp - in particular I need better boots, crampons and an ice axe.

And so I began to do a bit of research on boots and crampons. Boots have different ratings, as do crampons and so one must be careful to get the right combination that will give you the level of performance that you need. I decided to compromise by finding a boot that would be decent for the approach trek as well as take a decent quality crampon. Believe me, I wanted the more technical boots but I have to be realistic about what I need. Indeed I worried that a better boot might actually impede me on this trip.

Anyway, I settled for the La Sportiva which is a B2 boot so will give me warmth and waterproofness with a well structured sole that will take a C2 crampon. For the crampons I went for the Grivel G12 which are C2 and are probably far better than I need but anything of lesser quality seemed flimsy and unsafe. I used the same logic when picking out my ice axe, just getting a walking axe but getting a rather decent one. For this I chose the Black Diamond Raven.

Thanks to the boys at Ellis Brigham who were so helpful and also thanks for the British Mountaineering Council discount! ;-)

Even better, I popped by Kathmandu in Covent Garden and the guys there kindly let me have a 40% discount so I loaded up on more merino wool base layers, some more trekking trousers, fleece gloves and a bib. Further to that, I had a letter from them today with another coupon for 40% off and was informed that I'm in their top 100 of Summit Club Members. I think I ought to contact them about sponsorship. Or if nothing else, they ought to read my reviews of the gear I've bought from them!

So now I'm breaking in my new kit and need to kick off my training again. Am considering a weekend Ice Survival Skills course for next month so if anyone wants to go with me, get in touch so we can coordinate.

Sunday, 11 September 2011


My flight back to Kathmandu was smooth and easy but as it was so early, when I got to the hotel at 7:45am, my room was several hours from being ready. This was disappointing because I was filthy and smelly and just wanted to get cleaned up  but I made the best of it and checked my luggage so I could go out shopping.

I headed out to the Thamel district in search of clean clothing, shampoo, conditioner, and a razor. I was quite eager to not only get cleaned up but also to shave my legs!

Unfortunately most of the clothing for sale was either not my style or outside of my restricted budget. I eventually managed to find something that wasn't tie-dyed or some other permutation of hippy-dippy drag at a reasonable price. My budget became even more constrained after I bought some loose gemstones. I couldn't help myself and ended up getting 5 star ruby sapphires, 3 peridots, 2 citrines, and 1 watermelon tourmaline. It's not as bad as it sounds though because they are all lovely stones of very good quality varying in size from 3ct all the way up to 10 and after the haggling had died down I paid between £10 and £30 per stone. Now I just need to have them set.

Anyway, I got back to the hotel at lunchtime and finally managed to get my shower before I met up with Nema from the Kathmandu office of Really Wild Adventures who took me to see the Boudhanath Stupa and have lunch.

Then it was off to Rum Doodle for dinner. This restaurant is named after the book, The Ascent of Rum Doodle which is a mildly amusing book about an expedition to climb the mythical 40,000 1/2 ft. mountain written in the style of Three Men In A Boat. I was eager to go to this restaurant because I was looking forward to a few drinks but also because it is traditional to dine here after a successful ascent of Everest.

I honestly didn't think much of the food there but I'm sure it was better than the alternatives available.

Afterward I returned to the hotel and ended up drinking and hanging out with an expedition who were heading to Cho Oyu in the morning. We were having a lovely time and then I got a sad text Bletchley Park that the great Tony Sale had died.  If you were fortunate enough to have been to the 1st ACCU/Bletchley Autumn Lectures in 2009, then you would have had the pleasure of hearing this amazing man speak. I don't think anyone left the lectures that day who did not wish that Tony was their grandfather. His work to save Bletchley as well as such things as rebuilding Colossus prove what a treasure this man was. Tony, you will be missed.

I spent my last full day in Nepal just wandering around the back streets.

And also got a tattoo at Mohan's. I checked in at all of the tattoo parlours I saw and this one struck me as the most professional. Evidently I was right because I later learned that Mohan's is indeed the place to go. 

So, what tattoo did I get and why? I got a lotus done on the inside of my forearm. I chose a lotus because all along the trail those crazy Buddhists were doing their chanting. Much like suzuki violin students learning 46 variations of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, this Om Mani Padme Hum was chanted in endless variations, over and over and generally translates to something about contemplating the lotus so I thought it would make a nice memento of having completed this journey.

And so, here it is. Mind you, it's still healing so it's a bit scabby/dry.

On the way back to the hotel I stopped into the inevitable Irish Bar for one last nightcap. It was interesting to hang out with some ex-pats and hear what it's like for them to live in Nepal. 

It was a pleasant way to end my final day in Nepal. In the morning I would be flying home at last.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Final Day - Namche to Lukla

Before I left Namche I made it my business to get to the konditorei when it opened at 6am so that I could get a decent cup of coffee to fuel me for the morning and a final look at the town. I confess that I'd become quite fond of the place.

So I took a few last phhotos including one of them baking for the day and then hit the trail again.

I was so relieved that this was the last day. Apart from general exhaustion, I'd taken a nasty fall the day before and injured my knee. On top of that, I'd got some rather nasty blisters on my inner thighs where the tendon meets the gusset of my undies so any movement was agonising. I'd had enough. I even considered renting or even buying a damned horse for the final day but didn't because a) those awful blisters, and b) I've never actually been on a horse.

Luckily I had some very strong painkillers. :-) I eventually took 3 of the things because the pain was just that bad.

Even with the pain and the exhaustion I would not stop until I was back at Lukla. I even outwalked the sherpas. They'd stop for a break and I'd say, "That's ok boys, you can catch up to me later." and I'd keep walking. I think they were somewhat nonplussed.

But at last I'd done it. I was back in Lukla and could rest at last.

Rather than stay at the Tara Lodge which was covered by my package deal, I checked in at the Sunny Gardens where Guy and Emma were staying. There I paid less than £10 for a lovely room with the most comfortable mattress I'd had in 2 weeks and a nice en suite bathroom with a shower with hot water AND an outlet so I could charge my phone and such AND an awesome dinner (I recommend the veggie burger and chips) for less than £10 altogether. I deffo endorse staying here.

So I got the room next to Guy and Emma and we stayed up late chatting and smoking until the moth bombardment became too much so we retired before they all annihilated themselves on our candle.

Just as well really because I had to be at Lukla Airport at 6am for my flight back to Kathmandu.

The loooong road to Namche

Another early start saw us leaving Pheriche for the long hike back to Namche via lunch at the Paradise Lodge in Deboche.

Along the way we began to pass yak trains of supplies headed up the valley in preparation for onset of the high season.

It was so nice to return below the tree line, back to true vegetation. Some places were so lovely that they looked like Arthur Rackham's work. I bored my guide with tales of dryads and naiads.

After a horrendous imitation of a pizza (with nak cheese of curse) at Deboche that I snuck to a stray dog, we were back on the trail. Next stop of note was the monastery at Tengboche where the monks were still in their meditation period. That was fine by me though as I had my eyes on the prize of getting back to Namche.

And it was such a terribly long way. Another 11 hour hiking day.

It took so long in fact that I came my closest to throwing a tantrum. I rounded a corner at one point, saw the next mountain that I woul have to climb, and slammed my walking sticks down before I took a breath and then carried on. More freaking yaks blocking the trail didn't help.

I also saw a Monal which is the national bird of Nepal.

We finally got to Namche around 5pm and I treated myself to a yak steak and a few beers before I crashed. I did manage to summon enough energy to do a spot of shopping though and haggled for a few yak wool shawls. I must not have haggled too well though as the shopkeeper threw in a pair of baby booties that I'd picked out for free and added in some packs of tissues. I can't have overpaid by too much though as they worked out to under £5 each so I'm not fussed.

Anyhoo, I went back to the hotel and called it a particularly early night after a huge beetle flew at me while I sat outside and smoked.

The morning after

So, after a very poor night of sleep (altitude/lack of oxygen is not conducive to a restful night) I was up with the sparrow's fart as usual and outside nicotine loading for the day. I was scheduled to go up Kal Patthar but when my guide got up I told him, "Look mate, I didn't ask to go up Kal Patthar and I don't want it. What I want is to go back to the land of hot baths and cold martinis.".

And so we headed back.

And back and back and back. I turned into a machine. Eleven or twelve hours a day, it didn't matter - I was getting the hell out of there. I was tired of being tired. Tired of yak shit everywhere. Tired of awful food and worse toilets.

I was thrilled to see the sign for the Italian Weather Observatory because it meant I was near Lobuche and a nice hot cup of tea. Near meaning another hour of hiking - these things are relative right?

And then it was on to Pheriche. So you see, what takes 3 days to do going up takes one going down. For one thing, you don't have to do an acclimatisation day every third day and for another you're so much stronger fromhiking for days and as you gradually descend the increased oxygen helps as well. But it's still a long day.

As I approached the dreaded Pumori Lodge in Pheriche, I was surprised to see 4 stray dogs mooching about. I could have sworn I'd seen those same dogs in Namche and, sure enough, there was a group from Loughborough University who had just arrived and the dogs had followed them. They were busy washing clothes in the stream so I just went into the lodge to collapse and order a hot shower.

AS they came in to drape their clothes on the backs of chairs by the fire (which had been lit. I guess the truculent staff felt that having more than one guest  justified a bit of heat), I was told that my shower was ready and handed my stack of clean clothes. The poor kids boggled - they'd had no idea it was possible to have ones laundry done. I explained that I'd ordered the shower and clean clothes on my way up and that, as far as I'm concerned, 80p per item of clean clothing was money well spent.

And with that I had a long, hot (if meagre) shower and re-emerged rosy and scrubbed and smelling sweet. Success!

It was lovely to have people to talk to and I stayed up late  (10pm!) playing cards and talking shit and sharing out hot chocolate.