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THE CHALLENGES OF EVEREST
Where are you from? Where do you currently live and what is your profession?

I’m British, from Kent, although I was raised in Germany mostly as my father was in the Royal Signals in the Army. I currently live in Singapore where I’ve been for nine years, and I am a headhunter / recruiter working for myself in the technology sector.

Were you an athlete growing up? Did you spend much time in the outdoors as a child?

I was very sporty as a child, mostly playing rugby. I always loved being outside but more in competitive teams sports than individual ones.

What sports have you done to date?

Wow! Everything - I love trying new sports but I particularly like ones that require team elements so rugby was a big one. I’ve actually hated long distance running all my life as I’m more of a sprinter and power-type person in athletics, but I am a very fast runner.

I like water sports, scuba diving, windsurfing…also skiing and snowboarding, in particular.

I did my freefall parachute jumping but most of my time is in the gym lifting weights, so I have had to really transition my mind and body to a more endurance-sport mentality to do mountains.

What is your favourite sport?

I love to watch international rugby and I love being in the gym. Ironically, I hate running but I’ve had to convince myself I love it lol!

When did you get the idea to climb Mt Everest and what other mountains have you climbed?

Long story short – when the idea came to me I was in a very dark period in my life. My father had died, my relationship had ended and my business was close to near bankruptcy (along with some other life challenges), all in the space of a few months. I knew I needed something big to keep me going and it came to me like being assigned a mission.

I was broke and had never climbed a mountain, but it was given to me to help me out of a very low place - where else to go but the highest place? And at the same time, maybe, I can inspire some others that when all is lost...there is more to do. If I can get through this, anyone can! From there, I started with Ama Dablam (eastern Nepal in the Himalayas) in August 2017 though I failed summit due to an ankle injury. After that, I successfully summited Manaslu on 29 September 2018.

What does is cost to climb Everest (permits, flights, gear)?

So, my cost is circa US$40K. I do know there are decent operators from US$35K through to US$70K. Flights are relatively cheap, maybe US$650 all in, but the gear…

You can spend a lot, but US$5K would get you up the mountain. I feel you should spend good money on a down suit, sleeping bag and boots (I use Scarpa 8000 which are amazing).

As I understand it, it’s about US$11K for the permit and the other big expense is oxygen which costs thousands of dollars, mainly because of getting it up to the mountain.

The other big expense is insurance that includes helicopter rescue. There are very few companies that insure above 6000M so this can be an additional four or five thousand dollars.

What team have you put together to climb with you?

I am going with Jamling Bhote at Everquestexpeditions.com. He’s awesome and I’ve done all my trips with him. He’s summited Everest about seven times (!) and K2 twice, and many, many others - the guy is a legend amongst Sherpa. 

With me will be Anand Bala, a Singaporean who is a director of public prosecution here. He was the first Singaporean to summit Manaslu which he did with me. He’s done many climbs, always with a goal to do Everest in mind.

Anand and I are both self funding – we are not being sponsored for the climb.

I believe we are meeting two other guys on our team, a Belgian and a Nepali, neither of whom I know.

Why did you decide to climb the Nepalese route versus the Chinese route?

Great question, the answer to which is…much debate. But it was a combination of wanting to follow Tensing and Edmund, and speaking with other successful summiters who said to do the south side as it’s a better climbing and overall experience.

Basically, it’s the side we all felt we wanted to do and, in many ways, the support is better, helicopters, experience of Sherpa etc.

What is your schedule when in Nepal?

I’ll have a couple of days in Kathmandu for a gear check and last minute gear shopping before heading to Lukla. From there, it’s a day’s walk to Namche.

I am going a week early so I can hang out in Namche to ease the acclimatisation process in a relatively comfortable place with comfortable beds, hot showers etc., and wait for the other team members. I’ll be arriving at the end March and then heading to Everest Base Camp at the beginning of April.

How have you prepared to climb?

A mix really. I decided only two months before to actually go, for mainly financial reasons.

So my training has been a bit ad hoc but essentially it is a mix of running 10 to 15K once a week and stair training. In Singapore, it’s very hot and there are no hills so I do a lot of stair training which involves walking up 30-35 flights of stairs (with a 15kg pack), taking the lift back down, and then repeating. I do 2-3 hour sessions of stair training at least twice a week.

I also do a 3-5 hour jungle trek at the weekends, and then some strength training several times a week, mainly focusing on body weight meaning lots of pull downs and pull ups. The body weight stuff is because I have had to lose a lot of muscle since it burns oxygen too much, and keep strong but lean.

Mentally, I’m trying to train the mind out of boredom and to “keep going”.

With a few weeks to go I’ll ease up a little, going down to two-hour workouts with a couple of long pack walks.

Hope it works lol!

What food will you be taking and how does this compare to what you have taken on previous climbs?

So the main things are comfort foods which you want when you lose your appetite or need to eat. I lost 11kg in 6 weeks doing Manaslu due to a combination of having the runs a lot (too much info?), losing my appetite, and the food I had being tasteless and bland after a while. So meal bars, Snickers, dried fruit, anything with lots of calories. 

To be honest, health (in my view) goes out of the window. It’s all about calories and keeping weight on so that your body can burn the fat stores when you aren’t eating enough calories. Going too lean can exhaust you. I made that mistake on Manaslu and I struggled. In fact, one of the reasons I reached out to Expedition Foods was that at camps 3 and 4 my friend Anand had your packs. I couldn’t eat the food the Sherpa gave us - it was bland and low in calories...I just felt like throwing up trying to force it down. Even though I knew I was weak from not eating enough, I just couldn’t get it down.

Anand gave me some of your meal packs and they were just what I needed; I ate them straight down. That’s no BS - without them I might not have summitted. On Everest, I hear the food is better. Manaslu is remote so it’s more difficult to get good food there.

Are you climbing for a cause?

Due to me being partially sighted, I hope to bring awareness to Orbis, the charity that helps cure blindness in developing countries. There are conditions which cause sight loss which the developed world can fix at a low cost and we take for granted. I am actually doing a call-in to the Orbis annual gala with their sponsors on 28 March from the mountains to thank the sponsors for helping people in the world who suffer from blindness which is curable (80% of blindness is curable).

What advice would you give someone who has dreamed of climbing Everest?

Do it! Ignore the naysayers. It’s a life changing journey. Even without the summit, the joy of walking down the road knowing you are joining an exclusive club and the only thing separating you from anyone else is a choice, a decision and some hard work. The journey is the destination. You get one life - act, do and enjoy. You can’t take your money with you.

I have lost family, money, relationships, my health and my eyesight, and it all happens without warning and it can happen any time. The summit of Everest can never be lost.

If not Everest, choose something that challenges you, choose something you feel today you cannot do, that’s for extraordinary people, and do it anyway to prove to yourself you are extraordinary just because you choose to be.

What will you do when you make it to the top of Everest?

Haha, still working on that! I’d like to record some sage words but I have the feeling I will sob like a baby...

What frightens you most about climbing Everest?

Not climbing Everest. I am lucky, I don’t have any physical fears. My biggest fear is not being successful and looking back and feeling I didn’t give it everything.

When you return from Everest do you have any other goals?

Yes, I want to redirect my career into coaching, encouraging others to live their lives today. Act, do and start. Don’t settle for average and do not give up on your dreams. Everyone said to me when I started this journey that it wouldn’t happen. I was broke, no experience, my mind and fitness weren’t right and yet, just deciding to do this and just not giving up, not accepting no, here I am today...I believe I am lucky, blessed and fortunate but I also believe it’s because I made the decision.

I want to bring that message to young and old; it’s never too late and don’t fall into the societal trap of getting a job, doing what you hate for 40 years, waiting until retirement and then realising it was a waste.

The world and life are gifts, if you make it so.