A little climbing in Switzerland anyone?

Well what would you say to that? In June, with ice-axes, and crampons on glaciers, and scaling big peaks of 14,000 feet with ropes and harnesses and stuff? I’d say you’re mad, if you asked me to do it. Completely barking in fact. So why the heck have I just paid over £1,000 to do exactly that? Let me unwind a bit here……

OK, so three days ago (or was it two?). I think I decided that I wanted to go to Everest Base Camp. In fact I did decide just that. But then I decided that just getting to EBC wasn’t going to be enough, and so I had to ‘throw another mountain in there somewhere’, as you do:) That’s what got me to thinking of either Island Peak, or Mera Peak (see last blog post for details). And I got to those two because of all the trekking companies that I have googled, those two trips just appeal the most. Both are higher than Kili, both get me views of the highest mountains on the planet, and both let me climb to a summit. I get that incredible, outstanding rush of adrenalin, achievement, satisfaction, happiness, that getting to the top of a mountain gives you, or gives me at any rate.

I have looked at four different companies to get me there, and all seem great. They are, in no particular order; Safejourneys, Jagged Globe, Exodus, and Responsible Travel. Each has a tweak or a twist to this and that, but pretty much any of them will get me to where (I think) I want to go, and at the time I want to do it, which is in the next available weather window (i.e when the monsoon passes) which is October/November time this year. I have emailed or spoken to each, and they have been very responsive and helpful. In each case one thing is apparent – Island Peak is not for the novice. It is classified as PD+ in mountaineering parlance, and needs the use of jumars, abseil devices, ice axes and crampons. These are beyond me altogether right now. Not wanting to be beaten however, I thought therefore that I would ask if there was a way that I could take a crash course or something like that. And lo and behold there is…..

Which brings me back to Switzerland. I was told by one of the aforementioned companies (in fact it was Jagged Globe, they have been great), that if I was to take their Alpine Introduction course in Switzerland, that they would let me go and climb Island Peak with them. And before you get cynical here, and think “they’re just trying to make extra money out of people”, actually that’s not the way it happened, so I should explain that differently. I, in fact, asked all the questions here, and asked their permission, as opposed to the other way round.

In any case, the course in Switzerland looks great. I get to learn, and that is great for me. I love to be educated – that is a great thrill in itself. When googling various things about Everest the other day (I have turned into a sad geek here already I know) I came across this great quote from Sherpa Tenzing (as in the Sherpa Tenzing, the first man up Everest in 1953 with Edmund Hillary), which goes like this: “To travel, to experience and learn, that is to live….“. I love that, I really do. So the course itself covers things as follows, amongst others:

– Glacier travel.
– Crevasse rescue.
– Route finding and navigation.
– Roping-up and short roping techniques.
– Appropriate ice axe and crampon technique.
– Movement on Alpine terrain (rock, snow and ice).
– Belaying and protection.
– Mountaineering on routes graded Alpine F to PD.

I get to climb a few 4,000m peaks along the way apparently (sounds easier said than done of you ask me), and in 8 days I hope to learn a lot. They have also said that if I want to ‘take my fixed-line equipment with me’ (oh yeah, I’ll just grab it out of my drawer I said) then they will teach me those techniques whilst there too. You see, they don’t do fixed line stuff in the Alps, apparently. My God I have so much to learn, and so much to buy!

So anyway, the point of this is that I am booked! 18th of June it is, off to Arolla in Switzerland. Exciting, it is 🙂 I should get all of the details in the mail tomorrow.

Meantime I have a 60 mile bike ride coming up in four days time to distract me, which I am really looking forward to. It is my first ever ‘Sportive’, and I want to go and raise a few quid for Breast Cancer, which is the main charity for the ride, which is ‘The Classic Oxfordshire’. It’s all go, it really is………….

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