Is Someone Trying To Tell Me Something……..?

I was going to entitle this post “Something freaked me out on the way to the bookstore”, but that wouldn’t have been quite correct, for reasons which will become apparent in a minute. The spooky/freaky part is true however…….

So what happened is that over the last few days my ‘reading materials’ have been arriving for my trip in October. On the ‘Trip Notes’ supplied to me by Exodus Travel, was a recommended reading list, and having looked at it, I couldn’t decide which of the books to buy. Now this may not surprise anyone who knows me, as I do sometimes suffer from almost complete paralysis when it comes to making what might appear the simplest of decisions. I think this is an inherent inbuilt defect of mine, or one of the many.

Take for example something like a restaurant menu, which can sometimes floor me just by itself, unless I have been to the restaurant before of course, in which case I will order what I ordered the last time I was there 99.9% of the time. I could stare at restaurant menus for ages, they are just very interesting things, and choosing is very hard. What generally happens with me is that I’ll narrow my choice down to maybe two things, or sometimes three, and then ask what the people I am with are having. If one of them is having (as they of course made their minds up very readily and certainly within a few minutes of looking at the menu) something that is on my ‘list’, then I have to dismiss everything from my list and start looking all over again. I am sure this is incredibly frustrating for everyone else, and maybe accounts for the fact that I don’t get invited out to restaurants very often.

The worst moments happen when a ‘surprise question’ is thrown at me by the person taking the order – waiters and the like, those sort of people. They can freeze me to the spot. I was in a pub the other day and narrowed down my lunch choice (from a list of about twenty items, and inside about four minutes, exceptional for me) to a Steak Sandwich with onions. I was very pleased with myself and about to turn around and go find a table, when the guy taking the order said to me “do you want that on white or brown or a baguette”. Oh heck – did he know who he was talking to? I had no idea, I mean none whatsoever! You see it wasn’t written down on the menu as such – it just said “steak sandwich with onions – £5.99”. Nice and easy see, I didn’t even have to choose ‘with or without onions’.

Now if it had said “available on brown or white bread or a baguette” I could have thought about it and chosen in advance. It would have taken a few more minutes, granted, but it wouldn’t have been too hard, even for me. Instead I am stood there like some sort of Mr. Bean lookalike, sort of half bending over and making strange facial expressions. All the while I am thinking “what if the baguette is a little on the hard side – then I will wish that I had chosen the white”, and then “but surely the brown is better for me”, and then “but brown just doesn’t taste as good does it?” and so on. I then say “ermmm, I don’t know”, which is a bit pathetic really isn’t it! I mean it is not after all the hardest decision in the world, is it? I drive myself nuts, I really do:D

Sometimes I get asked ridiculously hard questions, like when I choose some water, and I get asked “still or sparkling sir?”. Arrrrrrggghhhhhhh – I know I should be prepared for that one, but it floors me every time, it really does. Anyone reading this is probably thinking “Christ this guy is a nutter of major proportions and a nightmare to go for a meal with”. Everyone is thinking that apart from my daughter that is, who is a lot worse than me, I assure you. You have to be there sometimes, you really do, or maybe you don’t.

Anyway, as I was saying about the books, I got a list of nine books from Exodus, all about either Nepal treks or the Everest region. Some people would have chosen one or two. Some people may not have chosen any. I looked at the list and thought (no, I won’t tell you what I thought, it’ll take all night) ‘oh bugger, what do I do now?’. What I then did was to study the list more closely and found out that I already had two of them and was currently reading them both (as I couldn’t decide which one to read first – I have about twenty other books beside my bed for the same reason). So I thought, “I know, I’ll buy all of the remaining seven”, and so I did. Easy, see!

So here I am looking at the expanding pile of books coming into the house, and stacking them on my bedside table (I never, ever read in bed either, so why I do that I don’t know), when I realise eventually that I didn’t receive seven books but eight. And here is the point of the title of this post too: I should say here that within me, despite my absolutely apparent inability to do anything more than just to trek to base camp (and I hope I can achieve at least that), is a desire to climb the big one. I cannot think of anything more exulting or exciting, or difficult, or with as much sense of achievement next to it, even for people who climb mountains all their live, let alone me. In fact I am also, coincidentally (or actually not coincidentally at all) watching a few DVDs that I bought on climbing Everest too. Just out of ‘interest’ you understand….

So anyway, there amongst “Trekking in the Everest Region”, “Everest, A Mountaineering History” and “In the Footsteps of Tenzing Norgay”, and the others is a book that I did not, I can asssure you, buy. I know that because it is not on the list, so I wouldn’t have even known about it. And if I had I would have had to choose it from a list or something :). The title of the book? It is called “Die Trying”. I kid you not. The subtitle is “One Man’s Attempts to Conquer the World’s highest Seven Summits”.

I will read the book, eventually. I hope, for one, even if perhaps there are a few waiters and waitresses around these parts who think otherwise, that the ‘book’ has a happy ending……

I’ve only gone and booked it!

This is an extremely quick update, as well, I’m at work, and supposed to be doing other things. Except I’m not. I have just BOOKED IT!!

On the 19th October 2011, I shall be flying via Delhi to Kathmandu, and then on to Lukla for the start of the trip proper. Some time around the 31st October I will be at Everest Base Camp (I can’t believe I am actually writing this, I really can’t), and then around the 4th November I will (I pray!) be at 6,189m, or 20,300 feet on Island Peak. The trip is 22 days altogether.

I have so much to do, so much training to do, so many things to buy, so much blogging to do 😀

For now I will savour the moment (and get back to work, if I can concentrate at all, which is unlikely), of this:

Everest, here I come!!!

Jumars, Prussic Loops, and a Larks Foot

So I decided I should start to get myself up to speed with what equipment I would need the other day, and the recommendation came from the Jagged Globe guys (with whom I’ve booked my forthcoming Alpine Introductions course) that I should get myself a fixed line system and practice with it. I therefore thought I should best find out what the heck a fixed line system actually was, and it has opened up a whole new (and frankly terrifying) world. Welcome to jumars, prussic loops, HMS Seagate fasteners, cow’s tails, and the like!

It seems that a jumar is an ascending device, which acts like a one way ‘grabber’, so that it moves freely one way, but not at all in the other, thus enabling you to move up a fixed rope. I have no idea at all what a prussic loop is, or indeed what the difference is between a D-shape and an HMS carabiner, and that is despite going to buy them at the weekend (and in fact now owning them!).

It seems very odd, that having been fortunate enough to have spent a fair few occasions in my life trekking or otherwise in the mountains, I have never even come across these terms. I think I abseiled once as a kid, but as to knowing what equipment you actually need (other than rope that is :)) for it leaves me at a loss altogether.

So there I am in Cotswold Outdoors at the weekend, and I tell the guy that I have a (very well put together, with pictures for people like me :)) list of equipment to buy. Every question I asked however, was met with other ones that I didn’t understand. Phrases like ‘belaying’ , and ‘slings’ and ‘figures of eight’ would come up, and I just wondered if I really would be better off doing something much safer and easier to understand, with words and phrases in English too. Maybe like dominoes or something?

I mean, what is the difference between harnesses? They are surely all the same, aren’t they? And why do you need climbing trousers? And what is a B3 boot? Why might I want 9mm rope? Should I get the 8mm instead? Or the 10mm? How do I know? And what on earth is a Larks Foot knot? If I can’t tie my cow’s tail rope device thingy using one am I going to fall off the mountain? These things could, after all, be rather important, at the very least. I also at one point in time ended up in the shop suspended from the ceiling in a harness, and I thought I was going to spin upside down at one point, flying-trapeze like.

All of these things therefore leave me very uneasy. I desperately want to book my trip to the Himalayas, and would hate it if I missed out and they got booked up soon. But I also feel like I should wait until after my climbing course next month to help me shape my trip. I could book the less-technical (but higher) Mera Peak trip, but that would mean I wouldn’t get to see Everest Base Camp. If I do Island Peak then I get to go to EBC en route. And although everyone who has been tells me that EBC is very much an eyesore at the very best, you just have to go there, don’t you? I mean, every Everest Expedition there has ever been (at least as far as I know) has made the trek up to EBC, so you are following in the footsteps of Hillary, Bonnington, and all the greats. I can’t go to the Himalayas and not tick it off the list, I really can’t.

Anyway, for the record, I came out of Cotswold Outdoors (thanks to Nick in there, he was great) with a Petzl Corax harness, 2.5m of 8mm rope, an HMS carabiner, a D shape carabiner, a Petzl right-handed jumar, and a roll of duct tape. Maybe the duct tape is for my mouth to stifle my screams, who knows? All I have to do now is tie the damn things together, and then learn what do do with the bloody thing. Larks Foot knot instructions anyone?

‘Oh my giddy Aunt’, as they say……..

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………….

Watch this space…..

It has obviously been way too long since I have posted to my blog, and the main reason is that I haven’t really had much to say. All work and no play is definitely not good!

I am working on a little trip at the moment though, which may just involve a bike, and a mountain. Did anyone say Himalayas/Everest?

Watch this space……..:D