7 Days

Seven days ago at 2.3opm I was full of nerves being guided through, what seemed like a maze of corridors and swinging doors towards the operating theatre.

Rewind to 3rd August… as we walked around 8 Day Rain crags in Rocklands, South Africa I stepped off a small ledge of rocks (about 40cm high) my left kneed twisted. I stumbled a little and paused for a moment before catching up with the others. When we arrived at Trackside the realisation set in that I wasn’t going to climb that afternoon. My knee began to swell and become incredibly painful. Photo duty it was then.

Now after weeks of constant pain, appointments, MRI and unable to climb or train properly it was time for surgery.  The MRI showed “torn medial cartilage with an unstable flap of medial meniscus incarcerated between the medial tibia and medial collateral ligament”, add to that a bruised tibia. I wasn’t bouldering at the time which makes it even worse in a way I guess.

My reasons for going ahead with the surgery, other than to relieve the pain are simple. I do not wish to live a life that is less than the one I am capable of living!

I have had time for reflection over this past week and I often remember this quote from Nelson Mandela. It reminds me that if we have the opportunity to change a situation that we are not comfortable about or happy with, then go ahead, make that change. Since the surgery I have experienced plenty of discomfort due to the swelling but the pain has lessened significantly. I know that I have made the right decision, despite the weeks of rehab and frustration which lies ahead I am optimistic.

I have made other changes in my life recently which have freed up some valuable time. I feel that now, when I am home, the time is spent with family rather than being distracted by other tasks. I also have more time to engage with my passion for climbing, mountains and spending time outside which drives me to heal and be strong again soon.

Follow your passion!

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Active Rest Day :)

Location: Loch Lomond

Style: Kayaking

An overcast Sunday afternoon made for perfect kayaking conditions close to the shores of Loch Lomond. Launch location was Luss which had plenty of tourists but managed to not fall on my arse or do a face plant into the boat!

I still have an irrational fear of drowning even though I am a strong swimmer and there was only a gentle wind on the water.  We stayed close to the shore line and paddled for 2 hours.

Evening walk of 2km in total to our local for dinner, steep hill included.

Express Boulder Session

 

Express session before work today, only 1 hour by the time arrived so not as long as I had originally planned but still better than sitting doing naff all. Felt good even if my skin is now a little bit red and tender.  All but 2 problems done on the circuit and finished off with 5 mins on/off on the 45 board.

Where has this past year gone…?

Wow! Looking at my last post which was over a year ago almost 2 months before I left for Greenland. I remember being swamped with the final batch of uni assignments at the end of my 3rd year and getting into final preparations for the expedition.
With the lack of posts after the last one it is quite clear that my focus was not on personal reflection but rather just trying to get everything done.
Over the coming weeks I will be looking back on my time in Greenland, reading through diary entries and and sifting through photos and film footage.  From this I will post up thoughts, diary extracts and photos.  I am already feeling psyched for another trip but have no clue as to where that will be just yet. Plenty of climbing to do this summer after recently completing my SPA training.  Just thinking about all this climbing I am getting super psyched and can feel the exped bug rising closer to the surface once again…! 🙂

Overdue Routes Session

Always a good way to spend a Friday night… climbing!  Overdue a session after last climbing exactly one week ago.  Was another positive session, not a huge amount in terms of volume but felt good. Didn’t get scared and took 3 falls on routes rather than shouting for my usual take.  This has me feeling like there is some progress. Further up the orange 6b on the justice wall too 🙂  Loving Jess’s black 6b on the comp wall too, now all I need to do is send it.

Looking forward I need to start trying harder stuff with smaller holds too just to add some finger strength work to the mix. Calum’s green 6c will help this too, and even better when the other auto belays make the return to the arena so I can get back on the harder routes here too.  Fingers aren’t feeling strong enough for the V5’s on the boulders yet. Feels like so long ago that I was making attempts on these but in reality it was only 6 months ago.  Time to shed the kg’s and crank harder.

Team time…

So over the past couple of months people have come and gone and it’s all been just a little bit stressful to say the least. It has been said that my approach is somewhat unorthodox in finding team members; I would say there is nothing orthodox about this expedition!

When people mention this particular aspect my thoughts often stray…  Shakleton advertised in the paper when looking for an expedition team with no guarantee of success or even coming back alive. This was in a time when the uncertainties far outweighed anything else, it would appear that now with knowledge being far more accessible these uncertainties are reduced but the challenge is still substantial. We are going to Fox Jaw to establish new routes on big walls, this is not something to be approached with complacency.  We have researched and planned meticulously and able to chat face to face with team members who are abroad or living in a different city.  Mallory faced challenges which are, in our time almost incomprehensible; yet he continued on his quest with criticism from peers and support from others; this I can relate to.

So our team did meet up the weekend after Easter minus Pat Ingram who was off-shore working, with Sion now back at his job abroad we are once again all dispersed to our little corners of the world.  Robert and I see each other regularly, always with more questions for each other and even more things to talk about. I will say this about the team, though we have not all met each other at the same time in the same place there is a common drive among us all and the emails flying around daily is a constant reminder of why we have all been brought together.  To feed our hungry climbing appetites… seriously all these guys talk about is food!

Joking aside a team that communicates so well and is inclusive is an amazing feeling to be part of and we are all so psyched right now with only 8 weeks till depature… yikes! Anyway with poor weather we climbed at EICA for the day and had a great time climbing and getting to know each as a team. Simon not letting me take was the extra push I needed that afternoon, I sent the route 🙂 along with self pep talk overheard by Sion (admit it I’m not the only climber to talk to myself on a route).

It’s the little things that bond a team to create a lifetime of friendships through memories and experiences which are shared. Achievements no matter how big or small are crucial; when it comes down to the 17th pitch and still 3 more to go and then getting back down safely when you are exhausted; it’s your team mates, your friends who are there by your side…

The journey, the experience, the memories…

 

Catching up…

I always tell myself I’ll keep up-to-date with my blogs but life it would seem just keeps getting faster and faster… do you ever get that feeling? I know I and others say it all the time and we keep saying it year after year.

A couple of weeks ago, well actually three now I decided it was time slow down the pace just a little and appreciate… life!   I met up with team mate for Greenland, Pat Ingram and spent Tuesday afternoon climbing at Dunkeld, the weather was perfect with only a couple of other people at the crag.  A chilled afternoon starting with a cup of tea in what has now been dubbed as ‘Greenland training headquarters’ 🙂 for the next few weeks before our departure.  Climbing until the light dimmed at 8 pm we headed to the van for some well earned dinner and chat.

A wild camp near by with a hooting owl in the forest to keep me company was a welcome change to the sound of traffic and people coming home late from nights out. The next morning a cup tea at my tent door to welcome a new day, followed by a breakfast and we were ready to hit the crag once again. Some interesting climbing and on the second day and plenty of learning for me with every new situation I encounter.  It feels good to be part of a strong team with climbers who fully understand what Wall to Wall is about.  Having the same goal in sight that we are all working towards; new routing is exciting and scary both at the same time.  There is no way of knowing what we will find, sure we have researched and read about Fox Jaw Cirque and taken a look at photos along with previous reports but with so much to go at there it is and enchanting yet daunting challenge for us all; one which we will undoubtably relish.

Seconding a route that Pat had lead.
Seconding a route that Pat had lead.

So another day of climbing done and it was home for a night before heading south to The Lake District. I am constantly drawn back here like a magnetic pull that I have no explanation for. I first visited many years ago before my son was born and have always loved the atmosphere, while the Scottish Highlands provide wonderment; The Lakes are more of a comfort feeling that wraps around you like your favourite blanket.

A sunset walk up to a wild camp was just what I was looking for. Once the tent pitched it was time to listen to the wind for a while before drifting off into a slumber. I woke the next morning to the most serene sunrise as it enveloped my tent on top of the hill.

After a little breakfast I retreated back to my car and offloaded my pack before a casual wonder around Grasmere.  A night at the campsite to refresh with a hot shower and another good nights sleep. I decided to head up to Skiddaw for a hike on Easter Sunday to stretch the legs once again and work on the fitness in preparation for Greenland; a bit blustery to say the least.

Back home for a comfy bed feeling refreshed and ready for the sprint finish of assignments and deadlines at uni. A sublime week split between my adopted home that is Scotland and a place that brings great comfort The Lakes. I am grateful and fortuitous for the life that I live.

Choose your path...
Choose your path…

 

 

Planning…

So the team meeting I posted about the last time didn’t exactly go to plan and due to various personal circumstances the team has now changed around a bit and been added too. Sometimes a change of circumstances helps to clarify and move things forward for the better. We now have two new climbers Matt Rust and Pat Ingram both bringing to the team extensive trad mileage and climbing experience. We will also confirm another team member/s before Easter so things are certainly looking up with the departure date drawing ever closer. With all these changes the team is looking stronger than ever and with Craig’s exciting exploration and scientific research toys coming on the trip it will be an exciting time in the Trillingerne this summer

This has not all been easy sailing, waves have hit and subsided like a tide ebbing and flowing but expeditions should never be easy, smooth sailing breeds complacency. Best not to forget to place the food order, don’t want tetchy boys in base camp…

Every day seems to bring another supporter of the expedition either through social media or by chatting to more people about the expedition. Yep, for a while I did find it hard to put myself out there not having lead an expedition before, it was all new territory to me. With the help and support of good friends it has become easier and feeling confident about the strong team and our departure in early July. Will need to get the camera out again and get some of you to be part of the journey too, look out there might be a lens about but that’s no reason to be shy.

The training has stepped up a notch with knot practice in the evenings when the weather is not so kind and strength and stamina are on the up too, it has been a slower process than anticipated. Shortly moving into the final 12 weeks of the training plan it is all getting scary and exciting at the same time.

To balance out the physical training I am in the process of hatching a plan to involve some local school children which from the beginning has been important to me – inspiring others through my own aspirations and ambition. Lets see if I have the same affect on a few adults too… Challenge yourself everyday and don’t become idle waiting for life to come and take you by the hand.

#psyched

 

#psyched

top of little chamonix

We all use it and it does say alot about how ‘moutain folk’ feel most of the time. We get excited about stuff and we just can’t express sometimes in words or the feeling is so overwhelming and this is how it comes out. We are no more, no less, simply #psyched. Need we say an more?

So if you look up the definition it says this:

psych
sʌɪk/
verb
past tense: psyched; past participle: psyched
  1. 1.
    informal
    mentally prepare (someone) for a testing task or occasion.
    “we had to psych ourselves up for the race”
    synonyms: nerve oneself, steel oneself, summon/gather/screw up one’s courage, prepare, prepare oneself, gear oneself up, arm oneself, brace oneself, get ready, urge oneself on, gird (up) one’s loins, get in the mood, get in the right frame of mind More

    “we had to psych ourselves up for the race”
    • excited and full of anticipation.
      “we’ve told him you were coming—he’s really psyched”
  2. 2.
    analyse (something) in psychological terms.
    “mother had it all psyched out in three minutes”
    My English is not the best but this by definition if we are psyched then we’ve already done it, it’s in the past… hang on just a minute! Climbers are always saying they’re psyched to do get on there project. Maybe we just need to get our #psych on and go and send it!

Thoughts and Frustrations…

So the past couple of weeks have certainly thrown up some challenges for me. In the big scheme of things they’re just little things really and I know friends and family who are right now going through some pretty tough times. I think by no means one persons challenges are harder or less important than the next, it is all relative and soon enough situations change, sometimes for the better and sometimes not.

I have spent many hours working on various projects recently and it has pushed me to my limits mentally. I am grateful to have the support and help of such good friends and the respect of my lecturers who pass on useful advice and give a lecture on something appropriate just when I need it to motivate me and give me fresh ideas. I have called on favours this week in order to make things happen which I’m sure will be paid back in pints soon enough.

Of course the question has been asked why are small things which seem to others so insignificant so important to me. Well I am not doing this expedition just to satisfy my own selfish wanting in life. I hope that in my own personal process of planning and going on this expedition that I can inspire at least one person to get out there and push it to limits. They may not think they have the confidence to go out and do it right now but one day I hope that person will look inside and decide – “this is my moment and I’m going to get out there and soak it up”. To inspire people they need to know my story; an average indoor climber planning and leading an expedition to climb big walls in East Greenland. It can be done!