I have been contemplating when to start writing my Everest diary but I guess there is no real beginning to an expedition as, mentally, it starts the day you decide that you are actually going to do it. I had been thinking about climbing the Big E for a few years but I never thought that I would actually pluck up the courage to do it. However, considering my job with Miss Hawley and the fact that I regularly stomp around at high altitude makes this decision probably quite obvious. So, my expedition started some time in November last year, when I told Russell that I would definitely be on his team.
Many people wonder how I train for such an undertaking. Well, I am sure there are many different ways of training and I don’t think there is a perfect approach. For me, going to Everest hasn’t actually changed much in my personal exercise regime. My friends know me as exercise freak and they worry when I don’t go running, biking or swimming as they are concerned that I would be grumpy for the rest of the day. For this reason I hardly let a day go by without training (and if I do, my surroundings just have to put up with me being grumpy for a day).
My exercise regime involves running for about 10km to 15km per day, biking whenever I have a beautiful destination and a riding mate, and swimming, whenever there is a pool, a lake or the sea in the vicinity. However, since I decided that I am going to Everest I have changed my running regime and I am doing more hill runs, which is rather exhausting but I suppose has to be done. However, I believe that climbing an 8,000m peak does not only require physical endurance but also a lot of mental strength. I see many mountaineers, who take their physical preparation to the extremes, however, they are not really prepared for the mental challenge of such an expedition. Sitting at Base Camp, waiting for the weather window and acclimatising can be lonely, boring and tough, especially for climbers, who have families at home. I suppose the tricky question is how to mentally prepare for such a big climb and unfortunately I don’t have the answer to this – I guess it just comes with experience!
I have also just had the amazing opportunity to spend four weeks with my friend Chrissie Wellington – the current Ironman World Champion – in Argentina. Chrissie and I met in Kathmandu when I first moved here in 2004, and we used to train together (not that I was ever able to keep up with her), and in 2005 we biked from Lhasa to Kathmandu with a bunch of friends. Spending some time with her in Mendoza was fantastic as she put me on a proper training programme, which I needed, and it is not often that one gets the chance to train with a World Champion! Of course, it was also frustrating as I felt like a grandmother next to her but it also made me realise that I can run up and down a hill ten times in a row and increase my speed.
Anyway, I don’t want to make this first entry too long as this is just supposed to tell you that I am back in Kathmandu and apart from training for Everest I have started this year’s expedition work for Miss Hawley by ringing up trekking agencies to find out who is coming to town to tackle an expedition peak this season. Once the expeditions arrive in Kathmandu I will be busy interviewing them about their respective climbs before I head off to the Khumbu to join Russell’s team!