After the Challenge
22nd August 2012 // Hey guys, I have been a bit quiet since Denali as I have not been feeling too good. As well as taking time to recover from the expedition, the last 2 years have finally caught up with me and I have not been able to escape the fact that I have needed to recharge physically, mentally and emotionally.
Most people would normally take months to recover from any one of the 9 legs of the challenge and since completing the world first in July last year my schedule has been non stop with the other part of the 737 Challenge which is the fundraising, appearance and media work. I have only had a few days off and I have been pretty much in denial about how long I’ve been able to maintain the schedule, eventually it caught up with me!
In no way am I wanting to sound like I am moaning, I am incredibly grateful for all the experiences over the last 2 years and would go through every second again in a heartbeat, I have loved the journey, and now I am just taking some time to recharge and reflect on the last couple of the years. Writing my book has been really helpful and cathartic actually and it’s kept me pretty busy. With planning fully underway for “Project X” in 2013/2014 I am really looking forward to the final stages of tests and development later in the year on my solo expedition skiing from Hercules Inlet to the Geographic South Pole in Antarctica. It’s vital for the success and safety of the project that I get fit and strong again soon, for that reason, sadly I have had to pull out of leading the 737 Challenge Kilimanjaro Fundraising trek with Jagged Globe in September.
On a more positive note, I have just broken the news to the lucky winner of our Audi A1 competition, kindly donated by Mon Motors Audi. She was pretty surprised and excited and we’ll be announcing the winner soon, so I guess if you are reading and you haven’t had a call from me then you’re not the winner, sorry!! I’d like to say thank you so much to the Mon Motors Group and everyone who entered helping me raise further funds in aid of Marie Curie Cancer Care. Your support, as always has been overwhelming and amazing.
I’ve also been writing a food test article with my Denali climbing partner Nikki Skinner for next month’s edition of Trek & Mountain magazine. We did a dehydrated meals test on Denali, it was good having to write notes, it kept me and Nikki occupied stuck at 5,200m in a typical Alaskan storm, although I wasn’t saying that when the pen froze!
There’s plenty happening over here, as always, and hopefully soon I’ll be able to announce some new ambassadorial roles/sponsorships, a new schools program initiative, my new website and the sale of my 737 Challenge BBC Wales documentary to international and national networks, plus lots more!
I’ve started easing myself back into training after 8 weeks of forced rest! I’m a rubbish patient and although I feel much better for the recovery, it’s been tough being disciplined not to train. Especially during all the inspirational and awesome performances from the GB athletes during the Olympics. My favorites were the Brownlee brothers in the Triathlon, Bradley Wiggins in the TT, Mo Farah in his double, Lizzie Armitstead in the Cycling Road Race (having only started 4 years ago!), Nicola Adams in the Flyweight Boxing, Andrew Osagie’s amazing run behind the incredible David Rudisha in the 800m final and Wales’ Jade Jones in the Taekwondo. Although it was awesome watching everyone from the volunteers to the athletes, as they did Great Briton proud. I’ve always been proud to be Welsh and British, but our Olympics surpassed my expectations. I’m amped for the Paralympics now. #superhumans
I could ramble on, you know me guys! But I’ve got to prep for a speaking event in Scotland before I leave for my hols in Sicily on Sunday. I can’t wait! It started off as chillaxing holiday but has evolved into a cycling adventure around the island! Ooops! Panniers included! Well...I’ll still enjoy the beach too!
Thank you guys. Your support and faith throughout the last 2 years has been key to me, keeping me going during the dark times and it’s been very much together that we have supported the Marie Curie Cancer Care Charity. You guys rock. This is the just beginning of our journey together...Antarctica again soon.
Until then, safe travels and adventures.
19th June 2012 // Hi Guys, sorry for the Twilence I have been catching up on sleep and spent all last night travelling and I am now in Boulder in Colorado now.
My last proper update on Denali was from Camp 14 at 4,200m so here’s what happened next…
We had been there a day or 2, weather was really poor above us and it looked like a low-pressure system was approaching which meant yet more bad weather.
We ended up spending 5 days stuck at Camp 14 with mixed conditions, which were pretty challenging. We had some rare good moments but mostly we spent the 5 days waiting for the bad weather to clear. You could see Camp 17 (high camp) and part of the summit above us and the weather looked terrible. We had reports down that people were having a bad time up there.
The low pressure was due to stay so we were sitting it out, we had a lot of snowfall at Camp 14 which meant a lot of slopes were prone to avalanches – there was a lot of minor avalanche activity at Camp 14 but towards the end of our stay at Camp 14 the weather forecasts suggested that there would be a small weather window on Tuesday (12th) that they were calling “Magic Tuesday” where there would be an improvement, nevertheless the conditions were still challenging and marginal.
Even if there was a weather window we knew the climb was going to be challenging just to get to Camp 17. The climb from Camp 14 to Camp 17 is one of the toughest parts of the climb as you are carrying a full load. The steepest part of the climb - which is called the Headwall is around 600 metres of vertical climb just to get to the top of the Headwall, then when you get to the top of that you have Washburn’s Ridge which is one of the most exposed parts of the climb, especially in poor visibility, high winds and with heavy packs on our backs.
On the Sunday before the “Magic Tuesday” no other teams were moving up to Camp 17 (Camp 17, also known as High Camp is called Camp 17 not because there are 17 Camps but because it is at 17,000ft) because of the conditions, but we were feeling acclimatised, strong and confident and had been moving well as a team. That Sunday (the 10th) we were the only team to move to Camp 17 (High Camp) in pretty poor conditions but we made a safe and informed decision to put ourselves in the best position to capitalise on the “Magic Tuesday” weather window which everyone was talking about to be in the best position to attempt to summit.
That day turned in to a tough day. It was around a 9 hour climb and as we got close to High Camp the visibility was total whiteout which made navigating the ridge challenging and we arrived at High Camp whilst it was snowing with high winds and still had to put the tent up and build snow walls to protect us from the weather. It was cold too, considerably colder than Camp 14, probably around minus 20 I guess.
On the Monday the weather cleared a little, it was still cold, windy and grim – Camp 17 (5,300m/17,388ft) is really baron, and there were only 3 or 4 tents around us. Most people had already come down from Camp 17 abandoning their summit attempt but a few had stayed. We took the day to rest, eat and were in good spirits and just as the weather started to break we went to bed a little beaten up, but very positive and feeling like we had a lot left in the tank to attempt the summit. We knew we might have to break trail because of the snowfall etc but were really confident…but then we woke up on Tuesday morning and it was horrific…
We had over a metre of snowfall in 24 hours at 5,300m, it was very cold, all our sleeping bags were iced up, inside the tent was half a foot of snow and it was by far the worst day with really challenging conditions. We spent most of the morning digging ourselves out of the tent. We knew then that this weather window was not going to happen and we weren’t going to get the opportunity to summit.
The forecast had completely changed and there was reports of another bad weather system coming in, gusts up to 80mph, more snow, and even colder for the next week.
Conditions were bad even below us, we could see that Washburn’s Ridge below was a total white out and high winds meant we couldn’t go up and attempt to summit but we also couldn’t go down either, which was physically and mentally challenging for us.
With all the information on the table, we tried to take advantage of a small break in the weather on Tuesday evening. We packed up camp really quickly and tried to get down to Camp 14 but we got to the top of Washburn’s Ridge - we had high winds, it was snowing, absolutely no visibility, so we turned back as it wasn’t safe to climb down the ridge, so we climbed back up to where we had been camping and had to rebuild snow walls and set up camp all over again.
We woke up Wednesday, conditions had improved to a point but the mountain felt sketchy and unsafe. Conditions were changing quickly and severely and weather reports were not accurate making decision making difficult, so we made the decision on Wednesday to get off the mountain as quickly as we could. We had a long, exhausting 25-hour down climb all the way to base camp to get on to the glacier to get a flight off as quickly as possible.
We left at lunchtime at high camp and went throughout the night, as we knew the mountain would be more stable at night. On our way down to Camp 14 we had learned that the day before on the Tuesday a team that were climbing down to Camp 14 the same day as us hadn’t decided to turn back like we did, they continued to climb down the same day, they got caught in an avalanche on the Headwall that we might have got caught in. We passed the remnants of their accident, their rucksacks strewn underneath the Headwall. We also learned that every major slope had avalanched in the last 24 hours. We were getting extra information at Camp 14 as we had been quite isolated at Camp 17, this reaffirmed our decision to try and get off the mountain quickly and safely.
After the 25-hour down climb we flew off the glacier finally on Thursday morning.
On Friday we learned of the news that 4 out of a team of 5 Japanese climbers had sadly died in an avalanche. We were back in Anchorage when we heard the news. The avalanche happened on a slope on Motorcycle Hill, which we had climbed literally to the hour 24 hours before they were on it.
When we were down climbing through it we were climbing down through thigh deep snow.
My overall feeling of the trip it that it was a really challenging one. All things considered I am really grateful and happy to be safely in Boulder now. Of course mountains are extreme environments and are inherently dangerous places in which to try and perform in, never the less, it’s really sad and tragic when fatalities happen on mountains…. it’s a tough place to earn a living.
Overall Nikki (my climbing partner for this expedition) and I had a fantastic and really productive expedition. It was a really important research and development trip to prepare for my next project. I was testing an MSR tent and some new clothing I have designed with Rab and was also testing different dehydrated food products from different companies for my next project. My tent and Rab gear performed amazingly and the expedition has given me a lot of confidence moving forward…..Remember guys it doesn’t have to be fun to be fun!
So now I have arrived in Boulder, Colorado this morning (It’s boiling hot!) I am spending the next few days with the Rab USA guys and tomorrow night I am talking at one of America’s biggest retailers called Neptune in Boulder, talking for Rab as a Rab Ambassador. I am really grateful to Neptune and Rab USA for helping me raise further funds in aid of Marie Curie Cancer Care as well. My climbing partner Nikki has to put up with me for a few more days yet! Nikki is the Marketing Manager for Rab but an awesome climber and friend. We have spent 24 hours together in a tent for 16 days – the equivalent to 7 years of marriage we reckon! Ha! and we are still talking and mates!
I hear the weather has not been that great back home so I’ll try and bring the Colorado sunshine back with me.
Speak soon guys, sorry the update took so long but it’s been an epic week! Thanks for all your messages on Twitter and Facebook. I am going to try and reply to lots of them over the next few days when I can. Will tweet some photos from on Denali and then they will all be up on 737challenge.com when I return. Rich.
15th June 2012 // Hi guys really sorry for the silence, I broke my sat phone, snapped the antenna so was unable to contact from the mountain since Saturday. I am back in Talkeetna after an epic 4 days stuck at high camp (17 camp) unable to go up or down the mountain because of the bad weather. We eventually managed to get off the mountain and had a 24-hour down climb. Haven’t slept properly in 4 days.
It’s been horrific, some of the worst conditions I have endured, -35c, 70mph winds, 1 metre of snow in 24 hours which caused many avalanches.
Lots to update you on but will write more tomorrow. We are safe and well. Rich.
9th June 2012 // Temperature has risen and with up to 100cm of snow forecasted, avalanche risk is high. There are so many going off around camp its unnerving! The snow is wet and heavy. We are considering moving our tent today. Forecast is same for the next 3 – 5 days. 50mph winds at 17 Camp.
8th June 2012 // Update for the 7th: Low pressure system set to hang around for a while. Looks like we’ll be using all our time to wait for a summit window. We snatched a clear window to carry gear to 5000m top of headwall. So we are ready to move to high camp and summit when it breaks. It is grim above us, in fact it’s grim here today. Snow and lots of avalanches around camp. It is a waiting and decision making game now. We are were good and ready and my MSR tent is strong.
7th June 2012 // Update for yesterday 6th. Been hauled up in our tent since Tuesday. Poor visibility, high winds above us, temperatures down to minus 25 here. Today we had a clear window and we collected our cache at 4100m. Low pressure set to stay through the weekend. We are good and waiting ready for a window to carry to top of headwall at 5000m. Then waiting for summit window to move to high camp. Summit looks horrible from here. We are in a good place to wait. Food testing, writing book is keeping me occupied!
5th June 2012 // A series of low-pressure systems means snow and winds up to 45mph for the week. We worked hard to get to camp 14 to sit the bad weather out and be ready to move when it opens for us. Been building snow walls all day for the expected weather tonight. It’s cold, minus 25. Other than Denali playing hard to get, all good here from 4300m.
4th June 2012 // 11am 4th June. We got a late but good weather window to climb to camp14 yesterday. The crevasses are epicly big this year and the route has changed from last year. Good to cross them late as we arrived at 4300m camp14 at 10pm. Spent 2 hours in minus 20-25 building snow walls for the predicted low pressure and poor weather due in the next few days. It was a tough day so much needed rest day today whilst we assess the weather and conditions to move up to attempt to summit. It’s currently clear, cold minus 20 and windy here but toasty in my Rab bag and MSR Tent.
3rd June 2012 // It’s been a tough 24 hours. Last night was rough, 70 mph gusts and heavy snow, virtually no sleep but tent held up well. Cold start yesterday at minus 15-20 and no visibility. Then the weather broke for us to carry a load to 4100m. Poor conditions and lots of people made it a tough day of safely passing slow teams and navigating down in a white out. We are both good and ready waiting for a window to move to camp14 at 4400m. Another team had a crevasse fall yesterday, no injuries.
It’s mostly been rubbish conditions, white out, flat light, snow, winds with odd breaks! Totally different to last year. Colder. I prefer these conditions, snow is good to settle upper mountain.
2nd June 2012 // Sat in tent all day - bad weather. Snowing and a total white and now winds picking up. All good!
1st June 2012 // Arrived in 11 camp on the 31st. Both felt good leaving 7 camp so opted for a single load carry..it was a heavy and challenging day as we had to climb in very flat light and poor visibility as the clouds came in. On arriving we took 2 hours building camp and snow walls for the high winds and snowfall predicted. We woke this morning (1st) to 3ft of snow and had to dig out the tent. Glad to be through the glacier and amped about the upper mountain challenges. Rest today. We are at 3450m now camp 11, camp 7 is 2300m. It is cold here, warmest minus 5, minus 20 now at midday, grim!
31st May 2012 // Flew on to glacier last night. Confidence boosting climb through glacier to 7 camp. Glacier is in awesome condition due to cold season. Arrived in 7 camp today after a 5 hour push. Completely different to last year! Both of us are well but tired. Testing fusion meals tonight. Awesome to back on Denali. She has a special place in my heart.
29th May 2012 // DENALI EXPEDITION MAY/JUNE 2012
Arrived in anchorage yesterday after an epic 31-hour journey of connections! Yesterday was like supermarket sweep at the biggest supermarket ever getting some last minute additions for our food tests.
I am climbing Denali for the 3rd time. This time my climbing partner is my friend Nikki Skinner and we are testing some new clothing I’ve developed with Rab. I am also testing new MSR tent systems for my next project and writing a dehydrated food test article for a magazine with Nikki.
This is my first real test of dehydrated food at altitude in real mountain conditions, not just in my garden! My body is still a little disorientated with the time difference. We have just loaded our bags on to the Alaska rail road train which is like something from a 1950’s movie! Awesome!
Heading to Talkeetna today for our briefing with the Denali Park Rangers. Conditions aren’t great this year – cold, windy, and dry, which means icy conditions on the upper mountain. Very similar to when I summited in 2010. Perfect conditions to test new systems for me and a real test. We have had news that base camp is shut due to bad weather. Hopefully we will fly on to the mountain as soon as we can.
DENALI FACT: Only 20% of Alaska is accessible by road or by boat.
Further update from Rich later today: Looks like we have the green light to fly on to the glacier and mountain today! Fingers crossed the weather stats clear! Conditions are cold, lots of frostbite and worse incidents so far. Never the less conditions are better than last year so I’m positive. A few summits in the last few days is also positive.
Speak soon from the mountain! Rich.
8th February 2012 // Hey guys, I bet some of you were starting to doubt whether I would be writing a summit blog! I'm sorry for the delay it's been an epic few days since my last entry. The last time we spoke I had just arrived in camp 2 at the foot of the polish glacier at 5900m. The weather was totally bluebird (blue skies) for our rest day, which was a little worrying as it seemed that this year she (Aconcagua) hadn’t shared too many summit days!
We were all pretty beat up at this point of the Exped. The heavy loads had begun to take their toll, not to mention the fully loaded climb to camp 2 and erecting the tent in 60+kph winds the day before.
All day I stared up at the polish glacier, the route that we'd come to climb. For a mountain that gets bad press for being boring, the East side of the mountain/polish glacier side is pretty awesome in my books! At any given time we were one of only 2 or 3 tents, unlike the mega busy normal route. I know that I made the right call not to attempt the polish glacier as the ice conditions were pretty ropey to say the least, but I was gutted - it looks so beautiful. It's very similar I guess to the Lhotse face on Everest. About a vertical km of hard and steep windswept ice from 6000m to 7000m. The difference is that here the route isn't fixed with safety ropes and you have crevasses and seracs to contend with, and you're not as acclimatised as you would be on Everest. We'd only been on Acon 7 days at this point!
Anyway, enough now, I/we had made the decision so it was now about the best strategy to summit via the 'true false polish glacier route'. I knew we were strong in the team and that the sun rose about 7am. Ironically two of us were carrying relatively recent frostbite injuries, so I had a plan to best protect our toes! If we backed our ability to climb efficiently and therefore fast, we could leave after the sun came up avoiding the bitterly cold night. The down side was that the winds were due to increase in the afternoon. We decided to get up at 6am and leave at 7am on summit day.
Summit morning is the closest thing that I'll get to a pre match rugby changing room. There’s not much talking in the tent, just deliberate conversation and action. It's a great feeling. The other team, from America, that were attempting to summit via the same route had left camp almost 2 hours before us, and seemed miles ahead of us. The first part of the climb is a 3/4hr traverse from the East side of the mountain around to North side rising from 5900m to approx 6200m. Then you join the 'normal climbing route' and the masses! Luckily the poor weather had meant that there were relatively few climbers attempting to summit this day.
Once on the North side of the mountain the climbing route steepens with a series of zig zags and another long traverse to the bottom of the 'Canaletta'. This is the final 2-4hrs of the summit push and probably the most dangerous part of the climb. By the time we had reached this point we had caught the rest of the teams up, although having been climbing for 2-4 hours less.
The weather from Dad was accurate and the winds did begin to increase significantly, but still within the realms of safe mountaineering. We summited on the 3rd February at 15:45 local time, 18:45 GMT in 60+kph winds and around -28 degrees Celcius, after an 8hr summit climb. For obvious reasons we didn’t stay long on the summit, conscious of getting back down safely.
I did however manage to take some photos with my Marie Curie Cancer Care 'Tea Pot' and 'Daffodil' for the Great Daffodil Appeal! I’m not sure they've come out as expected but at least they are authentic!
The down climb is always the hardest both mentally and physically in my opinion, and it didn't disappoint! We got back to the safety of my new MSR tent shattered, but content! A 12 hr day in total.
The following day turned out to be the toughest day ironically!! Mountains have a funny way of kicking you when you’re down! All good character building! We had a map which showed a trail from camp 2, gently traversing down and around the mountain to 'Nido' camp at 5500m. This was the first day that we had 'everything' loaded in our packs, about 30kgs each! To cut a long story short, we dropped down from camp 2 only to realise that there was no trail and the scree slope was too steep to traverse with heavy packs on. This meant a painful 2 hr climb back UP to another camp called 'Colera' to drop down into 'Nido' camp! All above 5700m! A savage twist!
The next 2 days were non-stop down climbing firstly to Plaza De Mulas, the base camp on the other side of the mountain, and then down to the park entrance at Horcones. Once out the park the adventure for the night was only just started! Trying to flag a bus down in what is the equivalent of a motorway was the beginning, and the end was a bunk bed underneath a ceiling fan!! The Argies aren't too hot on health and safety! Ha!
This trip has been very different to last years climb as part of my 737 Challenge. It's been awesome in fact! Bloody tough, but great! I'm still pinching myself, from the depth of depression around my forced retirement 2.5 years ago to now being able to safely head into the mountains is just awesome. Not many people traverse Aconcagua because it's tough. Done properly, without support, the loads are equal to Denali not to mention the extreme altitude. I'm really proud to have safely summited, especially as its been a difficult year due to weather on Aconcagua. I'm even more proud to say that it seems as if my climbing partner on this trip and friend Aniko Molnar was the first Hungarian to successfully traverse Aconcagua. Nice work mate!!
I'm home at the end of this week and straight back into the fundraising! This trip has recharged me and allowed me some clarity (in life and..) to do what needs to be done in order to maximise the time left fundraising in aid of Marie Curie. We still have a long way to go until July, but many exciting initiatives to get there! Even since I've been away, I know the 737 Challenge team have been on it and the support from you guys is still incredible!
P.S. The truth is this was all a mega high altitude training session for First Nation Home in March! Ha! I'd fancy a punt on us Welshies to bring it home!!
3rd February 2012 // Richard summits Aconcagua for the 2nd time at 18.45 GMT. More to follow on next update.
2nd February 2012 // Yesterday was an epic day. To be in the right place at the right time for summit we had to move to Camp 2 in pretty high winds. It was like scrummaging at times! Then a surgical operation to pitch the tent in crazy winds. My new MSR tent is bombproof and totally lush. There was only 1 other tent at camp yesterday, I had this side of Aconcagua virtually all to myself! A very cold and insanely windy day.
Last night was once again insane winds but blue skies today. More teams arrived today and one are attempting the Polish Glacier. Another team have done like us, planned it but are traversing the false Polish. This exped has been a tougher, better side of the mountain and fun. Aiming to summit tomorrow so hopefully will speak to you guys after my 2nd Summit of Aconcagua!
1st February 2012 // Had a bad night’s sleep last night, mind busy thinking about my book! Today was tough due to lack of sleep and load carry to Camp 2, 5900m. That’s Kili! Got a good look at Polish Glacier for the first time. The conditions are poor although it looks an awesome route. All things considered I made the safe call to traverse the normal route from Camp 2, called the false Polish Route!! My goal is to get to the summit and take a special photo for Marie Curie Cancer Care, all will be revealed soon I hope. Dad has been reading the weather to me every night and it looks that Friday is the summit window. Winds are very high and causing problems. Dreading climbing to Camp 2 again tomorrow! If it all goes well I aim to summit Friday 3pm UK time.
30th January 2012 // Last night was windy! I love my new MSR tent, it’s bomber! The glacial stream froze this morning so we had to break through the ice to get water for breakfast. Hot and windy day today but needed acclimatisation day, feeling good. Tomorrow we carry to camp 2 and check route conditions on the glacier. I have an open mind at moment, I have 3 route options. Camp 2 is 5900m about the same height as Kilimanjaro. Speak soon guys!
29th January 2012 // Moved to camp 1, 5000m today. Heavy pack day! Very windy here, hot in the sun, flippin cold out of it! Last night we swapped hot chocolate for Arribiata sauce for our pasta! Awesome! My £50 on hot chocolate was a wise purchase! Normally it’s white gold (toilet paper) but for the Germans here it’s Choc Gold! The toe and me are good. Teatime = super noodles and tuna. I’m missing Ben!
28th January 2012 // Yesterday I had a much needed rest day. There wasn’t much to report and no new news on Polish Glacier, we might have to change our route plan but I will know more higher up.
Today I load carried to camp 1, 5000m. Back at Plaza Argentina now. Great to be working to climb the mountain. Winds increasing now and for tomorrow for the move up to camp 1. Still no clearer on route, but I have options from camp 2. The toe and I are good. Movie night for me on my ipod tonight!
26th January 2012 // Our bags arrived last night in the end! The Caballeros felt sorry and gave us some steak...which was better than my soup! Today was a 6hr trek to Plaza Argentina/base camp at 4200m. Feel a little tired, big altitude jump in 2 days and 43km trekked. Much needed acclimatisation rest day tomorrow. Got stuck at a river crossing, a lot of melted water. The Mule guy gave us a lift on his mule Taxi! Speak soon guys.
25th January 2012 // 11hr trek in to Casa de Piedra camp 3240m missing lower camp out to gain an extra day up high. Bags still not arrived here. Hopefully they’ll come soon! Virtually nobody around. Very windy but all good!
24th January 2012 // Weather's mixed on the mountain, lots of snow fall on the Polish Glacier side. The Polish glacier has been shut for a few weeks for avalanche safety, so we'll have to see what's up when we're there. There are other route options. Feeling amped and ready!
I've arrived in Punta de Vacas and checked in to the park. Our bags dropped off at the mules and as per normal I'm proud to say mine was the lightest at 23kg!
We're getting mixed reports from the mountain so I'm excited and a little apprehensive to get to Plaza Argentina (base camp) to see for myself the conditions and make route plans accordingly. I'm happy to say that there are no ice cream shops here in Los Penitentes at 2610m, but I am planning on smashing a t-bone steak into me tonight! I always get sad eating a t-bone when I can’t take the bone back for Ben! I hear he's up to his usual mischief, when I'm not there to rein him in, eating my folks Indian take away from the oven! Ha! Catch you guys tomorrow.
23rd January 2012 // Sorted climbing permit out which was a tough 500 quid! Finished packing the food and hired a long wave radio to be able to communicate with the park rangers. Being a little OCD we have the most organised and neatest day food bags ever! Ha! At base camp and camp 1 I have added a little surprise treat!
Tomorrow we drive to the park entrance, Punta de Vacas at 2415m. Load the mules with our gear for base camp. We will stay overnight at Vacas tomorrow and early on Wednesday morning start the 11hr / 31km trek to our first camp, Casa de Piedra at 3245m.
22nd January 2012 // Been sorting white gas out today, doing calculations for the amount we need! Guess our ability to cook and melt snow hinges on my maths! Ha! My OCD has come in handy as I've been writing a spreadsheet for our food and am going to buy it now! Also we’ve arranged our transport from Mendoza to Los Penitentes on Tuesday today. Not far from set now! We have changed our itinerary to miss the first camp out in the trek in - we trek from 2415m at Vacas park entry to Casa de Piedra at 3245m on Wednesday now, this gives us an extra day to play with higher on the mountain. I guess that's not relevant until Tuesday! All good here, speak soon.
21st January 2012 // Hi Guys. I know it’s been ages since I have written my blog, time flies and it has been so crazy and busy since I returned in July with talks, appearances and fundraising constantly so apologies for not writing sooner! We will be updating you soon with a newsletter about what’s been happening the last 6 months and once again thank you for all your support.
I thought I would send updates whilst I am on Aconcagua, just like the old days! I’m climbing a more technical route on north side of the mountain this time around and using the expedition to test some gear and systems for project ideas further down the line, I’m amped to be back in Argentina!
After 18 hours of travelling I landed in Chile. I slept well but am gutted as I watched all of Moneyball (film with Brad Pitt) but they turned the TV’s off with 7 minutes to go! I’ve now arrived in Mendoza after a pretty bumpy flight in over the Andes! It’s 34 degrees here! First thing first…steak and a coke for lunch! Then we are going to be sorting kit.
Speak soon, Rich.
16th August 2011 // It’s been a few weeks since I last did my diary really sorry my feet still haven’t touched the ground since I got back.
On the 4th I did my first ever live webchat. I went in to Media Wales, one of my media partners to do it. I really enjoyed it, it was very different to all the other interviews I had already done and it was really good to share the challenge intimately with everyone. People were commenting on how fast I was typing but my 2 finger typing wouldn’t have cut the mustard so it was down to Paul to save the day!
The last 737 Challenge club was held that night and it was great to see some familiar faces and not so familiar, now…(I know I need to let this go) I am still reeling at drawing out my own ticket in the raffle, winning the Rab jacket and having to give it away ha!
I’ve got an awesome new Audi to drive! I want to say a massive thank you to Gavin Cleverly at Mon Motors Audi not just for their support throughout the challenge as one of my sponsors but especially for lending me a brand new Audi A4 allroad. To fund part of the challenge I have had to sell my truck and without my new car I simply wouldn’t be able to get around the country fundraising.
It’s been a long time since I have had to drive a car, and it showed as for the entire drive up to Leeds I had to regress to 2 hands on the steering wheel, 10 to 2 all the way!
Every day is like Christmas as I find a new button and a new gadget in the car, it properly rocks.
I had a manic but really awesome day back in Leeds doing press stuff and seeing everyone back at Headingley. We did loads of radio, TV and newspapers and it was pretty much non-stop from 10am - 7pm.
As soon as I arrived in Leeds memories of my time there came flooding back to me, although not all my memories as I got lost on the one-way system! I sincerely loved my time in Yorkshire playing for Leeds and it was great to see lots of old friends…and it was even sunny!!
Then it was a quick dash up to Kendall to meet some of the guys from Rab, Mountain Boot Company and the Kendall Mountain Festival. Meeting the guys at the Kendall outdoor retail show was like gear porn for me, I even managed to pick up a few pressies!
Then it was on the road again back down to Portsmouth via lunch at Jagged Globe. The other Parksy is off again to Cho Oyu at the end of the month, I am really excited for him but wish I was going too, in fact that really made me realise quite how stir crazy I am going not being able to train or climb. On that note my toe is lived up to the name Lazarus and is slowly coming back from the dead! It’s improving every day, apart from when I stub it and knock off the scabs! It’s improving all the time, but not quick enough for Mr Impatient over here.
I went back to the University of Portsmouth where I did my cold-water immersion testing last year in my training for the challenge. After a quick stop at the University, this time keeping out of the cold water tank and keeping my clothes, I did some radio interviews then it was a rare chance for me to catch up with some friends and unwind in a restaurant in Gunwharf whilst looking up at the yellow Spinnaker Tower which was genuinely amazing! They turned it yellow to support my challenge and Marie Curie Cancer Care to help raise the profile of my fundraising, which was awesome.
A pretty good week only just got better – as Saturday I was invited as a guest of honour to the Wales v England game which in it’s own right is a huge honour but the day was made really special by the WRU for not just inviting me but my parents and all the challenge team. It was a wicked day, a huge honour to be there but I also had a really fun time. Met some cool people, got a chance to hang out in the box with the 737 Challenge team and my mates and I really enjoyed being at the game and watching Wales win. I am really grateful for the WRU for inviting everyone and it was amazing being received by the fans but what was really cool about it as that we were all there together.
Sunday was my Birthday. When Mum and Dad asked me what I wanted for my birthday my honest answer was a lie in!! and my day was exactly what I wanted, it was perfect. I got out of bed just after midday, no washing or putting any pants on! Got in my tracksuit bottoms and went down to the supermarket and brought loads of BBQ food, BBQ’d in the afternoon, stopping Ben my dog steeling sausages from the BBQ and then watched movies with my folks for the rest of the day and I had my phone off! Was perfect!
There’s still lots going on and my diary is still as busy as ever going in to the next few weeks. I am looking forward to going back to Sardis Road to Pontypridd this week, and then it’s gonna be interesting going to Paris on Sunday for a press day in Paris Monday, if it wasn’t nerve-wracking enough to do interviews on British TV, now I have to do it in French on French TV too!
After that I am off on holiday for 10 days, I finally get a chance to rest and reflect, can’t wait!
Last but certainly not least I am really looking forward to the Gala Dinner on the 15th September and finding Ben a tuxedo suit to try and sneak him in!!!
31st July 2011 // Hi Guys! Here’s my diary for the last few days. Hope you are all having a top weekend. Wednesday was a brutal press day from 11am to 8.45pm. I was doing press interviews non-stop. We didn’t realise there were 3 Boston tea party cafes in Bristol and I was sat in one whilst Chris from a magazine I was being interviewed by was sat in another, savage! We got together eventually! Then had another great catch up with Euan from the Observer, they’ve been writing a piece on me over the last month and after spending an hour in Cardiff with him before Elbrus I caught up again with him again on the phone. Really looking forward to seeing the piece, more on when it’s coming out soon.
Thursday I had coffee with my mate Sid then spent all afternoon at my filming partners Sports media services going through episode 2. Whilst there I was lucky to catch up with the MD of Sony’s technology centre who gave me a cool video camera as a present, which was pretty awesome. I had pizza with my mate Kev in the night. I know I am still readjusting to normal life after 7 months on expedition but I thought it was awesome that you can track your pizza’s progress live online, me and Kev sat staring at the computer for 30 mins!! Quality time!
Still catching up with everyone and on Friday I went to Pembrokeshire to see Gemma our Events Manager and her newborn baby Eva, the first official 737 Challenge baby!! Ha ha! She’s lush and it was great to see Gems and the family.
Yesterday I went to the cinema to watch Cars 2 with my mates Bev, Andy and their kids…but fell asleep in the first 15 minutes! I am still feeling pretty tired.
Today I have been sorting through my diary with my PR Manager and catching up on tweets, which has been fun. I couldn’t bare to see Ben my dog looking ridiculously bored whilst I was on the laptop so we took Ben for a walk in the park.
You might have seen on Twitter but World of Groggs have released a new limited edition Grogg of me which is pretty cool, I’ve even got my expedition beard! Will be sending an eshot all about it tomorrow.
This week is another busy one with appointments and press stuff. On Thursday I am doing a live web chat at Media Wales, which you can get involved in and send questions in live, more details to follow soon. Thursday night is the next 737 Challenge club night with a double denim theme! The team think they are taking the mick out of me with this theme but little do they know that I have got triple denim ready to rock!
26th July 2011 // 26th July 2011
The last two weeks since I summited Mount Elbrus have been an absolute whirlwind, a massive sensory shock really. Not just adapting to civilian life again and being off the mountains but also coming to terms with all the overwhelming support from everyone. It’s been pretty humbling and surreal.
When I came back the first week I was living off adrenalin, the buzz of seeing friends, family and everything was keeping me going, however I always knew that at some point the last 6 months would catch up with me and I would be hit over the head by a cricket bat! That happened at the end of last week and I’ve been shattered since! I’d always anticipated that if successful I, and the 737 Challenge team, would be busy making the most of the opportunity from our exposure to fundraise as much as possible. However, I had no idea how manic it would actually be! I’m as committed to this next chapter of the 737 Challenge as I was to the climbing, but it’s not easy, we still have a lot of work ahead of us and I’m amped about it!
Although I’m very proud of what I and everyone involved in the 737 Challenge have achieved, I’m still not really comfortable with all the attention. It’s incredibly humbling how people view the challenge’s success, I still feel lucky to have had the opportunity to even attempt it! I’m not exaggerating when I say that I owe so much to the team, sponsors and many people on the periphery who all helped make this a reality, not just for me, but for Marie Curie. It’s all still sinking in guess! I’ve had really good advice about all the media stuff, never the less it’s been an equal challenge for me, but I am enjoying it.
Yesterday when I was in BBC Radio 2 I just missed meeting The Boss Bruce Springsteen, he was going down in the lift as I was coming up in the other one, and on BBC Breakfast Sir Anthony Hopkins was due on the same day as me but couldn’t come on the show! I am not one to get star struck but I’d be lying if I said I that I wasn’t excited to meet both of them! Still I did eat Sir Anthony’s breakfast in the green room and The Boss probably heard me singing ‘Dancing in the dark’ in the lift over from him as we passed! Ha!
I am really excited about the documentary going out tonight on BBC One Wales. I’m proud that not only have we got a documentary on BBC Wales but also of what we’ve produced, It’s awesome. It’s very powerful to me that, like everyone involved in the challenge, Sports Media Services - my filming partner and BBC Wales took the leap of faith with me when others didn’t in the beginning. I would have loved for it to be longer, but still amped we’re able to share a small glimpse of the last 2 years with everyone. It’s really important to me that people like it. I know we’ve had interest from other network channels and broadcasters, and hopefully we’ll be able to produce a longer insight into the challenge in the near future.
A lot of people are tweeting asking why it’s not on network BBC, the truth is that in the beginning it was near impossible getting this documentary commissioned for various reasons, that’s why I’m grateful to SMS and BBC Wales for sharing my adventurous spirit. Everyone across the UK can view it on the iPlayer, digitally and who knows where it might go after this. There are lots of exciting prospects, possibly even making a DVD. For now I’m excited to see the 1st episode tonight...I’ve got my popcorn and pillow ready!
I’m still desperately trying to catch up with friends, family and sponsors however that’s proving as much of a challenge as the last 6 months have been! My diary of fundraising, media and appearances is pretty chocca already...I’ve never been so organised in my life!!
I am looking forward to picking up my Audi that Mon Motors Audi are generously lending me to help me get round the country. I don’t know which model it is yet, but who cares it’s an Audi! Our Audi A1 which has been out there already promoting our amazing text to win an Audi A1 competition is proving a bit of a hit, not just amongst the humans but I couldn’t get Ben out the boot the other day as he was too comfy! It’s a pretty cool car! However, I still have issues with driving around in a car with my big face on the side! But it’s all to raise funds in aid of Marie Curie Cancer Care so please keep texting, the more you text the better chance you have of winning it! Luckily the winner gets a brand new faceless version! Ha!
My toe is recovering really well. Mega painful, but that’s a sign that all the nerves and tissue are regenerating. I managed to get through the last 2 legs of the challenge without too much trauma to my toe, then yesterday at the challenge team meeting I stubbed it on a chair!! It grossed everyone out as it started bleeding all over my flip flop! Seriously, It’s the very best outcome I could have hoped for and once again I owe my thanks to everyone who helped me through that horrible and uncertain 2 weeks between Everest and Denali. I am likely to lose a small part of it but looking at the big picture Lazarus has done me proud!
It’s fair to say I am feeling pretty mixed up. I am really happy to be home, it’s overwhelming, awesome and I am so grateful to everyone, but I’ve been travelling for so long it’s been difficult adjusting back and in some ways I miss the simplicity of expedition life. I miss the mountains.
My biggest challenge to date though has been teaching my dog Ben out of all the bad habits my mum and dad have taught him whilst I was away! He’s been properly spoilt! Ha ha!
I am going to keep writing my diary and thanks to everyone who has been reading each entry. Just sorting out a new diary page here at 737challenge.com but for now will keep writing here on Elbrus!
Catch you soon guys, Rich.