17th July 2011 // Hi Guys. Apologies for not blogging for a few days, since summit day I’ve been busy travelling.
We trekked back down to base camp after a night at high camp after summiting. On the morning of leaving high camp Dai Camera was on the loo and Parksy and I played a practical joke on him putting some rocks in his rucksack. Dai carried them for about 4 hours without noticing until it started raining and he had to go in his rucksack to get his raincover out for his camera. It was very funny!
After a night at base camp we then had the overland drive back to Mineralny Vody in what can only be described as Russia’s answer to the vdub camper. It was the most uncomfortable 5 hours in a car ever. We were in this 1960’s 4x4 pretty much off roading for 5 hours solid.
The next day we left Mineralny Vody and flew to Moscow. We almost missed the flight and were promptly frog marched to the plane by the military, as we were late!
We were sat about 10 metres from the gate but we didn't realise it was our flight as they were getting on really early, bare in mind we can’t read anything in Russian and our interpreter is no longer with us.
When they realised were the 3 passengers they were looking for who were late we got on our own bus to the terminal and walked on the plane very embarrassed. Dai and I were luckily sat at the front and kept our heads down avoiding the stares of everyone waiting but the other Parsky had to do the walk of shame because his seat was near the back!
We got to Moscow and we had been warned already about non-official taxis at the airport. All we had was an address of the hotel and loads of bags. We tried to get a taxi but couldn’t so we decided to chance our luck on the train. It was proper hot, mid 30’s and there were no seats, so we stood on the train for 40 mins sweating uncontrollably!!
Got to Moscow and its chaos! Millions of people! We ended up bartering with an official taxi driver…who drive us around the same monument twice so we did get ripped off anyway but we got to the hotel, had a welcome shower and found a really good steak house and had a good meal. After steak and 3 espressos, we had sambuka chasers and went out and had a few beers in Moscow, which was pretty awesome!
The next morning (yesterday) I had an hour or two in red square before flying back to Heathrow last night. Mum, Dad, Simon Lowe from Jagged Globe and Pinders my PR Manager were there to greet us, which was awesome. Went back to the hotel in London and had a few glasses of Champagne with Mum, Dad and Pinders. Stayed up chatting for a while and then got a few hours sleep.
I have really mixed feelings about being back. It still hasn’t sunk in. I don't feel any different at all but I hear that I've been all over the papers and getting a lot of coverage. I have a lot of press stuff and appearances lined up for this week, it’s going to be busy!! I am really looking forward to coming home on Tuesday to the Senedd in Cardiff to see everyone and I can’t wait to see my dog Ben. I never did this with the ambition or intention of being in the limelight but its cool that I'll get the opportunity to raise the profile further of the challenge and try and raise more funds for Marie Curie Cancer Care. I am sure I’ll be tweeting lots this week whilst I am buzzing around. I’ll be continuing my diary too here at 737challenge.com so keep on browsing and thanks for tuning in and for all your support.
12th July 2011 // Today I completed my world first 737 Challenge summiting Mount Elbrus at 11.53 local time, 08.53am UK time.
See below for all the details.
Thank you to everyone who has ever followed, donated or supported me along the way.
11th July 2011 // We are at camp 1 which is high camp at 3,800m we are planning on leaving at 3am tomorrow morning (midnight your time) to attempt the summit. We aim to summit between 7am-10am UK time.
Arriving at Moscow and getting the transfer onwards was surreal. I have visited every continent on the planet but Russia is like nothing else I have ever seen before. We got to Mineralny Vody airport and we can’t communicate and can’t read anything. Then it was as if we got abducted from the airport! We got taken by a driver who shoved us in to a car and basically drove incredibly fast around this town, engrossed in what seemed to be a very aggressive argument on his mobile phone and he then dropped us off at the hotel where we met our Russian liaison but for that hour in the car we were all just looking at ourselves thinking this might be the last car journey we ever take! Honestly it was freaking us out! We got to the hotel and met our Russian liaison Sergy who’s a really nice guy. We spent a night in the hotel and the next morning we left pretty early to drive overland to base camp, which is about 5-6 hours in a 4x4 off road. There isn’t the infrastructure like there is on the south side of the mountain so there are no roads as such at all really.
We had to go through one checkpoint on route which was blocking the 4x4 path and there were two guys with AK-47’s pointing at us so we hid the TV cameras under the bags and the guys got out and did some negotiating and some talking, it was about 5 minutes waiting but it was the longest 5 minutes I have had in a car. We had spoken about the checkpoints but the reality of someone pointing AK-47’s at you is pretty intimidating but we got through reasonably uneventfully and arrived at base camp yesterday at 2,300m.
Last night we camped at 2,300m right next to the military base, the soldiers there were really cool, actually quite the opposite of what we had heard before travelling out. There were quite a few other teams around us too. This morning we carried full loads to high camp. The early part of the day was climbing through pretty lush green rolling hills, very much like Wales, it was beautiful and the latter part of the day was through moraine and rocks and stuff and now we are just on the edge of the glacier.
Both me and the other Parksy shaved our beards off, I am quite happy to say that it has taken about 5-7 years off me, it took about 20 years off Parksy, he looked 12!! but the last few days he has got some stubble back so he now looks like a teenager!
I had pretty mixed emotions shaving, I wanted to keep my beard to the end but also wanted to get rid of it, but it was all in our best interests to attract as little attention to ourselves as possible once we were here.
Update on the toe - I had a pretty painful day today, we climbed a 1,500m vertical climb today and it was a tough day by anyone’s standard. The toe was getting pretty painful towards the end of the climb. We got to camp and I changed the dressing. The end of the toe is just flesh now, there is no dead skin or live skin on it so it’s in my best interest to get up and down as quickly as possible.
Hopefully speak to you all soon from the summit of Elbrus!