hi there :)
last week due to some pretty cool stuff going on with greggs the bakers in cardiff, and an article in the press http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/greggs-joins-cardiff-campaign-feed-9413866 we saw a bunch of new guys subscribe to this blog, so to all of you, welcome, i hope we can entertain, inspire, and occasionally crack a smile on your lovely faces :) (i nearly typed faeces, that would have been awkward!!!)
well, just lately i have been feeling like i have had so much to tell you all, as there seems to be so much going on within the walls of bigmoose hq, aka my office, that i almost feel instead of a blog it's become a diary, which i kind of wanna avoid, and i would really like to spin yarns, and tell stories which make you laugh, occasionally cry, but always to reflect, and sometimes inspire you to do something you might not have done without us being in your life.
so today, no diary, just a story.
a story about denali.
denali is a mountain in alaska, and stands proud at 6911m, the tallest of its kind in north america, and as such is on the list of mountain climbers who attempt to climb the famed seven summits, the seven highest peaks on the seven continents of our globe.
i read about denali after i had climbed kilimanjaro in beautiful africa and elbrus in frozen russia.
denali was to be my toughest mountain yet, as it it is the coldest mountain in the world, and due to it's height at its base, is a bigger climb than mount everest, and has a reputation as being an extremely tough hill.
i spent three of the best weeks of my climbing life on this beautiful mountain, that due to it's position geographically, doesn't get dark at all, which is really surreal, and sometimes quite difficult to sleep.
our climb was extremely tough, and our party of eight climbers was reduced to four due to various problems, such as frostbite fingers, a leg injury, and one guy who was just destroyed by the physical toughness of the climb, and retreated off the mountain taking a guide with him.
being left with only two guides we continued up the mountain, building ice walls for protection against the fierce winds that swept in across our frozen canvas home, and caused this city boy to marvel at the rawness of the experience, and have my senses heightened.
i quickly fell in love with this place, it enveloped me with it's beauty, and i found everything about it intoxicating, and i drank in it's beauty.
we climbed, and we climbed, and i remember vividly climbing around a rock formation named after a former climber of this snow covered spire, bradford washburn, and the particular rock is known as washburn's thumb, and i had read lots about it, and it didn't disappoint.
it was huge, and after successfully traversing around it we were to find ourselves on a knife edge ridge which in calm weather would have been extremely scary with drops to either side of it, that may or may not have resulted in death, but whatever the outcome, it would be dramatic.
our ridge walk however was to be subject to extremely strong winds, that threatened my life in a way that i had never felt before.
i truly felt fear in my heart, and quickly assessed the risk, and concluded that fight or flight http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fight-or-flight_response was kicking in, and my drug of choice, adrenaline, was being released into my body and brain.
as i slowly walked across this thirty metre section, with a fifty pound rucksack on my back, and crampons on my bulky climbing boots, i knew i had to stay calm, even though the wind was trying it's best to dislodge me.
step by cautious step i made my way across, unable to hear anything being shouted at me by my team behind and in front, due to the ferocity of the alaskan wind, i was alone to take a journey so short, that at ground level, with no rucksack, wind, or without being too dramatic, the possibility of dying, would be a piece of the proverbial cake.
as you are reading this, you know i made it, as did all my team, but any readers of this blog that have climbed this mountain, and there will be a few, will be nodding knowingly, as they are reminded of the challenge it provides.
as we continued to the 17200ft denali high camp, getting into position for an attempt at her summit, we set up our tents in the coldest conditions i have ever experienced.
after warming ourselves with a cup of rosey lee in the tent, i ventured out to our hole in the snow toilet, and chose to call my family on our satphone, only to prematurely end the call as i felt my fingers were in danger of getting frostbite as i stupidly had removed my glove to make the call, rooky error!
fingers now rubbed warm again, and mind relieved, we sat in our tent, listening to the wind howling, and i contemplated whether i was capable of making the summit, and worry, self doubt and trepidation all swam around my mind, i had to stay focused and calm.
i breathed deeply, scared.
time passed and i heard our guide call us to his tent for a team meeting.
on our way up to the high camp, one of our guides had felt nauseous due to altitude, and had retreated down the hill, with a plan of returning back up the next morning, but the mountain rangers had now radioed through to us that he was suffering from a severe case of h.a.c.e. high altitude cerebral edema, which is basically a swelling of the brain that can occur at altitude, and can only be stopped by going to lower altitude, and if not stopped early enough can result in death, tricky old business this mountain climbing!!
the guide was in a very bad way, and was going to need to be helicoptered off the mountain, leaving just one guide and four of us climbers.
our climb was over.
the safety ratio wasn't there, and our head guide explained we would be heading down, the journey was going no higher.
my heart sank, i had never failed to summit before, and emotionally i was all over the place, and now faced a wind blown descent, with a broken dream, and thoughts of our guide who might die.
this was a tough climb down both physically and mentally, and i had to fight to stay tuned in, and as we walked into 14500ft camp where our guide was in the rangers medical tent we looked at him as he lay there, and i was not alone in thinking we were looking at a man that was going to die.
as the chopper flew away with it's new passenger, we stood silent.
dinner that evening was a sombre affair, as we all seemed to reflect on what could have been, but the pragmatism of the importance of this mans life made us all see the bigger picture, life is worth so much more than a summit.
we travelled through the night down the mountain to reduce the risk of falling into crevasses, as the cold night air kept the conditions as frozen as possible, as opposed to daytime where the hot sun melted the snow under foot, making the weight bearing bridges across these glacial graves more susceptible to collapse.
we walked and walked through the bright night, and as the sun rose at dawn, so it warmed our bodies and souls, this place was magical, mountain after mountain, landscape after landscape, my love affair with denali was full blown.
we walked up heartbreak hill, the aptly named last mile to the frozen runway, where the planes fly onto the mountain regularly, and the climb down was over.
our remaining guide dug up some beers that he had left buried at the start of our journey, and they weren't frozen, and i proceeded to drink three in pretty rapid succession, satiating my thirst, from a tough night of climbing, i could at last relax.
talkeetna, the town that the aircraft fly to from denali, is beautiful, and even though i didn't summit, this land, and this experience taught me a lot about myself, and remains one of my favourite places in the world, and after two days in this frozen oasis we got the news we longed for, our guide had recovered, and was going to make it, and the reality of what could have been kicked in, and over beers we all reflected.
so it was then that when i saw a video posted on facebook by a girl called pixie that i met in l.a. last year, that i saw the name denali, and was drawn to it.
now this video has nothing to do with the magical mountain that has played it's part in creating who i am and what i do, it is about a completely different subject, but is still an extremely emotional piece, and i wanted to share it with you, as for you to read this blog regularly, you obviously have soul, and hopefully will enjoy it, i really hope so, as for me it is a reflection of love, spirit, and passion, all things that are really important to me, so without further ado, please have watch of denali, a wonderful, beautiful piece of art, and if you can watch it in hd on a big screen it will add to the experience.
i hope you forgive my indulgence, and enjoyed this, and until next week,
love those close to you, we have such a short time together,