as i lay here in the throes of my last few minutes of sleep before my alarm chooses to alert me to rise and shine to face another day, my rab expedition 1200 sleeping bag serves me well.
i am toasty in my down cocoon that has looked after me for some years now.
i bought this particular model due to rab marketing it as ‘the bag that will offer the best protection and warmth at some of the lowest temperatures’, and as i headed off to alaska to tackle the mighty denali mountain range i hoped my £600 investment was worthwhile, it seemed a lot of money for a small red duvet folded over with a zip!
denali is the highest mountain in north america, and is the coldest mountain on the planet, and its ability to challenge the best climbers in the world was not wasted on me, and as our small plane landed on the glacier as mother nature unveiled some of her most beautiful treasures for me to see, like a jackdaw i fell in love with them as they sparkled and shimmered in the cold alaskan sunlight, which due to it’s geographical location stays bright 24/7 almost to show it’s constant beauty at all times of day i wondered.
i was sold.
as i zipped up the canvas of my temporary home in the snow, i was very glad that i had learned that cheap was expensive, and expensive was cheap quite early in life, and my expensive zip up duvet served me well, as i woke the first morning to find everything had frozen inside the tent, water in bottles, bags, headtorches, and the fabric of the tent was covered with tiny stalagtites, wow, i now believed the hype.
however, as i lay in my red bundle of warmth, payback started then and there, and I remember thinking that my investment was proving to be worthwhile early in the adventure, and my months of research for the right sack hadn’t been in vain.
the exped 1200’s next foray into the snow covered hills was on manaslu, and she came with me to camp four, where she slept with me till summit morning, bidding me farewell, and gently kissed my forehead as i ventured into the unknown cold midnight air, in a bid to, unforced, enter the area of the world they call the death zone.
above 8000m the human body cannot survive for long periods of time, and starts to die, and i was paying somebody a lot of money to help me get into this place, please do not ask me why, as i will only tell you reasons that will cause you, if have needed to ask this question to weigh up my sanity if i answer you. for the others of you reading this who ‘get it’ you will probably smile.
as the sun rose and warmed my heart, body and soul, encouraging me, along with my sherpa nima to the top of this nepalese peak, i felt absolutely amazing, and if you had stood with me to witness the joy of the views i experienced first hand, it would have gone some way to rationalising my decision to temporarily enter this zone of death and beauty.
exped 1200 was relinquished of the air in her every fibre, and packed into her storage bag, not to be brought out again until the biggest trip of my life, in terms of length and height.
ten weeks, and hopefully 8848m.
the mighty chomolungma, as everest is also known, long before welsh surveyor george everest attempted to measure her, and had temporarily given this wonder of the world the unglamorous monika ‘peak 15’.
the fact that my hockey number was 15, and it is thus my favourite number in the world causes me to, in some superstitious way, think this is meant to be, and as i unpacked exped 1200 at everest base camp, little did i know that my dream was not going to become reality this 2014 season, as 16 men i shared camp that first night with would die.
this morning though, exped 1200 has travelled with me to warmer climes, charlotte street in london to be precise.
i have discovered that the alpine club, of which i am a member, has their head office at this trendy location deep in heart of shoreditch, and they have a ‘bunkroom’ which members of the club can use if in london on alpine club or other mountaineering business, and as well as having showers and facilities it is free.
free digs in shoreditch in london is amazing, and as i arrived yesterday, and met the polish climbing guardian of the keys, and alpine librarian, ‘tat’ he smiled a huge smile, and as he could see my excitement at all things mountain that adorned the walls, his chest puffed out with pride as he showed off why he worked here.
kid in a candy store describes my delight as i looked at old pictures of colonel john hunt, who led the first successful ascent of everest back in ‘53, as he met the queen, and the first men to have stood so high, tenzing norgay and edmund hillary, and i stood with wonder as i dreamed of whether i would literally follow in their footsteps.
my reasons for coming to london were to meet to everest summiteers, steven novick, who also runs farmstand a fantastic food business in covent garden, and russell brice my climbing leader on my nepal adventures.
steven was a strong, strong, working class guy from winsconsin, who had beaten cancer, and climbed the highest peaks on the seven continents, and we had lots of mountain and food store stories to share, and i think he will be a great help in advising on our bigmoose coffee shop.
russ was russ.
i know he reads this blog, so i’m gonna try not to cause him to go too red faced, but suffice to say he is going to get involved in our prison mentoring scheme, and also is going to do a project with bigmoose that will be a world first, and is going be a pretty big thing in the mountaineering world, so i am literally buzzing with excitement as i emerge from exped 1200 this friday morning.
that was a lot do about a sleeping bag, sorry about that, my mind takes lots of strange paths, but hopefully you will continue with me over the next year to follow her adventures and dreams.
for now though have a great week, love one another, inspire others to do good, and believe that your efforts can in fact leave this world better than when you found it.
jeff and exped 120