Well the big day has nearly arrived! And if I’m quite honest; not a week too soon. The training has become brutal, the Middle Eastern summer is here but ultimately excitement to get on to the first challenge is peaking.
My training regime which started in October as a few cruisey cardio and strength workouts has ramped up to over 16 hours a week of mind numbing endurance sessions. I began hiking up 350m hills around Muscat in November before graduating to some 800m hills in January and slowly with each week more intensity was applied in the form of duration and pack weight. 2 hours became 3, then 4 and then 5, while my pack weight rose from 18 to 34kg. Having always struggled with knee pain while descending (especially with a heavy pack) I spent many agonizing hours stumbling down loose slopes like an awkward giraffe before slowly building up the required muscles around my knees to descend with control. Some workouts have been spent on a Stairmaster at the local gym wearing my alpine climbing pack filled with water bottles and I would often notice curious Omani’s stopping and trying to guess what on Earth I could be training for. After one particular workout a lady came up to me and said “my coach just told me you have been on the stairs for 5 hours.. Congratulations!” I think my response was “Thanks! Um, I guess I’ll see you next week for 5.5hours”. I’ve learned that distracting my mind is the best way to knock off long workouts without them feeling like an eternity so I’ve watched almost every high altitude climbing video on YouTube, listened to dozens of Soundcloud sets and podcasts whilst always making sure the clock on the machine or wall is out of view. The final result is that my body weight has dropped from 100kg in October to 84kg in April. This was entirely unintended and Lucy can attest to the fact that I now eat more than ever. That being said, that is 16kg I don’t have to drag up Everest!
In line with my 6 month training and preparation program, in early March I did a week of alpine climbing instruction in the Aspiring National Park in New Zealand. Guided by the famous Mike Roberts (8 time Everest summiter), we climbed a few peaks including Mt Aspiring. Dumped on a Col by a helicopter we soon became very disorientated and borderline lost on a glacier in complete white out however eventually we found the hut we had set out for and crossed our fingers for better weather. After 4 days the weatherman got it wrong again, however this time we were grateful as the conditions became almost perfect for a climb. We ascended over 1200m along the North-West ridge in 6 hours to a summit that is only climbed around 200 times a year for an epic panorama of the Southern Alps.
The first Mountain, Mera Peak starts in 2 weeks and I feel physically ready although cautious. The psychological challenge on the other hand is far more of an unknown to me and no doubt waiting at around 6000m in a few weeks. Stay tuned for updates of the climb!