Greetings from the Caledonian Sleeper hurtling through the night to Scotland and a big shout out to Everest Biotech and Myhome, our first corporate charity sponsors for our Nepal school project!

It’s been a great week starting at the Lendit conference and meetings in NY and about to end with mountaineering trip in Scotland. I’ve also enjoyed some nice long runs around central park and some decent gym sessions. Crazy how the weather changed this week in NY, was running in sub-zero temperatures on Sunday and high teens yesterday (oC). Got back to London today and was nearly t-shirt weather.

I’ve also been following Alex Txikon’s attempted winter climb of Everest over the past few days. The legendary Basque climber was trying for a winter ascent without oxygen and has been camped on the mountain for months. Having failed in an attempt in February he had been forced to return to Kathmandu as his Sherpa team needed rest before returning to the mountain with their spring expeditions. With time running out and a new support team (for it to count as a winter ascent it needed to be by march 20th) they went for it yesterday but had to turn back with Alex quoted as saying it would have been “suicide to continue”. Always important to remember he can try again next year. It’s been an awesome effort which I don’t do justice to here. Check him out on Facebook: www.facebook.com/alex.txikon.5/

Away from work and trip preparations we want to thank everyone who has thus far supported our charity cause to build school buildings in four remote Nepalese villages.
Virginmoneygiving.com/letsbuildschools

We’ve also received our first two Corporate Charity Donations from Everest Biotech and MyHome which combined with all your wonderful support means we’re really close to £10,000 so far and making great progress towards funding the first school project in the village of Thingan in Makwanpur which is budgeted at £14,500. So cool to think that every pound donated will help kids in this village be in a new school room soon!

It’s fantastic to receive these donations, we’ll be adding their logos to our main blog page (when I work out how!), and I’ve offered to put their logos on my helmet or backpack.

For anyone interested in corporate sponsorship, please touch base on mchughrory@hotmail.com. We could even discuss trying to get a photo on the summit with your company logo! Again – for avoidance of doubt all monies to building schools with brilliant charity Child Rescue Nepal – our trip expenses are our own!

Looking forward to 4 days of mountaineering with fellow climber and expedition member Ronny Rhen. We’ll be taken through our paces by Everest veteran and mountain guide Di Gilbert.
I’m sure we’ll have a few cool videos and photos to post over the weekend. When we get back we’ll be on the final countdown!

19 days to go! – finalising the kit list

Downsuits, gps watches, solar chargers, gloves, mits, liners, down sleeping bag cleaners and of course don’t forget the Pee bottle!

Peeing in a bottle is non-negotiable on long high altitude expeditions. Freezing nights when you wake from a bout of sleep apnea or from rolling over and touching the side of tent and showering yourself in ice crystals for the umpteenth time. Altitude messes with sleep and coupled with the need to drink lots of water to stay hydrated in the ultra-dry air – one of the side effects is that most nights high up you often won’t make it through without needing to go at least once. Getting out of the sleeping bag, getting dressed in something suitable for the sub-zero temperatures and high winds and getting out the tent is not an option. Turning to the side and peeing in a bottle is the obvious answer.

Like all key pieces of kit for a big expedition like this, not all bottles are equal. The standard answer is the 1 Litre wide mouth Nalgene. I used a glow in the dark green bottle on Aconcagua in 2010 and while it worked a treat, my experience was that I needed something bigger to avoid having to empty on every use. When I arrived in Alaska to climb Denali, Andy, Ian and Mike from the Alpine Institute were raving about the collapsible 2 litre Nalgene – we managed to get to an REI superstore in Anchorage but they had sold out and only had the 1 litre. I bought it anyhow and found the collapsible to be a revelation as it takes much less focus or positioning inside the sleeping bag to use. Well, I’ve just ordered the 2 litre collapsible on Amazon for Everest and I’m excited about it. Hopefully gives a small insight into the value of the just the right kit when living in harsh environments for weeks on end!

The downsuit is another vital piece of kit. The cold is one of my biggest fears so I’m not messing around with the summit kit. Being cold is often the start of other problems. The best suits from my analysis (which largely meant reading Tim Mosedale’s kit comparison) are from Rab and Mountain hardware – check me out below trying on the mountain hardware suit in Snow and Rock in Covent Garden. It was a hard choice but I went for the very lofty new Rab downsuit: yes I do look like the Michelin man!

The fun end of the kit list are the new gadgets for the adventure ahead. My new kit for Everest includes a Suunto Ambit Peak, the Solarmonkey charger and an Inreach communicator so I can text and tweet from the hill even when we are high up on the mountains. I’ve also got to decide what to bring in terms of entertainment. The kindle is guaranteed, I’ll have my iphone as well, tempted to take an Ipad with a few tv series loaded which I haven’t seen yet. Any recommendations please let me know!

Away from the kit prep I’ve been staying local the last couple of weeks. Some training hikes with a full pack on the south downs, walking up laps of the stairs of my 10 floor apartment building with a weight vest for an hour most mornings, the odd run and gym session, cycling between meetings from Clapham to the west end and the city where possible. I’m heading to New York this Sunday to attend the Lendit conference (thanks Peter!). Been doing some work for a few new non-bank lenders since I left RBS and it will be a great opportunity to touch base with industry contacts and friends alongside advancing some of these initiatives. The conference runs Monday and Tuesday and I’ve a day of meetings in NY on Wednesday before heading back.

I’ll get back to London on Thursday morning and am getting the overnight sleeper from Euston to Aviemore at 9pm that night. I’m sure I’ll sleep well after the red eye from NY and I’ll wake up in bonny Scotland for 4 days mountaineering with fellow climber and expedition member Ronnie Rehn and our guide Di Gilbert who will be putting us through our paces on our last mountain training session before heading off.

It’s a great 10 days ahead. Reach out if you’re at Lendit and want to catch up.

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Bernie, Sami and myself on a nice South Downs hike last week. Yes – lots of rocks in my backpack as usual.

Support our charity on virginmoneygiving.com/letsbuildschools

All monies going to building 4 school buildings in off the beaten track Nepalese villages still recovering from the 2015 earthquake.

 

Training in Chamonix

Sitting here at the bar of a pizza restaurant in Chamonix this Sunday night writing this on my laptop (drinking water, off the booze since 1st Jan). Just had a couple of great days refreshing technical skills on some fun routes: rope work, glacier travel, mixed ice and rock climbing in crampons. Been having totally awesome weather – so much that it almost feels like cheating and not as good training but trust me I’m not complaining!

Been out and about with mountain guide and all round good guy Kenny Grant for the past two days. Check out some of these shots and videos from the Marbrees over in Italy yesterday and then the Cosmiques Arete today looking down on Chamonix.

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Looking forward to another great day tomorrow before heading back to London.

Aguilles Marbrees with Kenny Grant

Near the end of the Arete des Cosmiques

Support our charity on: virginmoneygiving.com/letsbuildschools

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s build schools in Nepalese villages still recovering from the 2015 earthquake

45 days to go! Time to start raising money to build schools in remote hill villages of the Makwanpur district, Nepal. Makwanpur lost 150 schools to the 2015 Earthquake.

 

I was meant to be in the snow and ice of the Atlas Mountains in heavy winds this weekend but Easyjet overbooked the flight and wasted eight hours of my time yesterday, I tried to make a late switch to the alps but all flights were booked or gone so this weekend will be in rainy London instead. Easyjet were incredibly rude overall but the key is to brush it off and keep moving forward.

With so much to do, I’ve decided today would be a day for getting things done. I just sorted my travel insurance with specialist operator Ripcord. It was an absolute nightmare speaking to insurers over the past few weeks until I found an incredibly efficient, knowledgeable and customer friendly team at Ripcord. Laurie spent a good hour with me just now going through multiple scenarios and I feel comfortable that I know what I’ve paid for. The large scale disasters of 2014 and 2015 have clearly left insurers on the back foot on Everest expeditions so its great to see someone taking the lead and providing such high quality customer facing staff.

I’ve also set up the charity fund raising page today. Joanna Bega from Child Rescue Nepal has been brilliant helping tailor a fundraising exercise to build some schools in Makwanpur.

All generous donations gratefully appreciated, please go to:

http://virginmoneygiving.com/letsbuildschools

We’ve been allocated four projects totalling £52,000 to fund. Child Rescue Nepal has confirmed all monies raised through this project will be ring fenced for these projects only. If we raise enough for one School thats great, 2 even better, all four wonderful! And of course CRN have confirmed there are a lot more villages desperate to rebuild school facilities following the 2015 earthquake.

All these projects are focused on the Makwanpur district, away from the hustle and bustle of Kathmandu and the tourist trekking trails and out of sight, Every £1 raised will go straight into getting these projects completed: from bricks and mortar to the wood for seats and benches. Any questions feel free to reach out to me on mchughrory@hotmail.com or Joanna.bega@childrescuenepal.org

A school building in construction
These little guys deserve a place to learn

Everest here we come!

Finalising plans this week around the expedition I’m going to join for Everest. In the past weeks I’ve had to firm up my intention to climb on the south side rather then the north (thanks to numerous posts on the subject, especially the one from Alan Arnette). It’s not a clear cut call and all the pro climbers who base themselves on the north have strong and opposing views to those who are based on the south.

The great news is that I’ll be joining Tim Mosedale on his expedition and that we have a date for arriving in Kathmandu – 26th March. Now we can get into planning the details, finalising training plans, and ensuring we have all the kit we need for the big trip.

The other great news is that I’ll be joined for the first leg of the trip by Joanna Tizzard, Michael McHugh, Bernie Angopa, and Sami Mansour. It’s going to be a blast trekking to base camp with great friends and having all that fun it will make the overall trip feel a lot shorter I’m sure. We all climbed

Finally, I’ve also decided to write this blog, hopefully entertain some of you, and raise money for charity. Will let you know more shortly.

Viva Ecuador!

Been a great week here in the mountains of Ecuador doing some high altitude fitness training in the the most beautiful of surroundings and escaping the pre-christmas drinks and party season back in London.

Check out these videos from summits of Illinizas and Cayambe, 2 of the 6 summits of the week:

The Cayambe summit day was a particular highlight. We left the refuge at 11pm and summited just after sunrise. We then returned to the refuge and I picked up an awesome Specialised mountain bike for a 1200m decent from the refuge past the entrance to the national park. Thanks to the good folk at Papagayo for lending me the bike! Totally sweet ride.

London to Edinburgh Bike Ride for the Prince’s Trust

5 day London to Edinburgh cycle challenge – great week on the bike with Lukedog and JP Little-Westgate and what a fantastic set up from RBS on this charity ride with food stops, medics, mechanics, masseuses and full signposting all the way. So much fun, legs v. tired, and all for a great cause.

princes-trust.org.uk

Something entirely appropriate about cans of Tennants Super at the finish line in Gogarburn.

Very happy to be giving the bike to the guys who are putting it on a truck back to London – certainly won’t miss it for a few days!

A few photos from our week:

The boys getting massages behind me while I ponder why I haven’t lost any weight this week!

Beware the cows!

The route was sign posted the whole way, great organisation from RBS!

Getting off the ice – not as easy as we thought – but finally – We’re on our way home!

After our success on the summit, we were in high spirits as we made our way back to the lower glacier where the planes land.

We hiked down from camp 3 all the way over night, the Alaskan summer nights never ending. We arrived back to the landing strip by 4am on 3rd June and celebrated by digging up the cache and breaking out the beers and Pringles.

Back at the first camp, where the planes land. This is 4am in the land of eternal light, and we are under strict orders to be quiet till 8am when Linda the camp and air strip manager wakes or we won’t be on a flight any time soon! As it happens, a blizzard comes in and we end up waiting 4 more days…so close…ugggh

The hike down the mountain through the night, this is the sunset at around 11pm, it only goes down and starts coming up again this far north in Alaska in June.

The weather clears and there are big cheers as the planes start flying in. Weather can cloud over quickly so we’re keen to get on one!

Dan, Freddy, Rory, & Jeremy waiting to be called for a flight, 24 days on the ice coming to an end, great trip all!