One question that I’m often asked is “How did you get into trekking?”. If our paths crossed 9-5 (am-pm, and more accurately “8-7”), you probably wouldn’t picture me looking like this:
So, some history.
I did a fair amount of hill walking in my younger years – starting with walks over Ewyas Harold Common and up (and down) Skirrid as a kid, then with Ventures and through the Duke of Edinburgh award as a teen. At St Andrews I joined Breakaway, which led me a bit more towards the mountain walking end of the spectrum. Not at rope / crampon / ice axe levels though.
Then London, a job, the life of a twenty / thirty / forty something in the smoke – and the opportunities to get out and about anywhere without a few hours of travel on public transport pretty much disappeared.
I work in the legal sector – long hours, desk-bound, but well paid so I can do one or two “holidays” a year. Initially these were city breaks and cultural group tours, with occasional DIY trips with travel-mate Hazel to take advantage of family/friends based in exotic locations. You can see the list on Where I’ve Been.
Then, in 2009, Hazel and I decided to do the Annapurna Circuit and it’s been trekking holidays for me ever since.
There were two trips that rekindled my love of the great outdoors (not that I’m sure it ever really went away), and gave me the confidence that I wasn’t crazy to tackle a 19 day trek over the 5,416 m / 17,769 ft Thorong La, albeit one featuring porters, a guided group and tea houses.
The first was 2003’s month in Chile and Argentinian Patagonia when I caught up with Hazel during her travels in South America. Our route took us from Santiago to Punta Arenas, and we spent 5 magic days in Torres del Paine National Park walking the “W”. We carried ridiculously large packs given we were staying in refugio and weren’t carrying/cooking our food, but we did 5 days of continuous walking, with rucksacks and through all sorts of weather.
The second was the Wild Frontiers’ Bhutan: Land of the Thunder Dragon – Spring Festival Tour, in 2008. Very much a cultural trip, scattered throughout there were chances to stretch our legs in the high Himalaya.
We had a half day hike up to the famous Tiger’s Nest Monastery (Paro Taktshang) at 3,120 m / 10,240 ft above sea level (mind you, the trail starts at 2,600 m / 8,525 feet), but my favourites were the walks through the countryside and communities of the Mo Chhu river, Chokhor and Radi valleys.
Those half day meanders really whetted my appetite for a holiday that was all about walking and in the eight years since Annapurna I’ve spent most of them in the mountains, the higher the better. A chance encounter with Val Pitkethly on our Three High Passes to Everest trek brought opportunities to experience Peru’s Cordilleras Huayhuash and Blanca under canvas and to get off the beaten track in Nepal – as well as to do some good through her charity, Light Education Development. Crampons, ropes and ice axes have started to feature too….
…. which brings me to training, which I’ll talk about in my next post.