0to8848 - 1200km along, and 8848m straight up

Boarding the publicity train

by Robert 0 Comments

One of the toughest aspects of trying to complete an expedition of this size is organising all of the dozens of things around the actual training and climbing that need to happen. Publicity is necessary, as are both money and time. As this is an area we haven’t put as much effort into recently, this month we have been working on getting these aspects into shape.

First up was the decision to have a ‘launch’ event. It may seem a bit after the fact, we’ve been blogging about this expedition here for about two years after all, but it is important to make sure that we get media attention if we are to get sponsors. So, with the assistance of a couple of our media guru friends, we decided to have a launch event. We hope to have it in a Tiso store in the October half-term holiday, and to make it a fun event for both children and their parents to come to. There will be activities based on the expedition, and our patron Mark Beaumont will be there as well, to answer questions alongside ourselves. It is the early days of arranging this, but you are all welcome, and we will be sure to update you on it as soon as we have more informp1000364 ation!

Having a launch event is aimed as spreading the word about the expedition through both individuals and hopefully some media coverage, and the purpose of publicity is to raise awareness of both the Bantuan Coffee Foundation that we will be raising money for, but also to show potential sponsors that we are able to organise such an event and reach out to more and more people. So alongside the event we have been working to get our sponsorship information in order. This has meant revising and updating both a brief introduction document, as well as a more substantial sponsorship pack, and picking out companies to approach.

We hope to start sending out our initial approaches to selected companies who are a match with our values and aspirations in the next couple of weeks, and it is sure to be a nerve-wrecking process both approaching sponsors and waiting for responses from them. However time is moving on, and with our plans becoming more and more settled by the week, we need to make sure we are engaging sponsors at the right time.

We have also finally had confirmation from both of our employers that they are willing to give us unpaid leave to pursue the 0to8848 expedition! Given the length of time training expeditions to Aconcagua and Denali take, it was essential that we were able to take time out from our jobs to complete them. Thankfully we are both luck enough to work for understanding and flexible employers! The University of Strathclyde and Crieff Vets, take a bow. We are certainly very happy that they have seen the value of the expedition, and that clears another of the many challenges to completing the expedition.

p1000401Last, but not least important, we have also been training hard in and outside of the gym. Going to the gym isn’t much fun at the best of times, but when it’s a nice day outside it makes it doubly hard. However, sometimes there are just no good alternatives to get the workouts we need in the short times we have available. Thankfully, we have also been lucky enough to have enjoyed some of the Scottish summer, in particular last weekend, when we managed to find two sunny days to do training walks up Beinn Glas and Ben Lawers, on the Saturday, and Meall Ghaordaidh on the Sunday. Over the two days we managed to carry a total of 85kg up 3,000ft, so we’re certainly getting stronger!

Our days continue to be filled with the variety of both everyday life and the additional tasks associated with the expedition, and we’ll update you on progress as soon as it happens. Enjoy the summer while it lasts!

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Type II fun

Hello everyone.

It’s now been over 3 weeks since we got back from Russia and our ascent of Mount Elbrus. Since then we’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the future. We have used the opportunity that comes after every major climb to think long and hard about the commitment we are making to this expedition, and at length have come to the conclusion that, as Rona put it, ‘it may not be sensible, but lets do it’. So the planning for the next 18 months begins.

I think it’s worth spending a couple of sentences on that decision though, because it is an important one. The training for this expedition is certainly not easy, and it also takes up a LOT of time. This has the knock on effect that it is hard to squeeze in other things around the edges. Like seeing friends or family. The climbs themselves are also a mixed bag. Don’t misunderstand, there are many many parts that make them very enjoyable, and there is certainly the feeling of achievement at the end. But as has been noted before, it is very often ‘type II’ fun. That is, ‘fun’ which is only fun in retrospect. That is especially so for summit days, which are long, hard, and by their nature higher than you are used to going. Of course, there are positives to be said for continuing. Getting to climb some iconic mountains around the world, and critically, the chance at the end to raise money and awareness to help out some of the most vulnerable people in the world (www.bantuancoffee.org for those that have forgotten). But overall, it took some serious consideration, and once again we settled on the less sensible side.

So now we just have to do a lot of work both on and off the hills to try and get prepared. On the hills (or in the gym) that means developing our training plans and getting a personal trainer on board to provide some expertise to our workouts. We’re hoping to find the time to get out to France and climb Mt Blanc towards the end of the summer, and there are always more munros to have a go at. Off the hills, we have even more to do. We were incredibly lucky to get Tiso on board very early in our expedition, and now we need to move to get more sponsors if we are to have any hope of completing the final expedition. So that means finding appropriate companies to approach, fixing up our sponsorship pack in general, and then personalising it to each company. Trying to arrange events to raise our profile, as well as thinking up as many different ways of getting ourselves noticed as possible.

These are guaranteed to be difficult things to do. We are developing a plan to get them done, and with a little bit of help and a large amount of luck, I am sure we can get where we want to. Our next major climb is scheduled to be Aconcagua, Argentina, in December 2016/January 2017. At 6,961m it is well over 1,000m higher than either of us have ever been before in our lives (outside of an aeroplane), and promises to be our hardest challenge yet. But without the sponsorship bits going the right way, we may never get close. We’ll keep you posted on how we get on approaching companies, and climbing hills etc. but any bright ideas are gratefully received!

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The Summit of Europe

by Robert 1 Comment

Last week saw the culmination of our training to date: the ascent of Mt. Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe. Mt. Elbrus tops out at 5,642m above sea level, well over 4 P1000072times the height of Ben Nevis and more than 1,000m higher than Mt. Rainier, our last major summit.

Our journey started with a trip to St. Petersburg, where we would meet the rest of the climbers attempting Mt. Elbrus with Alpine Ascents. We were in a large group of 15 individuals – a discouragingly large group for us really – but were lucky to be guided by the husband and wife team of Vern & Carole Terjas. Following an obligatory tour of St. Petersburg, we flew down to Mineralnye Vody, the nearest airport for Mt. Elbrus. After a relaxing 3hr flight accompanies by what seemed like all the upset children in Russia (resulting in a team name of ‘the cry babies’), we still had a three hour drive to get to Terskol and our hotel in the valley at about 2000m above sea level.

P1000175The following day saw our first acclimatisation hike, following a ski-lift ride for a couple of hundred meters, we climbed up to around 3,100 in what would soon become familiar sunshine. Both of us were feeling good on this hike, and it allowed fantastic views of the main Caucasus ridge across the Terskol valley. The following day was another acclimatisation hike of around 1100m, from the base of the valley to the Cheget observatory on a shoulder that leads up to Elbrus itself. Again, we were treated to fantastic weather and it was satisfying to feel strong on both these days, before we headed up to our high camp the next day.

High camp was at about 3600m, and we completed our first day there by spending the afternoon on a short glacier walk in roped teams. We were in a new set of huts at the high camp, which were very comfortable, positioned on the edge of a shoulder. Because Mt Elbrus is a volcano, it is actually set on its own, away from the main Caucasus ridge, the position of the huts gives a fantastic view across the Terskol valley to the main ridge. We were lucky to have the weather to make the most of the views, and there were many photos taken in all lights.

The second day at high camp was used to push our acclimatisation further by ascending an additional 1,200m to the top of Pashtokov rocks at 4,700m. Apart from the final 150m or so, we both felt good on this hike, and we returned to high camp in good spirits, but looking forward to the rest day ahead before the scheduled attempt on the summit. Our rest day never came to be however, as Vern and Carole had other ideas and we spent the morning practicing our self-arrest skills in every style of falling possible. But after lunch was scheduled for ‘naps’, before a short mechanical advantage reminder lesson for crevasse rescue, then dinner and early to bed in advance of the 2.30am start we would be making.

P1000206At 2.30am everybody was up in the hut, getting their final packing and dressing done before breakfast. At 3.50, we met the snow-cat’s which were to take us to Pashtokov rocks, below where we ha climbed to on our last acclimatisation hike. The weather was clear and unseasonably warm, and we were treated to the first glows of dawn over the mountains as we made the 20 minute journey to our start point. By 4.30am we were walking, and making good progress up the steep flanks of Elbrus above Pashtokov rocks. This was already hard work, and slow going, with each of us taking at least one and often more breaths per step. However using both the pressure-breathing and rest-step techniques that we have learnt along the way, we were making good progress.

P1000182At the top of this first steep section, there is a shallower traverse around to the saddle of the mountain between the two peaks. Both of us were feeling the effects of the altitude on this section, but with some determination we made it to the saddle at about 5,200m, where we could have a slightly longer rest than the customary 10 minutes. Having left our packs at the saddle, we started up the steep final section before the summit plateau. Because there was so much snow (despite the relative warm) we were able to forego the fixed line route, and take a more contouring route up to the plateau. By this time Rona was feeling more positive, but I was still finding it hard going, and I was certainly pleased when at the first break after the saddle we were told it was only 30 minutes to the summit!

The plateau allowed some views back to the East peak as well as forward to the true summit on a small raised area ahead. Finally, about 7 hours after starting walking, we arrived at the highest point in Europe, the summit of Mount Elbrus at 5,642m above sea level!P1000229

P1000224The descent was, as always, harder than it might be but easier than going up! However, the sun was now making itself felt, and we sweated our way back to the saddle to rejoin our packs and put away all of our insulated gear. It had been only around -5 celcius on the summit compared to an expected temperature of around -20 or -25, so we had been very lucky in that respect, but it did mean that we were somewhat over-prepared with the warm gear! Our descent from the saddle was fast and hot, but with no significant problems we met a snow-cat at the top of Pashtokov rocks again for the descent back to camp for lunch and a hard-earned rest.

The following days were taken up with descending back to the valley, using our contingency bad-weather day to go horse-riding and for a short walk, and heading to Moscow via Mineralnye Vody once again. Moscow was even hotter than we had been, but we survived the pre-organised tour, and before we knew it we were on a plane heading back for St Petersburg, and home.

Our expedition to the summit of Europe was fantastic, and certainly an excellent bit of training. It provided us a reminder of the difficulties that come with altitude, and the size of the challenge to climb Everest from sea level. Having returned, we now have an opportunity to take stock and think about our next steps. But seeing as we have put all this effort into building up our red blood cell counts, we might be tempted to try and get out and about closer to home in what remains of the summer.If you would like to see more of our photos from this trip, we have set up a ‘Mount Elbrus’ album on our photos page. We hope you like them!

P1000195

The last of the sun on the Caucasus ridge

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The next big thing

The next big thing

Sorry for the lack of communication over the last few weeks. Since the end of April, we have been preparing for our next big thing, which is the ascent of Mount Elbrus in Russia, the highest mountain in Europe at 5,643m. This has kept us plenty busy, as anyone who read our latest article in Adventure Travel Magazine will know, and I am typing this less than 24 hours before we leave for Russia!

Looking down into Coire A'Ghrunnda from the TD gapWe’ve checked our gear-lists (and we got ourselves a map), and stocked up on snacks for the hike, so now we just have to cram it all into a couple of bags, get up at an obscenely early time, and start the trip. It promises to be exciting and challenging in equal measure, not least for the culture shock of going to Russia, but we’ve been training well, and we can only hope now that it pays off.

Our trip to Skye at the end of April was not the complete success that we might have hoped. A beautiful Sunday was our first day out, and gave us the opportunity to both climb the Thearlaich-Dubh gap and summit Sgurr Alasdair. We were particularly pleased about that as the TD gap is the hardest technical section of the entire ridge. We had hoped to explore some additional sections of it in the following days, but unfortunately the weather had different ideas. That night the clouds came down, and gave precious little respite for the rest of the week. We managed half a day to climb to just below the summit of Bruach na Frithe before the weather set in once again, but regrettably, that was the last of the ridge we were to see. However, on occasion, the views of the Cuillin in their winter coats was spectacular, and some compensation for being unable to walk.

Thankfully, throughout May the weather steadily improved, and aside from one on call weekend, and one in the Netherlands to allow me to graduate, we have been out and about every weekend day since, which has felt good. For no particular reason, we seem to have been headed west quite a lot, finding short sharp climbs to ensure that we don’t aggravate Rona’s foot any more than is strictly necessary.The view from Stuchd an Lochain

Climbs of have included Ben Lomond, Stuchd an Lochain, Ben Vorlich and An Caisteal, as well as an attempt on Beinn Narnain which was aborted because of, somewhat unbelievably in Scotland, the heat. These climbs have all been done with more weight that we are expected to carry on Elbrus, so all things being equal, we will be in good shape to take on the challenges that come with the altitude and weather on Elbrus.Loch Lomond

You can actually follow the progress of the Elbrus ascent on Alpine Ascent’s website, but we will be back in touch with pictures and a report as soon as we get back.

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Frequenting the Lawers

Frequenting the Lawers

DSCN0106   Hello again! It’s been a few weeks since our last update, and I’m pleased to report that things have been going really well. Our expedition to Mount Elbrus is fast approaching, and our training has been becoming more specifically targeted at the capabilities that we have to have according to the training guide provided by Alpine Ascents.

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Nearly as good would be just fine

by Robert 0 Comments
Nearly as good would be just fine

After our last few months, it has become apparent that neither of us are taking anything for granted in our attempts to get fit enough to climb Elbrus, yet alone Everest in a couple of years! There have been conversations about the appropriateness of forking out significant sums of money to book expeditions that we might not be able to go on, and there have definitely been set-backs. Thankfully, I am pleased to be able to say that our resumption of normal training activities is slowly gaining pace. We are, of course, wary of pushing Rona’s foot too far too soon, but we seem to have found the appropriate level for the moment, and with luck, a continuous, slow, increase in loading will get us on track. I have confidence, but then optimism around our ability to achieve this objective has never been something I’ve lacked since we first came up with this idea.

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Backfill…

Backfill…

So, we said in our last post we’d let you know what distracted us for so long, and here we are. Our last update before one giving our top 10 walks in 2014/15 was November, so what have we been doing? The short answer is both a lot and not much. Unfortunately, the last couple of months have been something of a challenge for us in terms of keeping on track with our ambitions to walk from sea-level to the summit of Everest, and these problems have been to a greater or lesser extent our own faults. Lets have a look at them, shall we?DSCN0035

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Wet, windy, and boggy

by Robert 0 Comments
Wet, windy, and boggy

We know it’s been a while. A long while. There are reasons for this, but this isn’t the place to find them. The next posting will cover a lot of what has been happening and where we’ve been. Laziness in posting has definitely had something to do with it, but we’ve got proper reasons too!

However, in the mean time, we thought we’d get you up to date with last weekend. As you may remember, it wasn’t the best weather. Indeed storm Imogen was raking across the UK, and although Scotland did not receive the worst of it, there was still plenty of wind and snow around. Because of that, we had a nice low-level walk planned, with nothing above 450m.

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10 of the Best 2014/15

10 of the Best 2014/15

As we begin to look forward to another winter, and contemplate dragging our 4 season boots down from the attic, Robert and I have realized we have now officially been training for the 0 to 8848 expedition for a year. We’ve hit some major milestones along the way; we’ve secured a fantastic gear sponsor, got the backing of a patron and climbed our first training peak- Mount Rainier. Alongside these achievements, we have spent some fantastic days out in the hills, mostly in Scotland but with forays to the States (as mentioned above), England and Wales. After some debate, we’ve compiled a list of our top ten walks over the past year, rated purely by enjoyment factor. So, in reverse order…

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Cairngorming

by Robert 2 Comments
Cairngorming
Last Thursday was the autumn equinox, meaning that the nights are now longer than the days, and we will have progressively less hours of daylight walking. With this in mind, and a favourable forecast for Sunday, we planned to do a slightly longer walk while we had the guaranteed daylight. So, after an early start, we headed up to Glen Shee, to tick off some of the East Mounth.

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