The waiting game is over, it's time to climb!

2 years ago and we were actually on our way back down from Camp 3 after an aborted summit attempt on Everest having been advised that the weather was turning for the worse and we would have to wait a little longer, back at base camp. 

Not the radio comms you really want to have given the effort it takes to get up to Camp 3 at 7000m, after you were all set for the push to summit the following 24 hrs, the last 40 days of great work and the mental highs and lows behind you, we were ready and raring to go. However, you can't beat or cheat the weather, especially at 8000m, so down we came to base camp at 5350m to enjoy 2 days of 'relative' luxury with a bucket shower, more oxygen (at 45% of the norm at sea level I did say it was relative!) and some fairly warm days before we headed back up on 16th to reach the summit 3 days later.

This coming weekend, on the night of 18/19 May, I will be taking a group of charity fundraisers on a night time ascent of Snowdon, at 1085m the highest mountain in Wales. I'm sure for many, this will be their own Everest and as leader of a highly motivated and experienced team supporting our trekkers, we are really privileged to be part of enabling their dream and helping to raise funds for a worthy cause.

2 years ago on 18 May I was heading out into the night time to climb to the summit of Everest early the following morning. I've been watching the posts on Facebook from many of the teams out on the mountain at the moment and with the ropes fixed to the summit of the south side this Sunday afternoon by a highly experienced team of Sherpas, the route is open and the waiting game is over....almost!

As with our expedition in 2016 (we won't dwell on the schedule of 2015!), you start with Plan A and gradually work your way down the alphabet hoping you don't run out of letters. The weather plays a big part of any expedition, especially on an 8000er, as does fitness, logistics, health, what other teams are up to and the temptation to rush for the gates and try to head up with the crowds is high.

We weren't planning on climbing with the crowds but some things are out of your control and on the night of our ascent we shared the route to the summit with 180 fellow climbers and Sherpas, the high numbers due to severe weather the 24 hrs before holding many climbers at the South Col.

As I often remind people who are moaning about how busy it is/the crowds/the queues are, I was part of those numbers, we all make up those numbers and we still made it.

A huge best of luck, safe climbing, safe descending and happy memories to some great friends on the mountain at the moment and to everyone on both the south and north sides of Everest. Hold your nerve, don't rush it as you need to save every ounce of energy, ignore what everyone else is doing and stick to your own game plane.

Savour the moments and remember, just one foot in front of the other is all it takes as it's only the next step that counts. The same advice in this paragraph goes to my charity fundraisers this weekend on your own Everest in Wales.

Who knows, our climb up Snowdon may inspire one or two to go higher, just like my first challenge for charity did way back in 2003. #thisgirlcan #youcantoo 

Going for Bronze, Silver and Gold

A couple of weeks ago my Mum found my DofE book from 1986. I remember some of my Bronze Award from the cooking to the first aid and I definitely remember the monster-sized blisters on my heels at the end of a very hot 2-day expedition. I got a satisfactory for that expedition so I clearly had some work to do!

Roll on 32 years and I am now not only instructing and assessing DofE participants from the start of their DofE journey at Bronze through to Gold and very proudly handing out certificates to Gold Award achievers at Buckingham and St James’s Palace. Who’d have thought this satisfactory girl would kick her inner lazy into touch to climb mountains and hopefully inspire some of our next generation of adventurers.

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The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) has been running for 62 years now and has had a hugely positive impact on many millions of youngsters around the world in those years. I was fortunate enough to go to the Diamond Anniversary Service of Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey in November 2016 and listened to not only The Earl of Wessex give a heartfelt speech but heard from DofE Award holders of how their DofE programme has had an impact on their lives, one of whom had been a young offender and has since gone on the straight and narrow thanks, in part, to the structure and learning opportunities given by the DofE  and those involved.

When I was invited to present for the first time at St James’s Palace in November 2015, my now dearly departed Father jokingly (in part I’m sure) asked me to give his regards to the Duke and say ‘you’ve done a grand job Sir’. I obviously didn’t but I totally understand my Father’s sentiments.

Since its creation in 1956 over 2.7 million students in the UK between the ages of 14 and 24 have been presented with their DofE Award from over 6 million starters including over 1.7 million Bronze, 660,000 Silver and 276,000 Gold Award holders. From the students who start their DofE journey, 4.5% are presented with their Gold Award.

A Gold Award is challenging for a good reason, it’s not called a Gold Award for nothing. Most students will go through their Gold during their A level years, so time is at a premium and the pressure is on. It takes dedication and commitment to work towards this award through the five elements which include a 4-day expedition, 5-day residential, 12-month volunteering, and physical and skills elements which are 12 and 6 months long, each for a day per week as an average.

So why do students put themselves through this during their hardest school years? Because they want to be part of that 4.5% and to have something truly amazing on their CV and have something truly amazing in their lives. A Gold Award holds gravitas. Universities take into account the hard work that doing a DofE programme takes to complete, employers take into account the commitment it takes to complete, and the students really understand the dedication that they need to put in to be part of that small percentage.

When I climbed Everest in 2015 I didn’t want the climb just to be about one mountain and me, but to be about others too and to be able to give a great opportunity to share Nepal and our acclimatisation with a group of six Gold DofE participants. As their residential we trekked to Everest Base Camp and climbed 6000m peak Lobuche East (amongst a great team of friends and clients) and all six students benefited hugely from this experience. I will be posting up their stories on my website shortly, they are all truly inspiring in themselves.

 My fabulous DofE Gold team at the Tenzing Norgay memorial, above Namche Bazaar, Nepal.

My fabulous DofE Gold team at the Tenzing Norgay memorial, above Namche Bazaar, Nepal.

If you have a teenager who is looking to do that bit extra or if you have employees who are looking to push themselves that bit farther then get them to sign up for their Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. From doing my Bronze Award when I was 15 to seeing it all from an instructor’s viewpoint and assessing all three Award levels as part of my work with Adventure Training & Expeditions, and for the last three years presenting at the Gold Awards in my 40’s, I can guarantee is it totally worth it.

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