Never did I think that I would find myself sitting backwards on a steep mountain slope with someone holding my feet and telling me to ‘lean back and enjoy the mountain view’. Never did I think I would then intentionally lie back on the mountain and fall backwards, headfirst, down the slope to help me learn how to save myself in an emergency.
In February, I found myself doing just that, along with walking up steep mountain slopes in crampons, learning to use an ice axe, using fixed ropes to get up the very steep sections (or sections that seemed very steep to me) and then abseiling back down. As someone who is afraid of heights and particularly of drops, it was a terrifying weekend at times but it was also an amazing experience. The scenery, just outside Fort William in Scotland, was simply breathtaking and the opportunity to challenge myself, both physically and mentally, was fantastic.
So, why am I doing this? As many of you will know, I like to do something every year to raise money for the wonderful charity, Cancer Research. Every one of us knows someone who has suffered, or is suffering now, from the cruel disease of Cancer. Cancer Research works hard to support those suffering today and to find ways to end the suffering in the future. Two years ago, I was privileged to trek to Everest Base Camp in Nepal, a truly awe-inspiring place. As soon as I returned from that trek, I knew that I wanted to experience more of this wonderful country. In October, I will be lucky enough to return to try and reach the summit of Mera Peak and raise money for Cancer Research whilst doing so.
Mera Peak is the highest trekking Peak in Nepal and from the summit, I will be privileged to see five of the ten highest mountains in the world, including Everest.
The altitude, the temperature, the terrain and the team environment will all make this a huge challenge for me. The summit is at 6,476m and remembering how I felt at 5,895m standing on the summit of Kilimanjaro (when every step seemed to be like a mile), I know that being almost 600m higher will be a significant challenge. The cold will be hard. I struggle in the UK with the cold and here I will need to camp for two nights in the snow with temperatures which could drop to -25 degrees. The trek will involve steep sections and drops, including the two day summit climb which will need me to walk in crampons, use fixed ropes, abseil and to cross a glacier which may have crevasses. I will also be away from my wonderful husband for three weeks and with people who I haven’t met before. For a shy and private person, this will add to the difficulties.
Whilst I am very nervous, I am also incredibly excited. I know how lucky I am to have the chance to experience again a place that is so beautiful, welcoming and inspiring. I also know that I will learn things about myself and our amazing world that will help me to be a better person.
To help me prepare for the trek, I am walking, weight training, running and shopping! Whilst I never thought I would be running two marathons in a year simply to keep fit for another challenge, that is what I am finding myself doing. I am excited to be running the London marathon with my husband and two of our wonderful friends in April. I was also lucky enough (I keep telling myself!) to win a ballot place to run the Berlin marathon in September. The running keeps me fit and inspires me. As anyone who has run in a mass participation event will know, the feeling of running with so many people, all focused on pushing themselves to achieve what seems impossible, is an experience that is an inspiring testament to the human spirit.
Whilst the marathon training, particularly through the very cold winter we are having, is tough, the shopping is very easy! I have become an avid researcher of gloves, crampons, boots and thermals. It is a different type of shopping than my usual shoes but equally fun!
In under eight months time, I hope to be standing on the summit of Mera Peak. I hope to be looking out at an amazing view which shows us just how wonderful our world is. If I achieve this, I know it will have been because of a huge amount of support and inspiration from my family and friends. I’ll keep you all updated on my progress over the coming months.