Everyone dies. But few people really live.
I've always been in awe of the kind of majestic landscape that makes your jaw drop and reminds you that your own view of the world is actually very limited. If that wasn't enough, how about the mystique associated with adventurers and explorers? Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Bear Grylls, Indiana Jones and others... you get my drift!
Most people would probably agree that there’s something quite humbling about mountains. On one hand, you feel as though you’re standing on top of the world, on the other, you feel like a tiny, inconsequential dot in a beautiful landscape. I wanted to experience that feeling on some of the highest peaks of the world.
I didn't seek to climb the biggest mountains- just those that feature on my bucket list. Rather naively, I under-estimated how much of a challenge this would be. Firstly, I'm not especially fond of the countryside and secondly, walking at altitude is more difficult than one might imagine.
I know that that doesn't make sense. "How can you like mountains, but not the countryside?!" Well, I just prefer the pace and excitement of cities. This is an emotional rather than logical response, and I didn't claim to be rational...
One of the biggest challenges of trekking mountains is the possibility of suffering Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). It’s difficult to know who might be susceptible to the affects of altitude because as I found out, fitness levels are irrelevant.
Imagine climbing a mountain with very little oxygen in your body; you feel dizzy, your nose, fingers and feet get numb and tingly; your heart is working frantically to keep up with your muscles' demand for oxygen. Other effects include severe headaches, possible nightmares, hallucinations, vomiting, diarrhoea...the list is endless.
Aside from exciting treks and climbs such as Machu Picchu, Everest, Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro, I’ve also done a lot of hiking in the UK in preparation for the Marathon des Sables. This has taken me to some beautiful places, such as the South Downs Way, Box Hill, the Seven Sisters and the Jurassic Coast. I’ve really enjoyed every moment of it, although less so, the experience of falling into and getting stuck in a peat bog on Kinder Scout!