Climbing Everest is so much more than the 20 minutes spent on top of the world. An Everest expedition is an accumulation of many months, even years of preparation and hence climbing Everest is a journey which includes sourcing finance for an expedition, attaining the relevant climbing experience and developing an appropriate level of physical and psychological fitness.
After an agonising expedition to climb Peak Lenin in Kyrgyzstan, I knew that no matter how prepared I was, Mount Everest would always demand so much more. This realisation was the first step to successfully summiting Baruntse, my main preparation for Mount Everest. I knew that due to the unique demands of climbing at high altitude where your energy is constantly drained, I would have to make better use of the limited oxygen available above 7000m. To achieve this, I began a type of training known as apnea training, where in a conventional swimming pool; the water is used to restrict breathing over multiple lengths in a similar style to the training free divers use.
Not all my time has been spent in the pool, as I try to stay as specific as possible to mountaineering (which isn't always easy in Lincolnshire). Other training has included running a marathon, several half marathons and a number of fell runs to the highest peaks in the UK. Lastly, cycling has played a big part in my training, helping me to keep a good element of variety, and also to concentrate on my leg strength which is so vital for scaling steep slopes once over the height of Europe's tallest mountain (Mount Elbrus: 5,642 m).
They say that climbing at high altitude is all about the mind. I would certainly put the figure at 50% physical and 50% psychological, because to actually climb into the so called 'death zone' where the human body is no longer able to support itself, is one of the hardest feats to overcome both physically and mentally.
Having completed my physical training, I knew that the best psychological training would be gained through experiences at high altitude. I found this out first hand when climbing up to camp two on Baruntse. All my other team mates had reached the safety of the camp, however I had been slow on this particular day, and so fell behind the group. I reached the final section of the climb to camp two, which was a steep fixed rope section, and began to climb into the night. As the sun went down, the temperature fell to around -15 degrees Centigrade, and being alone on a single rope hanging a 1000m above the glacier gave a feeling of isolation and exposure.
This was just the sort of situation I needed to find myself in, because three days later, I found myself standing on the summit of one of the world's highest mountains. From the experience on the fixed ropes, and certainly all the tough experiences throughout this journey, I knew that I had the mental strength just to keep going. This is the same mental strength I will draw from when face with most likely tougher situations on Everest.
When I climb, I also think it is good to remember why I am doing these big expeditions especially when there is often quite a lot of suffering encountered with high altitude mountaineering. The first thought is always for the pleasure and love of climbing. The love of the sport was the first thing that brought me to climbing, so it is always a powerful emotion to remember.
Equally, I also like to remember all the support I receive from home from friends and family. Global digital services company Yell is sponsoring me on this expedition and they have been a great inspiration, I have received so much support from them. I think it is fantastic to know that even when I am in a tent near the top of a mountain in a far away country, there are a few people back home helping to support me.
As with any expedition like this, it is such a great platform to use to promote worthy causes. I am hoping to raise £8,848, the same height as Everest in metres, for the charity Global Angels. The work they do with children all over the world is fantastic, and just knowing that each metre I climb will be another step to helping a child in need will be a great source of motivation. I am also trying to raise awareness for Climate Unchange, an online tool which anyone can use to offset their carbon credits. Knowing that I am helping to make a difference, even if it is only a small one, is such a great motivation to help me reach the top of the world.
And this is why Everest is all about the journey. An Everest expedition itself is only 70 days, yet I have been training for those 70 days for the past two years. Everest is simply the accumulation of everything I have learnt, worked for, and gained. And I am sure with all my training and motivation driving me to the top; I will be able to stand on the roof of the world.
You can follow my journey on Twitter using the hashtag #MountainMatt
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