And so it begins…

In 24 hours I will land in Kathmandu. 

The days, weeks and months are over and today is the day I depart on my latest and potentially greatest adventure to date. I have enjoyed months of build up, including the fundraising, the challenges, the endless trips to Cotswold outdoors, the training weekends and attempting to learn Nepalese! 

I am sitting at the departure gate looking at the airplane that will hopefully take me to Istanbul then onwards to Kathmandu. I have already endured the mild peril that goes with a trip of this nature. I found out yesterday that my return fight in December had been cancelled by the airline which resulted in a dozen frantic calls to various agents! I wouldn’t have minded but being so close to Xmas I didn’t want to be arriving home just as the crackers were being pulled! Fortunately I managed to secure an earlier flight which will mean an overnight stay in Istanbul but at least I will be headed home. 

I then found out that there will be a general transport strike on Sunday in Kathmandu pretty much putting paid to my pre-expedition night of luxury in the Backyard Hotel. No sightseeing for me, I will now be heading straight to Raleigh fieldbase from the airport! I have been promised a cup of tea on arrival so not all bad! 
I hope to try and keep a blog going whilst on expedition. Writing it up directly from my I phone is not ideal so apologies for any typos or predictive taxt gaffes! 
Thanks again to all those who’s support, love and encouragement has got me to this stage. In a multi media global context It’s a small thing that I am undertaking but I am determined to try and make a positive difference to the lives of others. It’s only through education and combined united efforts that we will save this planet and ensure future generations will survive and thrive. There are 7 billion people on this planet. Just think what we could achieve if we all worked together……

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World Record Everest climbing challenge for Raleigh International

“Come on Tim, you are a third of the way through you can do it. Oh no, sorry, i mean a quarter!” “Can you hurry up Tim we want to go to the pub” these were the kind of motivational comments that kept me going during my recent attempt to break the World Record for climbing the equivalent height of Everest on an indoor climbing wall! To be honest I could not have managed it without the help and support of friends and family. It was a cold wet dark December morning that greeted me at 5:30am on the 23rd December. I had not slept well during the night as nerves which so often do got the better of me. I had prepared as much as I could and knew that the only thing between me and the record was 13 hours of pain.

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Bring on the wall!!
I arrived at Clip’n’Climb in Ilkley with minutes to spare. This indoor climbing facility being the venue for my attempt. If I was going to break the record I would have to climb their 6m wall 1475 times in less than 13 hours and 20 minutes. Up until that morning the most I had done in one go was 150 in just over an hour and that had left me with blistered hands and cramps in my legs. This was going to be a suffer-fest!

At a couple of minutes past 6:00 with harness on i was ready to start. I had 2 independent time keepers and also cctv cameras directed upon me. I knew i had a sports therapist coming at 8:30 so i set this time as my first target. Photos taken, video ready it was a 3,2,1 countdown and on my way. Having previously endured 150 ascents in one hour I set this number as my first target. I surpassed it without difficulty after around 90 minutes. I felt strong and relaxed. However,I knew I would have to pace myself. It was around the 200 ascents mark that it first dawned on me how tough this was going to be. It is with gritted teeth and clenched hands that i re-count this from the comfort of my chair!

The pain and fatigue in my arms began to creep in when i hit the 300’s. I needed a break and so it was with great relief that I spotted Julianna the sports therapist setting up her table. She quickly assessed the situation and very professionally got on with what needed to be done. I ate whilst I was pummelled and looked on my phone at all the texts and e-mails that had been coming through from friends and family. With such overwhelming support and the clock continuously ticking I knew I had to leave Julianna’s therapeutic touch and get on with it.IMG_9471

“Once more unto the wall!” I am no Henry the V but i certainly felt like i was in a battle. During the next few hours I built up a rhythm and a pattern and the counter steadily clicked up. There were regular, welcome, interruptions from many well-wishers. The chance to catch my breath and have a quick chat with friends and strangers alike and to explain what I was was doing and why was good for my body and mind but not for my schedule.

It became apparent around the 800th ascent that I was slipping behind. Another hundred and I would reach the height of Basecamp. This was another key goal. This is where Cameron a young climber came to my aid. For the next 100 or so ascents he was willing and able to climb opposite me and help increase my pace. We were never going to get back to my schedule but from this point on I felt certain that I would beat the current record. Passing the 1000 mark was a genuine mental milestone. From this point I knew I could do it (or could I….)

A good friend Mick, with whom i had recently traversed the Cuillan ridge, was Mr Motivator and statistician for the day . He kept me informed of my schedule and wrote down how many i would have to complete in each hour to keep on track.

 

Unfortunately, my hands were falling to pieces.FullSizeRender

I knew from previous training climbs that this would potentially be my biggest problem of the day. I am not a regular climber so i haven’t developed the callouses that are so vital to gnarly rock monkeys. I had tried wearing gloves but they were too hot and I sweated too much in them. I was recommended to try tape, this worked, without it I could not have continued. Throughout the day as I felt blisters beginning to develop I would wrap 2 inch strips around the affected digits. This continued until my hands looked like those of an Egyptian mummy! During the challenge I had to continually wrap and unwrap the tape as it became worn through and the pain seared through my fingers. The swelling and pain in my forearms also became a challenge and as I pushed on to the 1200 level I was having to pause every 50 or so ascents to have my arms rubbed and stretched. My hands were like claws now and were very swollen. With the crowd of onlookers building and with only 100 to go it was with a renewed sense of purpose that I cracked on.IMG_1774

Finishing the final 50 ascents was a mixture of pure pain, relief and elation. For the previous 4-5 hours my entire body had been shouting at me to just stop. It was only sheer will power that kept me going. This can almost be as tiring as the physical effort. To summon up the mental resolve to achieve each assent I felt I had to dig deeper than I had ever done before. I locked out the pain, took on board the increasing chorus of encouraging shouts and went for the final 10.

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Fantastic Everest cake!

The time was good, the record (unofficialy) was in the bag, it was just a question of finishing now. The atmosphere was fantastic, everyone who had helped on the day, friends and family all gathered to count me down and see me home. I had nearly made it to the summit of Everest! (Throughout the day people had given their time to collect donations for Raleigh International’s efforts in helping re-build Nepal after the devastating Earthquake. We managed to raise around £1,000 on the day!)

The final ascent was met with rapturous cheers and an overwhelming sense of relief. The champagne was un-corked and half it’s contents sprayed over me. I had done it. 1480 ascents in 12hours 48minutes and 34 seconds. A new World Record (unofficial, to be ratified) A huge thank you to Clip’nClimb Ilkley and all those who supported me on the day. Bring on the next challenge…..FullSizeRender 3

Please click here for donations and more information

Raleigh International, Nepal and earthquakes

On 23rd September 2016 I will be embarking on an exciting adventure. As a volunteer project manager for Raleigh International I will be working for 13 weeks in some of the most hard hit areas devastated by earthquake in Nepal. Raleigh International are one of a handful of NGO’s working with the Nepali government to help re-build communities destroyed by last April’s natural disaster.

 

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What will I be doing on expedition in Nepal?

The expedition will primarily focus on supporting reconstruction efforts in rebuilding housing and rehabilitating water systems in the Gorkha district. Working with local communities and local government, we will target the communities that have been most affected by the earthquake.

Unlike other Raleigh expeditions, there will not be the chance to work on an environment project on our first expeditions. We will still be doing the adventure phase. This is likely to be for two weeks and take place at the beginning of the expedition.

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Here is a little more information about what I will be doing and why:

 

Expedition FAQs

1. Project Location

Where in Nepal will Raleigh be working?

The projects will be based in the districts of Gorkha and Makwanpur. Gorkha is a northern district of Nepal near the Chinese border. Makwanpur is in central Nepal, south-west of Kathmandu. Volunteers will do their training in Gaindakot in the Nawalparasi district; this is south of Kathmandu. Our in-country headquarters is in Kathmandu.

Were these two districts affected by the earthquake?

Both areas were affected at varying levels by the earthquakes which occurred in April and May this year. Raleigh will support young people and rural communities in Gorkha and Makwanpur to recover from the disaster and build resilience for the challenges to come.

Gorkha was one of the closest districts to the epicentre of the earthquakes; many of the region’s homes and livelihoods were destroyed or damaged. Vital services such as schools and hospitals have now been reconstructed.

Why we are going to Nepal so soon after the earthquake?

Raleigh has had a team of staff in Nepal since January 2015. Following the devastating earthquakes, we have been working with the Nepali government to understand where our work can have most impact.

Raleigh is one of a very small number of volunteer organisations who have a general agreement signed with the Nepali government. That means we’re officially registered to work in the country and have the government’s support.

Young people are critical to the rebuilding of the communities impacted by the earthquake. After the initial response to the safety of the individuals affected by the disaster, the Nepali government has embarked on a reconstruction plan for the worst affected areas. This includes efforts to rebuild the homes, schools, roads, water systems and infrastructure alongside efforts to support people in getting their lives back to normal through business growth and development. The reconstruction work may take decades and young people need to be at the heart of this process to create a stronger more resilient society.

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2. Safety

Is there a risk of another earthquake?

Nepal lies on a fault line which means that, as with a number of other global destinations, there is a risk of earthquake. Our Country Office and training centre have been selected as they are in locations that were in areas not significantly affected by the recent earthquakes.

The essence of our project work is to help and support those affected by the recent incidents. We mitigate risks by ensuring that we work closely with project partners and international warning systems that monitor seismic activity. This is in line with our Crisis Management Plan, comprehensive risk assessments and casualty evacuation documents that are in place for all project locations.

There is a risk of earthquakes – and other natural disasters – in a number of the countries that Raleigh already works in. Raleigh is experienced in assessing such risks and developing appropriate plans to protect our people.

Is expedition safe?

Safety is at the heart of everything we do. You will receive full safety training during your induction and our head office provides 24 hour emergency cover and support for each expedition. We focus on preventing accidents, but sometimes accidents do still occasionally happen. For this reason we have a robust Crisis Management Plan, comprehensive risk assessments and casualty evacuation and emergency plans for every project site in place, covering all eventualities from natural disasters and political instability to individual incidents.

  •   Qualified Staff: Every expedition is supported by a qualified doctor or nurse and all of our Volunteer Managers are first aid trained with specific in country training on what they are likely to encounter. We have an experienced permanent staff team based in Nepal who have a wealth of experience managing our programmes.
  •   Equipment: We provide all the required safety equipment for you to be able to safely conduct all activities required to make the most out of your expedition. This also includes communications equipment so that you can remain in touch with Fieldbase throughout your time on expedition.
  •   Advice: We consult with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office regularly and have good relationships with the British Authorities, Government ministries and agents in each country who will give us early warning of any potential problems. Local medical services, emergency services and the military are also on hand to help if needs be.If there was a significant incident that did affect our programme, we would address it accordingly. That may mean removing a group from their project site, having to end the placement early or in the worst case carry out an emergency evacuation.Any decision would be made with our local partners, the Nepal country team and our safety team here in the UK. This decision would be supported by local Embassies and local emergency services.

 

What training will I receive?

Volunteer Managers and Venturers undertake training both in the UK and in Nepal. This involves safety briefings, risk assessment, casualty evacuation; and training in the correct and safe use of: tools, camping equipment and safety equipment. If you are unable to attend a UK training event, we are able to send you all the information via e-mail. However, we highly recommend that all volunteers attend.

What happens if there is an emergency?

Before every expedition we carry out a full risk assessment of each project site. Our volunteers also do their own risk assessment when they arrive, which encourages a vigilant attitude towards safety within the group. As well as this we have comprehensive emergency and evacuation plans in place for every project site and our Volunteer Managers visit and assess the local medical facilities. If any individual has to return home we also have services in place to assist this.

We have a comprehensive medical and personal accident insurance policy, offering the best medical care available and a repatriation service where necessary.

Will I be able to use my mobile phone?

During your phases you will not have access to your mobile phone. This is because we want you to be fully engaged with your project and life on expedition. You will be asked to leave your mobile phone with an in-country member of staff before you depart for your phase. If you would like to use your mobile phone as a camera, you will be asked to remove the sim card from the phone. You will, however, have access to your mobile phone during your induction, changeovers and Endex/ Wash-Up.

 

What is Raleigh’s overall focus in Nepal?

Raleigh Nepal will be working on three main programme areas: Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), Community Resilience and Youth Leadership.

Groups that are working on the WASH programme will be working with local communities to:

  •   Identify their key WASH priorities
  •   Rehabilitate water systems and sanitation facilities
  •   Supporting the establishment of water-user groups and raise awareness about WASH-related issues
    The Community Resilience programming will have 3 main components:

    •   Improving housing in communities affected by the earthquake
    •   Supporting communities to implement practices which will reduce their vulnerabilityto climate change
    •   Supporting young people and women to develop livelihoods through entrepreneurtraining and small business development Youth Leadership will be focused on:
  •   Building the confidence, skills and knowledge of young people to be active global citizens.
  •   Encouraging them to learn about themselves as a person and fulfil their true potential Where will I be living?We focus our work in rural communities. Depending on the community and project type, you may be staying with a local family in their home, sleeping in a community building, such as a school or hall or camping.
    Living conditions will be basic and will reflect the conditions in which the local people live. There may not be access to electricity, flushing toilets or showers.

So it won’t be a holiday! I will be raising funds for Raleigh to help with their efforts. Please see my 24 twenty four hour challenges!