What made you decide to attempt Lobuche East, Everest and Lhoste in the same push?
There was no conscious decision made to climb these 3 mountains in one push initially. The plan kind of evolved this way from the original Everest expedition planned for my client. Then we decided that it would be fun to have some friends walk into base camp with us and this idea evolved into climbing Lobuche on the way. Then Trek and Mountain Magazine and the D of E came on-board and added some of their clients to this plan. From my perspective it’ll be fun to climb Lobuche with all these guys. It’s a great challenge and it will allow me and my Everest client to get acclimatised for the Big E. The Lhotse idea was sparked from a conversation I had with a friend who managed to do Everest Lhotse and Nuptse. I talked to my client about it and we decided that if we are still standing when we get back to the South Col from the summit of Everest to continue to climb and attempt Lhotse. The permits are paid for but the reality of what will happen can only be determined when we get back to the south col.
Have you had to undertake any different training in preparation for this expedition?
I climb a lot of mountains for my work. In the last 3 months I have climbed Aconcagua twice, plus Kilimanjaro and a lot of peaks here at home in the Pyrenees. This is normal fare for me for about this amount of time. It sure keeps me on my toes! The only specific training I do to get ready for 8000 meters is to eat a lot of Pizza, Pasta, fried stuff and other foods that would make a dietician cringe. The idea is to double my own body weight in a short a time as is possible but it never works.
Not many people have successfully done this, why do you think that is?
I think the reason for this is quite obvious; most people are totally done in when they return to the South col after having summited Everest. I think that both my client and I have done plenty of “big days on the hill” so from this perspective there should be no surprises. I always know to keep something in-reserve for un-expected events when guiding other high altitude peaks and usually am quite a lot stronger than my clients just from doing this job all the time. Years of alpine climbing has honed my survival instinct plus mental resourcefulness that will hopefully give us the edge we need to carry on from the South Col to tag another 8000 meter peak.
What has been the most challenging expedition for you so far and why?
My most challenging expeditions I have done so far have been non-climbing ones. Long river journeys into the Congo and Amazon basins and a sailing trip to Greenland spring to mind. The challenging aspect of these expeditions came from the fact that I was un-familiar with these environments and had to learn different survival methods. Having climbed since I was 14 the mountains have always been familiar turf for me but the challenging factor comes from doing them back to back. For example by the middle of this year I will have hope to have summited Aconcagua, Kilimanjaro, Lobuche, Everest, Lhotse, Denali and Elbrus. Someone once told me that I seem to do in 6 months what an average mountaineer would do in a lifetime. As a professional climber this kind of intensity is not unusual but can’t be sustained forever. Keeping in shape both mentally and physically to pull each summit of successfully until you get to chill out again is what is challenging!
What’s been your favourite expedition so far and why?
Alpine missions with good friends are always the best fun. There have been many but several routes on Mount Kenya, in the Karakoram, on Alpamayo and in New Zealand stand out because of the right ingredients; Great routes, stunning mountains and best of friends!
You have a passion for outdoor adventure. How did this start?
I have my parents to thank for the life I lead. They were very encouraging with whatever path I set out to carve for myself. We immigrated as a family from Holland to Australia when I was a little kid and my parents wanted to see as much of our new home as possible. We spend months exploring remote National parks and wilderness areas, camping out and living rough. This ingrained a deep sense of wonder and love for the wilder parts of the planet. My passion for climbing sprang from that as it combined being in amazing places with adventure
What’s in your kit bag?
For an expedition to 8000 meters you need a lot of extra stuff that you wouldn’t take to a mountain like Aconcagua for example. I have a full down suit, double high altitude climbing boots, Extreme down mitts, a 5 season sleeping bag as well as the regular technical climbing gear. I am lucky to be sponsored by some great companies which help enormously in being prepared for whatever the mountains throw at me. Plus of course the kit provided by Power-Traveller really sets me up in any conditions to re-charge batteries needed to power the communication and film equipment necessary on high profile expeditions such as this.
What three items could you not live without on a climb?
A powerful head-torch; Things kind of come to a hold when caught in the dark without one, a good book; for sitting out storms and my pink handled technical ice-tool. It’s a little heavy but unusually has a straight shaft that I can use to set up belays with and arrest people in a hurry. Its drooped pick is so aggressive it’s scary!
What advice would you have for people interested in starting to climb?
Learn to walk before you run. Serving a proper climbing apprentiship where you graduate from Trad climbing onto Scottish winter routes and then move to the Alps over a couple of years. Some people tend to want to go big-league straight away and climb monster routes in the Andes and Himalaya. I was surprised by one dude who told me about the gnarly shake-fest he was planning to do in Pakistan having only climbed on an in-door climbing wall. Word has it he never made it to the mountains as the bus ride there along the Karakoram Highway scared him senseless. Attitudes like this inevitably lead them into hot water. I have been involved in quite a few scenarios where we had to give up a route because someone who shouldn’t have been there got into trouble and whimpered for help. Building a solid mountain sense that allows you to tackle a mountain on its own terms takes time and dedication. And I should say paying for tuition by mountain Professionals and Expedition companies helps you enormously not only in the development of mountain skills but how to cope with expedition life. Being storm bound in a tent for 6 days is a non-glamorous aspect of expeditions that no-one thinks about but can be made a lot easier if you have the right know-how! But really, you can’t call yourself a climber when all you’ve done in the way of preparation for a big challenge is slapping a credit card on the counter to pay for being dragged to the top.
Finally, what’s next on your expedition agenda?
I’ll be busy guiding on Denali and Elbrus immediately after the Big E and Lhotse. This will bring me to the middle of the year and for the summer I want to just go cragging with my son Ollie. We are working on some cool sport routes and after all those back to back expeditions I ought to be light enough to levitate up even the gnarliest grades!