The high’s and low’s and the very high’s of life

It’s been an interesting month or so on Planet Dave, and as I write this I’m really not sure where my (literary) ramblings are going to take me.  Not all those who wander are lost though, so go with it…

Lets start on August 11th, a week before departure to Mt Elbrus.  A very exciting day for me, as not only did I finally get my hands on a car I’d been hankering after for years, it was also 2 years to the day since I had bought my Landrover Freelander.  Coincidence?  Maybe, but a particularly curious one as the new car is another Landrover, but this one is a Defender 90.  Called Kermit. It has taken a year of looking fairly seriously to find Kermit, due to my needing an automatic and knowing that Hens teeth are easier to find, this was something of a challenge especially working within the parameters of my budget…  But there it is, with an engine and gearbox from a Discovery, sleeping in my garage at night.  Bless.  Sounds fantastic too, in the agricultural way only a defender does.

I have been trying to get to grips with why I have this fascination and obsession with Landrover Defenders.  They are, to steal a phrase from Tom Ford from 5th Gear, “what 4×4’s should be, absolutely fit for purpose”.  I think they chime with my philosophy, with my ‘Whatever it takes’ mantra.  People who don’t know me will make a judgement on me when they see me walking down the street.  I get that.  It’s fine, human nature.  When they see me climb into, or out of, my defender, having made that judgement, the eyebrows are raised as the brain searches desperately for a logical explanation.  Call me sadist but I like it when I make people confused.

But its more than that too.  I know I cannot have done the things I have done without people and equipment to help me.  The defender is an extension of that.  It points to the opportunities to go places, see things, inspire and help do things that wouldn’t be possible without the people and equipment to enable it all, and also challenges the ideas people have about me when they pass me in the street or in the pickles and sauces aisle in Tesco.  That, I think, is why I love the Landrover Defender.  Still not convinced?  Watch this:

A week after collecting Kermit, my friend Nigel Vardy and I were on our way to Russia and the Caucasus mountains to climb Mt Elbrus.  I won’t go into detail here but my report can be read here.  Suffice to say it was a trip of mixed fortunes but I am emmensely proud of what we were able to achieve and the learning from it.

However, Nigel and I were brought crashing back to earth on the return journey.  Our flight from Mineralnye Vody to Moscow was delayed by 4 hours which meant that our connecting flight home left as we stepped off the aircraft.  The next flight was not until the following morning, so eventually S7 airlines (whose flight was delayed) gave us a meal voucher for the equivilant of about £5 each.  Has anyone been able to get a half decent meal for £5 in an airport lately…?  No, nor me…

Then, after 3 hours in the airport, at about 10pm we were taken to the S7 ‘hotel’.  Our room was about 8ft x 5ft, with two beds, a wardrobe and sink.  Oh yeah, and us two tired adult men with our kitbags having come off the mountain the previous day.  And the worst thing of all… no hotel bar.  Still, we would have to be up in 3 hours to go back to the airport to check in for our new connecting flight…

When we got there we had a new problem.  This was the day after the original connecting flight so we were told we couldn’t have boarding passes because our visa’s had expired.  Off we were taken to a kiosk, filled out a form, parted with 1500 rubles (about £30) and we were now finally able to take our boarding passes.  That all took about an hour and a half, so by the time we got through security to the duty free area, the flight was being called and we had not even enough time for a quick ‘farewell Russia’ coffee.  Just as well really as we were almost out of cash.

Mercifully, the British Airways flight to Heathrow T5 passed off smoothly and comfortably.  Nigel had remained a picture of remarkable calm persistance through the whole experience despite our growing frustration and tiredness, and it had been an education to watch a seasoned traveller work.  More remarkable still was our arrival and passage through T5.  We were ushered down an quick channel at passport control and so by-passed the queues, our bags were already circulating in the baggage reclaim hall, and then straight out into the arrivals hall greeted by the excited and beaming face of Gaynor, my partner.  Welcome home!!

Nigel had to head straight home for an appointment to have his feet checked over, and Gaynor and I stayed in London for a few days.  I’d landed on the day of the opening ceremony for the greatest show on earth, The Paralympic Games.  As a former Paralympian, I never thought I’d see a games on this scale, with this level of support and this level of enthusiasm for paralympic sport.  It was immense.  We went to Trafalgar Square for the opening ceremony (great atmosphere) and then had tickets and park passes for the friday and saturday.  Wow!  Well done LOCOG, Channel 4 (Last Leg was a brilliant idea, classic Channel 4 at it’s finest), London as a city, athletes and of course those simply sensational volunteers who made it all work.  I have sat through some boring closing ceremony speeches at major events, but thought the speeches by Lord Coe and Sir Philip Craven were the best I’ve ever heard.  If you haven’t seen them, watch this:

Returning home to normal life could present a hefty anti-climax after such a tumoltuous couple of weeks, but I was glad to get home, to my own bed, and of course the dog (Pike) who I’d missed almost as much as Gaynor.  I think after being re-united with him it took him about 3 days to calm down…

The final peice of news to convey is that Pike now has a new playmate… As of just over a week ago, we have a 3 year old female Springer Spaniel we’ve named Islay.  We got her from Babbington Rescue Centre where she was brought as a stray, and we are all thoroughly delighted to be able to offer her a new home.  She’s settled in very well, and in that typical Springer way, is permanently happy and thrilled with everything, especially when it comes with a sausage…


Great feedback and testimonial!

A couple of weeks ago I did a talk for a group of disabled adults embarking on a weekend of outdoor and adventurous activity through ‘Shared Lives’ in partnership with Aberdeenshire Council.  Today I had this message from the organiser:

The Glenmore event began and finished at fever pitch.
For us as last year, your talk just sets the whole event off with a bang and fires up the enthusiasm and the “I can do” spirit, which has to be said starts from your input. By Saturday evening people were high on their personal journeys and often in the conversations your name was mentioned.

One lady spoke of how if Dave can do this I can and committed
herself to walking during the weekend without her sticks. And she did!
I have booked Glenmore next year on the back of the success of this event
which is the 14th June and if costs allow would love to hear your update as
I feel there is a new adventure for you on the cards which we would love to
be able to share.

My sincere thanks for your time, company and brilliant talk.

How great is that!!!

Also, in a massive explosion of my enormous inflated ego, I have made a showreel of sorts to try to help promote my speaking and lectures…  If anyone’s particularly worried, the doors in my house are already widened, and I’m sure Pike the dog will soon cut me back down to size…

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3 Peak Challenge Advice

This weekend will probably see a peak in the number of teams and groups raising much needed funds for very deserving causes on the National 3 Peak Challenge.  Having seen the weather forecast, I don’t envy anyone taking on this challenge over the weekend nearest to the summer solstace.

My advice to all this weekend is simple.  Be careful, be competant, be respectful, and leave no trace.  Challenge participants should consider the impact they have on the communities and environments they pass through, particularly in the Wasdale valley as they generally motor through villages and past farms at around 3am.  Here is an exerpt from an article published by the BMC:

“Residents of the Wasdale valley regularly have their summer nights disturbed by large Challenge groups whose conduct Richard described as ‘totally antisocial’. Nor does the Challenge have any positive effect upon the local economy. Challenge groups do not stay in local hotels or even buy drinks in local pubs, since they arrive in Wasdale in the middle of the night and leave in a hurry in their minibuses the following morning. Nor can the tourist infrastructure at Wasdale Head cope with the influx. There certainly aren’t enough toilets, car parking space is at a premium, and Mountain Rescue vehicles have been all but forced into the ditch by minibuses hurtling down the narrow road in the dead of night. Yet road widening and the building of facilities are not what nature lovers come to see.”

You can read the full article at and I would also strongly advise all challengers to watch this short film by the Wasdale Mountain Rescue Team – the unpaid volunteers who keep you safe and rescue you when you get lost or injured in the mountains.

Above all, I wish all challengers good luck and raise lots of money for your chosen charities.  Enjoy the event and come back to the mountains at a more leisurely pace.

Finally, remember what Edward Whymper taught us…

“Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are nought without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste; look well to each step; and from the beginning think what may be the end.”

Julie Tullis Memorial Award

Very excited today.  I have received a letter from the BMC’s International Committee with a provisional grant offer from the Julie Tullis Memorial fund towards my re-match with Mount Elbrus!!

Julie Tullis was the first British woman to climb an 8,000m peak, but tragically died after summiting her second 8,000er, K2, in 1986. She was a longtime member of the Sandstone Climbing Club (SCC) and after her death the Club initiated the Julie Tullis Memorial Fund (JTMF) as a permanent memorial to her life and achievements.

I am of course delighted and grateful to the BMC for this significant contribution.  I hope that it will help galvanise and encourage others to help me to reach my target for the expedition, and I hope I can do Julie Tullis proud.

Ted Atkins – Oxygen cylinder advice

I’ve had an email from my friend Ted Atkins from Top-Out Oxygeneering regarding an accident he had with a cylinder and a Poisk regulator. Ted is one of the most experienced and respected people in the world in the field of mountaineering and supplementary oxygen systems. Here is his typically robust and honest account of the accident, and very good advice too.

“News travels fast of an accident and I would like to explain the facts as we know them today. I was injured testing a Poisk regulator in conjunction with a new Summit cylinder yesterday. I chose to use the new cylinder because it was a new introduction to climbers and it is delivered as being higher pressure than the Poisk cylinders.

The regulator that failed was not an old style nor was it the newest style. As I fastened it onto the cylinder there was an explosion. I had pieces from the gauge embedded in my neck (I am grateful to Kaju from Asian Trekking for taking this out with a pair of pliers).

Neil Greenwood of Summit Oxygen has been on the phone to me and we are trying to determine exactly what went wrong. Meantime I have sold a number of these cylinders and feel obliged to inform all of a potential problem. I recommend 3 specific precautions at this stage:

· Wear ski goggles when changing the regs
· Wear gloves
· Put the cylinder onto the regulator keeping the regulator in the same plane with the gauge pointing at the ground

It could be that this was simply a ‘one off’ defective regulator, but I have fitted so many in my time and this is a first for me and the first I have heard of. I was VERY lucky to get away with the level of injury I received so until this situation is resolved PLEASE observe the precautions I have listed. These precautions would actually be good practice in all cases involving regulator changes and I urge you to disseminate this information.”