I’ve had an interest in Everest since as long as I can remember. Not in an “I want to climb it some day” kind of way (I value my life far too much for that, not to mention my hard-earned money) but just in an awe-inspired kind of way. Two years ago I finally decided it was time to go and visit Everest Base Camp, something I’d also wanted to do (in an “I want to actually do it” kind of way) for a long time. It was my first time in Nepal and I absolutely loved it, although it did take me a day or so to acclimatise to the sheer madness that is Kathmandu (I’m not really a big city person, nor am I good in crowds). Within 24 hours of being there, I’d fallen in love with Nepal, however. You can read about my experiences in some previous posts about my trip. In fact I had such a good time, I actually wrote 17 posts about it (happy bedtime reading!).
As you can imagine, I was shocked and devastated to hear about the Nepal earthquake in April this year, and have supported various fundraising campaigns. So I was pretty excited to see that a special fundraising event was to be held in Sheffield this week for it, featuring several of my favourite adventurers, and a few I’d never heard of (sorry!) but who sounded exciting. Even better, it was at the University, where I work, and I actually happened to be in the country, and even in Sheffield (quite a rare occurrence recently!).
I don’t normally write blog posts about the events I go to, but I do like to write about things that inspire me. Well I have to say that even if the money hadn’t been going to such a good cause, it was one of the best £20 I’ve ever spent. Alan Hinkes, who I’ve followed on Twitter for a long time, but never actually met, was a brilliant compere. Every time he opened his mouth, I started giggling. Andy Cave, Ian Parnell and Adele Pennington had us enthralled and entertained with their mostly funny stories of climbing. Unfortunately despite being sat in the second row, being partially sighted meant I couldn’t really make out the no doubt stunning pictures of Everest and other mountains displayed on the screen, but I’ve got a good idea of the kind of things they were showing – I’ve seen plenty of pictures of people trying not to fall off the edge of mountains. All great stuff.
However, the two speakers who really stood out for me were Richard Parks and Rosie Swale-Pope, because not only did they speak with incredible passion and enthusiasm, but their talks contained some brilliant take-home messages. Richard Parks talked about drive and ambition, and about the usefulness of OCD in the light of how important preparation is (rather ironic that he actually arrived at the event late, flustered and without a memory stick for his slides!). But more interestingly, he talked about two very positive things that adventure brings: a way of challenging your own insecurities, something I think a great many climbers in particular suffer from, and the sense of primal experience. I can absolutely associate with both these things. While I love the luxury of a fluffy duvet, a hot bath and a glass or two of champagne in a posh hotel, there’s something far more exhilarating about watching the sun set from a wild camp, cooking your own dinner over a camp fire and washing your face in a river. I feel so sorry for the people who will never experience this, not because they can’t (which applies to almost no one), but because they don’t understand why anyone would want to. What’s so sad is that it’s almost impossible to change the mindset of a person like this. Then again, I suppose we wouldn’t want everyone to be out camping on the hills or trekking in the mountains, or it might get a bit crowded. There’s also a final reason that I was so happy to hear Richard talk, and that’s because I wanted to hear him when I was at the Adventure Show in London earlier this year, but unfortunately too many things clashed and I had to make tough decisions. Little did I know I’d get another chance to hear him speak, so I’m very grateful! He was also absolutely charming when I got the chance for a quick chat later (then again, I had just bought his book, so he should have been happy!).
The second inspirational speaker award of the night for me goes to Rosie Swale-Pope, someone whom I’m afraid I’d never heard of before. The best way I can describe her is absolutely bonkers, but in such a charming and modest way you can’t help but love her. Without doubt, she is the person with the most enthusiasm for life I have ever met. Wherever she gets her energy from, she could bottle it and become a millionaire within 3 seconds of putting it on sale. She described herself as being “absolutely no good at anything”, especially running, which is hilarious when you consider that she’s run around the whole world (taking 5 years!), sailed single-handed across the Atlantic in a small boat, and trekked 3,000 miles alone through Chile on horseback. “If I can do it, anyone can” is her mantra, and how right she is, although I’m not sure the vast majority of us will ever have her energy, enthusiasm and grim determination. A lesson for us all in what can be achieved through absolutely no natural talent, but oodles of sheer willpower.
So there you have it, inspiration by the bucketful, enthusiasm in spades, and determination in abundance. These guys are for me the definition of pure grit, united by a love of Nepal. I lay awake that night thinking of Nepal and wondering how soon I could book another trip there.