Paul’s Blog – Running, Nepal & Pakistan

It’s been a hectic few weeks & I’m now moving into a slight lull before the full storm arrives in mid-May which is set to continue for several months throughout the summer. More of that in a later blog, for now a I’ll cover some of what I’ve been up to in the last few weeks.

The last full week of March saw Dorina & I head South to London for a 3 night mini break to combine My Birthday & attending CAN’s tribute to the Life of Doug Scott at the RGS. The RGS was a very uplifting evening, a real celebration of the man himself, with warts & all reminiscences from a distinguished panel including some of his closest friends & associates so thank you Tut Braithwaite & everyone involved for your anecdotes & bringing Doug’s exploits back to Life.

The day before saw me celebrate my 56th Birthday, Dorina & I spent a gloriously sunny London Day relaxing in & around some of London’s iconic Landmarks intermingled with refreshments & dining including:- Mid-morning drink on a river boat pub overlooking The London Eye (Diet Coke), Lunch in Covent Garden in a restaurant without a drinks license (really), Eye wateringly expensive Oysters & wine (yes got there in the end) late afternoon in Harrod’s Caviar Bar & rounded off with an excellent Thai evening meal within walking distance of our hotel. Dorina treated me to it all so thank you Angel it was a very special day that had started out with a lovely run together around Hyde Park & Kensington Gardens, all a bit different & none the worse for it.

A busy weekend return to the Cafe ended with a brief visit to the Tyn y Coed in Capel as the new owners & management were holding a get to know the locals evening, we wish Sean, Daniel & co. all the best with their exciting plans for the future & likewise to former owners Georg, Mark, Jane & Helen for their hospitality over the years, may you enjoy a long retirement. Again no Alcohol passed my lips as we made an early exit so that I could focus on my trip to the Alps with Judy the next day.

The weather in the Alps did not play ball but despite that the trip achieved it’s target of getting me back on something pretty high with enough difficulty to renew my shaky confidence in such places. We summitted the Aguile di Toule (circa 3,500 metres) as well as having a couple of days on snowshoes & crampons in the Gran Paradiso National Park on the slopes of Punto di Celebre (no map on me to check the spelling). Our return to Judy’s apartment in Morzine was accompanied by a bang from below the car which next day we would realise was the sound of the front left Spring shearing in half. This led to a somewhat fraught end to the trip as my running & Judy’s solo skiing were intertwined with me befriending a Czech (yes we were still in France) Audi specialist who became incredibly helpful & finally got us back on the road only 10 hours later than planned. In the end we got on a Eurotunnel train the next day actually one hour ahead of schedule, picked up Marion from Hertfordshire (Dorina & I had dropped her off there on our trip to London to visit her son Ben & leave our car for a few days) before diverting to pick up Calum’s dog (Judy’s son, yes Calum not the dog), long story so won’t go any further. In the end our car problem paled into insignificance compared to Steve’s return from Scotland, a 12 hour drive from Glasgow to Eglwysbach due to flooding diversions with what turned out to be a bad onset of Covid which Judy duly caught 2 days later. Thankfully they are now through the worse & Negative again albeit still recovering rather than at full strength.

Here I must thank Tim Blakemore for guiding us in The Alps, Judy for accompanying me through my journey on scary ground which has re-built confidence for what lies ahead & of course Dorina & Steve for their continued support. Last but not least Chatsai for getting my Audi back on the road I hope you had a great 39th Birthday & enjoyed more than a pint or two on me, more than fully deserved!

A day of ‘rest’ with Dorina followed albeit with un-packing in the mix before the next day (Friday) saw me re-packing & heading off to a weekend in Sheffield to meet up with Jagged Globe & some of our team for Gasherbrum II. For some reason every city centre hotel had doubled their rates for that particular weekend, am I really that disagreeable? However with Dorina’s help I’d found an Air B & B type room in the country 8 miles away which was an ideal spot for a couple of early morning runs & was a more modest £75 a night (Premier Inn £255, can you believe that?).

Saturday saw me arrive at Jagged Globe’s offices where 3 Expeditions joined together to be briefed on what lay ahead of us. First up was Aconcagua (January 2023) with Ed Chard giving a useful insight to several team members. This was followed by Chris giving a talk about his ‘winter’ ascent of Denali to members of the Denali team (May 2022, only 5 weeks away at that point, good luck guys) which included his comment ‘look at the view from the plane, some of the most spectacular mountain views in the world’, impressive I must say & with Denali on the outer limits of my Radar worthy of note. Next up came my turn & how lucky it would prove to be, thanks again Chatsai as without you I wouldn’t have been there. In truth I had helped my own luck by asking him if his accent was South African at which point he smiled, politely corrected me & turned my problem into his, on such small things……..

The briefing for GII was given by David Hamilton, our team leader, what a game changer for the way I’m now looking forward to what is the scariest trip of my life. David has visited The Karakorum most years of his adult life, he has Summited GII once & GI twice & has had all our logistics in place since 2019. As an aside he’s summitted Everest 10 times most recently in 2019 with one of our team members Rui (Portuguese) who sadly along with Luke our 3rd & final team member at this stage (small team indeed) could not attend Sheffield. This of course gave me full on access to David & his knowledge throughout the day. His briefing contained images of the route which albeit looking at the top end of what I might be able to do (if not beyond) has given me a focus & drive to do my upmost to achieve. However failure will have so many rewards, David’s images of the peaks surrounding the Baltoro Glazier (sorry Chris everyone in the room knew they blew Alaska away) have assured me that failure to summit still gives me the back-up of a trek of a lifetime that lies ahead.

The afternoon was spent by Ed, Chris & David going through a huge array of kit with David in particular in his calm, reassuring, friendly & relaxed style giving numerous little tips of how to maximise their usefulness in extreme situations. I feel I’ll be in the very best hands & am eager to try to step up to the mark if I possibly can.

Of course with JG’s offices also including an Outdoor Shop with a closing down sale I did walk away with a new jacket to compliment my hat that Judy had been secretly coveting for most of our Alpine trip. When she finally came clean she even described it as a tad famine to try & get me to give it up! I also bought a great pair of gloves which will hopefully give me the dexterity I’ll need on the fixed ropes on GII.

With David not hanging around for the Sunday’s get to know you walk/ropework I made the call to head back to the Cafe early Sunday morning where I was to be welcomed by an Angel & a long session on The Pots (long overdue in truth). 

What a difference an Alpine Trip & a day in Sheffield have made to my psyche for GII, 10th of June is no longer ‘looming’ but is being looked forward to with excited trepidation & I feel all the better for it.

First up though is a tough May but more on that in my next blog.

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