Mountaineering

Mountaineering

Nature’s your main company on the mountain. And yourself. There may be peaks that aren’t particularly technically challenging, but there’s no such thing as an ‘easy’ mountain. Whatever mountain it may be, tackling its top is the surest way I know of really testing myself. That test is only one of the reasons I go. I climbed Island Peak in Nepal a couple of years ago, first hitting Everest Base Camp, then onto Kala Patar before tackling the peak itself, all 6,189 metres of it. All I can say is that I’ve never been on a holiday that so amazingly mixed up agony and ecstasy, jubilation and frustration (that will be the weather) – in other words, it must be the most memorable trip I’ve ever been on. And memorable for the people I travelled with as well. A year later it was the same – on Kilimanjaro I came away after summiting with great photos, incredible memories, and a bunch of new friends too. Amidst sub-zero temperatures and howling winds I’ve had some of the best nights of my life, the excitement among the group palpable and the humour infectious – maybe it’s the oxygen deprivation! And the simple pleasures – a snug sleeping bag, a good hat – take on new importance. Tea never tastes better, despite the low boiling point, and a good pair of woollen socks suddenly seems like the greatest invention ever. The views are of course special. I’m not so good at remembering moments from beach fly-and-flop holidays, but I’ll never forget the views from mountaineering. Whether it’s looking up at a peak –the sun sparking off enormous glaciers, the looming black granite – or looking down from up high – the army of other snow-clad summits that surround you, the turquoise lakes below – these are moments that remain crystal-clear in my memory, images that I can remember in minute detail with instant recall. Years after I come down from a mountaineering trip, even the tiny details stay with me.

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