Nov 3, 2013

Sherpa Adventure Gear Lecture Tour: Everest Uncovered - closing thoughts...

When I first started this blog, "The People You Meet Along the Way..." I thought that it would be a good way to document my mountaineering ‘journey’; a way to think through and remind myself of the many lessons that I have learned and the many inspirational people that I have met along the way. By blogging, I’d have the opportunity to share my stories, thoughts, reflections via this online forum as a vehicle to prompt others to reflect on their journeys, their passions, the people that they’ve met and drawn inspiration from… and who, in turn, draws inspiration from them. 
One thing that I’d never (in a million years) expected when I started writing out my thoughts was that I would be taking my humble journey to a whole new level and speaking about it…. In public. To lots of different people. Across the UK. Alongside some of Everests’ most accomplished mountaineers. And representing a brand that I am truly proud to be part of. 

The Sherpa Adventure Gear ‘Everest Uncovered’ lecture tour, held its grand finale to a full house at the Royal Geographical Society, London on Friday, 25 October. This followed two previous lectures in Edinburgh and Manchester and concluded a tremendously successful, fun and action packed whirlwind week which has proven to be one of the highlights of my mountaineering ‘journey’ – to use the clichĂ©, it was ‘my Everest’.  

A journey which led me to share a stage with Kenton Cool and Lakpa Rita Sherpa, and Ian Parnell.  Kenton, Lakpa Rita and Ian are internationally renowned legends in the world of mountaineering – both on and off the mountain. Between them, these men share a total of 29 Everest summits and a unique outlook on the history and future of the world’s highest peak. If, 5 years ago, someone would have said that I’d be speaking alongside these athletes in places as esteemed as the Royal Geographical Society, I’d never have believed them..!

Reflecting on the week that was, ‘Everest Uncovered’ I can’t help but jot-down some of the highlights…

- Spending time with the inspirational and truly humble Lakpa Rita Sherpa and his lovely wife Phurba. As the ‘face’ of the Sherpa Adventure Gear brand, I felt like Lakpa was a long-lost friend - our paths had crossed briefly on a particularly cold morning in the Western Cwm of Everest this past spring but it was hardly the time and place to chat…! So it was truly an honor to be part of Lakpa’s and Phurba’s first visit to the (rather rainy!) UK and share in some of the UK’s culinary delights – which included the biggest naan bread we’d ever seen (at an Indian restaurant in Manchester) and an evening of clubbing in London at the exclusive alpine-themed club, Bodos Schloss (where we drank from a ski boot!).

- Gleaning words of wisdom and engaging in healthy debate and laughter with Kenton Cool. About 5 years ago I attended a lecture at the RGS in which Kenton was on a panel of speakers which included Doug Scott and George Band addressing, the commercialisation of Everest. Kenton’s passion for the mountain and its people, his understanding of the history of the Everest region and his as experience as both a guide and an athlete shone through in spades. I could relate to many aspects of Kenton’s point of view as I rely on people like him to ‘make my dreams come true’. Having said that, as someone with an interest in the ‘geographical tradition’ I could certainly empathise with Doug Scott and George Band who had come to know Everest and the Himalayas in a different time and experienced the mountain in a different, very personal way. Fast forward 5 years and Kenton has, in so many ways, played an instrumental part in my ‘journey’ – even before we became friends and peers through the Sherpa Adventure Gear brand. With our paths crossing in the Himalayas, the Alps and now in the Lakes, I feel truly privileged to continue to draw from his experience and insights and look forward to future adventures both on and off of the mountain. 

- Meeting Ian Parnell. I'd heard amazing things about Ian both as a person and as an alpinist prior to the Everest Uncovered lecture tour and he certainly lived up to his brilliant reputation. Ian, is one of Britain’s leading alpinists and nominated four times for the Piolet D’Or (equivalent of the Oscars for mountaineers), and has made significant ascents in the Himalayas, Alaska, Kyrygyzstan, Greenland and Patagonia. He name is synonymous with 'first ascents', 'epics' and climbing grades that I could only dream of. It was humbling (to put it mildly) to be interviewed on a stage in front of hundreds of people about my experiences by someone quite considerably more accomplished than myself... Meeting Ian was certainly one of the key highlights of the lecture tour and his personal and professional insights, thoughts and feedback certainly has led me to rethink and reflect on many different aspects of my mountaineering journey and ambitions.

- Spending time with the Sherpa Adventure Gear team– the people who, through their passion and belief in the brand, work tirelessly to bring Sherpa Adventure gear to the European market and, in turn, support the Paldorje Education Foundation. Through their efforts and our clients around the world, scholarships and much-needed programs to benefit Sherpa children are awarded through the Foundation. Huge thanks goes out to Julie, Mark and the rest of the team at Bradshaw Taylor for your support, your patience, for bringing everyone together and bringing a vision to a reality..! We most certainly could not have done it without your stellar organisational skills and professionalism..!

- Seeing the look of utter disbelief and sheer joy on the face of a waiter at a great Nepali restaurant, The Gurhka cafĂ©, in Edinburgh… As soon as Lakpa walked through the door a massive smile of recognition broke out over the waiters face -  he was originally from Namche Bazaar in Nepal and immediately recognised Lakpa and even followed him on Facebook! The food was absolutely fantastic as was the atmosphere and hospitality.

- A fantastic day out in the Lake District with competition prize winners courtesy of the BMC. Whilst it was lashing with rain for most of the day it didn’t stop us from having a super fun afternoon, sharing stories and experiences whilst scrambling over rapidly flowing streams, clamouring over wet, steep and slippery rock and enjoying spectacular views characteristic of the Lakes… inadvertently testing the kit..! I can personally attest that it was waterproof and all but my feet remained dry! It was my first trip to the area and it certainly didn’t disappoint. A great experience with friends, old and new with the day ending in a delicious and well deserved pub lunch.

- Raising over £7350.00 through the Everest Uncovered lecture series through the silent auctions of the fantastic signed prints donated from Doug Scott. The proceeds were split between the two tremendously worthwhile causes, the Paldorje Education Fund and Cannepal.

- Brainstorming, dreaming, pondering and reflecting with fellow mountaineering affectionados all of the adventures of the past and the many adventures ahead.... 

- And of course, last but certainly not least, meeting everyone who came to the lecture tour in Edinburgh, Manchester and London..!  Thank you for your interest, your fantastic questions, your shared passion for the mountains, your inspiration, your support for the Sherpa Adventure Gear brand. I hope that our different points of view were able to dispel some of the misconceptions about Everest, shared our personal and professional experiences as guide, Sherpa and commercial client, and brought to life some of the challenges and opportunities which unfold in one of the planet’s most extreme environments. 
Big crowd in Manchester!
Fantastic audience in Edinburgh
Great day out in the Lakes thanks to the BMC. Congrats to the competition winners!
Zoe, Lakpa and Phurba
The Lakpa Rita Jacket kept me dry... if only I could say the same for my shoes


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