44 years later you are still climbing − what was your childhood inspiration?
Wow, calm down a bit! I am not that old but have been climbing for 31 years. First the warm rock in Oz then at age 18 onto the icy stuff in the New-Zealand Alps. My folks being new to Australia were keen to explore the place and dragged us kids kicking and screaming with them. They are my childhood inspiration and were easy-going enough to let me evolve this crazy life I am leading now.
Which travel writer inspires you the most and why?
Marc Twight, Greg Child and Voytek Kurteka: All handy in the mountains as well as holding a pen. They are the genuine Alpinists who write about the sport with un-rivalled passion and depth! If you don’t know who they are you can’t call yourself a mountaineer.
If you could have been born in a certain era when would it have been and why?
1500s! the early days of the Spanish Conquistadors. How awesome would it have been to have made first contact with the Inca who at that time like the Spanish thought they were the superior race in the world. AND those Andean summits would have been bristling with un-climbed routes!!
What item would you never be without on the mountain?
A good head-torch I guess. Things kinda come to a grinding halt when it gets dark. Handy to find a way of a hill at night as well as reading a book when storm-bound.
What do you miss most when you’re away from home?
My wife Marni, son Ollie and Daughter Izabella. It’s nice to have such a cool “basecamp” as I do at home in the Pyrenees.
What specialists kit have you got that isn’t needed on the 6000m trekking peaks
A custom built Berghaus down suit and Scarpa Phantom 8000m boots. Wearing both those babies makes me feel ready for whatever the mountain gods can throw at me.
Last year sadly saw many climbers being killed on Manaslu – what are your thoughts on this
I looked into the circumstances surrounding this tragedy very closely and spoke to many Sherpa’s and climbers who were on the mountain when that avalanche hit c3. From what I can understand camp 3 was placed in a different place than normal. The Sherpa’s who we work with set up C3 at the “safer” traditional camp 3 and they and their climbers were not affected by the avalanche. You can never make big mountains entirely safe but it pays to heed local knowledge.
Will you be taking any additional luxury items as time at base camp can be long when climbing on the 8000m peaks?
Ha ha.. like Cadbury mints? Naw, I’m more than happy with the stuff I have and my local chef is a kitchen master that would put any Michelin chef to shame!
What has been your favourite expedition to date and why?
The Karakorum Greenland and several to Mount Kenya. All with small teams and very exploratory in nature. Also several Amazon river trips and a Congo mission spring to mind.
What advice would you give someone who’s thinking about doing an expedition for the first time?
Go with a guiding company!! Not only do they take the hassle out of dealing with the red-tape, flights, logistics etc but with a good guide you will learn a lot not only about the place you are travelling in but how to best survive a hostile environment. I didn’t practice as I now preach when I first went on big expeditions and set my aim too high leading to some very tragic results.
You are soon to be heading out onto Manalsu − how have you prepared?
A wise man once told me that the best way to train for 8000m is to eat meat pies and drink large quantities of beer. Following this advice to the letter. Thanks KC!
And finally, if you could have any superpower what would it be and why?
The power to travel in time: Both back and forth. I’d be tempted to interfere with time/space to help avoid some of the huge problems us humans are facing today.