Where we are going

James and Debbie

Well, that’s up for negotiation! We were planning to return to the Himalayas of Nepal this April and spend a few weeks walking the high trails north of Lukla. This would have suited me down to the ground because I love spending time in the mountains. It’s the sense of freedom, the feeling of space, the escape from the madding crowd and the tyranny of technology, the far reaching views, the clear, cool air. So long as we stay at or below 5,000 metres (about 16,500 feet) life is good. Beyond that, of course, life gets exponentially harder and less fun until there is insufficient oxygen to sustain my delicate body.

I had been looking forward to it excitedly. I have been running 5 times a week, repairing and preparing my boots, making sure my kit was clean and ready to go. But it was not to be this year. I hope it will be possible in April 2014 so that all my training isn’t wasted.

Not going to Nepal has also left something of a void in our plans for this year and we haven’t yet decided exactly how we are going to fill it. I think a visit to Tenerife for a climb up Mount Teide (3,718 metres / 12,198 feet) sounds fun but is very short. Nonetheless we might give it a go in May.

In July we have signed up to take part in a 100km walk starting in Petersfield, crossing over the Downs and ending in Brighton. This has to be done in one go and, I suspect, will be hard. We are not planning to try to smash the course record (which was set by Gurkhas in 9 hours 50 minutes!) but to enjoy the scenery and duck under the average time of 27 hours. We haven’t walked for more than 9 hours in the past (why would we?) so this could prove to be a stern test for the old legs. Whatever happens we are helping to raise money for Oxfam so, if you feel like helping us out with a small donation that would be wonderful. Just send me a comment. http://www.oxfam.org.uk/trailwalker

As part of the training, we might venture down to the West Country and take part in the Jurassic coast challenge: http://www.votwo.co.uk/events-1/jcc-2013

This is three marathons in 3 days along some of the most spectacular coastline in Britain. It’s really an event for a bunch of jockstraps and Debbie and I wouldn’t give it a second glance if it wasn’t for the magnificent setting. So we may well take part – but only as trekkers (if they will take us) because no one will catch me running one marathon never mind three on the trot!
After all this, come September, I would like to go back to the Alps and cover the walk from Chamonix to Zermatt (or Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn as us climbers prefer to call it) along the Haute Route. This will be a visual feast, a mountain gourmet extravaganza of scenic wonders that will take in the greatest collection of 4,000 metre peaks in all the Alps. Unfortunately, it will also take in some of the most spectacular valleys meaning that for every uphill climb there will be an equal and opposite downhill descent which doesn’t bode well for my shapely knees. I wonder if I will ever be able to dance again. I can only hope that when we reach one of the delightful villages or remote alpine hamlet, Debbie will massage my tortured limbs. I can only hope.
In the longer term, there are still some big trips I want to make: In my bones, I want to take a 4×4 along Route 40 in South America and travel the full length of the Andes all the way down to the desolate town of Ushuaia, the last outpost of civilisation this side of Antarctica and aptly named ‘El fin del Mundo’ (the end of the world). This could take an awful lot of months and is bound to go wrong from the outset. But what a glorious experience! I find myself getting excited just thinking about it.

I still yearn to climb to the top of Everest. I know I’m getting a bit long in the tooth for this sort of activity but that’s why it needs to be done sooner rather than later before I have to be carried up in a sedan like some Chinese Emperor. I also know that I’m not going to enjoy living at altitude for 6 weeks whilst preparing for an assault on the summit but that’s going to make leaving the mountain all the sweeter. I shall find some commercial operation that provides hot food, good Sherpas and plenty of oxygen that will be willing to drag me, if necessary, up the final few metres so that I can stand on top of the world to enjoy the best view Nature has to offer.

On a less physical note, I have a great yearning to see the Northern Lights. We tried to do this last year by taking a trip to Iceland but discovered that there are better places to view nature’s most vivid light show. In a week we enjoyed many of the wonderful attractions this Nordic country has to offer but, when it came to seeing the one attraction we had travelled northwards to experience, all we got were clouds. I subsequently discovered that Iceland isn’t the most reliable place to view the Aurora Borealis despite being bang slap under the line of its greatest activity because of the unpredictability of the local weather. So, unfinished business here as well.

There is also a gap in my life that is Africa. At some point in the future I want to go to Uganda to see the Mountain Gorillas in their natural rainforest habitat before they are eradicated. I want to travel through Namibia and experience its rugged beauty and skeleton coastline. I want to see Victoria Falls once more partly because I haven’t been there since I was a stripling 19 year old on my gap year and partly because I love waterfalls. For some reason I can’t explain, I want to cross the Sahara from west to east (or vice versa) in a suitably equipped 4×4 that is going to be able to deal with deep, soft sand and rocky escarpments. Finally, I want to park my backside in Cape Town because it is a delightful seaside city set at the foot of proud mountains that define its northern boundaries and which has lots to amuse idle hands and minds (i.e. golf).

Come live with me and be my love
And we will all the pleasure prove
That valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.

— Christopher Marlow