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  SEVEN SUMMITS, SEVEN MARATHONS AND PROSTATE CANCER.


 

 

In April this year I competed the Santiago Marathon in Chile fulfilling my goal of running in a marathon on each of the seven continents, having already completed the task of successfully reaching the  summits of the highest peak on each of the seven continents three years earlier. It had taken me thirteen years to complete both tasks.. The task of completing a marathon on each of the seven continents was briefly interrupted early in 2003 when I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and this article will concentrate largely on my cancer and the subsequent rehabilitation programme which led to my successful ascent of the Penny Ice Cap which is the highest point on Baffin Island. [This peak is not one of the seven continental summits ],and the five marathons that I still had to complete after surgery in order to fulfill my second goal. However as I had  already climbed all seven continental summits and had run two of the marathons before I had had surgery I will give a summary of that part of my life as well.

   Although I had been a keen runner and mountaineer before 1989 ,I did not get interested in climbing big peaks before then and had not done any overseas running at that stage either. I had made an ascent of  Kilimanjaro in 1978 and an ascent of a minor peak in the Himalayas in 1995 ,but I had had no desire to climb any of the other continental summits at that stage.

  In February 1989 I joined an expedition to climb Aconcagua which is the highest peak ,not only in Argentina but also on the continent of South America. Standing at 6960 meters  [ 22,835 feet ] above sea level Aconcagua is the highest peak in the world outside the Himalayas  and it the highest peak in both the Southern hemisphere and the Western hemisphere . It rises from a base of 3,900 meters  [13,000 feet ] above sea level. The final part of the climb is up a very long scree  slope.. Although there is considerable snow fall in the winter ,the summer is extremely dry and the gale force winds that  are present on the mountain most of the time keep the upper slopes of the mountain free of snow during the late part of the long dry summer. Hence there are no technical difficulties at this time of the year. Nevertheless Aconcagua is definitely not a mountain to be taken lightly .The elevation is still sufficiently great to be a real problem to most climbers. Many climbers have died on the mountain because they have been mislead by the technical ease . The lack of technical difficulties coupled with the ease of access allows climbers to reach the upper slopes without taking time to acclimatize sufficiently and many climbers who have taken the mountain too lightly have been overcome either by altitude, severe weather or a combination of both.. At that stage I had no intention  of reaching the highest point on every continent ,just reaching the summit of Aconcagua would be enough for me. Unfortunately it was not to be ,not in 1989 anyway. Bad weather which included high winds and poor visibility put an end to our summit attempt and our party of five which included one guide turned around  about 150 meters [500 feet] below the summit. It would be another eight years before I successfully reached the summit of Aconcagua.  

  Two months after returning from Argentina I read an advertisement in a running magazine about a race up and down Mount Kinabalu.. At  4,100 meters [13,455  feet ] above sea level it is the highest mountain  on the island of Borneo. It is in the state of Sabah ,a province of Malaysia. I decided to apply and I got accepted. At that stage I had run abut ten marathons and I had completed the Auckland Ironman triathlon twice.

 The race started at an altitude of 1,800 meters [6,000 feet] and climbed steeply up a path through the jungle. Above 3,000 meters  [10,000 feet ]the vegetation changes to alpine scrub and above 3,600 meters [12,000 feet ] the trail is over a granite plateau. It is cold on the summit but the peak is not quite high enough to have snow on it. I finished the race in 21st place out of approximately 150 runners. 

   It was there that I met an English journalist who told me about the Everest Marathon in Nepal. It is the world's highest marathon .I thought about it and decided that I would like to compete in it one day but other climbing challenges would come along and it would be seven years before I got to run in the Everest Marathon.

  Just over a year after the failed Aconcagua attempt I read an advertisement in adventure magazine . A Canadian company called Adventure Network International was advertising trips to the Antarctic. I wrote to them for more details and the told me that  they were intending to run an expedition to  climb  Vinson Massif which is the highest peak in Antarctica. I did not have a great deal of climbing experience at that point but I gave them my climbing C.V. and told them I wanted to join. To my surprise they told me that I had enough experience and they invited me to join them. I accepted the challenge and in December 1990 reached the summit of Vinson Massif. The summit is 4,900 meters [16,067  feet ] above sea level and  less than 1,000 kilometers from the South Pole.

  The mountain itself is part of the Ellsworth mountain range and it rises 2,400 meters [8,000 feet ] above a plateau. The plateau itself is more than 2,400 meters [8,000 feet ] above sea level. We flew in from Punta Arenas, the southernmost city in Chile to Patriot  Hills ,a Canadian base at 81 degrees south latitude. The flight took place in  a four engine D.C.6. From Patriot Hills we flew 180 kilometers to the north to reach the base of the peak, flying in a ski equipped Cessna 185.The first part of the climb involves a 900 meter [3,000 foot] ascent up a 50 degree steep ice slope . The route then crosses a 3,.300 meter [11,000 foot ] pass. From there one descends 150 metres[500 feet] to reach the Vinson glacier. This is the usual place to set up camp two. From here one climbs the moderately heavily crevassed Vinson Glacier to set up high camp at 3,600 meters [12,000 feet] on a saddle between the Vinson Massif and its neighbor  Mount Shinn which is the third highest peak in Antarctica., From high camp one climbs 450 meters [1,500 feet] to reach a sloping plateau. The  eight kilometer walk to the other side takes six hours and climbs about 300 meters [1,000 feet]. After this the going gets more difficult. The next part of the ascent involves a 300 meter [1,000 foot]  climb up  a 45 degree steep ice face. The ice is really hard like the floor of an ice skating rink. In some places the ice is covered by a layer of fine powder snow. The final 180 meters [600 feet]  of the climb to the summit is up a ridge of moderate steepness. and apart from the altitude it is not difficult.

  From the summit one can see enormous distances .The air has no haze due to the lack of pollen or  pollution. In addition the air is extremely dry because all the water vapour has been frozen out of the extremely cold air.. As a result of this very distant objects can be seen as clearly as very close objects. It is impossible to judge distances and everything is many times more distant than it appears to be. The combination of the extremely clear air and the great elevation of the peak above the plateau makes it possible for one to make out the curvature of the earth.

   After returning from the Antarctic  I did not think that I would be making any more major climbs. Although I had enjoyed the experience very much I did not think that another opportunity like the one I had just had would ever come along. I could not have been more wrong  .Adventure  Network  International ,the company who had taken me to the Antarctic  told me that they were organizing an expedition to the summit of Mount Everest in 1992 . I decided to accept .About eight weeks before the expedition was due to depart it was cancelled  although I do not know the reasons for this. However they told me that they were organizing another expedition to the summit of Carstensz Pyramid.  Again I  decided to accept. Standing at 4,880 meters [16,000 feet] above sea level it is  not only the highest peak on the island of New Guinea, but also the highest peak in the world that is on an island and not on a continent. It is in Irian Jaya in Indonesia and not in Papua .Many climbers regard Carstensz Pyramid as not only  the highest peak in Australasia ,but also the seventh continental summit,  although strictly speaking  the peak is not on the continent of Australia, and in fact it is very questionable whether either physically or politically Irian Jaya can even be considered a part of Australasia. Strictly speaking the highest peak on the continent of Australia itself is Mount Kosciusko  but the debate as to which is actually the seventh summit has still not been fully settled. 

   To reach the peak  we flew in from the town of Nabire on the North coast of Irian Jaya in a twin otter to land on an air strip near the village of Ilaga at an altitude of 2,100 meters [7,000 feet] above sea level From here the trail climbs first through sub tropical rain forest to the Kemabu plateau ,which is a grassy quagmire above the bush line at 3,300 metrea[11.000 feet] above sea level. The final approach to base camp is over a  4,400 meter [14,700 foot ] high pass. and the walk in to base camp took seven days. About thirty porters of the Dani tribe accompanied us. Many were poorly dressed and many of the males  wore a penis gourd over their penis. Base camp was near a large lake 4,000 meters [13,200 feet] above sea level. There is a large glacier behind the lake  The climb itself involves a mixture of scrambling and rock climbing of moderate technical  difficulty. I was delighted to reach  the summit. 

  Shortly after the Carstensz expedition two New Zealand guides Rob Hall and Gary Ball whom  at that  stage had each reached the summit of Mount Everest twice  ,and whom I had met in the Antarctic[ they had just finished climbing Vinson Massif at the start of my climb] told me that they were organizing an expedition to the summit of Mount Everest in 1993. I  decided to accept. I was not getting any younger and in any  in case another opportunity might  never came along. The Canadians who had cancelled their 1992 expedition had not organized another expedition for 1993. I did not have  a lot of time to train for the expedition after this but I did make successful ascents of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman in order to improve my technical skills for the expedition.

  I will only describe the climb briefly as a full description of the ascent would make this a very long article indeed. We flew from Kathmandu in a Twin  Otter to Lukla ,an airstrip in the foot hills of the Himalayas. It is at an altitude of 2,700 meters [9,000 feet]. The walk in from Lukla  the to the base camp at 5,400 metres[17,500 feet] above sea level took eleven days. During  the next six weeks we made three climbs from base camp to the lower camps on the mountain in order to acclimatize  our bodies to the thin air. Full acclimatization is  reached after six weeks .In late May it is late spring  going on to  early summer, and from then on  a warm moist wind called the Monsoon piles heavy snow on the mountain increasing the avalanche risk, and making climbing extremely dangerous and extremely difficult. The good news is that in the first two weeks of May there is often [ but not  always] a period of good weather and one aims to be at peak acclimatization during this period of [hopefully]  fine weather  

    I made the climb by the same route that Edmund Hillary and  Sherpa Tenzing Norgay took on their climb to the summit. The climb consists of three  major sections. The first twenty percent of the climb goes up the Khumbu Icefall, a steep  heavily crevassed glacier. After that  comes a five kilometer walk up a high valley called the Western Cwm. The next difficult section involves a climb up the 1,200 meter [4,000 foot ]high Lhotse face, an  ice wall which  is  forty five degrees  steep. It rises  from 6,700metres[22,000 feet] to 7,900 meters [26,000 feet]  Our highest camp was on the South Col at the top of the Lhotse face.

  From here the route goes up a forty degree steep snow slope to meet the south east ridge at 8,500 meters [28,000 feet]. The south east ridge climbs steeply to the south summit at 8,760 metres[28,750 feet ] above sea level From here an extremely narrow ridge with enormous drops on both sides ,each steeper than the side of a  church steeple, leads about 500 meters to the summit. Half way along this ridge is  an ice wall seventy degrees steep and ten meters [ approximately 30 feet] high called the Hillary step which is  technically and physically the  most difficult part of the whole climb. I made the ascent from high camp to the summit and back to high camp using bottled oxygen.. A Finnish client and myself were the only two out of the seven clients on our expedition to reach the summit. Rob Hall and his wife Dr Jan Arnold also reached the summit on that very expedition.

    I did not do any climbing after returning home from Mount Everest for the next three years  although I competed in the Auckland Ironman Triathlon in 1994 and finished in the middle of the field.  In 1995 I did a five week ski course at Whistler in Canada. I had originally intended to make an  ascent of Mount McKinley which had been due to commence seven days after the conclusion of the ski course It is in  the state of Alaska and it is the highest peak on the continent of North America.. At 6,200 meters [20,320  feet ] above sea level and only 300 kilometers south of the Arctic Circle  Mount McKinley has some of the most savage weather in the world making it a very difficult climb by any route. Mount McKinley also claims the highest rise in the world above the snow line which in summer is 900 meters [3,000 feet] above sea level. Unfortunately it was not meant to be, not in 1995 anyway. On the final ski run on the final day of the course I took a bad fall and tore the medial ligament in my left knee .I decided not to go on the expedition because I did not want to be a liability either to myself or to other members of the expedition. The ligament heeled completely and eight months later I did another five week ski course at Whistler. 

  In May 1996 I joined another expedition to Mount McKinley. It was a better bargain than that of 1995. If I had made the climb in 1995 I would have made both the ascent and the descent via the West Buttress .  

    In 1996 I reached the summit of the mountain via the West Buttress route [ normal route]. We were stuck at the 5,250 meter [17,200 foot]  high camp in sixty knot winds and minus forty degrees air temperatures for five days waiting for the weather to clear. Had the storm lasted another three days we would have had to retreat after failing to summit  before our food ran out. We spent the time cutting snow blocks to reinforce the walls around our tents, reading and doing puzzles. After we reached the summit of the mountain we returned to high camp. The following day we crossed  the 5,600 meter  [18,300 foot] high Denali pass  which separates the main summit [the south summit ] from the slightly lower north summit. We descended via the Muldrow Glacier ,crossed over the much lower 1,500 meter [5,000 foot] high Mcgonigall Pass and walked out across the tundra to reach the road at Wonder Lake 600 meters [2,000 feet ] above sea level.

  Having summited Mount McKinley  meant that I had climbed the highest peaks on four  continents  and  Mount Everest, Mount McKinley and Vinson Massif were the three hardest  of the continental climbs. Mount Kilimanjaro which I had climbed many years earlier was  one of the easiest.. Mount McKinley is second in difficulty only  to Mount Everest and Vinson Massif is not much easier. I now decided that I was going to climb the highest peaks on each of the other continents. In 1997 I joined an Australian expedition to Mount Aconcagua which was the mountain that I had failed to summit in 1989..Although I was now 46 years old as opposed to 38 years old on my earlier attempt I was still very fit and my climbing had come a long way in the last eight years. I successfully reached the summit In fact it seemed a lot easier than it had seemed eight years earlier. But I did not want a second failure and I had trained a lot harder for the climb than I had for my earlier attempt. In addition our leader found a far  easier line of attack up the final scree slope which is a 400 meter [1,300 foot] ascent. Eight years earlier we had tried to climb up a route in the centre of the scree slope where the scree was deep and loose making for a very strenuous high altitude ascent .This time we kept to the right hand side of the slope where the scree was far shallower ,not nearly as loose, and in some places non existent making  the ascent far easier   In addition the weather conditions were excellent, unlike eight years earlier.

 About a month after the successful Aconcagua expedition I heard that a marathon was to be run near the base of Mount Everest  later on in 1997. That was the marathon I had heard about seven years earlier when an English journalist that I had met in Borneo had told me about the race which was run in every odd numbered year. After the Mount Kinabalu race I had decided that I would do it one day, but climbing mountains had put the project on the back bench  I still intended to climb Elbrus the highest point in Europe I had already  climbed Mount Kilimanjaro  in 1978 and the peak of Kosciusko in Australia in 1982 but I had not taken a camera with me on either of these climbs and I wanted some photos of myself on these two peaks in case the day came that I wanted to write a book about my adventures. However these three peaks were the easiest three continental summits to climb  and I decided that I would run in the Everest marathon that year and worry about the three peaks at a later date. 

  I flew into Kathmandu early in November. About one hundred and five other runners were taking part in the marathon. About two thirds of them were British because a British company called Bufo Ventures was organizing the race. Two days after arriving in Kathmandu  I took part in a fifteen kilometer fun run which began  at an altitude of 2,100 meters [7,000 feet].. All of the marathon entrants took part in the run as well as about twenty Gurkhas. I finished in tenth place in a time of 57 minutes. 

 Two days later we began the eighteen day trek to Gorak Shep which  at  5,200 meters [17,000 feet] above sea level. is the last Sherpa settlement before Everest base camp. The trek started from the village of Jiri which is 1,800 meters [6,000 feet] above sea level The eighteen day walk in is necessary to become sufficiently acclimatized to the altitude.. Although most of us were reasonably well acclimatized at the end of the walk in, every runner still had to pass a tough medical exam the day before the race which is the world's highest marathon. About ten runners failed the medical  exam and were not permitted to start. The course is forty two kilometers long  and it passed over rugged country which includes yak trails and glacial morraine. It climbs to a high point of 5,250 meters [17,150 feet] shortly after the start. It then descends 250 meters [800 feet ]  to a high plateau 5,000 meters  [16,350 feet] above sea level .The plateau is five kilometers in length. After the plateau comes a descent of 1,200 meters [4,000 feet ] Following this is a short but steep 200 meter [650 foot] ascent to the Tengboche monastery which is slightly past the half way point in the marathon. There was snow on the ground for the first half of the race making it a very difficult course. After the monastery came  a long 600  meter     [2,000 foot ] descent over a windy muddy trail. It had been snowing the previous day at higher elevations ,but below Tengboche rain had made the trail muddy and it made going down hill quite tiring on the leg muscles in spite of the fact that the air was far denser than it had been at the start of the run.. After the descent there was a steep 450 meter [1,500 foot ]] ascent .This part of the trail was narrow and windy and twice  on this section of the run. I had to give way to a train of loaded yaks coming in the opposite direction. The final ten kilometers of the run is on a steeply undulating trail that runs five kilometers from the village of Namche Bazaar to the village of Thami, and back the same way to Namche Bazaar. Because everyone has gotten to know everyone else on the walk in it is a race among friends and runners wave and yell encouragement to runners going in the opposite direction over the last part of the course. I finished in 50th place out of eighty eight starters in the slow time of eight hours and twelve minutes. The best runners were local Sherpas who were very well acclimatized to the altitude and used to the trails. A lot of the British fell runners who were used to running over rough terrain also did very well.

   One of the runners that I had met on the Everest marathon was an American woman named Kimi Puntillo. She told me that she had run a marathon on the Antarctic continent and in fact she was the first person ,either male or female to have run a marathon on all seven continents. It was a marathon I told myself that I would run one day but owing to other climbing commitments it would have to wait.

    Not long after the Everest marathon I heard about another unusual expedition which was being organized by a British company called Tangent expeditions. They were intending to climb to the summit of Gunnbjorns Fjeld . At 3,700 meters [12,300 feet ] above sea level it is not only the highest peak in Greenland but also the highest peak north of the Arctic Circle. I decided to do it even although it was not one of the seven continental summits. I flew to Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland where I met the other members of the expedition. From Reykjavik we flew to Isafjordur ,a small town in the north of Iceland. From there a ski equipped twin otter landed us on the Greenland icecap 2,100 meters [7,000 feet] above sea level about 25 kilometers west of the Watkins range which contains all ten of the ten highest peaks in the Arctic. For the first two days we skied east pulling sleds which were fully loaded with food, fuel and equipment ,and which weighed eighty kilogrammes  each when fully loaded. Our seven man strong team then set up a base camp at an altitude of 2,400 meters [8.000 feet]. The next day we climbed to the summit of Gunnbjorns Fjeld The climb involved skiing up a moderately steep glacier to a saddle at 3,500 meters [10,700 feet]. We had left our sleds and most of the equipment at base camp. We left our skis at the top of the saddle and climbed the mountain from the north east side ,climbing up a forty degree steep ridge.. The views from the summit were fantastic. In Greenland conditions are very similar to the Antarctic and the  air is very clear due to the lack of pollen, pollution and moisture. I was very pleased to have made the climb, and in doing so I became only the second person to have climbed both the highest peak in the Antarctic and the highest peak in the Arctic. The former climb is a  far more difficult  climb  than the latter climb.

   Two days after the ascent of Gunnbjorns Fjeld we moved base camp twenty five kilometers to the north east and from there we climbed both the second highest and the third highest peaks in the Arctic.. Both peaks were of approximately the same degree of difficulty as Gunnbjorns Fjeld. From there it was a long fifty five kilometer ski to our final base camp at an altitude of 2,700 meters [9,000 feet]  Just like in the clear air of the  Antarctic the peaks were a lot further away than they looked and they  seemed to take an eternity to come any closer to us. 

 We ascended the fourth highest peak in the Arctic on skis giving me my first ever ski ascent of a mountain. The following day we climbed the fifth highest peak in the Arctic. It is technically by far the most difficult of the five peaks that we ascended on that expedition. The first 600 meters [2,000 feet ] was up a fifty five degree  steep ice slope. The face was north facing and thus was exposed to very little sunlight and the ice was cold and extremely hard. At the top of the face we had to cut a hole in a small overhanging cornice to reach the summit ridge. John Starbuck who was a nuclear physicist at  Sellafield  nuclear power station had the idea and he took forty minutes to cut the hole. After negotiating the cornice we climbed 250 meters [800 feet] up a steep narrow ridge to reach the summit. Our party was the first party ever to have climbed all five of the five highest peaks in the Arctic in a single season. 

  In May 1999 I climbed Mount Kosciusko  which is the highest point on the Australian Continent. It is approximately  180 kilometers south of Canberra .At 2,200 meters [7,300 feet] it is by far the easiest of the seven continental summits to climb. Nevertheless it is definitely not a mountain to be taken lightly  and trekkers who have taken the peak too lightly have paid the price for doing so, sometimes with their lives. There is a path which runs all the way from Thredbo ski village at 1,200 meters [4,000 feet] all the way to the summit of the mountain.

   I had originally planned to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in August 1999 and then do a climb of Mount Elbrus in Russia after finishing the Kilimanjaro climb. Elbrus which is in the Caucauses  Mountains in Southern Russia is actually the highest point in Europe. Europe is measured as everything west of the Ural Mountains and hence Elbrus and not Mount Blanc is the highest point in Europe. Mount Blanc whose summit is on the border of Italy and France is the highest point in Western Europe. Both climbs had been organized by a British company.

  Unfortunately four weeks before  I was due to depart the Elbrus climb was cancelled ..Elbrus is near the Chechnian border and only 300 kilometers west of Grozny. The British Foreign Office strongly advised tourists not to go into the area and so that part of the trip was cancelled .  

   I still joined the Kilimanjaro expedition. The mountain is in the state of Tanzania near the Kenyan border and at 5,895 meters [19,340 feet] altitude it is the highest point in Africa. The mountain is a volcano and is isolated and is not in a mountain range It rises 4,900  meters [16,000 feet ] above its base and it is the highest free standing mountain in the world. In 1978 I had climbed the peak by the Marangu route which is the normal route and descended via the same route. In 1999 I climbed the peak by the more scenic and considerably more difficult Umbwe route ,and after reaching the summit descended by a different route ,the Mweka route.

 

    The expedition had its share of both bad luck and good .luck. At   around midnight of our third night  on the expedition bandits armed with knives slashed several tents and stole the boots of several members of the expedition including my own. At the time we were at an altitude of 3,900 meters [13,000 feet ] at our second to last camp before summit day. Luckily some of the members of the expedition were light sleepers and woke up and screamed immediately. The bandits ran off with our boots. The porters who still had good foot wear gave chase. The bandits  ,in their haste to get away had dumped the boots about a kilometer down the path and  luckily all the boots were recovered by the morning. We had no more problems after this and two days later we all reached the summit of the mountain. Unfortunately on the less commonly used routes where climbers camp in tents bandits will occasionally raid a camp to obtain boots  which then  usually end up for sale on the black  market.  On the Marangu route which is the normal route, most climbers stay in huts so boot thieves are no problem .

 

 

 

 Although the Umbwe route is not the easiest route up the mountain it is still an easy climb technically  although the altitude of the mountain can make the ascent difficult for a lot of climbers. Although many people who have never done any technical climbing in their lives have reached the summit ,many technically competent climbers have been defeated by the altitude and have failed to reach the summit. The mountain is the second easiest of the seven continental summits.

 

  From the base of the mountain  one walks first through banana plantations, then  through tropical rain forest, temperate forest, and after that. alpine scrub. Above 3,400 meters [11,300 feet ] one comes to a heath zone. Above that is an alpine desert and at about 5,500 metres[18,000 feet ] one reaches the snow line, thus passing though every vegetation zone from equatorial to Arctic on the same mountain. I had six continental summits down and one left to do but with the troubles in Chechnya it would not be easy.

 

    After looking around  I learnt that a Russian company based in Saint Petersburg [formerly Leningrad] was taking people up Elbrus and I organized a private guide to take me up the mountain  in February 2,000..It would be winter over there at that time and the mountain is 5,640 meters [18,480 feet] above sea level ,but I had had plenty of cold weather experience and thought it would not be beyond me so I decided to use the opportunity.

 

 

   I flew to Saint Petersburg and I met my guide Nicolai who had once been a Nuclear physicist in a power station in the days before Glasnost and Perestroika.

From Saint Petersburg we flew south to the city of Mineral Vody which is 300 kilometers north of Elbrus. It is 600 meters [2,000] feet above sea level and at that time of the year the town was snowbound .It was  minus 10 degrees Celsius  and the summit of Elbrus was 5,000 meters [16,500 feet ] higher than the airport. At the airport there were plenty of armed soldiers and policemen .Our passports were checked in three different places at the airport and our bags went through two x ray machines.

 

   From the airport we drove to Telskal, a ski village at an altitude of 2,100 meters [7,000 feet] near the base of Elbrus.

We ascended to the Barrels  at 3,600 meters [12,000 feet] on mountaineering skis. The Barrels were old oil barrels ten meters long and three meters in diameter which had been converted into prison barracks for prisoners in Siberia .They were later transported to the mountain for use as huts  and the windows still have bars on the outside. There were nine of these barrels standing side by side. The mountain itself is an extinct two headed volcano Above the Barrels the mountain was too steep to ski up and we used ice axes and crampons. We reached the saddle at 5,300 meters [17,400 feet] which separates the main summit which is the west summit from the slightly lower east summit. The weather had been getting worse all day and by the time we reached the saddle the air temperature was minus thirty five degrees Celsius and the wind speed was seventy knots .Visibility was nearly zero. I was feeling weak with the altitude having already climbed 1,650 meters [5,500 feet ] that morning and decided to turn back. I did not think that I had the strength to manage the final 350 meters [1,100 feet] in that storm and we would not see much anyway. I had booked the guide in for a fourteen day period and I still had seven days left so I said let us return to the Barrels and wait for the weather to improve. It would give me time to acclimatize to the altitude and there was an excellent chance that the weather would improve within the next seven days  Unfortunately I was wrong. The storm lasted the whole week and I did not summit .We descended the mountain all the way to the ski village on skis in a blizzard.

 

   It certainly did not seem to be my mountain but persistence eventually paid off.

 

The snow line was at 4,300 meters [14,000  feet ] as opposed to 600 meters [2,000 feet ] in the winter. In winter the climb was on ice as hard as the ice in an ice skating rink but the summer sun had softened the snow and the thirty five degree steep  slope was  now a snow slog  of moderate difficulty. I had no trouble in summiting,, having finally reached the summits of the highest peaks on all seven continents .

 

  I then decided that it was time to run in the Antarctic marathon, which I had first heard about three years earlier during the Everest marathon. I had made an attempt to join up for the  2001  marathon but it had been booked out. I got accepted for 2002.After September 11th  2001  I thought that the trip would be cancelled owing to the  damage the  terrorist attacks had done to the travel industry, but to my surprise  the race was not cancelled. In February 2002 I flew to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in Argentina. There I met about 105 runners. About two thirds of them were American .An American company called Marathon Tours had organized the run. We sailed from Ushuaia to King George Island ,an Island about ten kilometers west of the  Antarctic Peninsular. During the voyage down we visited several of the South Shetland Islands and saw plenty of Antarctic wildlife.

 

   The race itself is a forty two kilometer marathon. It starts and finishes  at a Russian  base called Bellingshausen. The race for the most part is on a very steeply undulating  muddy trail between bases. The trails are muddy due to the summer snow melt. However about twenty percent of the course goes along a stony beach and then after that comes a 450 meter [1.500 foot] ascent up a glacier The course is a back and forth one along the same route and one actually does  runs the course twice to complete the full marathon distance. At the start of the race  it was snowing lightly and there were thirty knot winds. The storm died down after about four hours and I finished the run in fine weather. Everybody had gotten to know everybody on the ship and like the Everest marathon it was a race among friends. I finished the race in 31st place out of 105 runners in a time of five hours and thirty seven minutes.

 

   In October 2002 I competed in the World's Masters Games in Melbourne running in the men's  50 to 54 year old age group in the 5,000 meters, 10,000 meters and the half marathon. I finished in the middle of the field in both the 5,000 meters and the 10,000 meters but in the half marathon I injured the calf muscle of my left leg about four kilometers before the finish and finished near the back of the field. The injury took about ten days to heel

 

 

   Little was I to know that less than two months later I would be diagnosed with Prostate Cancer.

 

 

 

  Early in December 2002 I had a blood test as part of a regular medical check up and my P.S.A.. was 5.3 which was slightly elevated .My doctor thought that it was nothing to worry about but he referred me to a urologist for further tests because there was a faint chance that I could have Prostate Cancer. Several days later Dr Beaven who was the urologist did some tests. I told him that I had no trouble passing urine. He felt the prostate and  he said that  it felt normal. He then did an ultrasound scan of the prostate and the results of that were normal as well. He said that my chances of having Prostate Cancer were one in ten because the only sign of any abnormality was a slightly elevated P.S.A .I felt slightly anxious but not unduly worried. He also stuck a needle into my prostate and took eight core samples. He told me he was sending these to a laboratory for tests and I could expect the results in about a week.

 

Several days later Paul Walker who was the director of Tangent Expeditions  and who had been my leader on my Greenland expedition sent me a fax. .He was asking me to join him on an expedition to climb to the summit of the Penny Ice Cap which is the highest point on Baffin Island, an island in the Canadian Arctic. Baffin Island is to the north of Labrador and Quebec and lies to the west of Greenland .It is the fifth largest island in the world. The summit of the Penny Ice Cap is about 100 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle and 2,250 meters [7,500 feet ] above sea level. I was keen to join and  forgot all about the possibility of having Prostate Cancer. I sent Paul a fax telling him that I was keen to join the expedition.

 

  However the next day Dr Beaven told me that seven of the eight core samples taken were normal, but that the eighth core sample showed a tiny tumour about the size of a grain of sand near the centre of the prostate gland. We discussed options. I decided that surgery was the only option. After all ,cancer is cancer and the surest way to remove the tumour is to physically cut it out . Because the tumour was tiny  and because prostate cancer is usually extremely slow at spreading ,the chances that my cancer had already spread outside the prostate gland  were exceedingly remote. Hence the chances that surgery would get rid of all the cancer cells was excellent. I did not want radiotherapy because there was no guarantee that radiotherapy would destroy all the cancer cells and there was still a twenty percent chance that I would need surgery within the next two years anyway. In any case radiation can also cause healthy cells to become cancerous.  I decided to have the tumour removed as quickly as possible in a private hospital and I had booked the operation for  January 7th 2003 which was only twenty two days after diagnosis.

 

 

  I told Dr Beaven that I was keen to join the Baffin Island expedition and he warned me that  I would not be able to train in the first six weeks after I had had surgery. However the expedition was not due to commence until April 21st 2003 which was fifteen weeks after surgery so that would still give me nine weeks to train  so I decided that I could still have surgery and join the expedition. He told me that surgery would be likely to cause me temporary incontinence, and that it would almost certainly cause semi permanent impotence. I was not bothered by the prospect of being impotent because that would not prevent me from joining the expedition. The probability of my being incontinent did worry me because I would have to be fully continent before I could climb on Baffin Island.

 

   I asked him if there was anything I could do about that and he told me to do Kegel exercises in order to strengthen the pelvic floor before surgery. This would hasten the return to full continence after surgery. Over the next three weeks I trained hard. I ran every day, sometimes  for as long as ninety minutes. I also trained three times a week in the gym placing special emphasis on the stomach muscles so that they would recover

quickly after surgery. I also spent about forty five minutes every day practicing pelvic floor exercises .I did far more than was recommended and by the time I was ready for surgery I could hold a contraction for  five minutes .Only fifteen second contractions had been recommended, but to me a return to full continence  as soon as possible after surgery was of paramount importance.

 

   On January 6th 2003 I checked into the Ascot Hospital and the following day the prostate  gland  was removed in a four hour operation. I had been given a general anesthetic as well as an epidural in the spine. The epidural was kept in for twenty four hours and during this period I could neither   feel anything in my legs ,nor could I move my legs A nurse came to check my condition every two hours during that first day.

 

 After the epidural was removed,  movement and sensation  soon returned to my lower body. I also noticed that my left ankle was very sore and it was also very swollen. I wondered how it could have happened and the only conclusion that I could come to was that the left foot had been held too long in an awkward position while I was under the anesthetic and could not feel anything. The ankle was in fact more painful than my recently operated on stomach and I felt quite angry about having come in to have a prostate removed and ending up with an injured ankle. The doctors assured me that it was not fractured. A physiotherapist put ice on the ankle for about fifteen minutes.

 

 

  The next morning the swelling around the ankle was greatly reduced and it was far less painful. I had the ankle iced up three times that day and I had  a physiotherapy session as well. I also managed to get out of bed .The nurses had shown me how to get into and out of bed with out over stressing my abdominal muscles. I also had strong arms which saved the abdominal muscles from doing any work. It must be far harder for patients with out good upper body strength and I can only marvel at their courage and their will to manage. I managed to walk for fifteen minutes .I had a catheter inserted into my penis and a urine bag strapped to my leg. The legs felt strong now that the epidural had worn off and my recently injured ankle did not bother me while I walked ..I spent most of the

day sitting up and doing puzzles from a puzzle magazine. .I also did two more fifteen minute walks that day..

 

 The next day I did three walks ,each of forty minutes duration. I felt confident . I had 105 days to go before my trip to Baffin Island and even if I could not run for several weeks I could still walk and hence retain a reasonable degree of fitness in that time. I thought that105 days was approximately 100 days ,so that I had to recover  at a rate of at  least one percent per day. I could walk normally for forty minutes only three days after surgery and this surely represented more than three percent of the recovery needed on the road to full recovery...

 

  Two days later I was discharged from hospital . I still had the catheter and the leg bag on when I was discharged. I would spend the next eighteen days staying at my mother's place in Auckland. because I was not yet ready to return to Warkworth. The following day I walked for an hour on the footpaths nearby .The walk included a 30 meter [100 foot] ascent and a descent of the same amount. The walk uphill was no problem but I found walking downhill was somewhat painful on my recently operated on abdomen. After about ten steps  I found that by shortening my  stride that I could walk downhill with out hurting my abdomen...

 

     That same day I developed hay fever .and started coughing .I found that coughing was quite painful on my recently operated on abdomen. However three days  earlier  I had found that defaecating  was also somewhat painful on my abdomen. Holding my hands over my lower stomach had helped quite a lot . I had experimented in hospital and had discovered that by encircling my gown belt around my stomach and then pulling both ends tight that I could defaecate with no pain at all.. This technique was far more effective than the technique of holding my hands against my stomach. I  discovered that by using the same technique that I could cough with out any pain. I also took some telfast and the hay fever went away.

 

My walking pace improved every day and I found that  I could take longer strides down hill as my flexibility improved.

 

 

 

   Three days after I had been discharged from hospital a district nurse  removed my catheter. To my surprise and delight I was fully continent immediately. I was also fully continent while I was asleep during the night. That was the real test. In my case the pelvic floor exercises that I had done before surgery had really paid off. This made me feel really confident that I would get to Baffin Island because the way I was walking fitness was unlikely to be a major problem and it was reassuring to be fully continent so early and to know that I  would not have to fight to overcome incontinence.

 

  However there were some minor problems. Three days later Dr Beaven took an x ray of the bladder and found that I had a small leak in my bladder. The catheter was reinserted in order to keep the bladder empty, and allow the leak to repair itself. He told me that it would remain in for nine days and he assured me that this was more than ample time to allow the leak to repair itself as the leak was extremely small. That same day he told me the results of the biopsy that the laboratory had done on my removed prostate gland .. They confirmed that the tumour was tiny and confined to the centre of the prostate and hence the chances that the cancer had spread beyond the prostate were negligible. That same day I had noticed that my recently operated on abdomen was red. It was also sore, the pain being similar, both in degree and manner to that of a bee sting. He told me that some of the stitches in my abdomen had become infected and he put me on a seven day course of antibiotics.

 

   I continued walking during this time and within three weeks of surgery I could walk briskly for three hours. The infection healed completely, the catheter was removed and radiology showed no sign of any bladder leak. The next day, which was the 22nd day since surgery  I drove back to my farm, with twelve weeks remaining before I was due to leave for Baffin Island.

 

 Now that I was back at home I decided to step up the training. I started jogging on my treadmill and found that I could jog for twenty minutes with no discomfort. The next day I decided to climb the Dome and I found that I could walk up and down the track with no discomfort. Over the next ten days I increased the pace ,gradient, and  the time I spent on the treadmill. I also went to the gym and stuck to arm  and leg exercises  only. At first I had to keep the weights light in order to avoid tensing my recently operated on abdomen. I concentrated on keeping the abdominal muscles relaxed while lifting the weights and breathing continually while exercising. While I had been practicing pelvic floor exercises before surgery I had concentrated on keeping the stomach muscles relaxed and breathing naturally and this practice certainly paid off when it came to gym work. It is vital to keep the abdominal muscles relaxed  and to breathe naturally to prevent risking hernia after surgery. I also started training on a Skier's Edge machine, a machine designed to strengthen one's skiing muscles and improve one's coordination and timing in skiing. It does so because to use the machine involves doing lateral movements done in a manner similar to that that one does while downhill skiing. I was already an advanced skier ,but because skiing would be included in the expedition it was important to be ski fit as well as climbing fit and aerobically fit.

 

  About ten days  after returning home  I joined the Warkworth cancer support group, a move that I have been very pleased to make  They are a lovely group of people. I was informed that there would be a relay for life to raise funds in the fight against cancer eighteen days later.

  

   The same day as I joined the cancer support group I started milking the cows  again. It felt good to be doing farm work again .Each time one reaches another milestone on the road back to living one's normal lifestyle  one has taken a big step forward .both physically and psychologically.

 

   About ten days after returning home I started road running and I did no more running on the treadmill as treadmill running is too boring. I started with a forty five minute run but this soon increased. The weights that I were lifting in the gym were getting heavier as well and I had to discipline myself not to go too fast and risk an injury. I am a fitness fanatic, but in order to get to Bafin Island required a mixture of determination and patience in the correct proportions. One needs the determination to train and to keep improving, but one also needs patience and restraint in order to avoid risk going too fast ,risking an injury and thus jeopardizing the chances of accomplishing one's goals. In many ways the training is similar to climbing a big mountain. One requires determination in order to reach the summit, but  determination to reach the summit at all costs is dangerous and potentially suicidal. If the weather conditions are not right or if the summit is beyond one's ability one must have the common sense to retreat and to remember that the mountain is always there to be climbed at another time, either when conditions are better or when one's ability has improved, which ever is relevant.

 

I think that my positive attitude and motivation have really helped on the road to recovery. I have treated rehabilitation as another challenge in the same way as I have treated marathons and mountains.

 

 

 About two weeks later I went to the relay for life. I helped cut the ribbon to open the ceremony. The cancer survivors then  walked one lap of the stadium. Phoebe Smith , a two and a half year old girl who had cancer walked. I hope she makes a full recovery  and manages to enjoy a happy and successful life and lives to be a ripe old age. There was a moving candle lighting ceremony in the evening. The following day I ran around the stadium ,covering a distance of sixteen kilometers in ninety minutes. It had been only fifty three days since surgery  and  I was feeling overjoyed as this was about the time that I had been supposed to resume normal training. I had used up fifty percent of the time

between surgery and the start of the expedition  and I felt that I was about ninety percent ready for the expedition.

 

  The following day I began doing exercises in the gym to strengthen my back and abdomen. A strong back and a strong abdomen were necessary to haul sleds  and .sled hauling would be a major part of the Baffin Island expedition. I had delayed doing such exercises until the half way mark between surgery and departure to Baffin Island had been reached  because I had been told that the abdominal wall would take six weeks to fully repair itself after surgery and I did not want to risk injuring this part of the body by starting this part of my training too soon. I had no problems with the exercises and my training went from strength to strength over the next eight weeks .I had no injuries and no set backs . Six weeks before the expedition was due to commence I could have joined the expedition if the date of departure had been shifted forwards. Ninety nine days after surgery I was able to run for three hours on my weekly long run .Everything was right .I was fit and continent. A blood test showed that the P.S.A. reading was zero, indicating that there was no sign of any cancer cells left in the body. I was still impotent  but one did not need to be potent to participate in an Arctic expedition.

 

 

    By April the 20th my preparations were complete and I flew to Ottawa by way of Honolulu and Toronto. Two days after I arrived in Ottawa the rest of the group arrived. There were twelve people in the group ,myself included .Nine members were from Great Britain, the leader being Paul Walker..He had been my expedition leader in Greenland. There was one man from Guatemala who like myself had reached the summits of the highest peaks on each of the seven continents. There was also a woman from Austria who was a doctor by profession. She had climbed the highest peaks on six of the seven continents. Mount Everest was the only one of the seven summits that she had not yet climbed.

 

 The following day we loaded all our gear onto a plane and flew to Pangnirtung, a village of about 500 people on the east coast of Baffin Island. We flew in over a fjord that was still frozen. Ships can only get in for two months of the year. The fjord was three kilometers wide and about fifty kilometers long with tall peaks on both sides. We unloaded our gear and checked into a lodge .Even in the late spring there was still snow on the ground. We were on the Arctic circle and the days were already twenty hours long. In another month there would be twenty four hour daylight. It must be a bleak place to live in during the long dark winter.

 

   After checking into the lodge we visited Auyuittuk  National Park headquarters and were told about safety in the Arctic. We were told what to do in the case of a polar bear encounter .On Baffin Island it is forbidden for any expedition to carry a gun., We were told that polar bears were basically timid animals [we hoped], .and that they would be deterred by a large group armed with ski poles [we hoped ]. Yet in Greenland it is mandatory for every expedition to carry at least one gun. How ever it was extremely  unlikely that we would encounter any polar bears because we would be going inland and to quite high altitudes and polar bears liked to stay near the coast where there were seals for food. In any case we were about a month too early in the season to be likely to encounter them.

 

   We were warned to keep our stoves in good order because the only source of water would be by melting snow on stoves. Many people have died from dehydration in the Canadian Arctic  as a consequence of stove failure..

 

   The following day we loaded all our gear onto six large wooded sleds. Two people would sit in each sled .Each sled would be towed by a ski doo. The drivers of the ski doos were all Inuit [Eskimos ] who were inhabitants of Pangnirtung.We were all dressed up very warmly indeed. The air temperature was minus fifteen degrees Celsius and we were told that the ski doos could travel at speeds of up to sixty kilometers per hour. Sitting in the sleds exposed to this combination of factors would create a very strong wind chill factor indeed. The ski doos towed us across the frozen sea ice of the fjord and then we started climbing up a frozen stream at the bottom of a valley on the other side of the fjord. In one place there was a section of frozen  ice that was too hard and too steep for the ski doos to cope with. This section was about 400 meters long. We had to get out of the sleds and put on our crampons. This  lightened the sleds but this action alone was not enough. Three ski doos roped end to end had to tow each sled one at a time while all twelve of us pushed ,,three  of us behind the sled and three behind each ski doo .It took two hours to get all six sleds over this difficult section There were no more difficulties after that. We crossed over a 600 meter [2,000 foot ] high pass. After that we crossed over several frozen lakes. We saw a herd of caribou in the distance.  It took six hours to cover a distance of seventy kilometer sand we set up camp at the boundary of Auyuittuq  National Park about 300 meters [1,000 feet ] above sea level. We were on the edge of a frozen lake near the base of a rocky precipitous peak towering 900 meters [3,000 feet ] above us. We slept in two man tents. I shared a tent with Jaime Vinals ,the Guatemalan climber. He speaks good English and  having climbed the seven continental  summits he is now trying to climb the highest peak on each of the world's seven largest islands. After  we had unloaded the sleds the drivers towed them back to Pangnirtung.

 

The next day we loaded all our gear onto much smaller sleds .One person would be hauling each sled. At the beginning of the expedition each sled weighed 110 kilogrammes [240 pounds] but this would get lighter as time went on and food and fuel were consumed. We put on our crampons and started hauling . The terrain was too rugged at the early stage of the expedition to consider walking on skis  and the skis were tied to the top of the sleds. The sled was attached to my body by a waist harness and a shoulder harness. .We walked for twenty minutes across the end of the frozen lake and then we started climbing the glacier. The glacier was about three kilometers wide and many kilometers long. and  for the most part it climbed at a gentle gradient of about five degrees. Near the bottom of the glacier was a much steeper section. about twenty degrees steep and about fifty meters long. This  section was too steep for one person to pull a sled up by himself so one person had to tow each sled while two people pushed from behind. After this difficult section one person hauled each sled. It was a calm sunny day and it was  surprisingly hot in the sun. In the Arctic the snow reflects most of the sun's light and when there is no wind heat can be a problem. However the air temperature is not warm and  even a slight breeze will literally blow the heat away. Hauling the sled up the glacier was hard work on the legs ,back, stomach and lungs and I was glad that I had put in the long hours of training. The  action of towing the sled did not bother my recently operated on abdomen which had obviously healed very well.  Doing  exercises to strengthen the abdominal muscles  during the final eight weeks before the start of the expedition had also paid off. In some places we had to navigate between exposed rocks on the glacier and in other places there were many small hummocks making it impossible to keep the sleds on an even keel and the sleds  would often slide from side to side. We would walk for an hour at a time and then take a thirty minute rest between each sled hauling session. For me it was a great triumph  ,.I was easily able to keep up with the other members of the expedition and most of the other members of the expedition were between fifteen and twenty years younger than myself . I was fifty two years old and the second oldest member in the group ,one of the other members being six years older than myself. It was only three and a half months [107 days] since I had had my prostate removed and I thought that not many people would contemplate this sort of recreation after a prostatectomy.

 

   After  about five hours the hummocks got bigger and steeper making sled hauling impossible. We abandoned the sleds and explored the glacier on foot for an hour trying to find an easy route up. Eventually we found an easy route 600 meters to our right. We had to use three people to haul each sled through the hummocks to reach this section. We continued on up the glacier for another hour after this and pitched camp at the end of a seven hour day. We had climbed 300 metres[1,000 feet] and had covered about five kilometers

 

 

   The next day there were no more hummocks. The gradient of the glacier was similar to that of the previous day. There were many small crevasses about twenty centimeters wide to be negotiated, and possibly some larger hidden ones so we roped up in four ropes of three. About ten meters separated each climber ..We covered another ten kilometers that day and climbed another 300 meters [1,000 feet. We pitched camp near the base of some rugged peaks ,one of which included a vertical 600 meter [2,000 foot ] high granite wall.

 

  The terrain was very similar to that of the part of Greenland that I had been in and so was the geology.  Greenland was joined  to Baffin Island in the far distant past before  continental drift separated the two land masses .Both Baffin Island and Greenland  share the distinction of having the oldest rocks in the world, dated at over three billion years. Yet Iceland which is only 500 kilometers to the east of Greenland and   which is Greenland's neighbor  is completely different. It is volcanic, lies on the Mid Atlantic ridge and is the youngest major island in the world. Its oldest rocks are dated at sixteen million years.

 

  The following day we decided to put on skis. We put skins on the skis to provide traction while walking uphill ..Walking in skis is a far safer option than walking in cramponed boots while in crevasse country because the skis spread the weight over a far larger area. They are also long enough to span narrow crevasses. No one fell into any crevasses during the expedition. The skis weighed about ten kilogrammes per set  and now that they were on the feet this made the sleds a bit lighter. It is easier to ski than to

walk because one only has to slide each ski forward and not lift the foot as one does in walking. It is also about fifty percent faster than walking. We climbed another 300 meters [1,000 feet ] and covered another ten kilometers in five hours. Again it was a triumph to be sled hauling using skis so soon after prostate surgery.

 

  The weather had been good up until then. That night it started snowing and by morning it was still snowing. There was also a moderately strong wind so we had a rest day. The day after that it was no longer snowing although it was still windy. We decided to move on and climbed about 100 metres[300 feet] covering another kilometers and set up base camp which would be our base for climbing as many peaks as we could.

 

   That night the weather deteriorated into a blizzard and it was snowing heavily by morning. There was also a forty knot gale and visibility was about 100 meters .About twenty centimeters of snow had fallen. We had a rest day and spent time building snow walls around the tents and shoveling snow off the sleds which were partly buried. The blizzard continued for the next five days. Each day we had to shovel snow off the buried sleds and build up the snow walls. I spent time each day doing puzzles from a puzzle magazine. I did several short two hour trips on my skis. Visibility was low but I always went with a companion. We each had our own G.P.S.to navigate by and I had taken the position of the camp site before leaving and hence we were able to navigate our way back to camp.

 

   Things were a bit depressing as the clock was winding down. We only had six days left and it would be sad to have come all this way, gone through all this training and hard work since surgery only to be beaten by bad weather. If that had been the case I would have had to come back the following year.

 

   However on the sixth day the weather cleared. Our plan that day was to climb to the summit of the Penny Ice Cap which is the highest point on Baffin Island. The highest rocky peak on the island was Mount Odin which was sixty kilometers away. The Penny Ice Cap is 120 meters [400 feet ]thick and sits on top of a high rocky plateau not much lower than Mount Odin so the summit of the Penny Ice Cap is actually 50 meters [160 feet] higher than the summit of Mount Odin. We left the skis at base camp and it was great to ski while carrying light packs. Each pack weighed twelve kilogrammes [about twenty five pounds]. Again we skied roped up in four ropes of three. We skied along the Upper Norman Glacier covering six kilometers and climbing 150 meters  [500 feet]

before turning left. We then ascended a twenty five degree steep slope . We climbed 900 metres[3,000 feet] in five hours and there were no technical difficulties. The summit of the Ice cap is a large plateau and we all reached the summit of the island on skis. At least the expedition was now a success.

 

We got great views of snow covered peaks in the distance. Most impressive was Mount Asgard a vertical cylinder of rock about fifty kilometers away. It is 1,100 meters [3,500 feet ] high and it is an extremely difficult rock climb by any route. After about thirty minutes on the summit we decided to descend . Although the skies were clear there was a ten knot wind and that makes it very cold when one is at an altitude of 2,250 meters [7,500 feet] on a peak north of the Arctic circle. It was minus twenty degrees Celsius on the summit.

 

   We removed the skins from our skis before commencing the descent . Skins are good for providing traction on the ascent but they prevent the skis from gliding on the descent and thus they  had to be removed. It was a great ski run down to the Norman glacier. Even on the Norman glacier it was a downhill ski to the camp although the slope was far less steep than on the descent from the top of the ice cap and we were able to ski all the way back to camp with out skins. My many hours of training  on the Skier's Edge machine had paid off and I was able to ski down hill while carrying a pack with out any problems.

 

   The following day was also fine. Originally we had intended to climb to the summit of Tete Blanche which is also covered by a thick ice cap .It is the second highest point on Baffin Island. Mount Odin is the third highest point on the island. However the base of Tete Blanche was eighteen kilometers away. It would involve a very long day ,skiing with sleds to get to the base of Tete Blanche. It would take a long day to climb the peak and then a third long day to return to our current camp site. That would only allow two days to ski out and they would be two long days. The pick up had been arranged for May the 10th and Paul Walker thought that we had to allow three days for the walk out in case of bad weather or other delays. Hence we abandoned our plans to climb Tete Blanche..

 

 We decided to climb another peak which was nearer to our camp. Six of us ,including myself decided to climb a peak that would  be a snow climb. Two of the climbers decided to have a rest day while four others elected to try a rock climb. The peak they were attempting  had its north face facing the camp and it would not receive any sun for most of the day making it a very cold climb indeed ,especially while other climbers sat still, waiting while the lead climber climbed each pitch. Hence I elected to do the ice climb although I am a reasonably competent rock climber.

 

The first 300 meters [1,000 feet ]  of the peak I was attempting involved a ski ascent up a moderately steep glacier. At the top of the glacier the  slope of the mountain was far too steep to ski up so we abandoned our skis .We put on our crampons and roped up in two lots of three We climbed steeply for 300 meters [1,300 feet ]before we reached the ridge and saw the yellow tents of our camp 600 meters [2,000 feet ]below. We turned right and walked along the narrow ridge for a short distance before standing on a knoll that was a false summit. About 500 meters further on the main summit was about 60 meters [200 feet ] above us. but there was no way that we could reach it without taking an enormous risk.  On our left hand side was a sheer 600 meter [2,000 foot drop] There was a cornice of ice overhanging the top of the precipice by about three meters which had been formed by the recent blizzard . We would have to walk along the right hand slope of the ridge well below the potential break away point of the cornice to be safe,. However  the right hand face of the mountain was forty five degrees steep and  covered by a thick layer of windslab formed by the recent blizzard. Conditions looked right for an avalanche. In addition the wind had picked up and it was clouding over fast and not long after we reached the knoll we were in white out conditions. The main summit was not worth the risk.  We decided that discretion was the better part of valour. We turned back , following the foot steps that we had made in the snow all the way back to our skis, Although we had not made the main summit ,we had at least made the false summit .I had done a bit of climbing using ice axe and crampons and again it was another triumph after surgery.

 

   We all stuck together while skiing back to camp in the white out  ,navigating by G.P.S.

  The other four climbers had failed to reach the summit of their rock face. It had been a technically difficult climb in very cold conditions and the weather had closed in putting an end to their attempt.

 

    The following day it was windy although it was not snowing Clouds covered the peaks and the base of the cloud was 150 meters [500 feet] above us. Visibility was good at ground level. We only had four days left and it was not a good day for climbing so we decided to begin the ski out. We covered ten kilometers that day and camped at the site where we had set up camp on the third day of the ski in. The sleds were far lighter than they had been at the start of the expedition and we were now traveling down hill and sled hauling was far easier than it had been on the ski in.

 

 

 The following day it was snowing very heavily and there was a forty knot gale. We had certainly had  a bad run with the weather on this expedition. We did not know how long this storm might continue,. It could easily be another five day storm. Therefore we continued the ski out navigating by compass and G.P.S. We covered another twelve kilometers that day and set up camp  after bypassing the site of our second camp on the walk in .We set up camp about two kilometers past the site of our second camp

 

   The following day the wind was stronger than ever and heavy sleet was falling .The air temperature was much  warmer now that we had lost altitude but damp sleet is more uncomfortable than snow and I would prefer snow to sleet any day. We skied to the site where we had set up our first camp on the walk in and we reached the big hummocks shortly after this. From here on the glacier was rocky and hummocked and the going was unsuitable for skis. We tied the skis to the top of our sleds and continued using crampons and ski poles. The weather had been a lot warmer down here . In places it was icy ,in other places there were puddles and there were a lot more rocks exposed than there had been during the walk in .It had obviously been raining down here instead of snowing. Although the sleds were much lighter  than they had been when negotiating this section at the start of the expedition the  going on the walk out was . at least as hard as the going on the walk in .. This was in spite of the fact that we were going downhill instead of uphill If conditions had  been this bad at the start of the expedition I do not think we would ever have reached the mountains.

 

  The weather finally improved just as we reached the edge of the frozen lake. We walked the short distance across the lake to set up camp at the site where the ski doos had transported to us earlier on. It had been a long ten hour day.

 

    The next day was a rest day and the day after that the ski doos arrived from Pangnirtung towing their wooden sleds. We spent an hour loading the sleds before setting off. A lot of snow had melted. It had obviously rained a lot and much bare grass was exposed. The caterpillar tracks of the ski doos handled the long bare grass very well indeed but the sleds had no suspension and the ride back was extremely bumpy. Three of the ski doos broke fan belts on the drive out but the drivers carried plenty of spares and they are all excellent mechanics. They have to be excellent mechanics because their survival in such remote and hostile terrain can often depend on this very skill.

 

 

 The journey down the frozen stream to the fjord was an adventure . The stream was not straight and  it had many bends. In addition there were many exposed rocks. How the drivers negotiated this section with out the long sleds either jack knifing or hitting any rocks I will never know but the skill of the drivers was amazing. We crossed the frozen

fjord and arrived back at Pangnirtung on the evening of May the 10th. It was ten years to the day since I had reached the summit of Mount Everest.

 

    The following day was a rest day and the day after that we flew back to Ottawa. The rest of the group flew to London that evening. Jaime would go on from London to join an

 

   Thus the trip ended In some ways it was disappointing because the bad weather had prevented us from doing as much climbing as we would have liked. However we had reached the highest point on the island. The scenery had been great on fine days and they had been a great group of people to be with .In addition   hauling sleds , climbing and descending by ski ,and climbing with ice axe and crampons had  been an enormous victory for me so soon after my  prostate cancer surgery and the rewards were well worth the effort.

 

 

   After I had returned home from Baffin Island I decided to finish the task of running a marathon on every continent. I had actually decided to do so after I had finished the Antarctic marathon, but the World Master's  Games ,my cancer surgery and the Baffin Island expedition had slowed the project temporarily .I had originally intended to take another three or four years to complete the project, but my point of view on this subject had changed  shortly after I learnt that I had cancer. My health was excellent and my P.S.A.reading was zero but the prostate cancer had come like a bolt out of the blue and having had cancer once did not necessarily give me a life long exemption from getting cancer again , although of course I hope that I never get cancer again. I thought that it was extremely unlikely that any cancer cells remained given the zero P.S.A. reading and the results of the biopsy of the removed prostate, but extremely unlikely  does not mean impossible and in any case cancer could still strike elsewhere from a different cause even though I hoped that this would never happen. I decided to make hay while the sun shines and complete my remaining continental marathons as quickly as possible.

 

 

  I decided that the next marathon that I would run would be the Gold Coast marathon  in Surfer's Paradise ,Australia in early July. I had only six weeks to train for the event. I had been home only seven days when my training was interrupted . Seven days after returning home I spent a week in Kathmandu, Nepal to take part in the 50th anniversary of the first ascent of Mount Everest by Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay in 1953.About 400 Everest summiteers  attended the celebrations. About 200 of them were Sherpas. Every  summiter each received a medal from the prime minister of Nepal

 

 That left me with four weeks left to train.  On July 6th I ran the Gold Coast marathon in cool overcast conditions on a flat course finishing in the first half of the field in a time of three hours and fifty nine minutes .The day after the marathon was exactly six months to the day since my cancer  operation.

 

  After returning home from Australia I learned that there was a marathon in Frankfurt ,Germany on October 26th and a marathon in New York one week later on November 2nd. I decided to run them both as I could run both a European marathon and a North American marathon, using a single round the world ticket...I had never run two marathons only seven days apart before but I was confident that I was up to the task..  I increased the duration of my weekly longest  run to three and a half hours to accustom myself to the task of running two marathons in such a short interval of time. I purchased a ticket to Frankfurt via Singapore. After Frankfurt I would fly to New York and then home via Los Angeles.

 

  The Frankfurt course was a very flat course. Conditions were cold. It was two degrees Celsius and there was a ten knot wind blowing. Conditions were not nearly as severe as they had been for my Everest and Antarctic marathons, Nevertheless I would still have to be careful until I warmed up. Before the start I stood in the middle of a large crowd of runners. This protected me from the wind and kept me warm. I ran the race in four hours and eleven minutes ,finishing in the first half of the field. I could have finished the marathon  at least thirty minutes faster but I did not want to get too tired because I still had New York to run the following week .

 

   There were 34,000 starters in the New York marathon It was twenty two degrees Celsius and humid. The course was a flat one. I took it easy ,not only because I had run a marathon one week earlier, but also because I had carried the flag for New Zealand in a six kilometer international friendship run the day before . I finished the marathon  in 14,000 place out of 34,000 runners in a time of four hours and twenty three minutes.

 

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 My next marathon was the Kilimanjaro  marathon which was due to start and finish in the town of Moshi in Tanzania in Africa on March 7th 2004.The run starts and finishes in the local stadium which has a dirt surface. Conditions were hot and humid. It was thirty two degrees Celsius with almost 100 percent humidity. The course will be remembered for the  four   H's  ,heat, humidity ,hills  and height  although the  altitude was not great enough to be a major problem. About 600 runners were taking part in the run, about two thirds of them being East Africans. The run starts at an elevation of 750 meters [2,500 feet] and goes though the town of Moshi for a short distance. Over the next nine kilometers the course passes through farmland and banana plantations descending to 600 meters [2,000 feet ] This part of the course is actually run along the road to the start of the Marangu route up Kilimanjaro although the turn around point in this race was a long way before the start of the Marangu route. This is the route most commonly used  by  which I climbed the mountain in 1978. At the nine kilometer mark we turned around and ran back the same way to Moshi for four kilometers but then came a detour and we returned to Moshi  by a slightly different route. There were drink stops every five kilometers along the route and in the hot humid conditions I was drinking four cups of water at every stop just to stay hydrated . I can understand how the heat and humidity nearly killed the  New Zealand walker Craig Barrett at the commonwealth games in Kuala Lumpur.  I had just reached the seven kilometer mark when the leading runners passed me going in the opposite direction at the eleven kilometer mark. The African Negroes  are magnificent runners  and their e speed, grace and endurance is fantastic. The East African Negroes are  to long distance running as the  Sherpas of Nepal are to high altitude mountaineering. I considered it an honour to be running in the same race that they were running in  although I was certainly out classed. I reached the half way point just on the other side of Moshi in two hours and seven minutes .After that things slowed down. Between  the twenty one kilometer mark and the thirty two kilometer mark the course climbed steeply to 1,300 meters [4,300 feet]. Again the course passed through farmland and banana plantations. This part of the run actually went a part of the way along the road to the start of the Mweka route up Kilimanjaro. That  had been my descent route after summiting in 1999  although it had not been my ascent route .I had ascended via the Ubbwe route on that expedition.

 

   At the thirty two kilometer mark things turned bad. I had just switched from uphill running to downhill running when I got a double injury to my left knee,  injuring  both the patella tendon in the front of the knee and the muscles at the back of the knee. I could no longer run but I was able to walk the final ten kilometers to the finish without  major discomfort. Had the marathon been run in New Zealand I would have dropped out of the race ,but I did not want to have to return to Africa just to run another marathon so I continued to the finish. I finished the marathon  in the slow time of five hours and thirty one minutes but at least I was not the last person to finish.

 

The knee was sore and swollen after the finish of the race. My next and final continental marathon was due to be run in Santiago in Chile in five weeks time .I wondered if I would have to postpone the trip to South America for six months and run in a different South American marathon.

 

 

  I asked the restaurant manager at the hotel to give me a large  plastic bag  full  of ice which I then held against my knee for thirty minutes .I did the same thing two hours later and the same thing two hours after that. After my operation I had kept the two long surgical socks that I had worn during my surgery. They make excellent flight stockings and I have worn them on every long flight that I have made since my operation. I put both socks on my left leg before I went to bed hoping compression would reduce the swelling. By morning the swelling was considerably reduced. I put another ice bag on the knee before breakfast. I then did an eight day tour of the Tanzanian game parks. I did no running during this period and I slept with one surgical sock on my left leg every night. By the time I got to New Zealand the pain and swelling had completely disappeared.

 

    I saw my general practitioner on returning to Warkworth . He assured me that there was no damage to my knee joint and that I had only suffered soft tissue injury .We also discussed my recovery from surgery.  I was still impotent but this did not worry me I was in excellent health and  had certainly achieved a lot since my surgery and that was far more important to me. I decided not to postpone my South American marathon.

 

   I found that running on the flat and running up hill did not bother the knee but that running down hill was slightly uncomfortable. I kept the mileage low and avoided speed work to prevent injury. I also did some of my running on the treadmill to avoid downhill work. My road work avoided down hill running for the first two weeks .For my long weekly run I would put my mountain bike in the back of the car and drive first  to the top of Pakiri hill  and then along        Rodney road to the start of the Tamahangi walk. I would then chain the bike to the fence. and drive to Pakiri beach .The run back to the bicycle was fourteen kilometers and included 450 meters [1,500 feet] of climbing. I would then

cycle down to Goat Island and over Pakiri hill and back to the car. Cycling did not bother the knee and it was  excellent supplementary training. After two weeks I found that I could run down hill with no problems.

 

 

On April   11th  I ran in the Santiago marathon just as I had originally intended to. I took it easy because I did not want to injure the knee and  all that I had to do was to finish the run. It was a hot day .The temperature was thirty degrees  Celsius but at least the air was very dry and I did not need to drink as much water on the run as I had needed to in Africa although I still had to drink plenty. In some places the course was gently undulating, but the majority of the course was flat. The air was smoggy and very unpleasant to run in for a country boy who has never smoked  I did not injure my knee and .I finished the run in four hours and thirty three minutes thus completing my goal of running a marathon on all seven continents.

 

  I spent four days in Easter Island on the way  home .After returning home and doing investigations on the internet I discovered that I was the only person whose name appears  both on the list of people who have climbed the highest peak on each of the seven continents and on the list of people who have run a marathon on every continent.

.

 

 

     I would like my achievements to be an inspiration to help other cancer patients on their road to recovery after their diagnosis and treatment. I am neither a psychologist nor a social worker  and I do not claim to know many of the answers. In fact I do not even know many of the questions. However I will express my own thoughts on the subject and hope that it may be of some value, no matter how slight.

 

    While it is true that our potentials to recover from cancer and the subsequent treatment are governed by a wide range of things that we can not change ,examples being our age, the type of body that we have inherited from our parents and the type and severity of the cancer , I am convinced that a positive attitude ,the will to succeed and the right temperament are all very important on the road to rehabilitation..

 

  Learning that one has cancer is a traumatic experience It is important to discuss your problems with others ,especially if you are depressed .A problem shared is a problem halved. Most women are able to do this naturally which gives them an advantage. My message to men is that it is neither cowardly nor effeminate to talk to others about your problems .Talking to others about your problems is the correct thing to do even though it can take many men a lot of courage to do so. It pays to talk  with your family ,friends ,minister, doctor social worker or better  still  a combination of these .

 

 

   I found that having a definite goal to achieve after surgery was a definite advantage on the road to recovery because really wanting to get to Baffin Island made me work hard to achieve that goal. I knew that I had to be fully continent to be able to go on the expedition so I worked very hard on pelvic floor exercises before surgery and I am sure that this helped. I  strongly recommend all prostate cancer sufferers who have elected to have surgery to do pelvic floor exercises in the period between their diagnosis and their surgery.

 

  Although most cancer patients will not be aiming to go on Arctic expeditions ,fortunately it is not necessary for them to do so What is important is that they  set themselves goals that are realistic for them to achieve. Making one's goals unrealistic and too difficult to achieve is to set one self up for failure and that will only lead to discouragement. It is far better to try to set yourself up for success and  set yourself goals that are both  realistic  and achievable .Set up realistic short term goals to use as milestones on the road to reaching your long term goal. In my case I knew that I had a certain amount of time to achieve a certain level of fitness to reach a major goal. I set minor goals along the way and worked hard to achieve them,. showing enough determination to train and .enough patience not to train too hard . In Arthur Lydiard's words 'Train don't strain '

 

  .The goal does not necessarily have to be something physical. It can be mental, for example writing articles for a magazine .playing bridge  or literally any of a thousand different activities. One does not even have to be good at what one is doing so long as one enjoys doing it. It does not matter if it takes you 70 or 170 strokes to get around a golf course so long as you enjoy doing it. My running is very poor indeed compared to the East African runners but I still enjoy it and I get out and do it.

 

  I believe that every cancer survivor is a winner. Every one has their own  Mount Everests to climb .their own marathons to run and their own Baffin Islands  in this journey called life and every  one must tackle them in a manner that best suits their abilities and temperaments. This is especially true ,not only for cancer survivors but for

survivors of any major illness or accident. It is not so much what you do that matters .It is what you do with what you have got that is important..

 

As   an example - A ninety two year old woman who has broken a hip gets out of a chair and walks across the room.. Just getting out of that chair and walking across the room is for her  at least as difficult [ and probably more difficult than] and takes at least as much

courage [ and probably more courage than ]  the much younger  and superbly  trained   Lance Armstrong in winning the Tour De France. Yes  ,what you do with what you have got is far more important than what you do.

 

    I myself trained hard right up until the day of surgery because I believe that the fitter one is before surgery the quicker one will return to fitness after surgery. Although the majority of patients can not do a lot of  exercise  before surgery for a variety of reasons ,examples of this being work ,family commitments  and ,other health problems , I believe that the busier one can keep one's self and the more one can exercise the mind and body before surgery ,the  more it will help. Even a little ,no matter how little will make it feel like one is achieving something.

 

 

   Finally it is important never to give up. I had a few minor problems within the first three weeks after surgery and also after the during and after the African marathon but it is important not to get too depressed by problems and  to approach everything with a positive attitude. Winners never quit and quitters never win.

 

   

 

 

 

 

  

 

  

 

 

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