Adventure, Interviews, Mountaineering

The Snow Leopard Award -The Complete Interview

1.Nice Twitter line; “Expedition leader, mountaineer, skier & photographer, usually found on big mountains in cold places, planning expeditions, drinking tea or eating percy pigs!”

How did you get to this stage?

This statement is surprisingly accurate to my life at the moment!! The photography started as a hobby and then continued on to University where I did a degree in fine art specialising in photography. I qualified as a mountain leader age 20 and since then have been away on big expeditions every year both personal and leading, and now its a quite a few a year!! In the past two years i have lead more than 10 overseas expeditions! I would class myself as a mountaineer, over a pure climber as I enjoy all aspects of climbing in the mountains. I set up my own company at 23 and now run a number of expedition each yeah with private groups aiming to provide a professional and personal service – hence the planning expeditions part. I enjoy drinking tea and love eating percy pigs!


Courtesy of Jon Gupta

2.How long have you and Nick known each other and how did you’s meet?

Nick and i have been friends for around 3 years – we met through a friend on a winter climbing trip in 2009. We climbed together on a few ice routes and enjoyed each others company. We climb well together, almost telepathically and have good banter – always important when times get tough. Since then we have climbed together in the Alps and more recently skiing some incredible off piste lines together. We are both ambitious and motivated to achieve in the outdoors.


3.What is the appeal of the Snow Leopard Award?

I was looking for an idea and some inspiration to do a big expedition and ideally a world first or a british first expedition and fell across an article on Peak Lenin (one of the 5 peaks). A few links and click-throughs later and i arrived at the snow leopard award. At first i got very excited then did some more research and spent time pulling information from all over the web – which was hard as there isn’t much about. As soon as realised not a single british person has achieved, it that was it, this was my expedition for 2012!!

I like SLA because it is very ambitious, five 7000m peaks back to back is tough, and only 14 people in the world have ever achieved it. My life, my work and my play revolves around mountains and i wanted to do something that would stand out and that people would enjoy following and reading about, and ultimately inspiring them to get out and do something!



4.What does your training consist of?

Right now Nick is living in the Alps and has done for most of the past 12 months. In the summer he was climbing a lot and now he is taking his level 1 & 2 BASI ski qualifications – so skiing a lot!

I continue to work freelance and have just returned from 2 months leading and climbing Nepal. As for expeditions prior to the SL expedition i will be leading on Kilimanjaro, Island Peak and hopefully climbing Everest all before July. In between expeditions (i drink tea and eat percy pigs) and climb as often as i can and very occasionally run a bit!

So the short answer is we don’t train – but the long one is we are constantly in the mountains, and are both young, strong and fit!



5.This will be the first British expedition – how would it feel to get that on your record?

It would be phenomenal – and i would be very proud. It would be a great achievement for Nick and I and for British Mountaineering. My future dream is to climb big unclimbed peaks and visit remote places where humans have never been – for now leading and successfully completing a British First Expedition would be dream come true!


6.Why pick mountaineering as your sport?

Have you ever asked a climber/mountaineer ‘why do you climb’? It’s a tough one to answer – and you will get some interesting answers!

I’m not sure if i chose mountaineering or mountaineering chose me. I have been climbing in the mountains for nearly 8 years and have never had a day where i wished i wasn’t there. The thought of going to an office and sitting at a desk all day makes me swirm, i simply couldn’t do it. I have worked hard to get where i have and now i can call my office the world, one week in Africa, the next in Greenland – i have the best office and the best job in the world. I gain huge satisfaction from leading groups in the mountains, introducing them to another world that they had only heard about in writing. I feel alive in the mountains, and this means I’m happy almost all the time.



7.How did you set the time limit of 40 days?

Our first and main aim is to complete the challenge in one season – which last around 2 months. Denis Urbeko, a legendary climber holds the record at 42 days. If we are going well and the weather is on our side we will also attempt to beat this – and therefore gaining the world fastest completion of the SLA.


8.Whats it all about for you?

In some ways it’s a chance to prove myself within the mountaineering world and to make a name for myself. In another way it’s just another expedition which needs a lot of planning and preparing, perfect logistics and some great climbing conditions! In another way it is the next level, the next step up – I’m continuously pushing my level and wanting to climb higher, harder and faster.



9.If you succeed in this, what is the next step?

I would like to share this experience with as many people as possible. It is such a huge and ambitious expedition that if it comes off and is successful than I think many people could take something from it, the main thing being that anything is possible. I believe that if you really really want something then anything is possible. It would love to have an audience at RGS and inspire a world of both legendary mountaineers and arm-chair readers alike into getting up and getting out there!!!


10. What do you have to pack, monitor and work on for this trip?

Our kit list is extensive and is too long to write down here! Our kit will need to keep us warm and dry on the glacier and high up at over 7000m where temperatures can drop below -30 degrees c. For this time we will need to melt snow and ice for water and cook high calorie food to keep our energy levels up. It is inevitable that will lose weight on this trip – so best start eating some more now!

At the moment we are working on gaining followers and generating interest in the expedition and contacting potential sponsors and funding options. Things are going really well and it seems lots of people are keen to follow ESLtwelve. Will still need a lot of financial support for the trip!



11.Why did you pick this particular challenge?

It’s exactly in line with what i do. I climb mountains, and a lot of these are very high and this challenge encompasses everything i have worked towards for the past 8 years. Only a small number of people have ever completed the challenge and even fewer have done them in one season. I believe around 8 times more people have summited Everest than have climbed all 5 Snow Leopard Peaks.



12. Why did you pick Dyslexia Action as your charity?

My choice to raise money for Dyslexia Action was simple. I am Dyslexic. In year 3 of school i was diagnosed with dyslexia and for the next 4 years i attended a dyslexia school in Bristol 3 times a week. I developed quickly and managed to achieve above average at both GCSE and A levels. I have never been an academic and at school sport and art were by far my strongest subjects. Supporting Dyslexia will also help with my aim of inspiring people particularly those who do find academia difficult and to install confidence and self belief into them, that they can achieve.


13. Who is your inspiration?

There are numerous mountaineers who inspire me – mainly ones who are doing what i hope to achieve for my self one day. I am inspired my big high cold climbs that require a whole repertoire of skills and oodles of determination to achieve, but that are not necessarily linked to super hard technical ability. For example Cory Richards, Denis Urbeko are currently out there achieving first winter ascents on 8000m peaks – that’s some serious suffering, awesome! Im also inspired by those that achieve phenomenal physical feeds such as Eddy Izard running 43 marathons in 51 days! And of course the amazing mountaineering achievements of Reinhold Messner.



14.How important is it for you to document the experience?

This expedition is going to be quite different from my previous trips. On ESLtwelve i want the readers to feel part of the expedition and enjoy being there as it unfolds through the highs and lows. Once out website is up and running we hope to be as interactive with our followers and readers before during and after. With modern-day technology we also have twitter and Facebook accounts, and hope to keep the expedition every much online when we are in the field. Weekly video blogs and photos to document the expedition are on the cards.



15.What do you anticipate the biggest challenge will be?

Remaining positive and keeping moral up for 5 weeks in an expedition environment will be tough. Everyone has down days and in a tent environment it is quite intense. Also weather will play a huge part in our expedition and could be the deciding factor if we are successful or not.



16.Why are you doing this? Why not pick the easier life, the traditional route?

Because that would be boring, and i would be like everyone else, taking the easy road. Mountains make me feel alive. I want to inspire people to believe in themselves.



17.When are you’s set to depart?

We depart early July, and have flights for 2 months.


Follow their journey on Facebook, Twitter or their website.


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