Since last putting my thoughts down on digital paper I have had a mixed couple of weeks. Firstly the generosity of people has again proved most humbling, secondly we have had some exposure in print and lastly, there has been a worrying change in my symptoms. We are always taught in the military to end on a high so I will firstly mention ‘the change’.
Over the last couple of weeks, my legs have become incredibly stiff and painful. It’s like when you haven’t done Phys forever and then decide to smash a cheeky squat circuit followed by a long run and wake up the next day unable to move your legs. It really does feel like that, my legs are now constantly in that state. They are doing what I tell them to but the effort in doing it has increased by some margin. At first, I thought that I may be weakening and that somehow I am pushing my legs harder thus causing the stiffness. That made no sense as they are more than a little used to doing exercise every day, so I looked into a bit and it turns out it’s a ‘thing’ as a result of MS. I hope it passes soon as it’s very depressing knowing how fit and strong I am just now but still suffer the pain of a first timer!! On a plus side, the tiredness that I reported last time seems to be on the wain. One thing improves only to be replaced by another. I suppose that’s the way of it and is something I have to get used to.
I hope it passes soon as it’s very depressing knowing how fit and strong I am just now but still suffer the pain of a first timer!! On a plus side, the tiredness that I reported last time seems to be on the wain. One thing improves only to be replaced by another. I suppose that’s the way of it and is something I have to get used to.
The Royal Marines Association
I received a cheque for £500 last weekend from the Royal Marines Association Deal, which was a tremendous boost to our fundraising. Each year the members of the Association perform in a re-invention of the Sergeant’s Mess Pantomime that was traditionally put on each year in Deal by the members of the Mess. It was and still is an excuse for Royal Marines Senior NCOs to dress up in women’s clothing and prance around a stage for the amusement of the paying public. These performances are sold out within minutes of the ticket office opening and all the money they make is donated to various charities and this year we were lucky enough to be one of the causes they have chosen to support. What touched me as much if not more was the number of people, many of whom were pensioners, who approached me after the presentation and gave me the contents of their purses and wallets. It was very humbling indeed and added an extra £65 to the pot. My thanks go to all those kind and generous souls who so kindly donated.
What touched me as much if not more was the number of people, many of whom were pensioners, who approached me after the presentation and gave me the contents of their purses and wallets. It was very humbling indeed and added an extra £65 to the pot. My thanks go to all those kind and generous souls who so kindly donated.
The Belfast Telegraph
This week has also seen a little bit of coverage in the printed press. Mac was interviewed by the Belfast Telegraph about living life with MS and of course, he managed to squeeze in a little bit about our little project. It’s a good article and features some nice photos of Mac and his family. I also had a small piece appear in Open Door, the quarterly magazine of the MS Trust with the intention of running a larger article in the next issue. Hopefully, we can get some more coverage to raise the profile of what we are trying to achieve and ultimately raise some more money for two fantastic charities.
My teammate Phil Carrington was over from Chamonix this week and we were able to put together the final pieces of the jigsaw that have been our route up the mountain and how we are going to conduct our final training together as a team.
Phil has been liaising with Rick, our guide, who has advised us on a number of aspects to the route taking in our goals and also factoring in mine and Mac’s MS. We have come up with a plan. We fly out on the 5th of June and plan to hike up to the Plan a Aiguille hut the following afternoon. This sits at around 2700 m, and we will stay the night drinking some beer eating as much pizza as possible (we need to carb right up) and swap old apocryphal war stories.
On the 7th we will take the Gondola up to the Aiguille Du Midi and then the cross Gondola over into Italy before yomping all the way back to the Glacier and the Vallee Blanche. This will give us a good day’s training at over 3000 m, something we need to acclimatise ourselves to the altitude and will also give us a run over a number of crevasses culminating in a cheeky knife edge ridge (brilliant when you have balance issues and wearing crampons!!) back up to the Aiguille Du Midi.
After a couple of days rest, we will go for the big one, leaving from the Pointing Man Statue in the centre of Chamonix at about 0700 on the morning of the 10th. We will then follow the river to Les Houche and up the first part of the mountain to the Tete Rousse Hut. This will take up to twelve hours……
A 0400 start on the 11th (33 years to the day that I joined the Royal Marines) to head up to the snow line. This will be the first major climb of our ascent and weather depending; will see us reach the summit before lunch. We will then retreat to the Gouter hut and spend the night before a very long descent back to Chamonix on the 12th. So that’s the plan, but no plan survives first contact with the weather and of course there is nothing we can do about that. We do have an alternative plan if the weather proves difficult and it does, of course, involve reaching the top.
The Final Hurdle
It’s now just three weeks before we depart on this great adventure of ours and the final planning is slotting into place. The final hurdle is raising a further £2000 in cash to allow us to cover the expenses of actually scaling the mountain. This is to cover the hire of our guide, Rick, a requirement under French law (a guide, not necessarily Rick), the hire of crampons, ice axes, ropes, harnesses and helmets.
We are also obliged under French law to have insurance should the worse happen and this includes being lifted off the mountain by helicopter as well as medical costs. We also have to pay for the not inexpensive cable cars for our training days and of course the booking of the two huts we will need to stop over in during our ascent of Mt Blanc.
The total cost comes to around £3000 but I have so far managed to beg, borrow but as yet not stolen, £1000 towards this, so a little way to go yet.
I have one more mountain to climb in the UK, and I have saved the highest till last. On Wednesday my brother Simon and I will fly up to Scotland to meet up with some other friends in order to climb Ben Nevis the following day. I’m really looking forward to this one and will complete the full set of the highest peaks in each of the four countries of these great isles. I will, of course, write a full report on my return.
Finally, it remains for me to once again thank all those that are continuing to donate to our charities. You have raised a massive £34,544.40
Thank you all so very much, you are awesome, every single one of you.
Let’s give it a final push and raise as much as possible before we go! Spread the word and let’s all make a difference for these two wonderful charities.