I've just spent an unforgettable weekend in Wales with Palma, where we attempted - but ultimately failed - to summit Mt. Snowdon. Not that we didn't try our damndest, but the weather was so extreme we had no choice but to turn back 30 minutes from the top. Thankfully, we were in the safe hands of Brian Jackson and Ian Foster from Expedition Wise, who clearly knew when enough was enough. At times the trek felt pretty hardcore and the experience has been invaluable.
You can see how people get into trouble up there - at 9am the weather was beautiful and there wasn't a cloud in the sky, but by 11am we were trudging through snow, ice, sleet and gale force winds. The dangers were brought into sharp relief when Palma was actually picked up by the wind and thrown head-first down the mountain. To my surprise, I actually managed to intervene, and while I'd love to tell you that I saved her life I certainly stopped her from banging her head on a rock. It wasn't exactly Cliffhanger but it's probably the closest I'll ever get to committing an heroic act (if you can call throwing myself on her feet and screaming like a baby "heroic").
And I loved every minute of it. In fact, the harder it got the more I loved it. Whether this was just beginner's euphoria or mild insanity is still open to debate, but I felt more alive than I have in years. It was also reassuring to discover that no matter how bad things got my equipment was more than up to the job. Except for my gloves. Which were shit.
The information that we were given by Brian throughout the weekend was incredibly helpful. I honestly don't know how I even contemplated taking on this challenge without the knowledge he imparted to us. I now know how to keep my feet warm at minus 15 degrees, why sleeping naked is best, why walking cold is a must, and why the colour of my urine is so important. As a result, I feel that my chances of making the summit have increased tenfold.
If you are interested, I've set up a photo gallery from the weekend that you can access by clicking here.
I also met a fellow geek who will be tackling Kili with me in June. To be honest, I was dreading sharing a youth hostel bunk with a total stranger; I was concerned that they would be an expert in trekking and that they would shame me with tales of their adventures, but by the Sunday we were throwing James Bond quotes at each other and debating the relative merits of Russell T. Davies in painstaking detail. There is a god.
In fact, everyone I met during the weekend was fantastic. It's amazing how, within just a few short hours, a group of complete strangers spanning all walks of life and aged between 18-60, can bond beneath a thin sheet of plastic while Mother Nature reminds everyone who's boss; by Saturday evening we were playing pool together like old friends. Amazing.
Of course, I can't post this entry without commenting on the news that all nine celebrities reached the summit of Kili over the weekend. My first reaction was a mixture of surprise, admiration and dismay; it's inevitable that everyone will now think that climbing Kilimanjaro must be really easy, and the pressure to summit has increased as a result. If I had a pound for every person who has said to me, "how hard can it be if Chris Moyles can do it?" then I would be able to put a sizable dent in our fundraising target. However, I'm hoping that the documentary that airs on BBC1 this Thursday will chronicle the full horror behind this stunning achievement, and it might convince people to put their hands in their pockets...