Once something new and exciting gets lodged into my imagination, I become driven to plunge ‘head-first’ into it. It totally consumes my passion and energy to learn it, try it, go for it. It becomes a freight train and there is just no stopping it.
From drawing on toilet paper at four years old, to getting up at 4 am to go duck hunting when I was twelve, I had to squeeze in every moment I could to pursue my passions. At 20, after getting a taste of the world working at Expo 67 in Montreal, I was ready to get out there and go explore the world myself.
Hitchhiking all the way from Scotland to Afghanistan in 1969, I then bused it to India and Nepal. In Kathmandu I met a New Zealand climber who had just returned from trekking about 300 miles to Everest Base Camp and back. His story, within seconds, shot so much adrenaline into my bloodstream, I knew I had to go and try to do it too.
[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]Within days I was crossing over high mountain passes, dropping into tropical valleys, vaguely finding my way up and over the Khumbu Range. With no mountaineering experience, alone, no tent, only a summer sleeping bag, eating potatoes and rice, I somehow managed to climb up the Khumbu Glacier to approximately 19,000 feet to Everest Base Camp. I spent 32 days alone in the greatest mountain range on earth surviving only on my energy and wits.
The ‘Blue Goose’
Travelling became a passion and way of life for me. In Amsterdam, I bought an old British 1956 Bedford Duple Coach with 41 seats and a gas engine. Competing with Magic Bus, I made my living in Europe hauling around all those wandering ‘baby boomers’. My bus was called the ‘Blue Goose’ and somehow, with dubious credentials, it flew a new culture of travelling hippies from Amsterdam to Spain, Morocco and Greece in the early 1970’s.
Photo: Leo Dickenson
The rewards are many. Climbing through the dangerous Ice Fall crossing ladders and crevasses teaches managing fear. Getting up at 2am in the cold, day after day, teaches diligence and strength of character. The long hours of physical endurance teaches fortitude and determination. The passion to want to do it at all teaches spirit and love of life. The beauty, albeit stark, teaches appreciation of life at the extreme end.
I have been asked repeatedly over the years how I manage to suffer and endure these climbs. The simple answer is ‘one step in front of the next will get you to the top’.
After climbing Everest I wrote: “Everest demands your psychological tenacity. You must be stubborn; you must hold fast; you must know why you are there. You must see what you don’t want to see, but be able to remove it from mind’s eye. You must focus on one thing or you will die. Your world is exactly one step at a time.”