Sunday, 11 October 2009

Manaslu Part Two: The Walk in




It’s fair to say that the thought of getting into a Nepalese military helicopter was never exactly going to be the highlight of the expedition for me. In fact- the thought was bloody terrifying!

Thankfully, i learned upon arrival that two of the expedition team were going to walk the 80 or so miles into base camp- i immediately started begging to join them.

‘It’s not going to be nice’ they said: ‘leeches, floods, landslides, bed bugs, intense heat- are you sure you’re up for it?’

Considering i had just learnt that our original helicopter had crashed into another helicopter a few days before, it was more a matter of life preservation rather than preferred choice...

Thankfully Emma, one of the girls on the expedition, agreed straight away to ‘walking in’- so there we had it, a team of four: two blondes and two men in their sixties, the only western people we would see for six days.

The guys were right- on the very first day i was violently sick out of the side of a truck and found a puncture hole on my calf where a leech had obviously had its fill... my trouser leg was covered in blood (bizarrely i never noticed it!).

That first night in a tea house in a little village called Arughat i tried Daal Baht for the first time- the lentil and rice meal served with whatever vegetables were lying around- pretty spicy! I couldn’t stomach it. ‘This is as good as it’s going to get’ i was told.

It was dark outside but i could just imagine the wild that surrounded us, what was to come?! I was both excited and scared that first night in the flea ridden pit i was told was a bed. For the first time in months, sleep came easily.

I awoke to the rabid barks of a crazed dog, and gently the hustle and bustle of the street outside became clear. I sat up and looked out of the window with bleary morning eyes- it was like looking at a scene from the past:

A ramshackle of wooden buildings practically held together by a few rusty old nails lined a dirt street bustling with women in bright saris and kids in crisp white school uniforms. Beyond this one row of dwellings was wild jungle, almost creeping up and swallowing this little village whole. It was dense, brimming with all kinds of fauna and most likely all kinds of insects, monkeys and snakes, eurgh!

The entire walk was like taking a trek in the past- electricity was primitive if non-existent. Donkeys replaced cars and there was no machinery to be seen- the hundreds of rice fields we walked through were tended to by the hands of beautiful petite women in brightly coloured saris. We stayed every night in mostly wooden tea houses, where bed time was around 7.30- just after sun down. Toilets were holes in the ground and food was the same every day: an omelette and chapatti (Nepalese style tortilla), lunch a boiled egg and biscuits and dinner the famous Daal Baht, which changed as we moved through different provinces of the Himalayan foothills.

Day after day we walked through the most spectacular luscious valley, with waterfalls thundering down all around us into this huge raging river that looked so cool and refreshing i was tempted to risk death by jumping in most days.

Sometimes we trekked through dense jungle and forest; other times crumbling river paths- one of which Emma nearly fell off of onto about a 10 metre drop.



On about the third day, we noticed a green plant growing along the foot path- marijuana. The bloody stuff was everywhere for about two days- two days of walking through pot fields!!


As we moved further up the valleys the culture and the weather changed. Nearing the Tibetan border, we found that the people began to look and dress different. The Tibetan people are a distinctive race- with plump faces and high cheekbones. They also dressed differently from the sari swathed Nepalese, in heavy woollen tunics with leather belts adorned with silver trinkets- i thought they looked like warriors.



The land too had changed, gone were the bright green rice fields cut like steps into the foothills- the river which before was wide and flat with a large flood plain had now become more treacherous- sometimes having to cut through gorges the closer we got to its source in the mountains- it was not adequate enough up here to sustain large paddy fields. Now the land was becoming more overgrown so (for some reason?!) instead of rice, corn fields had begun to spring up.

The weather changed with the land, one of my best memories from the walk was after a miserable morning walking through mud and rain- i finally got to the village where we were to stop for lunch- i was all alone and absolutely starving.



I found an umbrella outside a door and knew that my friends were in that little house, tucked away from the rain- i stepped into a dark wooden hut to find a log fire burning in the middle of the floor, and around it was Emma and Henry, tucking into a tin of liver pate and crackers for lunch-it was a scene straight from the 1950’s.

I sat down on the creaking floor boards and (trying not to choke on the smoke) warmed my hands at the fire, ‘cracker?’ Henry offered- i took it and munched hungrily and can remember thinking that i was in absolute heaven.

Going to the toilet on the walk in is not something to be desired. The tea houses where we stayed offered a wooden shack with a hole in the floor, which offered some privacy. If you could time your *ahem* ‘daily movement’ to the evening when we arrived at our village for the night then you were laughing. But, if like us your bowels were taking time to get used to the food then often you would need to ‘go’ in the middle of the day- mid trek!

Faced with this problem one would have to separate oneself from the group as much as possible- this could mean running on a bit to give yourself a few minutes before a sweaty white face would come bumbling around the corner to see you mid-squat. If you were lucky you could rush off into the bush and hide behind a marijuana plant to do your business.

I got caught short quite literally one time when i thought i was miles ahead of the group and so loosely disguised myself by a boulder- though i was essentially in full view once you walked past it. Suddenly i looked up to see our Sherpa Namgel speed walking towards me ‘F**K!!’ I was a rabbit in headlights- i completely froze- one hand holding an umbrella in front of me to hide my dignity, the other a packet of wet wipes.

I must have looked a total fool squatting with my trousers around my ankles whilst holding a tartan umbrella with a look of utter terror on my face.

Somehow Namgel didn’t look slightly to his right and so completely missed this spectacle- if he’d of looked up he would have had the fright of his life! He carried on walking totally undisturbed... i took that as a lucky escape and made sure i chose better hiding places in future!

One of the most prominent things i noticed was the depletion of wealth and living standards as we moved further into the foothills and finally into the mountains. In some cases this was incredibly alarming and heartbreaking- for instance, the children who i saw in Arughat in crisp white uniforms were a far cry from the children that surrounded us and chatted to us later on.


These kids were dressed in tatty clothes, sometimes rags, sometimes naked. The school uniforms were not washed and gleaming and neatly worn but ragged and dirty. The adults too were suffering from all kinds of problems: alcoholism and dental problems being the most prevalent (to the eye).

One baby girl we saw was covered in sores which her mother lovingly tended to- but she had no proper medicine, we hoped that Rob, a doctor on our trip who was a few days behind us, would be able to treat her. She was such a lovely baby who had to fight off the family chickens as they tried to steal her only toy- a dead crab found in the river. Still, she was a happy and her mother was incredibly loving.

I say all this, and it sounds terrible- but really the people were proud and made livings and were welcoming and happy to see us. They simply live a different life- a rural life in the Himalayas where life hasn’t changed in a hundred years- if not a thousand.

Most things about these people’s rural life i could deal with (for the week at least!), but biting spiders, cockroaches, rats and rock throwing monkeys were not exactly highlights! There was some serious ‘manning up’ that had to be done on this walk, and poor Emma and me had to do most of it as we always seemed to pick the place to sleep with the most creepy crawlies!

One night Emma and i retired to our room which was bizarrely decorated with posters of Batista from WWF- that tacky wrestling show. Emma immediately spotted a huge spider beneath my bed which sent my knees jittering straight away as i HATE spiders. Still, God’s creature and all that so we left it and i jumped into bed- only to find another huge spider right above my head! ARGH!

To top it all off this huge THING with wings (a flying cockroach maybe?) flew right at us through the hole in the wall which was supposed to be a window but without any glass. Emma- the murderer- killed the bloody thing by stamping on it a hundred times before it finally gave up the ghost.

‘That’s it!’ i shrieked! ‘Turn the light off! What we can’t see can’t hurt us!’ Emma gave me one last look and we braced ourselves as the light went out. With no glass in the window frame it felt like we were sleeping right there amongst the jungle- the roar of insects filled the night.

Thankfully i was exhausted and slept ‘til dawn- though i couldn’t help but notice that the spider above my head was gone in the morning. I later found out that that particular species has a nasty bite and a penchant for human flesh- nice!

After nearly a week of living on chapattis, boiled eggs/ potatoes with salt (delicious!) and Daal Baht, i had lost a bit of weight and was longing for the food we had been told would be waiting for us in base camp.

On the final day of walking my body somehow knew that the end was nigh- my toe nails became incredibly painful and felt like they were falling off (common), my dodgey knee was playing up and i even had signs of shin splints. But this place wouldn’t give up without a fight- the last day pelted with rain like nothing else, and the path turned to a thick sludge- absolutely bloody miserable.

Finally, i came over the crest of a hill and a huge river plain spread out before me- through the fog in the distance i could spy Sama Goan- our base village before heading onto the mountain- it meant cooked food, a shower and no more walking through pissing rain (not for a few days anyway!).

It was then that i became ‘stalked’ by a young Tibetan woman who laughed at my trainers (caked in mud with two massive holes) but wouldn’t leave my side. At first i thought i was in her way- but every time i stopped- she stopped. She would grin at me and nod me to carry on. This went on for perhaps a mile, and when other locals past she would say something to them, point to my shoes and laugh- they would laugh too. It wasn’t a nice experience being openly laughed at!

Later i found out that Dave was also shadowed by another woman as he entered Sama Goan, this is apparently common: bandits are prevalent in the area, nomad lads from across the border in Tibet or perhaps young porters who had travelled from Arughat, perhaps just the locals themselves. Young women, any women, were simply not safe to walk the plains on their own- a tall white girl (me 5ft 7 and her 5ft) would have seemed liked protection.

It was worrying to hear- suddenly i felt conscious of my own safety as i had spent much of the trek wondering on ahead or alone, as you do in a group going at your own pace, but then i thought of the local women who often have no choice but to walk alone- i wondered how many of them had been attacked and what happened to them where they were caught. It didn’t really bare thinking about; i hoped that the women got back home again safe.

For me- i was safe. I had made it to Sama Goan after a 70 mile walk. We now had less than 10 miles to go before reaching base camp at 4800m (the height of Mont Blanc!), and were currently at 3800m. We settled down to an amazing meal of soup and spam and vegetables and chips!

It had been the most amazing journey but i had little time to reflect, before even 7.30 my head had hit the pillow- i had to get my rest: 70 miles down and an 8000m peak to go!

Manaslu Part One: The Summit


Photo: (c) Rob Casserley. Rob and Bonita on the summit!
OK, so here it goes- been meaning to write this all down for ages but the sheer amount of stuff to catch up on has proven a little daunting! I’ll do my best...


So, after only something like 20 days on the hill, i was standing on the summit of the 8th highest mountain in the world as the youngest female and only the 4th British woman to have climbed Manaslu, or ‘Mountain of the Spirit’ as it translates.


Standing on the summit wasn’t how i imagined (or hoped) it would be at all- no crescendo of music as i took those last few steps, no punching the air in jubilation- i could barely sum up the will to take a picture.


As i stood there, oxygen mask whooshing in my ears, steamed goggles clouding my vision all i could think was: ‘f*** i’ve got to get down, now!’.


Behind the mask, all those tubes, your goggles and everything else you’re wearing to cover every inch of skin on your body, you feel completely disjointed from what’s happening around you- it’s like a surreal dream- i was scared, exhausted and slightly mad from living so long in a tent- i could barely take in the sights around me, i look back now and think: ‘why didn’t you savour that view?’. To be honest- i couldn’t have given a s*** about the view, i felt nothing- numb. I wanted to get my sponsorship photos done and go home- home to mum’s cooking, my bed and The X factor.


But one last thing- i had to give Dad a ring. I’d promised I’d call, even though it was about 4 o’clock in the morning UK time, i promised I’d call- i had to persuade myself it was worth the effort of taking off my oxygen mask and breathing this dam air with no oxygen in it!


That was it- i crouched down to hear the satellite connection properly, and as soon as i heard my dad’s voice and simply said: ‘Dad... I’m on the top’ the flood gates opened. I cried my eyes out!


Suddenly i noticed how high we actually were- all those other huge mountains hundreds of metres below, the clouds a white carpet separating the atmosphere- the curvature of the earth just visible on the endless horizon- nothing but deep blue sky in every direction. We really were on top of the world.


In fact, chances are we would have been the highest people on earth as we stood on that summit. It was a bizarre feeling to talk to my Dad over 5 vertical miles below. I breathed in the mountain fresh air as i tried to speak- wow, breathing air that is usually home to jet streams, jumbo jets, and now- little old me!


I then couldn’t stop crying, which is not good at 8000m- my goggles had steamed to the point where i was blinded. I was snotty, sobbing and trying to breathe through an oxygen mask, which is incredibly claustrophobic at the best of times let alone when it’s filled with tears and snot!


‘Love you, Dad. I’ll get down safe, i promise.’ Suddenly, all too soon, i was being faced with a long descent back to camp 2, some 1700m below. We had stood on the summit for 15 minutes.


Still crying a little, Sherpa Namgel handed me the fixed line and as i looked over the edge i can remember thinking: ‘never in a million years!’ It looked terrifyingly steep- vertical even! ‘I can’t do this’ i thought, but yet i was being herded along the rope- no choice, man up!


I took one last look at the summit, it was a beautiful clear morning up there, i knew I’d never go back ever again. Then that was it, i turned my back, wrapped the rope around my arm and clambered off the top with tear stained cheeks. I couldn’t force a smile, it was too much of a struggle to feel happy- all i could think was: ‘i’ve got to get down alive. I promised’.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Launch Party

More regular posts now in the run up to the Manaslu expedition which leaves at the end of this month- woo!


Last week White Lodge hosted a fantastic party to kick start fundraising- it was held in their Rendevous centre, and a massive effort was made by so many to bring the event to life- thank you so much to those involved.


Molly Bedingfield was kind enough to bring along the huuge Angel canvas for everyone to have their picture taken in front of. many of the guests 'stepped up' and made donations in return for a picture- thanks guys, it all goes to the kiddies!




Molly and Doreen, one of the organisers of the event from WL, made fantastic speeches that for me really hit home as to why i was doing all this- i am so determined to reach my £50k target for Global Angels and have a few tricks up my sleeve as to how i'm going to do it!
Along with Molly, Tori James was kind enough to jump on a train all the way from C. london with her down suit and prayer flags to give a talk on Everest- and wouldn't even let me pay for her train fare! her talk was so inspiring and i think a few in the crowd wanted to climb the big E. after hearing her tale-so thanks Tori, you've got a whole new legion of fans!



Finally, Chesney Hawkes was kind enough to turn up and show his support- thanks Chezza! but really- thanks to all my mates who showed up- love you all to bits.



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I am very excited to announce Foxhills as a partner of my challenge! They have kindly offered to help me with training and preparing me for Everest next March. I was shown around the club last week by its manager Jean Marc, who has such great enthusiasm and vision for how Foxhills can support me- so fantastic to have such people behind you.



Foxhills itself is absolutely beautiful- golf courses, tennis grounds, spa and swimming pools- just got to remember il be going there to train and not to lounge about drinking gin and tonics all day!
check out their website http://www.foxhills.co.uk/

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As far as Manaslu is concerned- flights are booked, down kit has been ordered from Peter Hutchinson Designs (who make arguably the best down gear in the UK http://www.phdesigns.com/) but i am still in need of a pair of boots! located a shop who can get them for me pronto in Reading though i am still on the hunt for a discount!

All thats left to do now is get my jabs from the doc, pack, train and NOT GET INJURED! Been doing loads of running and biking- the knee is a little iffy at times but i'm icing it constantly and am now addicted to ice-cold baths whenever i can find a tub!

It's a wierd time now... these last three weeks- today myself and Luke went on a bike ride through Windsor great park and it was the most perfect day- these last few days will be my last of the summer basically until i get back from Everest- and THAT's what makes it such a wierd feeling! So much to happen before i take another bike ride like that again.





Saturday, 1 August 2009

Summit of Gran Paradiso






Two days after a fantastic graduation i was catching a flight back to geneva for another trip to Chamonix- this time for some crampon action- i.e. lots of trudging across glaciers!


The aim of the week was to summit Mont Blanc- though unfortunatly the mountain weather just wasn't having it, and for those of us who still attempted the peak- we were eventually weathered off at around 3000m... a tad embarrassing! No, in all seriousness- the winds were atrocious and we were being blown off our feet, it was a good experience but something i hope wont affect our upcoming manalsu expedition.


Feeling gutted myself, my team mate Kerry and our guide Olly descended in the rain back to a gloomy Chamonix- we were pretty exhausted (i speak for me and Kerry- Olly is a superhuman who never tires), but still undeterred- we decided to attempt Italy's highest peak: Gran Paradiso, the next day.


Gran paradiso national park is absolutely stunning- and the climb up the mountain itself was great. At 4065m it is Italy's highest mountain entirely within borders- as Mont Blanc is actually half in italy, so we're going on a technicality here!


After leaving the mountain hut late (4.45am), i was keen to overtake some other teams on the mountain as i'd heard from others that the summit can get crowded- especially with all the Mont Blanc aspirants like ourselves adding to the usual traffic.


We started slowly warming up stiff limbs by scurrying over a scree and boulder field in the dark, our individual head torches encasing us in our own little worlds of light. No one really spoke. I learnt that Olly is not the most responsive of people in the mornings- like my knees, he takes time to warm up!


It was a stunning sight to simply see little orbs of lights in the pitch black of night- other climbers slowly but surely making their way up to the summit of Italy.


Before i knew it, i looked up from my little beam of light (about 3ft around my feet) and saw that the sky was turning light blue, and eventually became tinged with orange- beautiful. Sunrise in the mountains- a true blessing to witness.


We made our crampon point on the edge of a glacier, roped up, had a quick sip of water and carried on trudging along in silence, breath getting more sharpened as the incline became suddenly more steep.


A 4 hour walk upwards might sound pretty boring, especially when you rarely talk to the person in front of you. Actually, time flies- Its hard- it takes concentration, you have to motivate yourself, watch your footing technique, take in the views- much like running... which do i prefer? I couldn't say- truth be told sunrise over the Alps at 4000m is as much of a sight as running towards Windsor Castle through the deer park at sunset- but maybe i'm just a bit too English!


Finally we reached the Col, we had breezed past most of the other ropes in front of us, and no rope passed us and kept a lead- i don't know why this was important to me, perhaps i felt i had to prove something after abandoning Mont Blanc, i think some of it was me trying to prove my strength to myself- i went out to the Alps to test how strong i was, it was the closest i was going to get to Manaslu as far as training was concerned. By the time we reached the col and the plodding was over, i was quietly happy with my condition- i felt alert, strong and not in the least tired.

The final scramble to the summit was ammmaaaazing. You spend most of the time looking at your feet, and we were stomping up the ridge towards the pile of rocks that made up the summit, to my left was the glacier we had just trekked over... and to my right- wow... words cannot describe- a sheer drop, and then the most amazing panorama of the Alps stretching out before us- behind them, a blazing orange sky. It struck me like lightening- i was not expecting to look up and see such an awesome sight. Awesome actually being used in context here!


The scramble is always a bit hairy- here, Olly becomes a bit more vocal and you realise why he is such a wickid guide- a fantastic team leader under pressure, he lead us over the jumble of boulders and rocks 60ft high in strong winds. We finally reached the summit after a final traverse across a tiny ledge, where you kind of hug a wall of rock and clip your rope into some bolted quick draws- the person who bolted those is a God- how on earth people shimmied across that ledge before without any protection is mind boggling- its bloody scary!


The summit was a relief- that's all i have to say! After the dissapointment of Mont Blanc i just felt immense satisfaction- we had done what we had come to do. Kerry and i hugged- she's an amazing woman and an excellent mountaineer- i felt priveledged to stand on that summit with her and made a great friend that week- love you Kerry!


I managed to rip the sign out of my sack that the Annual Fund from RHUL had given me and pose for summit pictures. I thought of everone back home at that moment and how much support everyone had given me- it was such a relief to know that their support hadn't (so far!) been in vain. Tried to call my dad- no signal- what was i expecting!!!!



On the descent i felt like a great weight had been lifted- now i just had Manaslu to focus on- i was strong up to 4000m, but only time will tell how i cope at 5000m and above, hopefully my trianing over the next three weeks will cement my strength for the expedition.

back in Chamonix i reluctantly packed up my rucksack and left early the next morning- the week had gone so fast, and just like that i was leaving the mountains again and heading home.



Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Degree Over, I Become a Full Time 'Everest Aspirant'

It's been an incredibly busy month, with plenty of Everesty stuff going on- so i'll try to keep this post short for fear of boring everyone to death!

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Firstly- congratulations to Kenton and Ran Fiennes, who reached Everest's summit early Wednesday morning last week. Ran is now the oldest man at 65, and KC has topped the Big One 7 times in 6 years now, so Mum: i'm in good hands!


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The BBC are currently airing 'Everest ER' on Monday's at 7pm, which is a documentary following Kenton and Rob Casserely (also a guide on the 2010 expedition), if anyone would like to know more about who i'll be on my expeditions with and what it will be like on Everest, this show is a great insight- you can catch it on Iplayer:


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Since finishing my degree i've gotten my teeth into finding sponsorship. It is possibly one of the most soul destroying tasks on the planet- like being a sales person, but the product that keeps being rejected is you... great!

Thankfully, for every few 'no's i've gotten some great contacts who are offering all kinds of support- and finally after two weeks of emailing and cold calling, i have finally gotten a bite!

I can't go into details at the moment, purely for fear of jinxing the whole deal, but as soon as it is concrete i shall most likely be shouting from the roof tops. I will say that it was possibly the best feeling i the world after opening countless rejection emails to read the words:
'Bonita, I am delighted to inform you that we would like to help fund your expedition...'

Woo!
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On the training front, the day after handing in my last essay i drove down to Devon for a coastal marathon, not exactly the end of term celebration i was hoping for but nonetheless we managed to celebrate in style after the race was over!

Myself, Rob Casserely and Stuart Burbridge (http://www.ocean2summit.com/) are all heading to Everest next year and Rob is also on the Manaslu expedition in September, so it was great to go and meet the guys and stay with them for the weekend.

The race was awesome- the views were breathtaking and the terrain was very tough. Rob managed an amazing 18th place, whilst i managed to somehow take a shortcut and miss out two checkpoints. Now looking forward to the Mont Blanc Marathon, the pinnacle of training for this year- it's one month to the day and i'll be honest i'm pretty nervous: hiking at altitude is one thing, running at it is another!



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This bank holiday was just spent climbing Snowdon in North Wales. Our team from Holloway chose to take the Miner's track to the summit, and knowing that it was only 3 miles long and had a vertical gain of about 800m, i decided that it was relatively chilled compared to my more usual trail races of 20+ miles and 2km vertical gain, so i would try and run to the top!

I collapsed on the summit in a pool of sweat, lungs heaving etc, to find that i had finished the route in 1 hour 33 minutes. Nothing in comparison to the 4+ hours spent on a coastal race, so i felt pretty good- though extremely angry that i didn't break 1.30- so really i just sat on the top pretty pissed off whilst waiting for the rest of the team... great!



In the end i called my mum, my little brother (Alfie, 8) answered and the conversation went something like this:

B: Alfie, guess where i am?
A: On top of Everest?

How could i possibly beat that?!

B: Er no, Mount Snowden in Wales!
A: Oh...
To say he sounded dissapointed would be the understatment of the century... oh well, must try harder next time!

Thanks to Bob, Mike, Lee, Simon, Kirsten, Rianne and Lucy for a fantastic time- we shall return to the barn for a naked mile one day, Kirsten and i will have to rise to the challenge!

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Procuring sponsorship and publicity for Everest has reluctantly forced me into being uncharacteristically assertive- carpe diem etc etc, i am now one of those annoying people who 'networks', or attempts to anyway!

Today i saw that BBC Radio Berkshire were handing out some flyers in Reading, so i went up to the nicest looking one, shook her hand and blurted out:

'himyname'sbonitaandi'mclimbingeverestin2010'

Thankfully she (Katie, a producer for the station) was quite responsive to this information, duly interviewed me on the spot, took all my details and has promised to follow up with a radio interview soon- i just wish it was that easy all the time!
I have also secured a page 3 feature in the Staines Informer- not THAT kind of page 3! So will let you guys know when it is published.

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Finally, this Sunday will see myself and a big team from Holloway, Oxford Brookes and the Bracknell Forest runners tackle the Salomon Turbo X race on Surrey Hill. It's gonna be messy... Good Luck guys- the race is on!

Will post pics from the race and hopefully some more details of the sponsor deal next week.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Manaslu- World Record Attempt

A massive development on the Everest front- i am now on an expedition to become the youngest person in the world to attempt a summit of Manaslu- the world's eighth highest mountain.

The change from Cho-Oyu to Manaslu has come because of problems with the Chinese Goverment in Tibet, so we are switching to Manaslu in Nepal- which is great as it means i get to attempt a world record- not just a British one!

The expedition is set to be fantastic- Manaslu is a beautiful mountain but quite remote, i'm going to be climbing with a great team and to say i'm excited is an understatement! It's difficulty is rated the same as Cho Oyu, so i am pretty confident that success is within our reach- just got to keep working on those lungs and thighs!


The expedition leaves on the 28th August and returns mid October. I am starting to amass the many items of kit needed for a Himalyan expedition- boots, crampons etc. Only 4 months now until i leave from Heathrow!


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Some great news this week on the publicity front- a great friend of mine Mr Greg Double decided one morning (without telling me) that he was going to kick off my publicity campaign! He called me up and barked down the phone:

'Bonita, it's Greg- the Wokingham Times are going to call you today, oh and BBC South Today want to do a piece on you as well. Oh, and I've phoned Louise at Cosmo (i.e. Louise Court- Editor of Cosmopolitan) and she wants to run a piece- how much do you love me?!'

Thanks Greg, a lot! So watch out for a feature on myself in the Wokingham Times in the near future (next two weeks), and i'll you updated on Cosmo and South Today- woo!

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On the training front, the ante was upped again recently when myself and Mr Ray the Rayman (aka Tom) decided to try out the 22 mile Exe To Axe in Devon- at over 4000ft vertical gain, it topped the Grizzly and the London Marathon by miles, and is most certainly the hardest race i've ever done.

It was an awesome weekend and great to get away for a few precious days from the looming essay deadlines. We headed down there with no directions and no idea of where our B&B was- typical! All was fine though, and after we loaded up on food- Tom a large fish and chips (!!) and myself boil in the kettle pasta, it was bed by 11 and up at 7- Tom for a large fry-up, me for a bowl of Alpen.

Soon we were on the bus with the other hundred or so souls who were all donned in lycra (inc. me), except for Tom- who wore his Rugby kit, right down to his socks...

The bloke next to him actualy burst out laughing in his face when the Rayman admitted he'd eaten fish and chips and a fry-up for fuel. This 'vet' of the Exe To Axe then spent to entire journey telling us how bloody tough the route was- by this point i wanted to be sick, the nerves had kicked in! Don't worry, in the end both of us beat him- Tom by about an hour!

I wont go into details of the race itself- other than that it was absolutely stunning. It was a hard fought view though- it's difficult to quantify 4000 vertical feet unless you've ran it in one go- i can't even describe how much pain i was in- Tom told me he actually collapsed twice!

The heaving lungs, dizzy head (it was so hot everyone got badly dehydrated and sun burnt) and burning legs lead to a fatigue that i have never experienced before- but even though i was nearly fainting from dehydration, my legs screaming in pain- i was still running! it was a euphoric moment.

The finish was fantastic- Tom was already there chilling, we both felt good and before we knew it those thoughts of 'i'm never running a race again!' (normal when you're in the midst of pain 18 miles in) are quickly forgotten and the worry of whether we COULD even finish was behind us- in Tom's own words: BOOM!


So, another 20+ mile race down, my forth so far this year. Next up is the Exmoor Coastal Marathon on the 9th May, 28 miles and 8000ft vertical gain! Running with Rob and Stu (http://www.ocean2summit.com/), will keep you updated on how we do there...

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The Lovely Steve Ramsden has been helping me in the past week with getting a short film together on my training so far- here are some stills from the short, and it will be posted as soon as it's done. Look out for it on here or on South Today when it airs- i'll keep you posted.




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Finally, a shout out to Kenton who is currently in Kathmandu after a pretty rushed last couple of hours in the UK!
KC turned up at my house at 4 (has to be at airport for 6) having not even packed yet- despite the fact that he's embarking on an Everest expedition! As is the life of the very busy Mr Cool.

Needless to say the hallway was carnage for the next half an hour as Kenton ripped open box after box of gear ready to be packed and ready to go to Heathrow. We made it in good time- and as i drove back home all i could think was- i'll be going next year! (well, hopefully in a more organised fashion!)

Keep up to date with what's happening on the big E this year at http://www.dream-guides.com/, good luck to Kenton and his (top secret!) client- we should be hearing about a summit attempt in mid-May!

Monday, 9 February 2009

Drowned Rats and Determined Women

What a week!! Like many of you, i don’t think i’ve seen snow like that in the UK in my life- and hopefully we wont again for sometime!

But now, what do we get? Rain, and lots of it- a huge storm tonight according to the forecasts, so what better conditions to go on a lung busting run?

My lovely housemate Danielle and myself tentatively agreed to go on a hilly 8.5miler- each of us probably hoping that the other would give in and say “i’m not going out in that!”, that’s what i was thinking at least!

Neither gave in, so we nervously pulled on our gear and slipped on the trainers- the rain battering at the windows, daring us to take it on. It was a case of ‘1, 2, 3..GO!’- you can’t dally around in a storm like this, and so we dashed off screaming many expletives that i can’t repeat here for fear of my parents having a read..!

The conditions made the run tough- pavements were flooded, the sheets of rain made it hard to see and the mud and sludge on the tiny footpaths into Sunningdale were energy sucking and very demoralising!

Luckily something just kicked in- the worse the conditions got the more we powered on, my thighs were burning up but somehow we stayed strong and i didn’t let the pace drop despite everything that mother nature was throwing at us.

A fast finish and cack-handed high five (both our arms were so numb we weren’t capable of doing it in style) and we could leave the god awful storm and chill out in the (relative) sanctity of home- just wished the heating was on!

In news on the Everest front, thanks to all those who have been giving advice on the sponsorship brochure, i have taken all comments on board and it is a lot better for all your help- so thank you!

Despite the snow and resulting lack of train service (even their website was down…), i managed to get to London to meet an amazing woman: Tori James.

Tori is the first Welsh woman and youngest female Briton to summit Everest, and was nice enough to go for a glass of wine and let me assault her with a barage of questions for two hours- ‘how do you pee?’ ‘what do you do for a shower?’- well, i AM still a girl!

Tori says that attempting such a challenge requires 90% mental toughness and 10% physical ability… oh, and also perfecting the skill of peeing into a bottle at 8000m.

So it’s been another enlightening week but i can’t afford to step of the treadmill for one second- so much to do, so little time! Tori had to give up her full time job to get fit and raise sponsorship for Everest- i just hope that when the going gets tough (which it really will), i will remember her wise words and somehow pull it all off- fingers crossed…