Climbing Island Peak A Mid Life Crisis

I was turning 40 and wanted to do something I had never done before, I guess it was a way to try and prove to myself that I wasn’t getting old. I was chatting to a couple of mates about trekked to Everest Base camp and they laughed at me pointing out that I had never done any kind of hiking, let alone multi day trips at altitude. “You don’t just rock up and do Base camp, it’s not how it works” they said. These comments made me even more determined to do it.

I had a point to prove to them now as well as myself. I wasn’t old, I was still a Lion.
I spoke to a friend of mine who had done the Everest Base camp Trek before and he mentioned that he summited Island Peak as part of his trip and that was where the adventure was. He said “Everyone will ask about Base camp, but Island Peak is where you will take the memories from. You will push yourself to your limit.” He added “There were a couple of times where I thought shit, I’m gonna die”

Those comments sealed the deal. That was the adventure I wanted. I typed Island Peak into Google and Ian Taylor Trekking’s “Island Peak climb: best footage” video
came up. I was hooked immediately. I emailed Laura and got myself a spot. I arranged a skype call with Ian to get his approval because not only had I done limited hiking, the ‘Previous Experience’ form (below) I had sent to Laura wasn’t impressive, to say the least. I mean I had had a lot of Muay Thai experience but I don’t think that will ‘cut it’ at 6,189m/ 20,305 feet.

Please complete the following sections – Please provide details of routes and dates

Trekking/Hiking Experience: None

Winter Trekking/Hiking & Mountain areas visited: None

Overseas Trekking/Hiking: (If Any) None

Any other relevant athletic or relevant experience: Muay Thai and weight training

During the Skype call with Ian, I was really impressed with the way he approached everything. He was very relaxed and easy talk to. He listened to my concerns about my experience and simply laid out a plan for training that would give me the best chance of success. I had no idea about equipment and training gear. Again, he was relaxed and said he would provide a list, but if I had ANY questions at all, get in touch. He said that either he or Laura would always be available to help or answer questions. He put any concerns I had to rest and answered every question I had so there was no
confusion. I also had the feeling that he was an extremely good looking guy, like Zoolander good looking.

Training

I have always been into exercising and training and so I was excited about this part. I loved the challenge and always enjoyed pushing myself to new limits. Now I am not sure whether you call it arrogance or inexperience (most probably arrogance) but I
figured that the 6 day a week training regime I was doing would be enough to get me there and I wouldn’t need to modify my training too much. I was wrong.

I found that out when I went on my first few hikes and after 1.5 -2 hrs I was out of breath and dripping with sweat. I asked how I would be able to last 6-7 hours per day on the trail, for days at a time, AT ELEVATION!! I reached out to Ian for advice and again he laid out the plan for me and although I didn’t admit it to him, I think he and I both knew from our conversation, that all my training was geared to short bursts of energy (Muay Thai sparring) and not endurance and stamina, which is what I needed.

The problem of where I live in Melbourne is there are very few places to go to that involve altitude when climbing. The highest elevation in the state is Mt.Bogong 1,986m/ 6,515 feet and is 4.5 hours away. After speaking to Ian he said to me not to be concerned with the elevation, just walk and get the miles in. He suggested that I do long hike’s on the weekends and during the week get on the stair master at the gym and walk for 1.5 – 2 hours in my boots with a pack on. I became that weird guy at the gym no one wants to make eye contact with. My La Sportiva Mountaineering boots are a bright yellow (a contrast to my pasty white legs) and my backpack was bright blue. I looked like a freak at the gym but slowly my endurance improved and I would easily walk 20-25Km on my weekend hikes, with a full pack and minimal effort. As the trek got closer, I felt
I was ready to take on a mountain.

Equipment/Gear

Equipment/Gear was one thing that I would have admitted at the beginning of this adventure that I knew nothing about. However, if you asked me, it was “no big deal” and in my early planning for the cost of the trek, I allowed $1,000 for ALL of my gear, how wrong I was. Ian and Laura supplied us with an extensive list of what we needed including recommendations for type and styles, so as to give me a better idea of what I was looking for. Ian and I even exchanged a couple of emails regarding some of the gear I was looking at and he was there helping and giving advice every step of the way. I was never concerned about what I was buying or whether it suited, I just followed the list.

Well, almost. I decided on a cheaper version of the hiking pack recommended and purchased one without airflow on my back. In other words it sat directly on my back and caused me to overheat during the first few days of the trek. I spoke to Ian in Namche and asked him to recommend a place to buy a new pack from. He offered to come with me to purchase one and not only came with me, he found my pack, negotiated a price and helped keep me cool for the rest of the trek. He could have quite easily have pointed me in the right direction but he went that extra mile to make sure everything was right. For me this is what makes Ian Taylor trekking the best option, the extra attention that they give to make sure you have the best experience.

During the Trip

This is where I realised why people choose Ian Taylor Trekking. We saw other tours and the teams they used to help them summit. Its fair to say we were genuinely concerned not only for their chances of success, but their safety. This was the greatest adventure of my life and it felt like an adventure, but I always felt safe. Ian and his team of Sherpa’s led by Ang Kami are second to none and met every concern we had with a smile. Ian’s knowledge of the region added another dimension to the tour where I walked away feeling like I had learnt something about the Himalaya’s and the people. You can tell that Ian loves this region and is passionate about what he does. His desire to make the trip an “experience” rather than an adventure is why I would never choose another
trekking company. His passion is contagious and brings the trekking members together to create a team. Almost a family.

The Humbled Lion

Immediately after coming back to Island Peak Base camp I knew I had pushed myself as far as I wanted to be pushed. 18 hours of effort in the cold, walking in snow almost up to your hips, trekking in the dark on narrow paths with sheer drops on either side. Abseiling and climbing over glaciers, fighting exhaustion and the effects of the altitude. I told myself “that’ll do”. I had heard all these stories about people who reached summits like Island Peak and thought they were ready for Everest.

I was not one of those people. I had always naively wanted to climb Everest
as a “Bucket List” adventure. Now I realise what it takes and am humbled by the effort these people put in to make summit these ‘Monster’ mountains. I am proud of what I did and what we achieved as a team. I couldn’t have asked for better Sherpa’s, Tour Guide or climbing team than what I had.

These people will always be with me when I think back with fond memories of our adventure to Island Peak. I have been humbled and realised my limits. For now that it….
I have 10 years till I am 50. That’s plenty of time to train and plan my next big adventure with Ian Taylor Trekking.

Kris Scharper, Island Peak 2019

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