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Lessons I’ve learnt from climbing some of the highest peaks in the world

Air Partner - 22 Jun 2016

Air Partner’s Sales Manager Ty Smith has spent the last 5 years trying to climb the world’s tallest peaks in order to raise £100,000 for the nurses who provide palliative care at Pilgrims Hospices, in memory of his mother. Having recently returned from Denali, the highest mountain in North America, he shares with us some of the lessons he’s learnt along the way.


You need to train hard

There is no substitute for getting yourself in proper shape for the climb ahead. In the run up to my expedition to Denali, I trained intensively for 5 months.

A key part of the Denali climb is physical endurance. The first day, for example, involves pulling a 45kg sled and carrying 25kg on your back for 6 hours. To try and recreate this I practiced trekking with a 4x4 tyre on my back and dragging the same tyre along a 2-mile route at a local beach. 

Every mountain is unique

Over the past 5 years I have tackled Mont Blanc, Mount Kilimanjaro, Mount Aconcagua and most recently, Denali. Every mountain has taught me something different.

On Mont Blanc, for example, I learnt key skills for climbing in cold and windy conditions, including the ‘French Stepping’ technique for using crampons which allows you to conserve energy and acclimatise to the altitude.

Mount Kilimanjaro posed less of a technical challenge, but provided key altitude training - after around 6 days of climbing you reach the dizzying height of 19,000ft, which can often cause sickness.  

Mount Aconagua was an extremely tough climb, which had to be called off just short of the summit due to an unexpected storm at 6000m. At one point the wind speed was 80k/h and it was expected to get worse.

With each climb I’ve gained invaluable experience and insight into how I could prepare and train more effectively for the next one. I went into the Denali expedition feeling fitter than ever.

 

You can’t control the weather

Denali, located 18,000ft above the Alaskan tundra, is known for its extremes of weather, which I experienced first-hand. The temperature was so low that one morning I chipped a tooth trying to brush my teeth!

The importance of patience is something that you might not factor into a mountain climb. The fact is, however much training you do, you can’t predict the weather! In the end, after 11 days waiting, it was declared too dangerous to reach Denali’s summit.

Our lead guide made the decision to abandon the climb due to the temperature reaching lows of -40 degrees and the dangerously high winds on the route ahead. There had been numerous cases of frostbite and we had witnessed a fatality on the upper mountain. Although disappointed, I respected the guide’s decision and am grateful to have come home fit and well.

 

The views are stunning

Yet with all the ups and downs, it can’t be denied that climbing some of the highest peaks in the world makes for some breath-taking pictures! Here are some shots from my trip to Denali: https://www.instagram.com/summitmanuk/

After my most recent adventure I am more determined than ever to succeed in my ultimate dream to climb Mount Everest. I have gained invaluable experience in some seriously cold conditions and have remained motivated throughout. What has kept me going is the support from my family, friends, colleagues at Air Partner and all those people I am trying to help at the Pilgrims Hospices. Please keep donating