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Prologue

Prologue - As High as I could Climb
 
 

MOUNTAINS have always fascinated me. There is nothing more exhilarating than the achievement of standing at the summit of a mountain and having the entire world sitting far beneath your feet.

I originally come from New Zealand, a particularly mountainous country where I have had the fortune of having stood on the summits of several mountains.

At the summit of Mount Taranaki
At the summit of Mount Taranaki

I was born at the base of one of New Zealand’s most spectacular mountains. Mount Taranaki on the North Island West Coast is a dormant volcano towering two and a half kilometres high in an almost perfect cone. I have been fortunate enough to have climbed it twice, both times having successfully reaching the summit. The first time was with my uncle in 1995. That trip marked my first time on the summit, and his one hundred and fifty third. Unfortunately we became enveloped in thick cloud as we approached the summit depriving us of any view. Although we were two and a half kilometres high, reaching the summit really just felt like reaching the top of a large rock in a cocoon of thick fog.

The second time I climbed Mount Taranaki was with my brother in 2005. This time we had a mostly clear day with some scattered cloud below us. I stood on top of the volcano looking down towards the small town where I grew up far below me. From there I was also able to see out over much of the North Island and across the top of the South Island. Standing there on the summit of the volcano I had been born under has to this day one of the biggest highlights of my life. At that altitude, the horizon is a hundred and seventy eight kilometres away, providing a vista of a hundred thousand square kilometres of Earth’s surface, or one 1670th of the entire planet’s surface area. There was something so magical and spiritual about being elevated to such a high place on top of a mountain, especially when you have worked so hard slugging your way up its steep slopes to conquer it.

At the summit of Shari Dake
At the summit of Shari Dake

Although conquering the mountain and seeing such a spectacular view had been such a highlight, I was also saddened at the time that I would never be able to climb anything higher. At the time I was experiencing changes to my metabolism as many people do when they reach their early thirties. As a result I was gaining a lot of excess weight. This was largely due to me having not taken any attention to my fitness in the years since settling in Australia. The excess fat and poor fitness resulted in me being terribly slow getting up the mountain (and was about to find out upon leaving the summit that I was even slower at getting down). I convinced myself there and then that I would never be able to climb a mountain as high ever again.

I further proved the point to myself a year later when I climbed Shari Dake volcano in Hokkaido. Although less than two thirds of the height of Mount Taranaki at just 1471 metres high, that climb almost killed me. On the plane flying home from Japan, I realised that if I were to ever climb ANY mountain again I would have to lose weight and get fit. I was at a crossroads.

It was either get fit and healthy, or retire from climbing.

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15 May 2010

 

Sabah

Malaysia

 

6°N
116°E
0 - 4095m ASL

 

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