Kicking about in London

Alex and myself woke up to a chilly yet beautiful Sunday morning. We greeted it with a choco croissant, finished off the homework quickly (never great to come home after a Sunday out to do spelling and math) and had a quick chat with Flora & Georgia – our two airbnb guests from Greece. They are both students and moved in yesterday. I think their plan was the British Museum. Great choice.

Kiddykicks football, for which I signed him up only yesterday, had been cancelled as the ground was frozen. Good call, but a pity as we skipped church to head for regents park. Anyway, Alex did want to try out his new kit (the mouth guard being the unexpected favorite!) and so we headed over to Paddington Rec for a bit of kicking about. Alex, like me in my days, has an interest in goal keeping. Training ensued (and yes, jumping on hard ground hurts … stop whingeing boy!) though at times interrupted by a dog chasing our ball.

Lunchtime we headed over to Covent Garden for my ice climbing session at Vertical Chill (located in the Ellis Brigham store) and for me to try some additional high altitude kit that had arrived Friday (the Scarpa phantom techs – single layered boot for most alpine and Scottish mountaineering). The session went mostly well. Twice I managed the easiest route (right up the middle) and twice the small overhang (towards the left of the well). My instructor gave me a few good tips here too. After that my arms felt already bit tired, but the overhang killed me off (again). Twice I tried, twice I had to give up. No juice left in the arms. Well, next time! Maybe I should start there. Alex entertained himself in the shop meanwhile. Loads of interesting equipment around (… those shiny ice axes ;o)

Time to refuel! We were both starving and headed to Wagamama’s opposite the shop. I always like to come here. Great food, fresh juices and outstanding service. While I enjoyed my usual chilli chicken ramen, Alex went for rice and chicken from the childs menu. The children chopsticks, which can be cleverly combined with ordinary sticks to form the shape of a plane, were fun to play  with yet left a tiny splinter in Alex finger. A flood of tears followed until the staff removed it helped by pineapple as anaesthetics. Alex deserved a present for all his bravery and didn’t take long to dig out a Lego like set at the shop of the transport museum. Time to go home and relax – I could fall asleep on the spot for some reason. Alex wants ice cream. Hurry!



Fresh orange & apple juice was a hit!

Four amazon parcels were waiting at home … including the memory stick for my new gopro camera … I figured it out eventually.


Meeting (half) the team 1st time amidst tragedy on Ama Dablam (R.I.P. Thundu)

I had emailed Tim yesterday (my expedition guide, back right in the picture) to see how his November/ December expedition to Ama Dablam (6,812m) went and also to get a few gear related questions answered. Once we managed to connect and discussed the sad news from Italy this morning, he told me that he would actually be in London today to meet a bunch of clients. I gladly headed over to Euston (so exciting!).

Half the team face to face in London

By the time I arrived, Tim was accompanied by 6 hikers. Five of the lot will join us for the 3 weeks base camp trek (sorry folks, names I didn’t keep just yet) and Rory, from Ireland, who will head for Everest summit I believe. Nice bunch of people first glance and some good Q&A from which all benefitted. They seem to be all friends and/or colleagues and most have done Kilimanjaro. Rory seems to have a good amount of mountaineering experience (well, more than me anyway) with Denali, Aconcagua etc (probably loads more) done. In total we will be 12 people of which 4-5 high altitude climbers and some 8 people trekking to base camp – a big feat in itself at almost 5,400m.

High altitude team of four, maybe five

  1. Rory, Ireland, ex city worker (back left in the picture)
  2. Blake, US (?),  he tried 2y ago but didn’t make in 2015 due to the earthquake, was with IMG at the time yet had moved to Tim (better food!), permits from 2014/15 (two disaster years) can be used again (5y & 2y expiry respectively)
  3. Billy, ???, oil service background
  4. Ronny, East Germany, ex city worker
  5. Maybe one more guy (tbc)

Not sure yet if there is anyone in the team who also heads for Lhotse. Most likely, they all will attempt Everest I reckon. I guess I will find out soon enough.

Departure date set

Tim expects us to be in Kathmandu by Sunday 26th March. I will head out the 25th and enjoy an extra day in what I have been told is the craziest city there is (lets see JW ;o). Things are beginning to fall in place.

Bad news elsewhere, sadly

The initial reason to get in touch with Tim was to hear about his November/ December expedition to Ama Dablam (here a few pictures from another expedition). Unfortunately it didn’t go entirely as planned, as a freak accident above camp 3 killed Thundu Sherpa, injured another climber and led to an early end to this expedition. The reason was the tremor of a 5.4 earthquake in the region that dislodged some blocks of ice that hit the sherpa on the head and a client (who got also injured, but survived supported by a helicopter rescue). Reminds one of the risks this environment exposes you to. Thundu was only 43y and leaves two kids behind. Tim has visited Thundu’s family and organised a fundraiser to support his family and 9 other children left exposed following the earthquakes in 2015 the killed their fathers. You can help here.

Rest In Peace Thundu!

How to prepare for a climb into the ‘death zone’ (8,000m+)? (I)

First of all – you have to watch this video (link) for some amazing footage of Everest (and Lhotse) and Ama Dablam in a helicopter flight from Kathmandu. Maybe the madness grabs you too!

Many people ask how one prepares for a climb above 8,000m. I don’t claim to be an expert, but let me share my training regime and some thoughts around it. Starting point for my considerations was that I live in London and have limited time to train elsewhere (at least initially). I planned my training around two main blocks: fitness + endurance and outdoor, environment + equipment. Today I will focus on the fitness aspects only, which apart from helping you hike also help to keep fit (sick on the mountain often means expedition end).

Fitness & Endurance training: My starting point wasn’t too bad, but not grerat either. I had quit smoking about a year earlier and had spent my three month gardening leave in summer 2015 walking some 1,400km in Ireland, Spain & Italy. However, all that fitness disappeared pretty quickly as I settled back into office life resulting in my first ever belly. I felt fat for the first time in my life (where i enjoyed a mostly asparagus like shape). While I was still working full time, I spent around 7-10hours per week training and around 25-30hours since January. My preference is to mix workouts (better for body & mind) and not to forgot the fun aspect. Injuries, unfortunately, became a regular companion (hamstring, pulled muscles, inflammation, …) and Ibuprofen a necessary ‘dessert’ all too often.

Sample trainings plan (full time)


Sample trainings plan (while working)


  • Run & cycle outdoor: While still working I ran some 10km to / from work (right through Hyde Park & along the Thames). Get a Strava account and see how you improve your times on key sections (great challenge for commuter runs). Since the injuries I prefer the Boris/Santander bike to reduce the impact. Key positive: Its real, you can slot it in anytime and its free. Key negative: Running caused me injury (calves/hamstring) all too often and so I had to switch to the treadmill (have now decided to take up running school as I have poor technique on top of an ageing body).


  • Barry’s bootcamp: Being generally sceptical of gym based workout this was not my own idea, but suggested by Chanel. A typical work out involve 50/50 interval training on the treads and floor workout to condition body & core. Cost is GBP20 for a single session, but with a multi session package and company discount this drops to about GBP15 or thereabout. Key positives: Interval training conditions your cardio well and group pressure / push from trainer (moderates the session through mic) push’s your limits. Early sessions start at 6am and slot in nicely before work (you wouldn’t believe how popular they are!). Key negative: Little scope to work on endurance (running intervals are usually 4-5mins before you switch back to the floor) and clearly not at all reflecting outdoor conditions.


  • The Altitude Centre: Based near Bank station in the city it was a perfect match. You can run/cycle/row in a hypoxic chamber simulating 2,700m altitude (15% oxygen level) and there is an altitude pod that simulates up to 6,000m (very popular with hikers headed to Kilimanjaro). Won’t help you to acclimatise for the ‘death zone (8,000+)’, but at least your oxygen saturation is adjusted to about 3,000m. Key positives: Train at almost 3,000m altitude during your lunch break! Good selection of solo and moderated interval training sessions to push your limits. Key negatives: The three month event prep package at GBP175/month isn’t exactly cheap.


  • Trube: My good friend Tibo suggested this app to me sometime late summer last year. Currently only available in London, you can order trainers to come to your home (or any other place). They offer personal training, boxing, kickboxing, pilates, yoga etc. About GBp35 per session for an 8 session per month package. I often used the app to fill early morning slots (isn’t it nice to wake 5.30am for a boxing session in your living room ;o). Key positives: Super flexible and efficient. Motivates you to get out of bed when you have a 5.30am appointment before work. Very affordable for 1:1 training even after recent price hikes. Key negative: You need to have the space and its not as effective as working out in the gym.


  • Muay Thai & regular boxing: Boxing conditioning is great for your cardio. I got into it through Trube and then switched to gym based training. Muay Thai I now train mainly in ‘Fightzone London’ in Bethnal Green under Jose Varela (European champion 2014, World champion 2015, interview video) and with my Trube coach ‘Super’ Shane Campbell (active MMA fighter, video). Boxing I do mainly in the old fashioned, but great, gym ‘All Star Boxing’ on Harrow Road and sometimes with my other Trube coach, Shahid from Morocco. Usually 1.5h – 2h conditioning, bag, shadow boxing and sparing sessions. Killer – they are called KO circuits for a good reason! Key positives: Usually gyms offer midday, evening and weekend sessions. Nice to train with people (you don’t get this in a gym like Barry’s) and its not too expensive. Really good all round conditioning that makes a difference. All Star charges GBp8-10 / session and Fightzone’s GBp60 monthly membership works out to GBp7.50 too. Key negatives: Prepare to get hit. Prepare to get told off (and listen or you face push-ups).



‘Super’ Shane Campbell


‘Gym’ chez Rocket’s living room

  • Indoor & ice climbing: Cedric, who I spent most with talking about the trip and who joined me on my ‘interview’ with my Lhotse guide Tim up in Lake district back in October, got me into climbing being the keenest sportsman alive! We went to Westway, which has some very good indoor climbing facilities. Some proper hot shots train here including the UK national team. Beyond the traditional indoor climbing I also booked a few ice climbing sessions at Vertical Chill based in Ellis Brigham’s outdoor shop in Covent Garden. Again, not really required but its great to ‘be able t dance on you crampons’. Who knows when it will come handy … and I love it anyway. Key positives: Gets you into some basic rope techniques, securing yourself, belaying others, abseiling and lead climbing etc. So you get some technical skills should you need them either for rock or ice. Very good also to improve core strength! Climbing drains your arms in no time if your technique is off (against common thought you are meant to climb mainly with your legs). Key negatives: Helps your strength, but will unlikely be required on Lhotse and doesn’t do much for endurance.




Westway climbing wall


Vertical Chill

  • Tennis: The initial drive for that was to have a joint sport with my (now ex) girlfriend. I liked it and had quite a few 1-1 training sessions with John at close by Paddington Rec. Gets your heart-rate up and hitting this little yellow ball is just a great feeling. Key positives: Good for cardio and different to just working out. Key negatives: 1-1 training not cheap at GBp45/hour, otherwise you’ll need to time your session with a partner, and good luck finding a free court after Wimbledon was on TV!
  • Working out at home: Working out at home is certainly a cheap option and with a few accessories (I use weights, matts, abs roll, finger board) you can easily put together an hour of work out. Key positives: Cheap & super flexible. Key negatives: Needs a lot of determination … certainly in the early hours.

Too much powder in Interlaken

After a long training day starting with a 6am session at Barry’s, plenty of punches into head and body during solid sparing at fightzone and with the highlight of catching up with Sam (my assistant at Blackrock) I made it to city airport. On time. No stress. Skyworks offers some great flights to Basel/Bern leaving after work Fridays (7.15pm) and coming back early Monday morning (lands 7.30am). So you get the full weekend away.

Andre picked me up from the cosy Bern airport. After most passengers got off in Basel we were a full 5 people on the plane (felt very much like a private hire by now). Two border police officers met us (respect), a full three pieces of checked luggage required pickup and after 5mins all was done. Amazing. A snowy ride to my friends weekend place in Interlaken (50km) ensued. Winter! 

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Chez Andre & Mona

After a somewhat late night we drove to Grindelwald. Amazing place and completely snowed in. Plenty of tourists around including many Asians as usual to take the Jungfraujochbahn to Europe’s highest train station at 3,450m (‘Top of Europe’) and gaze at the famous Eiger north face. I went there myself during my last vist in September 2015 and completed my 22 day push up challenge there.

It was snowing like crazy especially further up the mountain (we went up to First, 2,200m) and new snow looked at lot more than the official 20cm. Temperatures between -11/-15 degrees and extremely poor visibility. So instead of nice powder runs we found ourselves repeatedly digging us out from waist deep snow. After a few runs we called it a day and went for lunch at Bergrestaurant Schreckfeld. A goulash soup each (SFr 10.50) and a beer (SFr5.5 – dry period took a break this weekend ;o) were all reasonably priced.

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Back in the car the smart BMW notified Andre of low tire pressure – we had a caught a nail. Amazingly, it took only 90mins from calling the BMW service mobile to having the tire fixed (on a Saturday afternoon). This service comes will all BMW’s in Switzerland Andre told me (being in charge of a BMW garage himself). Then we had a bit of time and went to see Rene in the reggae pub ‘Jamming Corner’. Relaxed place for locals. A schnaps called ‘Grüne Zunge’ is apparently his specialty – but we passed gladly. After a quick stop at Andre’s paragliding centre we made it home. Time for a traditional cheese fondue – chef Andre in action!  Very tasty!

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The 15min walk to town was welcome after such heavy dinner (the cheese fills you right up). First stop was Ice Magic a local specialty, white mulled wine. While drinking we watched a bunch of local ladies engaging in a game called ‘Eisstockschiessen‘. It’s very similar to curling, but without the brushing as a group of local girls explained alongside a few tips as to where we could go out tonight. I liked the tumbles most ;o)

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We decided to hit  ‘HighLife‘ for a bit of rock music, good chat with locals (albeit some completely shit faced) and even a few timid dance moves. My highlight was meeting my new favorite girl. Bit skinny, but with overwhelming style and charm! It turned into a pretty late one …

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Sunday morning was slow. More for Andre than myself. No boarding today and unfortunately we also missed paragliding – which Andre’s paragliding teacher had offered. Well, well. Instead we headed for the city of Thun for a late lunch. Not bad city, but expected little more. The ‘Rösti’ was nice though.

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The drive home was swift (60min) and after a brief rest we headed into Basel to meet with camping neighbors Ernst and Helen at their Basel apartment. Mona, who hadn’t come to Interlaken feeling unwell, joined us. Andre had to deliver a few things and then we all gathered in a smoke filed kitchen over a beer. Soon we headed back home in great anticipation of gratin for dinner. Thank you Mona! Extremely tasty.

Thank you Andre & Mona for a wonderful weekend. See you soon!

Boys weekend in Chamonix

Getting to Cham from London started really well. Early at the airport and on time departure with BA. Sadly, neither wi-fi nor mobile hotspot were sufficiently quick to download the latest lego star wars anime. Back to ‘Brave’ for Alex, which he still enjoyed very much (any movie will do ;o). We landed 10mins early in Geneva, but then hit the delay as our friends at #Alpybus didnt live up to their promise of having a departure every 30mins. I guess they advertise flexible departure, but this is really subject to busses getting filled up. If not, the service is delayed. We left 11.10pm having spent more time at Geneva airport than London! Should have listened to my host Davide and take the easybus (or just rent a car).

On the bright side, they drop you off right at your destination, code for the outer door I still had from last time and Davide (already out at Chamonix social club – highly recommended) had thankfully left the keys for us the get in. He even popped over briefly to give me my board before he disappeared into Chamonix’s nightlife again (he returned after 10am next morning – big night). We didn’t have trouble to sleep.

We didn’t get up until 9.30am or so. Then off to town to fetch ski’s for Alex and have breakfast. A bakery and the maxi pain au chocolat they sell were all too inviting. We quickly picked up my board & boots at home and off we went to Brevent lifts – literally just a little further up the hill from Davide’s apartment.

The four-hour ticket for the two of us was only EUR33, but excluded the Brevent lift higher up. This makes sense since from there only black slopes lead down – a touch too early for Alex. Unfortunately there weren’t many slopes open in the remaining section. So we ended up trying our skills at the BIG Airbag. Stuntman Alex at work! Daddy’s big air video evidence didnt wirk out … pity!

Food as expensive as ever: For lunch we ordered (a pretty poor) pasta Bolognese at €16.50 together with Evian water at €3,90 at restaurant ‘Altitude’. That is Cham for you and next year they’ll slap another 5-10% on top (because they can). But hey, I don’t want to get into a debate on real life inflation here and at least service was prompt as the slopes were pretty empty. In return we enjoyed great scenery and were watching paragliders take off.

Back down in the valley we headed straight to town. Since I would take my board home for the first time, I needed a carrier bag. Now options are plenty in Chamonix from cheap to high-end brands. The choice is yours!

  • Technique extreme: cheap clothes & gear (bought €15 bag here)
  • Snell sport: all round shop with top class gear all outdoor sports
  • zeroG good for snowboarding equipment (got my Burton boots and bindings here)

Afterwards we treated us and Davide to a hot chocolate & nutella crepes in l’atelier cafe (recommended). I had a citrus-mint infused tea and once more learned that the non-alcoholic drinks menu is pretty short of options. A nice raclette dinner followed in ‘Cham’s best place for cheese’ (Restaurant la Caleche) – according to Davide anyway. Tasty stuff! Nice interior too!


Pretty filled up we headed home. Alex ended up discussing girls in his school with Davide (or Dave as he refers to him). Two pro’s in conversation. Paragliding had fascinated Alex all day and the sheer presence of a paragliding kit in the flat must have stirred dreams. Davide tried to satisfy them to a degree with plenty of go-pro footage of his own jumps. Alex would have been ready to jump on the spot! Bed time ensued. All of us exhausted.

Note to the host: What do you need a blow dryer for with your short hair ;o)


Next day we managed a slightly earlier start at 8.30am with some spelling and reading homework for Alex (thanks dad!) and ‘Milchreis’ (rice pudding). Alex was ready to ski again and even prepared to give big airbag another go! Off to Grand Montet today!

The ski-bus departed only a few mins walk away. Always great. We met a UK family in the bus. All first timers (Brexit anyone?) who were well impressed by the scenery and are here for a week. Have fun guys!

Skiing atGrand Montet was great, the sun was shining and we had some fresh snow (rather than pire ice 3w ago). Memories came back to me of my first Cham boarding with Cedric during a KBW ski trip years ago. Each bar has its own story here. Be it with Tully, Steve or Holly. Been a fun weekend (well, I dont claim to recall everything …).

Alex had a great time even though some blue slopes are steeper than the average. I would say Cham is generally steeper than pists in the Austrian alps. But fun nonetheless. He even managed another bunch of jumps on a small ramp. Bravery has no boundary on a boys weekend ;o)

Sadly, mid afternoon we had to leave the mountain. Back home, change, pack, pick-up (Alex can’t wait for a bit of movie time & Bose sound ;o). That’s it. It’s great as ever.

Thank you Davide! See you in February and keep us in the loop re Namibia trip.

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