A brief history: My great friend and climbing buddy, Bruce, and I over the years.

KilimanjaroIn Spring 2012 I was leading a voluntary service trip in Tanzania. A group of students from an American girls’ school, and their parents, had come to Tanzania to build a new kitchen in a primary school in Moshi. I had the honour to work for and get to know some fascinating people. Among those people were Bruce, his incredible wife and wonderful daughter. I connected with the family instantly.

The team and I spent a week in Moshi under the watchful gaze of Kilimanjaro, the clouds shrouding and revealing her as we worked hard and succeeded to build the kitchen, install the water, fix a broken fence, paint a number of buildings and more. Bruce and I got chatting about my previous visits to Tanzania and Kilimanjaro; one day he turned to me and asked that if a space ever opened up on a trip to Kilimanjaro to let him know.

The following year, 2013, I was scheduled to return to Kilimanjaro twice, once at the end of May and again at the start of October. My October trip looked bleak –  last minute cancellations threatened whether the trip could run. I had intermittently kept in touch with Bruce and his wife since the service trip, so a couple of months before the trip was due to depart I emailed him and asked ‘Do you want to join me on Kilimanjaro?’. As luck would have it he was in the middle of a work sabbatical so took the chance and said yes.

Kili summitDuring our successful climb of Kilimanjaro (100% summit for the team – awesome), Bruce and I chatted about what was next on the list. Just before the trek I’d read something on Twitter about Mt Rainier so imagine my surprise when Bruce said he was considering it. His daughter was at college in Seattle so it made perfect sense for him. Upon agreeing that it would be an incredible peak to climb the plan was born.

10 months later, August 2014, I was on a flight to Seattle. Bruce and I had booked places on the International Mountain Guides (IMG) Mt. Rainier Glacier Skills Seminar. 6.5 days of learning all about glacier camping, safe glacier travel (and crevasse rescue), ice climbing, belaying and rappelling and loads more, while ascending up the mountain putting our new knowledge to the test. Our guides Dallas Glass, Jonathan Shrock and Betsy Dain-Owens (who joined us for the summit push) were phenomenal. Our fellow climbers were the best and we all got on so well. It was the best mountain experience I’d ever had, and that still stands two years later. I still get goosebumps thinking about how awesome it was.

Mt RainierDuring this trip Bruce and I had the conversation again, “what’s next?”. We both agreed we wanted to climb Aconcagua but felt we needed to take our time, get some more exposure to altitude and build up our mountain experience before tackling it so we decided on Mt Elbrus (which you can read about here). The theory was that the Mt Elbrus north route would put our glacier skills and roped travel knowledge to use, while adding in the extra challenge of higher altitude as Mt Rainier is ‘just’ 4392m /14,411ft.

Two months later, October 2014, we had signed up for Elbrus and intensive training had commenced but still the dream of Aconcagua was there. We talked about it a lot. Around February 2015 IMG announced their 2016 Aconcagua departure dates and guide names.  Our Mt Rainier guide Johnny Shrock was guiding on our preferred departure date – it was a no brainer. In April 2015, just four months before jetting off for Mt Elbrus, Bruce and I submitted our Aconcagua applications to IMG to climb in January 2016…

Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest – My experience

Survival of the FittestIt began with a discussion between my sister and I about going to a festival together and it all went downhill from there. One minute I was having a perfectly ordinary day, the next I was paying my hard earned money to join her running a 10km obstacle course around Wembley stadium in winter.

I don’t run. Okay, I dabble. I do the odd 5km when I’m bored, can’t get to the gym or am really stressed or angry. I am not a ‘runner’ so signing up for a 10k run, particularly an organised challenge with hundreds of other people, was kind of a big deal. In the lead up to the Survival of the Fittest I was already training for my ascent of Mt Rainier so I figured if I was mountain fit I could probably wing it with training; after all I only had to do a normal 5k twice, plus there’d be obstacles to break it up. It is funny the lies you tell yourself!

After waking at the crack of dawn on Sat 22nd November 2014, I put on my Striders Edge running gear and Arthritis UK vest (as we had decided to use the event as an excuse to fundraise) and I took the train to London. My sister and I met at the tube station along with hundreds of other participants. Wembley looked like something out of a Sports Direct catalogue.

Survival of the FittestAfter signing in and nervously watching other people suffer around the route, we joined our wave for a warm up and off we set! It started off simply enough: clambering over hay bales, crawling on concrete under obstacles while being soaked with a cold hose and running up the stadium steps and slopes. Then they threw in hurdles and cone carries, a water slide and more stadium stairs… I relished the obstacles as it gave temporary relief from the agony of running!
Entering Brent River park the fun began! Multiple river crossings (“don’t get water in your mouth” we were constantly warned), muddy sandbag carries, slippery muddy slopes, muddy ground, inflatable obstacles, monkey bars, 6ft high walls, oh and more mud! There’s something fun about being getting filthy on purpose!

The finish lineThe overwhelming thing about this event, and perhaps the sole reason I would do it again, is the incredible support I saw each person gave another. It restored my faith in humanity to see total strangers giving each other a leg up, helping them through the tough bits, offering a word of encouragement or even just sharing a smile. Does this type of event simply attract awesome people, or maybe it brings out the good in people in a show of solidarity? I don’t know but it was truly humbling.

After enjoying every minute of the 2 hours(!) it took us to finish the 10k route (we didn’t intend to do it fast and said we’d not leave the other behind) we approached the finish line, not before overcoming the brutal 8ft ‘Wall of Fame’! We crossed that line together, two sisters who’d never done anything like this together before, and honouring the work of Arthritis Research UK having raised over £500 in sponsorship prior to the event (sponsor us here www.justgiving.com/lexi-quinton).

If you’re considering a mud run, challenge or obstacle race like this then I would definitely recommend it, particularly if you train for it in advance. It is a great atmosphere and if you need at metabolic kick in the rear this will do it too!

ouch. bruises
The aftermath
goodie bag
The goodie bag

The Jurassic Coast

On the weekend of 13th – 14th July 2013, I set off from Southampton to Dorset with my colleagues from The Different Travel Company. We were spending the weekend walking as part of our regular get-togethers out in our beautiful countryside.

Our base for the weekend was Durdle Door Holiday Park in a couple of the static homes they have on site. It is a nice place to stay; close to Durdle Door, well equipped, spotlessly clean and right on the South West Coast Path route which is where we were headed. There is even an on-site bar/restaurant  and shop which is convenient.

Jurassic Coast WalkBright and early on Saturday morning we set off to Bowleaze Cove, Weymouth to commence our walk back to Durdle Door; approximately 11 miles. It just so happened that Saturday 13th was the hottest day of 2013 to date with temperatures hitting 29C in the area. Fortunately with an early start we eased into the hot weather gently with an easy start to the day with a gentle incline at Broad Rock followed by a steeper more typical coastal path hill at Black Head. The views were spectacular with white cliffs, clear blue sea, bright sun and cloudless blue skies. We stopped for a short snack break just over half way at White Nothe before the toughest part of the day, with steep relentless inclines right back up to Durdle Door and our campsite for a cool shower and a rest.

That evening we walked to a nearby pub, The Castle Inn, in Lulworth for a hearty meal and a drop of local cider. 3 1/3 pint testers for £3.50 was the ideal way to round off the evening!

Jurassic Coast - towards Durdle DoorThe following day we set off at 7:15am from Durdle Door to continue our walk to Worth Matravers. The heat was intense, even at that time of the morning. We followed the coast round to Lulworth Cove before ascending through a steep, brief cool forest to the clifftop which, once we reached the top, offered astounding views of Lulworth Cove below us.

From here we entered the Lulworth Firing Range and the hills began. Oh my goodness, did the hills begin. Normally I would have revelled in the challenge  but with a thumping headache (probably due to a combination of the temperature and being a bit dehydrated after one too many ciders the night before) it was pretty agonising dragging myself up to the top. Of course, homemade flapjacks make the worst malady fade away and it wasn’t long before I was a bit more cheerful again!

After a short detour away from the coast, we came back onto the coastal path and stopped at Kimmeridge Bay for lunch and an ice cream (of course!) before continuing for the rest of our walk. Kimmeridge Bay was a bustling place with lots of holiday makers taking advantage of the sunshine and stunning scenery. With everyone else in swimwear, it felt slightly odd wandering through in hiking gear!7am start but 28C!

Unfortunately due to landslips, the final section of our walk towards Houns-tout cliff (the steepest part of the walk, and the bit I was actually really looking forward to!) and onwards to Worth Matravers, was closed to the public so we decided to come inland and stop the walk a little earlier at a nice pub in Kingston, the Scott Arms, which features an incredible Caribbean BBQ,  before heading home.

The Jurassic Coast is an absolutely stunning part of England, with views that rivalled parts of the Mediterranean that weekend. I’ve walked other sections of the Jurassic Coast before in less than pleasant weather and it’s still beautiful but in a more rugged, moody kind of way. If you’re ever in the area or fancy an adventure in the South East, I’d strongly recommend visiting the Jurassic Coast, or indeed any part of the South West Coast Path.

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