I’m a 51 year old, “stay at home” dad and I find myself heading out to the polar expanse of Greenland to embark on a month long – 1000 mile expedition with one of the world’s top climbing adventurers and I’m thinking – hang on a minute how did I get myself in this situation!?
My background doesn’t look promising: my brother and sister call me “slippers” because of my safe, compliant and generally dull way of life. I don’t drink or smoke and the only drug I have taken are to control my asthma. I absolutely hate parties (especially fancy dress), my music tastes are ELO, Bucks Fizz and Dire Straits.
I spent 17 years working as a System Accountant (it was basically mucking about with computers and money) and my favourite saying at work was “the problem lies somewhere between the chair and the keyboard”.
My idea of roughing it is a night in a Travelodge and I once abandoned my wife and two young children in a tepee and spent a night at home because I found the whole tepee experience somewhat basic and uncomfortable… And to be fair I think I am still putting a positive spin on describing my attributes…
So why would Leo want me to join him on one of his adventures? Two reasons:
1. He said “It will be good to have something to talk about at family gatherings”. He is married to Jess, y cousin and as such we bump into each other when there is a family event. Maybe “Hierarchical tree processing in SQL” isn’t stimulating enough for him, who knows?
2. I’m probably one of the most experienced snowkiters in the UK. And by experienced I mean I have done it for a long time rather than being good at it. About 28 years ago, I happened to be asked by the UK pioneer of UpSkiing, John White, if I would go up to Scotland with him to do some promotional material for this wind-powered parachute that would drag skiers uphill. I was just amazed at how this bit of cloth with a few lines could take me up 3000 feet of Scottish munro in about 10 minutes – and I was hooked!
Even though I have moved from parachute canopies to kite wings, I am still hooked and spend all my winters hunting out wind and snow.
I am very fortunate to have been “retired” for 11 years and this has enabled me to be ready to capitalise at a moment’s notice on the essential mix of conditions for snowkiting. Snow, wind and visibility.
I spend half my winter in the French Alps near Briancon and the other half in Kendal on the edge of the Lake District. In the Alps, normally snow and visibility are in abundance, but not so much wind. Whereas in the UK there is plenty of wind but little in the way of consistent snow or visibility. I have learnt all about patience in this game.
Greenland will be my first expedition of any length and currently I have a mix of trepidation and fear with a very small amount of excitement. We have a good plan, great equipment, appropriate skills and a flexible mind-set to cope with the inevitable problems that will occur. Somewhere between a nightmare and a walk in the park is where it will be, and “Slippers”, is hoping for the latter.