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Episode 11: Ice Climbing

Today’s story is a small epic of a tale. It starts on the other side of the world, it includes some dramatic moments, some aspirations achieved. I also had to download a beep sound to censor some swear words in this episode – and you’ll soon understand why…

This is the story of my first #30at30forEpilepsy challenge. This is my Ice Climbing adventure.

Why Ice Climbing? Well one reason is that I am trying out some of the sports that contributors to Seize Your Adventure already do. Some of you out there will be familiar with a gentleman called Alex Staniforth. Alex was plagued by adversity and epilepsy as a child, and has gone on to do some extraordinary things, including attempting to climb Everest on two occasions. The first time he tried was when he was eighteen, which is quite incredible. So ice climbing is partly inspired by Alex.

But there is a backstory to this challenge.

The year was 2008. I was eighteen, I didn’t quite take on Everest, but I did have an adventure of my own and spent four months in New Zealand. Whilst I was on a tour, I visited Franz Joseph, which is famous for the Glacier in the valley there. These days, climate change has meant that the glacier shrunk considerably and there is no way to walk up to it. But twelve years ago, I hiked up to the glacier, strapped some considerable crampons onto my feet and spent a morning hiking across the glacier as well. It was the middle of summer, and there was such a contradiction between the sun warming me from above and the ice cooling me from the ground. I remember looking into blue melt holes, where the water trickled away like those things where you put a coin in the top and it swirls round and round until it plops down the dark hole in the bottom.

I had such fun walking across that glacier, and then that afternoon I had nothing to do. but there was an ice climbing wall in Franz Joseph. And because the weather was so nice, they had a good weather discount – 50% off and a free beer!

I spent hours in there with the instructor, trying to figure out the technique, and… I never quite made it to the top. Afterwards, I was sat alone, in the sun, sipping the free beer they gave me and I knew that I wanted to do Ice Climbing again.

So, it had to go on my list of 30. But I figured, this might be one of the harder challenges to arrange. I live near London, a place that’s not really known for its glaciers or icy mountains. I thought I’d have to jet off to another country, brave the cold on the remote side of a mountain, and contend with all the extra risks there might be from having epilepsy in that environment. But I did some research and I learned that there are actually a few indoor #icewalls in the UK and the team at Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports invited me along to an session at their indoor wall, called Vertical Chill.

So suddenly, from being one of the harder challenges to arrange it became the easiest. I was so excited I made it the first challenge and spent some time on MY ACTUAL 30th BIRTHDAY climbing a wall of ice, in the middle of London which is just… so cool. (I’m sorry for the pun.)

Try ice climbing:

You can experience the thrill of real ice climbing in the city at the Vertical Chill Ice walls London and Manchester (located within Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports).

Join me in an adventure:

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Cinematic Trailer – Epic Emotional Background Music / Action Orchestral Music by AShamaluevMusic | License: Creative Commons

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Read the full transcript here

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