Training starts this week on my second mountain, Kilimanjaro (Tanzania, Africa) that I will leave to climb September 21. I have just over eight weeks but a much bigger head start to my training then I did for Mt. Elbrus, which I just attempted in Russia.
My goal in the next six months is to climb three of the Seven Summits, Kilimanjaro, Aconcagua (South America) and Vinson (Antarctica).
Seven Summits for Kids is the creation of a fund raising event for our kids program in Bermuda.
There is a 50% black Bermudian male dropout rate in Bermuda and so I started Beyond Rugby Bermuda as a partnership with the Family Center and the Bermuda Rugby Federation to help target the most ‘at risk’ areas and we developed a program at two schools Cedarbridge and Dellwood.
We have had wonderful help both from the schools and from a terrific assortment of world-class volunteers (I, too, am a volunteer). The schools, government and Bermuda corporate world have been wonderful to work with.
We have hired a full time coach in Patrick Calow from Northern Ireland so that we can realize our dream of creating an elite program that kids want to be a part of.
The greatest partnership I have is with my former employer World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE). I have been all over the world with the WWE including to Iraq and Afghanistan 8 times to visit the soldiers. The only partner I really ever wanted for this is WWE. I plan on planting a WWE flag on the summit of the highest mountain on every continent (the seven summits). I also plan on carrying with me a Bermudian flag in honor of the support that the government of Bermuda has shown to me and for my kids. PS-carrying a Texas flag to just for luck, just because a Texan has to be a Texan even at 20,000 feet, and my Texan dad would disown me if I didn’t.
Preparing for Mt. Elbrus I had no knowledge of what I needed, I didn’t even know how to put my crampons on for the snow and the summit attempt. I had no idea what my baseline level of conditioning needed to be.
I had trained for months for Mt. Elbrus and was up to 18 miles hiking, 3 hours constantly on the stair stepper and 400 flights of stairs in my NYC apartment building. I was in as good of shape as I could be for the climb and feel my conditioning was good enough to make the summit.
After climbing for a week we had our summit push and within a 1,000 feet of the summit weather had begun to rapidly approach us and we knew an attempt on the summit was out of the question. 1,000 feet may not be much at sea level, but at 17,000 feet altitude and after climbing half a day it takes 3-4 hours.
Giving up on the summits was painful, very painful. I have written a lot about it and don’t care to go through those emotions again recounting the experience. Suffice it to say it was one of hardest decisions I have made, however, the alternative was getting caught on the mountain and with no sleeping bags or tents-that alternative was not a good one.
Ed Viesturs writes in his book, “No Shortcut to the Top” his constant phrase of “Summit is optional, surviving is mandatory.”
I fought off frostbite, blisters so bad at one point I had taken duct tape off a ski pole and used it on my feet, and a pretty good fall and still think we would have made it if not for the weather.
I can only control what I can control so for my next mountain I think I can be better prepared.
After being at altitude for a week I looked like I had aged ten years. Altitude ravages you like nothing I have experienced. I felt like most the weight I lost was muscle mass, which I still haven’t regained.
So, this week I start a new training regime. Several things I will do differently.
I have not jogged since I first broke my leg when I was 19 years old, 26 years ago. The doctors told me that I shouldn’t. I never really liked the doctors, so I start jogging this week instead of the hikes. I need the extra cardio work of an accelerated heart rate.
I will also spend more time with a backpack on my stairstepper at Tucker’s Point Resort’s gym. My backpack weighs just over 50 pounds, which I will wear while doing my stairstepper and work up to 3 hours again with the backpack on.
My weight workouts will change from a strength only weight workout to a higher rep workout but I will intensify it. I realized after being at altitude how much muscle mass I lose and need to be up on the mountain with a higher degree of it when I am on my summit push.
And believe it or not, I will increase my golf (yes, craziest thing you would think of when looking at a bunch of mountains that have taken several good climbers lives, but I will explain).
I live near one of best golf courses in the world, the Mid Ocean Course in Bermuda and it is a hard walking course as Bermuda is a volcanic island, as well as the course that neighbors it at Tucker’s. So, I load my bag up extra heavy and walk from my house to the 1st hole, play 18 holes first thing in the morning in about 2-2 ½ hours (I play alone so I can play very fast) and return-a total of about 6 miles.
This beats the boredom out of hiking with a backpack and 6 rounds a week gives me 36 miles of hiking with a backpack (my loaded down golf bag) weekly in the very hot Bermuda sun. Add to this my first week’s goal of 30 miles jogging and I get to over 70 miles when you count my stairstepper training also with a backpack. Not a bad week’s worth of training, not counting my weight workouts and my experimentation with yoga.
I can be on the course at 730 a start and be home by 10a ready to start my day and already have 6 miles of walking with a heavy load on my back. Plus it helps my handicap, but not my putting.
I started training for Mt. Elbrus at 280 pounds and got down to 240 pounds on the mountain. I start training for these three mountains at 25? And hope to be at 225 pounds by Kilimanjaro, September 21st, and 210 pounds by Aconcagua November 28th.
One of the main things we tell our kids in Bermuda every day is you can do most anything you want if you have a plan and are willing to work hard. This is the old coach leading by example and also hopefully raising a lot of money in the process so that we can help more kids this year to have options (and to have option you have to stay in school first).
This will be the hardest six months I have ever spent in my life and I realize that. I am hoping at the end of this six-month span to have climbed the tallest mountain in Africa, South America and Antarctica as well as have been to the South Pole. Most importantly I hope to raise a lot of money for the kids we want to help so badly. Thanks to the WWE, all this is possible.
I learned on Elbrus you don’t conquer mountains; they are way too dangerous for that. You get the chance to visit them and hopefully climb them if they are generous-your only hope is of conquering yourself. I am hoping the next three are generous, but long before I find out there’s a lot of work to do and that starts this week.
The adventure begins.
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