“Male suicides in England and wales were at their highest rate in two decades last year”
Men aged 45-49 accounted for the highest increase in suicide – Folks, let us all try our best to understand this, this is shocking to read.
Take a moment to check-in on your friends, write that message, send that text, make that call. Even the greatest, strongest warrior has his demons let us change these statistics.
I wrote this some time ago but feel it appropriate to share it especially this week.
The next breath
Perversely, on reflection of my challenges with mental health I find that the battle has equipped me well – Why? Let me tell you of that “Next breath”
In life I have created situations for which I have struggled, I have made decisions based on ego and selfishness above strength of character and the right path, which inevitably created a downward spiral to negativity and subsequent health problems. Sadly like an ever increasing number of young, fit, strong males mental health and negative thoughts took over my life and mental illness took hold.
Climbing at altitude and tackling challenging mountains takes a special someone, someone who is prepared to endure, endure pain and discomfort, endure loneliness and solitude, endure the monotony and boredom and that someone must be prepared to sacrifice everything to achieve that very selfish goal. Climbing K2 is awful, horrible and bloody scary but for some, K2 draws us in and takes over our lives to be the sole objective for everything, the reason to work the reason to earn the reason to stay fit and strong. K2 becomes an obsession.
At 05:00 in the morning on a cold rainy January K2 becomes the reason why we get up to train, we run we cycle, we swim.
On a sunny weekend in May, K2 becomes the reason why we work to earn money.
At 02:30 in the morning K2 is the reason why we don’t sleep.
K2 is the reason why we lose friends and fail at relationships.
But K2 can be the reason why we take that next step in life, why we take on challenges head on, why those little things are so insignificant and why we can be so driven.
At altitude, well above 6000m everything is pretty hard, eating, drinking, breathing and living becomes hard. So to choose to go back and put yourself in that position time after time after time seems really quite crazy to some but to us, to me this is just how it is.
When you are in the depths of mental illness you cannot see a way out, loved ones and friends can try to help, professionals can prescribe ways out but when you are in so deep nothing, nothing feels do-able. So you have to rely on the support of others, the professional training of others and the guidance of others to assure you that there is a way out, there is light at the end and you will make it. I did this, I did this by believing my friends and loved ones, I did this by taking one very small step each day for which started to get bigger and bigger and finally allowed me to breath again.
Mountaineering at altitude is no different, its hard and horrible but…….If you take one tiny, tiny step forward you can achieve so much, you focus on nothing else apart from that tiny step, that insignificant step forward, and sometimes a few steps back but, if you keep going and stay focused you can achieve your goals. At altitude when the very basic of human needs is challenged just taking another breath is all that you need to focus on, just one more breath, then maybe a couple more then, and then, and then.
If you feel you are struggling, try to remember this, nothing else matters but you taking that next breath, because everything that will matter and all of the positives in your life needs you to take that next breath…
Ady, Adrian Martin the company owner/founder was using a site that I managed to host his residential activity weekends for Veterans and youth groups. We spoke each time he visited and found that although our paths had never really crossed, we had some very similar experiences and shared interests.
Fast forward to 2019 where I was planning to go out to Pakistan and try K2 for the second time, Ady was super keen to have some involvement and wanted to help me both logistically and with social media, this really started to create a bond between us and also exposed me to more and more of what he was trying to achieve with Woodland Experiences
Ady had set up Woodland Experiences to create a unique, non judgmental, therapeutic environment where Men, Women and Children can escape to. Now this wasn’t just another hippy commune or another campsite helping to “re-wild” this was a genuine, honest approach to helping people, especially Veterans and blue light workers to escape the day to day pressures of modern life and also to help with those suffering from PTSD so assisting with Post Traumatic Growth.
What really attracted me to working with Ady was his unashamed honesty and ability to create warmth and enthusiasm in all that he done, this as you can expect was like a magnet to me and I have not looked back ever since.
Whilst out in Pakistan Ady took charge of all things media, Vlogs, Blogs, Facebook and newspapers he also had the awful task of tracking our personal GPS’s meaning he was the only one back in the UK who could see where we were at all times, when climbing a dangerous mountain this of course comes with the inevitable pressure should something go wrong, however thankfully all parties were safe and we arrived home in one piece. While taking on this role Ady also unknowingly to myself took on the arduous task of converting Woodland Experinces to the new Woodland Xperiences CIC, so that our community could thrive from all of the benefits offered.
My role within the company now is one of Operations Manager, I am tasked with making sure all those who attend are happy and have the necessary opportunities to reflect and recharge before heading back home. This might be from making a brew through to running activity sessions or allowing them to open up about their specific challenges and helping to signpost them to the correct external support or guidance. This role is really rewarding and running the weekends works to recharge my enthusiasm for what I have and what you can achieve. In the past I have suffered from mental illness, challenges in life that I had felt were just too much, I didn’t have the support network around me or more to the point I didn’t know I did, and was never mature enough to reach out and take it. I use my past experiences and successes to help me work with those who are struggling with similar challenges as I once had and for a short while I create a calm, non-judgmental environment where they can feel safe and secure, which is something many folk are challenged with.
Easy, Old man of Coniston, it was the very first Lake District mountain my best friend and Scout Leader, Ian Butcher took me too on a scout summer camp. I almost ran to the top and was blown away with the views and the ruins on the way up. I love guiding it for younger walkers and love telling the tails its rich history. My final training run for any mountain is always Coniston before leaving for international mountains.
How much training:
Well probably not as much as you think…..I have quite a physical job so each day I am lifting, moving and working out in some way. I try to train in the evening every other day and try to get a long day in the fells each week carrying a bit of weight. Mountaineering especially K2 is very much a mind game and training your mind and understanding the expedition is just as important as running the miles. Pete and I are planning everything, right down to each kg we are taking with us. We plan, plan and plan some more as the minute we leave the UK we are totally focussed on our goal.
Favourite training gear brand:
I wear La Sportiva boots and also running shoes as they fit my foot shape very well and of course have a great history in the mountains. I try to wear the same gear as I would whilst trekking into base camp, Mountain Hardware pants, Mountain Equipment t shirts and thermal layers. This way we get used to how things feel rather than having surprises out in Pakistan
……..I ask myself that question all the time, K2 the name of the mountain, the sound of the mountain and everything about it is addictive to me. I am scared beyond comprehension when thinking of it. I am petrified of the size of the undertaking but in the same breath totally and utterly fixed on achieving this goal. The planning, the training the expedition is one huge challenge.
I have found myself in some really challenging situations throughout my life and have been able to overcome them and move forwards, some have been physical challenges and others, others that I have found much harder have been emotional and mental challenges I have suffered for several years with mental illness and episodes of severe depression which unfortunately led to very poor behaviour and through my journey out of this state of mind I have been able to grow and learn more about myself and my strengths and weaknesses so with the knowledge that I have overcome these I feel that I can also successfully challenge K2, after all its just another mountain……..
It has to be the Howgills range of mountains as I live on their doorstep they are so easily accessible and really quiet. I can get out on a run over the traverse or a bike ride around them or in the winter, well this winter I have been able to ski them
How much training:
No more than my usual weeks exercise. I have a physical job which keeps me quite fit, I run or Cycle nearly every day and enjoy the challenge of ZWIFT when the weathers not great.
Favourite training gear brand:
I’m a big RAB fan, I’ve found over the years RAB has all of the gear I need good lightweight running gear for the warmer months and quality cold rather gear for the winter expeditions.
As a mountaineer and climber I have always had my sights on climbing it, even climbing Everest it was always just going to be a stepping stone to climb K2.
Check time slot 26:36, It's our Paul & Pete in 2019. 3rd and 4th climbers
Folks, it’s been about a million years since I’ve posted anything and in true form I’m asking you for something..... well more that you please follow- CUMBRIATOK2 on Instagram.
Pete and I are giving that bloody mountain one more try, one more attempt to successfully summit K2.
This time, no Sherpa support, no commercial support, no other team member just Pete and I.
We’d love you to follow us and pass it onto any folk who may be interested especially youth organisations and charities.