I was having a tough time a couple of years ago and my confidence had slipped from its usually fairly buoyant state – I was having some difficulties at work, was overwhelmed by my house renovation project, and had ended a long-term relationship. I knew that an outdoor challenge was exactly what I needed to get back to my dauntless and positive self.
And so I went to Russia to climb what remains the hardest, if not the highest, mountain of my life -Mount Elbrus. The weather was dreadful and pushed our schedule out several days, we were running low on rations, sleep and sanity, and on the final climb I struggled with dehydration, frostbite and altitude sickness. But, I look back at the photo of me standing on top of the world, one of only three people who managed to summit the north face that week (and the other two were ex-army, Everest-climbing, marathon-running, strong men), and all over again I feel the triumph of that day.
Reaching that summit I rediscovered my tenacity, my ability to dig deep, meet hardship head on and show great resilience to overcome anything if I put my mind to it – whether it’s a biting blizzard on the mountain or blundering bureaucracy at work. The Everest climber with me said he had never seen anyone fight so hard to achieve, and that is one of the highest compliments anyone has ever paid me.
The outdoors offers you the opportunities to grow and thrive both physically and mentally. Finding that mental power is an amazing thing which can apply to every area of life. Since my Russian mountain, I have had a blast, climbing higher, cycling further and running faster than I ever had before, learning new skills and taking on new responsibilities, both outdoors and at work. It’s given me the boost to grab opportunities when I see them, and I’m about to set off cycling around the world for a year. Mountains come in all shapes and sizes, and some of them are not made of mud and stone, but each one is worth climbing because you never know what you might find over the summit.