A Mountain to Climb: Joel Nurser’s £10k Interview

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Selfie of Joel Nurser on Mount Kilimanjaro glacier raising money for Marie Curie charity

A Mountain to Climb: Joel Nurser’s £10k Interview

When do your feet have to travel tall to reach a tall feat? When you look up at Mount Everest looming over you and think “How did I get here?”

That is exactly what Joel Nurser from Lytchett Matravers will be ruminating when the world’s most legendary mountain stares down at him in November 2019. Until then, Joel is facing the tall feat of getting mentally and physically fit, and attempting to raise a mountain of money – exactly £1 per metre climbed. Follow his journey here, from Poole to Kathmandu.

DEFINITION: ‘a tall feat’ is an extraordinary act or achievement, displaying boldness, skill; a noteworthy accomplishment of great courage, skill, or imagination.

Panoramic view of Mount Snowdon summit
View of Snowdon summit taken on training walk for Mount Everest Action Challenge. Raising money for Marie Curie charity.

Joel Nurser, Operations Director of Poole based Composite Profiles UK, has set himself the very tall feat of climbing the 5,380 metres to Everest Base Camp, whilst also attempting to summit neighbouring peak Kala Patthar, sitting 263m higher at 5,643m. His inspiration, his Mum Sue Nurser, who sadly passed away from Pancreatic Cancer aged just 59yrs old. Poignantly, Sue enjoyed serving her local community working first in a building society and in latter years at Longfleet House Doctors Surgery.

In 2016, Joel joined Action Challenge and raised £5,180 for the Marie Curie charity climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in memory of his mum. Joel wants to add a further £5,380 to their pot – the height in metres of Everest Base Camp – to raise a total of £10,560. We have 10 questions in which to do it, one question a week posted below, hence ‘The £10k Interview’. Follow Joel’s journey from Poole to Kathmandu and help him raise the equivalent of £1 per metre climbed. Afterall, what else can you buy for the same price as a piece of cloth, pint of milk or loaf of bread – life enhancing cancer care. It’s got to be worth a click.

Live your Life to the Full

Over a 10-week period, we interviewed Joel Nurser and published one question per week in the run up to his departure to  Kathmandu.

Read Joel’s full interview below, you never know, it might stir something in you to go on your own adventure. In memory of so many of our loved ones, remember to live your life to the full.

What is Lukla?

Lukla is a small town in eastern Nepal right at the foot of Mount Everest. Before the existence of an airport, Lukla could only be reached by road traveling from Kathmandu to Jiri and five day hiking from Jiri to Lukla through rugged hills.

Lukla Airport was built in 1964 under the supervision of Edmund Hillary who bought the land from local Sherpas. The high altitude often causes difficulty for the pilot to control landing speed of the plane.

The flight time is only 25mins and it’s not uncommon for passengers to board their flight, buckle up and prepare for take-off only to be directed off the airplane as the weather conditions had just changed in Lukla.

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and raising funds for Marie Curie
Lukla Airport one of the most dangerous in the world

Interview with Joel Nurser – 10 Questions to raise £10k

The Million £ question (well more like the £10k question), what’s next after Mount Everest? How can you top it?

“This will be a real high for me but I’m hoping that another adventure awaits. As my family grows up, I think the next challenge will be one for all of us. We are keen to walk the Inca trail and explore the wilds of Japan but who knows. Through work*, I have recently come across Pip Hare. She’s a local professional sailor and soon to embark on her incredibly inspirational Vendee Globe Campaign. The vastness of her challenge is little known beyond the sailing community but in the scope of adventure challenges, it’s often claimed to be the absolute toughest sporting event there is. Pip is a real inspiration for adventure and resilience, her single-handed sailing experience is immense. I have a strong interest in sailing at the moment and hope to plan a trip from Poole in the next few years where our family can enjoy an adventure together.”

*Composite Profiles is supporting Pip Hare’s Vendee Globe Campaign through the Business Syndicate sponsorship programme. Find out more at www.piphareoceanracing.com

Lukla Airport in Nepal is one of the most dangerous airports in the world, how do you feel about flying into it?

“Yes, I have to fly into Lukla Airport, which is notorious for being one of the most dangerous airports in the world. It is literally located on the sloped side of the Himalayan Mountains 9000 feet above sea level. The runway is only 527m long at a gradient of 11.7%. If you think that a running track is 400m, it gives you an idea of how unbelievably short it is! Also, the high altitude means low pressure, which apparently makes it really difficult for pilots to land.

An interesting fact I have discovered in my research, Bristol Airport is our UK comparison. Bristol Airport has one of the shortest international airport runways in the UK. It’s 2011m long – still it’s four times the length of Lukla Airport. Most of the people who want to climb Everest have to fly to Lukla.

So how do I feel about landing there? In all honesty, none of the dangerous things I have read about my trip really phase me. There’s nothing I can do about it. If I crash and die, well it’s out of my control so there’s nothing I can do about it. That’s really how I look at it. Maybe that’s my Mum’s inner voice telling me to live my life to the full. If we didn’t do things for the fear of it, we would live much more boring lives. I am looking forward to the views!”

Tell us some of the juicy facts about your trip: How high is Everest Base Camp? How cold will it be? How long will the climb take? What will you eat?

“Mount Everest itself is nearly 30k feet or 9k metres high (29,029 ft / 8848 m). Some people find it easier to think about it in miles – it’s 5.5miles high but it actually grows 4mm every year due to some geologic uplift.

I am trekking to Everest base camp, which sits at nearly two thirds of the height of Everest at 5,380m. It’ll take 10 days to get there. We only get two proper acclimatisation days – on Day 5 at 3500 metres and Day 8 at 4500 metres before climbing an extra 1000m by Day 10. By the time I arrive, I will have trekked for 78hrs at high altitude with temperatures down to -20.

Day 11 will be the greater challenge though. For those that are feeling okay and not struggling too much from the altitude, we will attempt to climb Kala Patthar, which is 300m higher than base camp at 5,643m. If the weather is clear, we should be able to get stunning views of Mount Everest, which is why people push themselves to do it. I am sure I will be fine though. I am fit and determined so will just get on with it.

As for food, it all has to be carried on the backs of Yaks or by Sherpas. We’ll stay in tea houses along the route, where meals will be prepared. They say the food is a mix of Nepalese and international. I’m led to expect that there’ll be a lot of eggs, porridge, pasta, noodles, rice and potato to keep us going. Any meat is flown in via Lukla Airport and carried up without refrigeration, so we have been advised to stick to a veggie diet!”

What kit do you need to climb to Everest base camp? And why did you choose to do the Everest Base Camp venture with Action Challenge?

“The hardest part of preparing, training aside, is working out which vaccinations I need to have. So far it’s Hepatitis A and B, Tetanus, Rabies and maybe Malaria but the travel clinic don’t seem too sure if I’m honest. I have had to buy some pieces of specialist clothing and equipment too. I have a super warm down insulated jacket, Goretex trousers and jacket for the wet weather, merino wool thermal clothing, boots, high wicking layers etc. I have hired stuff too, like a thermal sleeping bag, silk sleeping bag liner, mountain gloves and hiking poles. You do have to budget this in too though, I’ve probably spent around £800 on clothing and equipment on top of the cost of the trip.

Why I chose to go with Action Challenge? I chose to go with Action Challenge to climb Mount Kilimanjaro a few years ago just after my mum died. I knew they were very well respected and that they worked with hundreds of charities and offered a huge range of activities and challenges. I raised nearly £5k for Marie Curie back then. I am hoping to beat that this time. In the spirit of living your life to the full and helping others, I would strongly recommend that people look up Action Challenge online to see the range of activities that are possible to do and the charities that are hopeful of your support. You won’t regret it!”

Do you think anyone can take on the challenge of climbing to Everest Base Camp? What was your knowledge of climbing beforehand?

“Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to see Conrad Anker deliver his Hold Fast mountaineering talk at the Lighthouse Arts Centre in Poole. He is one of the world’s greatest climbers and is a true inspiration for people like me who essentially lead quite ‘normal’ lives. Conrad Anker has numerous first ascents to his name and was the lead climber of Everest North Face Climbing Team for 26 years. He led the expedition to locate George Mallory’s body, which had been lost since 1924. Recently, I have been watching lots of Ed Stafford’s shows, he’s an explorer and adventurer and puts himself into the most challenging situations to push his personal growth.

So can anyone do it? YES. We are all capable of pushing ourselves and by training our resilience as well as our body we can achieve much more than we believe is possible. That’s what all the top explorers have in common, their strength of mind. Everest Base Camp trek is a tough challenge as you’re trekking at altitude for long periods of time. You definitely have to have a good level of fitness, the terrain is varied with some steep uphill climbs and downhill passes, so if you’re fit and strong you’ll be able to do it. I don’t think you have to be an elite athlete but you do need to train your stamina and strength as well as mentally prepare. In the word of Ross Edgley – “Be so naive you start, but so stubborn you finish”.

How do you physically prepare to climb to Base Camp Everest? What fitness training do you have to do?

“You can’t really simulate high altitude training in the UK so really it’s all about building strength, stamina and endurance. There are some long days of trekking in Nepal so the best preparation is to walk for long periods at a time in the UK. I have walked several sections of the coast path in Dorset, which is really hilly so a great place to train. I am lucky it’s right on my doorstep. I have also had a week in Exmoor, where I ran most days and subjected my family to numerous hill walks. A few months ago, I climbed Mount Snowdon which is the highest altitude I will climb to before heading to Nepal. But really the bulk of my training is done in the gym. I am really dedicated and go three times a week to build core strength, which will help keep my back strong on the climb. Being tall I suffer from a bad back from time to time, so I need to look after it.”

How do you prepare for altitude sickness?

“There is no failsafe way to prepare for altitude sickness, the tips are to climb slowly, eat carbs, avoid alcohol, drink water and take it easy but in reality you are going to feel it, it’s just a question of how much.

For most people, the symptoms start to kick in around 2,500m, but it can be as low as 2,000m. The higher you climb the more severe the effects of altitude and the only way to reverse the effects is to climb down. Being physically fit will certainly help on the climb, but there is no correlation between fitness and how the effects are felt, it is impossible to say who will suffer more and who less.”

What is Altitude Sickness?

Altitude sickness is a pathological condition at high elevation on the human body that ranges from having mild symptoms to being fatal. The condition is also known as Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS) and hypobaropathy.

Altitude sickness generally affects people from the elevation of 2,400m above sea level. This is where the terrain has 60% less oxygen than the sea level. When you ascend the trails, the environment changes. The cold, sun, wind, and low oxygen level makes trekking more challenging. Your body starts suffering from weakness. You start to have dizziness, giddiness, nausea, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, insomnia, and shortness of breath. Sometimes, people even lose their lives if not treated in time. It can affect people of any age, gender, physical and medical conditions.

How did the Marie Curie Charity support your family?

“Marie curie provide hands-on-care in your own home as well as in hospices and a whole range of information and support for people living with a terminal illness. They offer bereavement support as well, which is priceless when you need to try and grieve, support others and arrange the practical matters that need to be dealt with after losing someone so close to you. The amazing thing is that all donations go towards helping your local community. It doesn’t go into some big central pot, it’s grass roots fundraising. Their website www.mariecurie.org.uk is a great resource and has all the information you need, as well as how to make first contact”.

You climbed Mount Snowdon in a training walk, what top tips can you give for climbing Mount Snowdon?

“We climbed Snowdon in October and was so glad we did; we had great weather and when we summited, we shared it with only 5 or 6 others. We set off at 6am in the dark but it soon became light and we were even graced with clear skies at the summit.

My top tip would be to choose a season that suits your ability for the climb and take the appropriate clothing and equipment to suit. When deciding what to wear, you can be as prepared or unprepared as you like. People walk up in trainers, jeans and a jumper with only a bottle of water. Others hike up in all the latest technical gear with huge rucksacks. The season makes a big difference to what you need. Personally, I would recommend a pair of hiking boots, which have been well worn in, layers of clothing to suit the expected conditions plus a warm top layer and waterproofs. The weather changed very quickly for us and we went from loads of layers to keep us warm at the start, to a T-shirt once the sun had cleared the clouds and we had worked up a sweat from the hike. You don’t need anything majorly specialised, but climbing Snowdon is more than a stroll around the park, so you do need to be prepared. We took around 3 litres of water each and I’d recommend a rucksack bladder to carry it. We also had a good breakfast before we took off and plenty of snacks/bars to keep our energy going.”

Are you scared at all? Can people follow your progress while you’re out there?

“No, I’m not scared. Nothing like this worries me. I am quite matter of fact about it. If I die, I die, there’s nothing I can do about it so there’s no point in ruining an adventure of a lifetime by worrying about something you can’t control. Well I guess you can control it a bit by being fit and prepared, which I am, so no I am not scared at all, just looking forward to it.

We have an itinerary to follow but of course it will have to be flexible due to the weather. In a nutshell, I leave from Heathrow on 2nd November and arrive in Kathmandu on 3 Nov. The next day we fly to Lukla, which is renowned for being one of the most dangerous airports in the world so that should be fun! Lukla stands for the ‘Place with many goats and sheep’ so I expect to see lots of them. The route we’re taking is along a centuries-old trading trail that runs from Nepal to Tibet so that’s pretty cool.

11 November is when we’re meant to arrive at Everest Base Camp. We have to set off at dawn that morning and traverse the Khumbu Glacier towards Gorak Shep, which translates as ‘Graveyard of Crows’. We don’t actually stay the night at base camp, we traverse back to the Graveyard of Crows and stay there in a couple of simple mountain lodges. Poignantly it’s Remembrance Day, and whilst I am always remembering my mum, it will feel all the more significant whilst at Everest. Afterall, it was her advice that is the reason why I am going and raising money for Marie Curie of course.

But actually 12 November is meant to be an even tougher trek up to summit of Kala Patthar, which is 263m higher than Base Camp Everest but it gives you spectacular views of the Everest. Then it’s the return trek and I arrive back into UK on 17 Nov and my plan is to sleep, if my gorgeous wife and children will let me!”

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