By John Gill
For three days, we wandered the rubble hills and icy sinkholes of the Yalung Glacier, tucked beneath monoliths of ice and rock on every side. Each step was uncertain, often sliding down the loose rock and dust towards ancient creavasses, yawning with frozen teeth as if about to swallow us whole. Rock slides and avalanches crashed down the steep walls on either side of the valley, which had been sculpted over countless years by this torrent of ice beneath our feet. The glistening peaks above looked down on us, like Gods on their lofty thrones, while we picked our way through the dark labyrinth below, building cairns to guide us back. This is the land of giants, shrouded in mystery and wonder. Our mission was to recon the south face of Kanchenjunga, the third tallest giant in the world, to photograph and document potential climbing routes.
Always in our sight, Kanchenjunga shone bright like a beacon guiding us. We weren’t the first to cross that glacier, and we won’t be the last, but the feeling of remoteness, wilderness and exploration overwhelmed me. I thought, “this is what I’m made to do”.
Even as a child in England, I was an explorer. I’d have adventures in the forest behind my house, climb trees to see into the neighbour's yard, and dig huge holes in the garden (to my Mum’s disgust) in an attempt to find buried treasure or tunnel to Australia. I’d go caving and hiking with my family, and my Dad taught me skills in navigation, ropework and survival.
Like many of us, when I hit adulthood I lost that drive. A desk job, too many nights in the pub, poor diet, and a generally sedentary lifestyle became the norm. The extent of my explorations would involve a four hour stint on Minecraft.
The ‘kick up the ass’ that I needed came in 2011, when I went to Nepal for the first time with my family to trek to Annapurna Base Camp. At the same time I read
‘South Face’ by Chris Bonington, about his expedition to climb the South Face of Annapurna in 1970. His story of suffering, struggle, tragedy and triumph somehow rekindled the fire inside me to pursue my own dreams to become a climber and explorer. This same year I visited Squamish for the first time, working on a summer camp for 3 months. I immediately fell in love with the mountains of British Columbia and 3 years later I was calling the West Coast my home.
I am only at the start of my Himalayan discovery, but it has already taken me to thesummit of Ama Dablam (6,812m), on multipletrips in the Everest region, to Annapurna Sanctuary and to the remote and wild Eastern border with Sikkim to explore Kanchenjunga. Nepal is not only where I found big mountains and even bigger adventures, but it is also where I found myself, discovering my dreams and the drive to achieve them.
In 2016, I started a trekking company,Outdoor Explore, providingguided hiking tours in B.C. andtreks/expeditions to Nepal. I work with my good friend, Namgya Sherpa (11 times Everest summiter), in Nepal to organise and lead adventures that aim to show people why Nepal is so special, and encourage others to find their inner explorer. I am working with local charities in an attempt to create a more sustainable experience and to give back to the people who have given me to much.
We are proud suppliers of Nomad Nutrition on our trips in B.C. and custom expeditions in Nepal. I’ve found the nutrition-to-weight ratio to be miles above the competition and I’m always pleasantly surprised with the quality and taste of the food.
To celebrate this partnership, we are offering a10% discount code for customers and followers of Nomad Nutrition. Simply enter ‘NOMAD’ when booking a trip, or mention this code when contacting Outdoor Explore. https://outdoor-explore.com/