Coach Potato to Mountain Climber – Paul Russell

Paul catches the outdoor bug while summiting his first peak

For many years I have been a dedicated couch potato, doing very little exercise, glued to the TV watching Sky Football, having a glass or two of wine and the odd beers, and for being so short at 5 foot 3’ this sedentary lifestyle saw me weigh in at 12 stone 8.  Plump to say the least.

Then in January 2011 my work colleagues invited me to climb Snowdon.  I had very little, if any gear, for this, so visited GO Outdoors store in Basildon and started to buy the necessaries.  Snowdon was hard for me. I nearly gave up half way but was edged on by one or two of my co-workers and summitted successfully. I was ecstatic and got the outdoor bug!!  I wanted more. It was at this hike that my Boss decided we should go to see if we could do Mont Blanc and do it for charity.

To help prepare for Mont Blanc, we would attempt to do Scafel Pike & Brecon Beacons.  The first didn’t go well for me as I suffered ligament damage and ended up having to attend 16 sessions of physio-therapy. However, in mid summer on a gale force and very wet day, I successfully did three peaks on the Brecon’s.  I was extremely proud and happy.

Prior to training I did a few other charity events; firstly I did the colour half marathon for Multiple Sclerosis (13 miles) and then attempted the Yorkshire Three Peaks for the British Heart Foundation.  I only achieved two out of the three peaks as my knee was acting up again and I was suffering bad blisters.

So for Mont Blanc.  I bought all my equipment at GO Outdoors, Grivel Crampons G12, Mountain trousers, Scarpa Jorasses Pro GTX Mountaineering Boots B3, Axe and all that goes with climbing in the Alps.

On the 10th September 2011 for seven days eight of us attempted to climb Europe’s highest mountain.   Sadly, only three of us succeeded after Altitude sickness got the better of us. I was one. However, I climbed rock faces, walls of snow, and got to 11,000 feet.  It was great.  I now know how to use crampons and ice axes, and what gear works, what you need and what you probably don’t.  The boots were superb as were the crampons.

The remainder of the year – more hikes and looking forward to many winter walks.  Next year – who knows but the outdoor life style is now for me – and I am taking my sons up to Snowdon in October.

Paul Russel