As a kid, I had a map of Mt Everest pinned to the ceiling, above my bed. I would fall asleep looking at that map, imagining myself climbing through the mountain’s many routes. In time, climbing Everest became my life’s goal and passion. Spurred on by the accounts of others and supported by my family, I began pursuing my dream to climb mountains.
However, these dreams were severely challenged shortly after I turned 21. One day, I unexpectedly found myself extraordinarily weak, fatigued, and unwell. Days stretched into years and I could not get on top of my health. I stopped tramping and climbing through a seemingly endless series of defeats. I became increasingly incapacitated and found this progression incredibly hard, particularly as it isolated me from the outdoors. Eventually, I began to think that I would never again be able to access the mountains. I was devastated.
Four years later, I was diagnosed with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis. By that point, I was dependent on a motorised chair to get me around. I was unable to walk on any uneven surface because poor balance, and could not walk for more the five or ten minutes at a time, due to the fatigue. Mountains began to represent the impossible and insurmountable, a failed dream.
A New Dream
One day, I realised that I did not want to live this way for the rest of my life, and that I needed to do something if I wanted to change. I got in touch with a physical therapist and a specialist personal trainer and began working out three days a week, focusing on strength, balance, and flexibility. I also took a radical approach to my diet, cutting out anything that could negatively impact my health. After four years of consistent rehab/gym work and dietary help, I am fortunate enough to reach the point of being able to tramp and climb again. In fact, I have improved so much, that there are now conflicting opinions on my diagnosis of Primary Progressive MS!
Aware that many people with MS are not as fortunate, I now have a new goal: to help these people get into the outdoors.
You can read a more detailed account of my journey in my book, To the Summit.
The Day Job
Originally from Auckland, I am based in Christchurch, close to the Southern Alps. When I am not climbing or tramping, I work at Macpac as a technical writer and write for several magazines.
You can see some of my other work here.