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 Palmerston North, close to the Ruahine and Tararua Ranges. When I am not climbing or tramping, I contract to Transpower as an Graphic Designer, write for several magazines, and run a small photography business.
You can see some of my other work here.