the birth of bigmoose – discovering my purpose – r.i.p. shinji

good morning bigmoose friend,
as i emerged from my tent, and rubbed sleep from my eyes, my huge red high altitude boots crunched on the frozen snow below.
shinji our japanese guide was on the radio, and i looked around at one of the best views i had ever seen.
we had climbed to the top, and camped on the summit of mount lobuche, standing tall at 6119m, in the heart of the himalayas, rubbing shoulders with all the 8000m peaks, and affording me the most stunning view of the mighty everest, standing magnificently on the horizon, it truly was a sight to behold, and very much a pinch me moment.
i breathed in the 360 and smiled inside at how all my training was falling into place, and it wouldn’t be long before i had the chance to attempt to climb the highest mountain on the planet.
my eye caught shinjis as he spoke into the radio, and instead of his infectious warm smile he usually afforded me, he turned around, almost in a way that he didn’t want to be heard.
something was wrong.
i could sense it.
carly and tim, both from los angeles, and both part of a team attempting to take an amputee american soldier, charlie linville, to the top of the world, were also emerging from their canvas abodes.
“somethings wrong” we shared with each other, as we watched the other guides surround shinji.
and that easter weekend’s good friday turned out to be anything but.
the guides huddled like an american football team, until shinji, the quarterback emerged from the group to call the next play.
“there’s been an accident”
“in the khumbu” one of the most dangerous parts of mount everest, at the mouth of the mountain between base camp and camp one.
and we all held our breath.
“we must go down”
we responded in silence, and proceeded like a line of ants down the mountain, and back to our base camp, the mood sombre and full of dread, as we walked unaware of what fate lie ahead.
we heard helicopters, and as we got closer to bc i spied a line hanging below one as it flew, with a body at the end, and it wasn’t moving.
my mind raced.
the worst accident in the history of everest mountaineering was unfolding before my eyes.
16 sherpa were killed when a huge ice serac the size of a two storey building fell higher up the mountain, and the scenes that followed the devastation were extremely shocking.
the rescue teams worked feverishly, and we all felt somewhat useless as we sat around our large himalayan experience dome tent drinking coffee after coffee.
the film crew that were following charlie and his team, switched into recording the disaster, and it became a very surreal place to be, and you can watch the bafta nominated documentary “sherpa” on amazon prime.

you can watch sherpa here

SHERPA chronicles how the Sherpa community united to reclaim Mount Everest following the 2014 avalanche that killed 16 of their members. The Sherpas are forced to consider the future of Everest climbing and whether anything justifies the danger they face.

the next day as we awoke there was lots of talk about the previous day, and the terror that had hit this beautiful mountain, and a meeting that all the teams were going to have following the tragedy.
at the agreed time, the whole mountaineering fraternity at base camp crowded around the team leaders in a kind of biblical scene, 600 plus people and i watched and listened as our immediate future destiny was discussed.
there was a lot of energy, and a lot of anger in the meeting, but the conclusion was that out of respect for our fallen brothers nobody would climb that season.
i was disappointed, but very much behind the decision, and the attention now shifted to retreating down the valley to lukla, to our waiting helicopter, for an extremely reflective flight through the mountains and hills back to the chaos that is kathmandu.
i returned home to the uk, unfulfilled, never knowing whether i would have been capable of reaching the top of everest aged 50, and never knowing if i would get the opportunity to return to my beautiful nepal.
i also became aware of some of my climbing buddies returning home and slipping into depression, understandably, having lost their dream.
i was however, euphoric, returning home having surpassed my fundraising target for the teenage cancer trust, and upon reflection this point was when i discovered who i really was as a man.
i had grown up poor, as the only child in a single parent family, and had spent my first 50 years of life working hard to provide security for my family,but returning home from nepal and seeing the value in the fundraising we had managed to achieve, i changed.
i realised my purpose was to serve others.
i know that sounds a bit nobby, but bare with me, as it’s taken a long time to be brave enough to say it publicly, but i mean it.
even with my current health shizzle, i am still strong enough to look after myself and my family, and the bit that i am driven to do more of, and gives me purpose, is to help those that need help, and back in 2014 i discovered  what i needed to do, thus giving my unsuccessful attempt at summiting a really positive outcome, very much a half full glass mentality, and bigmoose was born.
as well as ‘discovering’ myself, i also made some great friends in tim, carly and charlie, and charlie and tim went back and summited in 2016, an amazing achievement.
unfortunately, i recently discovered we lost shinji to the mountains, and at 57 he left us far too early, rest in peace my climbing brother, thank you for keeping me safe.
now, i intended writing about my 2024 return to climb the beautiful lobuche, but i got carried away on regaling the story of my first date with her, so i will attempt to scribe my most recent encounter next week.
so for now, thanks for reading, thanks for helping make my 2014 idea grow bigger than i could dream, and thanks for supporting our purpose.
blue skies,

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