After returning from the cycle ride from southern Spain to northern Norway in 2018. I chilled out for a couple of months and planned an ice climbing trip to northern Finland, Sweden and Norway. Due to take place in March last year, it never happened.
On February 4th a potential life changing incident happened. Not while cycling or climbing or doing any activity that could result in injury. Sitting in front of a computer, my back went into spasm. My right leg felt as though it would explode. This sounds like a case of exaggeration, it isn’t. Hyperventilating and repeatedly punching my right thigh, the sight must have looked like a dark comedy. Two paramedics filled the small study room where I was writhing around and pumped me with morphine and other so-called pain killers like Tramadol, sadly to little effect. Off to hospital where discussions for an immediate spinal operation were discussed. My mildly deformed Lumbar had trapped my Sciatic nerve. Hours passed, then surprisingly I was sent home, not that I remember. The following day the pain forced me back to A and E and I was put on a ward but only for a few hours before again being discharged. The next day I wanted to amputate my right leg. Taken to a GP, she immediately ordered an ambulance and for the second time was blue lighted to hospital where I was again admitted. The pain killers could not be given fast enough and I craved them hours before the next batch were due. The doctors who visited me talked about operating, however as the days went on nothing materialized, it just fizzed out. I was high on drugs and was to remain so for weeks. My right leg was hardly usable and over the next month would shrivel to half its size with a 28-pound loss in body weight. Sleep was only possible for an hour or so after the pain killers, I had to have a bed tent over my leg, nothing could touch my leg, which for the first couple of weeks, I had to drag around. Without crutches I was immobile. Throughout all this my wife was brilliant, trying to get me to eat, stopping me overdosing on pain killers and encouraging me to think positively.
Anyway, “enough!” I hear you say. So, to round up this misfortune. After six weeks on crutches, things did start to improve. I was angry and frustrated and having been told that exercise would not hinder the healing process, I threw myself into exercise and training. Any amount of discomfort caused by this training was insignificant in comparison to what followed in the weeks after February 4th.
I suppose this tale champions the idea that yes, there is the possibility that you may have an accident whilst cycling, ice climbing or any other numerous sports, but you can also fall foul to injury by just doing nothing at the computer. Ironic! The concerning thing is that no one knows what triggered this and therefore there is no telling if, or when it will repeat itself and that is slightly concerning. I have put a photo of my legs on the website to show the difference between the two. It was taken about three months after the incident.
Let’s move away from this now.
Several of the following trips were planned and or undertaken out of determination that my active life was to continue. I turn 66 this year and certainly have not finished exploring and enjoying this wonderful world we live in.
All the following trips have photos posted in the gallery section of the website.
PORTUGAL:- This trip above all was planned spontaneously. As a solo outing it was to be a personal test. I had serious doubts as to whether my leg would be up to the planned climbs in northern and central Portugal. I achieved over 10,000m of elevation in 600km, but the wattage was pathetic. I returned with mixed feelings having enjoyed the country but seriously doubting if my leg would ever recover.
BAVARIA and AUSTRIA: – My ever supportive wife and I drove to Bavaria for a sightseeing and cycling holiday. We thoroughly enjoyed our time. I took off early one morning to cycle the KITZBUHELER HORN, with its average gradient of 13%, achieving a reasonable placement on Strava and was back for breakfast for our 70km ride together. This was the first time that I had smiled for a long time on the bike, perhaps due to the exhilarating and cavalier descent.
PYRENEES:- Andy Hill, such a good friend, we have known each other for over 35 years, hiked and climbed together and cycled across America from Seattle to Boston in forty days covering 4,000 miles. It was Andy again who organized a trip across the Pyrenees. Starting at Biarritz, he had, as usual included every possible climb east across to Perpignam. The last couple of days pushed me to the limit. I was thankful for his company because without it my resolve would have failed. Pain can be debilitating.
SPAIN:- I am working my way through all the cycling climbs in a book called Mountain High Europe’s greatest cycling climbs by Daniel Friebe and Peter Goding. In which there are three climbs out on a limb in southern Spain. On the back of the Pyrenean trip, I planned a solo trip to do Pico de Veleta, Calar Alto and Sierra de la Pandere. I decided to ‘wild camp’ to give me total freedom. Now there was a light at the end of the tunnel of recovery. Perhaps I would never be able to produce the 400w power again, but I would be able to continue to cycle without compromise. The timing of this trip was spot on! As the plane lifted away from the runway, I saw that the High Sierra had now been plastered with snow.
AUSTRALIA:- The part of Western Australia we visit is flat, very flat. The tarmac is rough, the weather hot, hotter than usual, the bush fires that were to ravish the country had just started. I rode through smoke on one notable ride. No one had any inclination as to what was to follow. The long flat rides were a pleasure and my still recovering leg benefited from the warmth and lack of hills. The main dangers are snakes on the road and dive-bombing aggressive Magpies.
LAPLAND AND NORWAY:- A departure from cycling, although a ride on a Fat Tyre cycle in deep snow was attempted. Every year I try and find a different country to go ice climbing and this was the trip that had been planned for the previous March. Postponed until January this year, my good friends Neil and Sean came along for a week of excellent ICE CLIMBING and what a week we had. Mickael Backman of Bliss Adventure did us proud. He had been completely understanding when I had had to postpone the trip back in February and during the year we had exchanged numerous emails and before we ever met, we felt as though we knew each other. He could not do enough for us. I have had many guides over the years and many have been so good, Mickael is up with the very best of them. If anyone is thinking of ice climbing in Finland, Sweden or Norway, I would not hesitate to recommend Bliss. In February sunrise was at 10.30 and sunset at 2.30. We climbed in daylight, at venues that were floodlit and we climbed by head torch. With the last couple of days skiing, dog sledding and snow mobiles, this was a special trip. My thanks to Mickael and definitely Neil and Sean.
AND OF 2020:- This year has seen the planning of a cycling trip from Athens back to Yorkshire via 22 cycling climbs in Italy, Austria, Switzerland and France most taken from the Mountain High book. Incidentally Luke, a good friend, has informed me that a further book containing many more climbs has now been published, is there ever an end…. There is also a possibility that there will be a climb on the Eiger in August.
As I write this the Coronavirus is taking hold of so many countries. No one can know the outcome yet. Maybe there will be no trips this year.