Is achieving a 1st really worth it..?

In 2007 I became the first British climber to summit the tallest peaks on the worlds largest islands.  ‘Whoopee doo’ I hear you say.  This is exactly why I ask the question for the achievement of a 1st.  Are they worth it, or just media stunts for people with nothing better to do?

Real 1st’s are truly stunning – Magellan‘s expedition to circumnavigate the world, Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent d’Arlandes first flight, Cooks crossing of the Antarctic Circle, and Hillary and Tensing on the summit of Mt. Everest.  All these are truly unrepeatable moments in history.  There are thousands more, but as time moves on, the more obscure they become.  There seems so few 1st’s left to achieve…

Only a few days ago, Felix Baumgartner did achieve a real 1st.  Being the 1st person to break the sound barrier will be hard to top, and I wonder what was going through his mind as he sat on the edge of his capsule..?  Only he will truly know the answer to that.  My worry is that the next challenge will be to jump higher, further or even from space and that it will turn into a sponsorship bonanza…

On  29th May 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norgay stood on the summit of Mt. Everest.  The news set the world afire, particularly as is arrived on the day of Queen Elizabeth II‘s coronation at Westminster Abbey.  Since then approx. 4000 climbers have summited, and on 10th May 1993, 40 people made it to the top in one day!  There are records galore of climbs without sherpa support or oxygen, but why are we doing this?  Is it to impress ourselves?  Impress our friends and family?  Impress the press?  Let me open this thought up a little further…

Cyril Connolly said – ‘Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self’.  This I think sums up the reasoning of achievement.  I’ve written two books, which I hope people enjoy reading, but I wrote them for me as much as anyone else.

I do wonder if people in mountaineering, business or even their own lives are trying to impress others, rather than being at peace with themselves?  I see posts on social media sites announcing that ‘I did 500 presentations this year’, I’m the fastest person to climb the seven summits in the world’ or ‘I’ve earned over six figures in six months.  Well, ‘Whoopee doo’ back.  Perhaps I’m a touch cynical, but who are you trying to impress?  Beware of the people who swagger onto stage and say ‘hey, look at me and how good I am!’  Decorum does not permit me to type what I think of them…

Earlier this year I was climbing on Mt. Elbrus with Dave Padgen.  Dave suffers from Cerebral Palsy and wanted to be the first with CP to summit the peak.  Unfortunately he didn’t make it, but he did claim the first North/South traverse.  Excellent work indeed, and I was elated to see him safely down the mountain, but more important than his 1st was that huge smile on his face when we met in Menerale Vody after the climb.  It was worth more than any record…

Here’s a few important 1st’s – being there the 1st time your child walks or talks, watching them ride a bicycle for the 1st time, the 1st time you looked into your loved ones eyes…

When I decided to attempt the 7 x 7 challenge I was sitting in a tent on Baffin Island during an awful storm.  Here I met Jaime Vinals and we talked about life and climbing.  The challenge seemed an excellent way to push me after suffering frostbite and that’s why I did it.  I’ll openly admit it made some nice press, but I wasn’t doing it for the money.  If anything it cost me thousands, but that didn’t matter.  What did matter was the fact that I could still climb, skin grafts and all, across the world.  A little slower perhaps, but I could still do it.  I met some wonderful people on my adventures and proved to myself and others that I wasn’t going to be the disabled bloke, sitting in the corner of the room moaning about the ‘what if’s’ of my life.  Yes, it was a first, few people in the climbing press cared, but importantly for me, I did…

If you’re not doing it for your own heart and soul, then why are you doing it at all..?

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