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From getting crushed by an 18 tonne Icicle, to achieving dreams in the Himalayas

Here is a classic story of 'a little goes a long way' when it comes to fitness, and how determination, commitment and robustness can get you back in track even when all has seemingly been derailed.

Here is Carol's tale and fitness journey in her own words:

'The Kingdom of Druk Yal (Bhutan) and the “Snowman Trek” was next for an overseas expedition and this dream was to be a reality in 2013. Another mountain journey to see and experience this beautiful world that we live in, the differing cultures and its amazing people - Bhutan, the land of Gross Domestic Happiness (GDH) here I come!!

However, it seemed like the Universe had other plans and a serious ice climb accident in 2013 left me broken - physically, mentally and emotionally and it was the beginning of a long road to recovery. The level of injuries meant that my place of solace, the mountains, was a place which now was unattainable. Slowly I built myself back up, walking again after breaking my spine and the majority of my rib cage, together with many other injuries. One cannot come away unscathed after being hit by an overgrown icicle weighing in at about 18 tonnes. it took a few more years to be able to carry a rucksack and venture back into the local mountains, which I adore. Determined not to be defeated, I continued trying to get ‘mountain’ fit.

Little did I know, I was kinda ‘doing it’ all a bit wrong and kept being ‘knocked back’ and although not completely out of pain, the injuries would be aggravated and it began to feel like 2 steps forward and 1 step back. Pain would ease and a few months later I would try again. This pattern continued and yes, I became fitter but the injures surfaced and disabled me for a while. I would recover and start again.

My dream…..still to venture into the high Himalaya of Bhutan

With the aim firmly set on the Snowman Trek in 2022 and with 2 years to go, I approached Matt for a plan of action to help me achieve my goal. Naively thinking that the plan would be based around running, speed ascents up mountains and aerobic activity and that would be my incentive to push myself and to try to run up mountains.

I was so wrong about what I thought I needed and what was actually needed

Matt’s plan for me was centred around strengthening my core, working on areas of weakness, tweaking the plan each time an old injury surfaced. I admit, I was dubious at first, though over time I began to see improvements, less pain and increased strength.

Yes, one needs to put in the effort and follow the plan, but the rewards have been phenomenal and in 2022 the “Snowman Trek” was complete. It wasn’t just successful, it was enjoyable.

Sometimes breaking trail in deep snow and at other times trekking over steep rocky terrain, ascending and descending around 500m-1500m per day, I was feeling fit. With 25 long hard days of between 7 and 12hrs and covering a total of 320km, camping each night, only 2 days rest and temperatures reaching about -15*C, the Snowman Trek definitely lived up to its name!!

Thank you so much Matt, in helping to make a dream become a reality and for your patience over the last 2 years. I appreciate the continual tweaking of a plan to strengthen ‘old injuries’ and to flexibly amend it if and when injuries re-surfaced. I am quite amazed at the results!! A spectacularly scenic country and just a gorgeous peaceful nation, which I have been privileged to experience in the heart of the Himalaya. '

Some information about the trek:

“The Snowman Trek, created by Yak herders, is high in the Bhutanese Himalaya, near the border with Tibet. With 320km of trekking, over 11 mountain passes, 5 of which exceed 5,000m, it is supposedly classed as one of the hardest trekking trails in the world due to altitude, remoteness and harsh weather conditions. The route leads through remote villages, lakes, eleven mountain passes and overlooks some of the highest mountains of the Kingdom like Jomolhari, Jichu Drake, Gangkar Puensum, Masangang and Tiger Mountain”

A word from the coach

I'm lucky enough to know Carol well, and she even regularly works as a guide for me at my company Lakeland Mountain Guides. No doubt this friendship helped with the transparency in our coach / client relationship, but it didn't change the fact that Carol was still the one that had to put the effort in to complete the programmes I made for her. She was impressive in her commitment and rarely missed a workout - if she had missed one it was most likely that she'd opted to head out onto the hills for a huge walk on a nice day rather than do 10kg weighted step ups at home - a great choice! Carol's plan was mostly strength sessions a couple of times week that she could complete at home, all backed up by time out on the hill carrying a weighted pack. The challenge for me was working with imbalances or limits to movement caused by the accident, but as you can see the exercises we did land on worked a treat.

Ultimately, Carol worked herself into a position where she could achieve her dreams, and it has been an absolute pleasure to play a small part in helping it happen. Within the next 12 months Carol will be returning to altitude, firstly with an ascent of Mt Toubkal (4,167m) and then Mera Peak (6,476m) in Nepal next autumn.

A huge well done from me, Carol!

A scene from Mera Peak - one of Carol's next big challenges.

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