Inspiring Adventurers #5 Alex Staniforth
It is definitely time for Peak Mountaineering's fifth Inspiring Adventurer and, at the tender age of nineteen, he is our youngest contributor so far. Only nineteen maybe, and yet his list of adventures is impressive. He has also overcome a number of difficulties that are testament to the power of outdoor adventures in promoting health and well being (mentally and physically). So, with no further ado, we are delighted to welcome Alex Staniforth to our series........
Alex hails from Cheshire and life changed considerably for him when, at age nine, he was diagnosed with epilepsy. His physical condition was quickly stabilised but the mental scars ran deep and he was left with a range of problems including panic attacks and depression. He also, due both to the condition and a stammer he had lived with from an early age, suffered extremely low self esteem.
His pivotal moment occurred when, at 13, he tried paragliding during a visit to Turkey. His self confidence soon returned and he realised a life of adventure called. A further lightbulb moment occurred when Alex decided Mount Everest was a suitably challenging objective and since then he has been focussed on achieving that goal. He has now climbed Mont Blanc, attempted Mera Peak and Baruntse in the Himalayas reaching over 6,600m altitude along with setting himself a series of milestone challenges to attempt along his Everest journey as part of his EPIC7 project.
However, Alex is about more than just the adventures. He has always been keen to use his personal challenges as a force for good and, alongside raising money for charity and becoming an ambassador for various environmental and social development organisations, he seizes every chance to motivate and influence others through his endeavours. Adventure changed him and he knows it has the potential to do the same for many other people.
Alex went out to attempt Everest in 2014 but his attempt came to a sudden end when, after the tragic avalanche caused so many Sherpa deaths, his team abandoned their attempt. No matter - you can't keep an Inspiring Adventurer like Alex down for long and, after a huge fund raising effort, he is returning to the big mountain in 2015 to try and realise his dream. You can find out more about Alex and follow his adventures on his website here and our very best wishes to him for a successful Everest journey. In the meantime, we asked him for answers to our usual five Inspiring Adventurers questions......
Which destination would be your top recommendation for someone looking for an adventure?
Well, at only 19, I'm not very well travelled but I wouldn't say I've done too badly so far! Some of my best adventures have been on my home soil- you can create the atmosphere, it's practical, quick and low budget. But you can't go wrong with the Himalayas for somewhere farther afield. I became fascinated by Everest, all the 8000m peaks and mountaineering in general just by seeing photos and videos of this stunning mountain scenery. Getting out there itself is breathtaking, the
Nepalese culture and the Sherpa people are incredibly hospitable, it's relatively cheap and there's something for everyone. And they do good coffee: needs are a must!
Which destination is at the top of your future adventures?
I'm pretty besotted with the major peaks of the world with a few ideas in particular, mostly the Himalayan peaks in Nepal, but after Everest I'd love to go to the Rockies. Unique scenery and so remote. Also, climbing in Yosemite. Those walls are absolutely mind-blowing, even for someone
previously terrified by heights! Sadly I don't run anymore due to long-term injuries but I've got ideas for some more long-distance cycling stuff. There's a world out there, so whatever it is, I'm not going to stop!
Can you name someone who has inspired you to lead a life of adventure?
Tough question... as there's so many and I'm easily inspired. Well, my Everest dream blossomed out of my new passion for adventure and making the most of life, and as it grew I began to be inspired further by others who'd achieved this ultimate feat. What actually sparked the realisation that I could follow suit, was hearing about other young British Everest summiteers. They too had got to Everest, trained and raised the sponsorship themselves despite an average background and age similar to my own; fuelled only by their dream and passion. I hope they don't mind me mentioning them - Becky Bellworthy, Matthew Dieumegard-Thornton and Mollie Hughes to name just a few. So I learnt their approach, and followed it to ensure I was adequately prepared, beginning with Mont Blanc, then Mera Peak & Baruntse, Scottish Winter training, then the Big E. Not the most conventional approach but one I felt was sufficient. Next year I'll be even better prepared after 7 months more physical training, the EPIC7 challenges, more weeks of Scottish winter climbing and a week in the Alps too, obstacles are opportunities in disguise. Everest 2014 has already made me far more resilient and tuned in to what I’m about to face.
Squash Falconer has also done amazing stuff yet has been so supportive and positive with my Everest dream which is inspiring and humbling itself.
Which item wouldn't you leave home without?
A good coffee is always a must. Then it's my iPhone. Always working on my diary for my upcoming book or on general work and organisation. But music is a big part of my life. I find a few tracks on the iPhone can really give me a boost when in the solace of the hills for a long day, it gets me 'in the zone' and motivates me. My recent solo Welsh 3000s' walk probably would have been completed far slower had it not been for Iron Maiden's 'Trooper' blasting out as I hurtled down the Carneddau with the sheep following me in some kind of cavalry march...
What would be your top tip for budding adventurers?
Just do it! I would say that the success of an expedition isn’t reaching the summit, but getting back safely. I learnt that the hard way with Baruntse and Everest, and it teaches you to look deeper into what we gain from adventure and why we do it. I would also say not to be afraid to try something new, and try to do a challenge solo too. You'll find it even more rewarding, easier to arrange, and in many ways more challenging. Some of my recent EPIC7 challenges have been badly organized, especially my Chester2Chamonix bike ride with 880 miles solo cycling in 8 days but were all successfully completed, and in some ways that's where I've found the best adventure. It's making your own decisions, pushing on, taking risks, dealing with the problems and getting to the finish safely that make it epic and give you the 'buzz' feel. When the going gets tough, keep going!
And lastly- don't take cartons of milk with you when wild camping. When they split, your rucksack won't smell great!
Posted by Cal