25 May, 2011
Stumbling around the mountains by Dave Padgen
“The pleasure of risk is in the control needed to ride it with assurance so that what appears dangerous to the outsider is, to the participant, simply a matter of intelligence, skill, intuition, coordination… in a word, experience. Climbing in particular is a paradoxically intellectual pastime, but with this difference: you have to think with your body. Every move has to be worked out in terms of playing chess with your body. If I make a mistake the consequences are immediate, obvious, embarrassing, and possibly painful. For a brief period I am directly responsible for my actions. In that beautiful, silent, world of mountains, it seems to me worth a little risk.” – A. Alvarez
Hello, my name is Dave Padgen and I am a mountaineer with a difference – I was born with Cerebral Palsy. I can do the same things as the next person, the next mountaineer, the next adventurer, just sometimes not in quite the same way. Risk, the exposure to risk, and the freedom to use all that intelligence, skill, intuition and co-ordination to find your own solutions in your own way, that’s where the challenge is.
Disabled people often find themselves protected from such risks and challenges. I have been fortunate in the people I have met have been willing to take a risk with me and expose me to risk, and allowing me to have those experiences.
In 2004 I took on the 3 Peak Challenge, putting learning from Eskdale into practice as I planned and executed the mission. I also learnt there are some things beyond control, such as road works that delayed our travel between mountains. None-the-less, 24hrs 55mins wasn’t bad and our times on each mountain were either on schedule or quicker.
Kilimanjaro was next on my agenda and following a spell in hospital after a cycling accident, (a roundabout + me going straight on + car turning left + my head and curb stone = not pretty and no sense being knocked in…) I successfully became the first European with Cerebral Palsy to summit, and the first disabled person to climb the Umbwe route – a very short, steep and infrequently climbed route.
The ascent of the Barranco Wall (800 feet of scrambling) on day 3 was a definite highlight, but by the time I reached the summit on day 5, I was spent. I remember sitting on the summit of the highest mountain in Africa not knowing how I was going to get down. But with the help of my guides and some chocolate I dragged my exhausted self back down the mountain, and we already started to talk about and plan the next expedition.
Mount Elbrus is the highest mountain in Europe. It has never been summited by anyone with Cerebral Palsy before and most people climb the mountain from the south. So I set myself a three-fold challenge: to summit, to do so from the north, and, to complete a north to south traverse of the mountain. This would three world firsts in one expedition!
Last July (2010) my team and I departed for Russia. This would be a different experience to Kilimanjaro. That was a trek, moving further along the trail each day, getting closer every day to our objective with each step. Elbrus would be an expedition with a base camp and we would attempt the ascent ‘siege style’.
All was going to plan, but mountains being the things they are, the weather has a habit of playing games with you and with your mind. For a few days it looked as if conditions had conspired and we were to be denied our window. But eventually we were on our way. However, a storm then came through overnight and lasted longer than anticipated, and left a significant ‘dump’ of soft fresh snow. The mountain had spoken and it said ‘no, not this time’, so with hearts heavier than our rucksacks, we retreated down the mountain.
It is not over though. I intend to return to Elbrus soon to finish the job we started.
I am not an extraordinary person, but I have met some extraordinary people who help me to do extraordinary things. You can be extraordinary. You can help. I need to generate the funds to return to the mountain. My target budget to fund my ideal team is £10,000.
That £10,000 would cover flights, insurance, the Russian guides and support team I used first time around, and also a British Mountain / Alpine guide. Ideally, that would be Di Gilbert (www.digilbert.co.uk), who I met on Mt Elbrus as she became one of very few British women to complete the 7 summits.
Any contribution of any size is most welcome, and if any of you would be interested in a larger sponsorship, please do contact me for details of the potential benefits to your organisation.
If you want to get involved and support me to achieve my goals, get in touch. You can find out more about me and contact me via the following: