The Beginning of the Next Adventure ~ The Journey Has Begun!


“…by bringing myself over the edge and back, I discovered a passion to live my days fully, a conviction that will sustain me like sweet water on the periodically barren plain of our short lives.” ~  Jonathan Waterman

Earlier this week, Judi, Alan and I headed out to a little coffee shop in Cavendish Square to meet with Ronnie Muhl.  To many South African’s Ronnie Muhl is a household name. I first heard of him back in 2007 when he was climbing Everest for the second time. He was in touch with KFM, a local Cape Town radio station, and each morning he would “patch” in and give updates on his climb. I remember listening with intensely as he journeyed up the mountain and eagerly awaited news of his summit. I never dreamed one day I would be sitting having coffee with him, let alone planning to climb a mountain with him!

Ronnie Muhl on the summit of Everest.

Ronnie Muhl on the summit of Everest. Pic found here

But that is the beauty of dreams. They grow as you grow and all you have to do is believe in them. Back at the time that Ronnie Muhl was summiting Everest, I always knew without a doubt I would never do something that crazy and now I laugh as I type that. Look who’s the crazy one now…

“It’s easy to live for other people, yet it’s much more of a challenge to live for ourselves. True strength isn’t the ability to bench press 400 pounds; it’s the ability to be ourselves in a world that’s trying its best to make us something else.” ~ Jake Ducey

My reasoning behind never wanting to do a crazy thing like climb Everest was because I always said I valued my life far too much to take a chance doing something that has such a high risk of death and I was 100% ok with that decision. Since then I have been living my life and realising dreams and then last year, in 2012, I realised one of my big dreams when I successfully summit Kilimanjaro before I turned 40.  It was number 7 on my bucket list.  There is no greater feeling than realising a dream, and for me standing on top of that mountain, taking in what little air there was at the summit, is one of the highlights of my life. Better still is watching my dreams unfold and believing so much in my dreams that they just don’t have a choice but to come true. Although before Kilimanjaro I still said no ways will I climb Everest, I was quite ok with the idea of climbing up to Everest Base Camp but to go all the way to the summit was still a big no for me.

The simple cross marking the summit of Aconcagua. Pic found here.

The simple cross marking the summit of Aconcagua.

Then something changed within me. I climbed Kilimanjaro and on the morning of Friday, 13th July 2012 I successfully summited and therein the beauty of dreams, my own dreams expanded. I knew I could reach higher and a burning fire of desire was lit deep within my soul. It is something that can’t be explained, only experienced and those who have been that high up will know. As I came off the mountain I started dreaming of other mountains and began to set my sights higher, so high in fact, my dreams now include standing on the summits of all Seven Summits of the world, yes, including Everest.

I have learnt that I don’t do life small. I like living it big, the bigger the better and so my dreams have expanded and as I grow, my dreams grow with me.

“You say I started out with practically nothing, but that isn’t correct. We all start with all there is, it’s how we use it that makes things possible.” ~ Henry Ford

Now, just 3 days ago, along with two of my fellow team members, I was sitting sipping on my latte with Ronnie Muhl sitting opposite me. We were talking, planning and I was listening in awe at all I have coming towards me in the next few months, already a silly grin spreading from one side of my face to the other.

Intentions have been set and on the 5th January 2014, I along with three team mates, will be heading off to Argentina where we all set our sights and hopes on summiting what they call The Stone Sentinel, Aconcagua ~ 6962 m above sea level.

1067 m higher than my last mountain, and my 2nd of the Seven Summits.

Something that I will be saying often in the lead to our departure.

Something that I will be saying often in the lead to our departure.

The best part about this trip is that two of my amazing Kilimanjaro team mates will be joining me, Judi Kurgan and Simon Bates, along with new comer Alan Hardaker.  Ronnie informs us there is a couple from Cape Town interested in joining this trip and possibly one or two others from around the world. The ideal size of our team will be 8 – 10 but can accommodate up to 12 people.

Our route has been chosen and we will be doing the 360 Traverse.  The expedition is made via a route which is a combination between the Polish Route, the Ameghino Traverse, Upper Guanaco and the Normal Route.  It looks like we will begin with a 2 or 3 day trek through beautiful Valle de Vacas up to Plaza Argentina Base Camp.  From there we will start the ascent through the first part of the Polish Route up to Camp 1.  Then we will make the traverse of Cerro Ameghino up to Camp 2.  From there we will go to Camp 3 via the upper part of the Valle de Guanacos Route, and finally we will summit by the last part of the Normal Route.  The descent will be made via the Normal Route, taking us via Plaza de Mulas, Aconcagua’s biggest Base Camp and a great place for what we hope will be a celebration of our successful summit!

The beauty of this route, a much quieter route than the busy Normal Route, is that it will allow us to see a unique landscape, the magnificence of the Polish Glacier and the greatness of the Andes mountain range.

Sitting chatting over coffee, we listened eagerly as Ronnie regaled us with tales of the mountain. Pooping in a bag in the privacy of “around the corner” and then walking back with your prized glory tied up neatly in the bag, carried in your hand! I most certainly hope those bags are not see-through in colour! Apparently, this is a topic of many a mountain conversations! A blizzard outside your tent, best you learn how to use a “shewee” girls ~ something us girls luckily avoided having to do on Kilimanjaro! Guys certainly do have the luck of the draw here!

A blizzard overnight is not uncommon on this mountain and Ronnie told us how one morning they had to dig their way out of their tents! Pic found here.

A blizzard overnight is not uncommon on this mountain and Ronnie told us how one morning they had to dig their way out of their tents! Pic found here.

A freezing ice-cold river crossing that can at times be as deep as your waist, no problem! For a few dollars we can organise a ride on the back of a donkey all the way across! I’m liking the sound of that, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be a cowgirl in the mountains and I can already picture the snaps I will be able to capture of our team going across like this!

A walk through an ice cold river or a ride on the back of a donkey?!

A walk through an ice cold river or a ride on the back of a donkey?!

Communication is good on the mountain and Ronnie, at all times, carries a satellite phone on him and is in constant communication with his team at Base Camp, getting updates on the weather and staying informed of anything our team might need to know about.  Exciting news for our team too, we have some hugely exciting things in the works ‘backstage’ in our planning.  One thing is for sure, we are certainly going big on this trip and if we get it all right, there will be some amazing things for you guys to follow as my loyal blog readers. All details will be revealed as and when things get confirmed!

At Base Camp we will be able to have a hot shower! Yes, a shower and it will be hot! This sounds like heaven already! Even if for just a moment it will be lovely to put the wet wipes aside and to emerge smelling clean and fresh! Wonder if they have some washing machines up there for our clothes too?!

Other excellent news is that Aconcagua has excellent emergency rescue services in place should they be needed and in case of emergency you will be flown out via helicopter but here’s hoping none of us will need to use this! We will also have an extensive first aid kit with us and this includes injections for oedema in the case of any of those really scary and nasty high altitude sicknesses rear their ugly head. This won’t cure you but it will buy you time (reduce swelling in the brain) to get off the mountain and get medical help.  At Base Camp we will all go through a medical test with doctors that are stationed up there. You need to receive a stamp confirming you have passed your medical to proceed higher up the mountain. Just thinking about that makes me nervous already!  As we had on Kilimanjaro, we will have our blood saturation tested daily with a pulse oximeter, but this time it will be done twice daily.  A pulse oximeter is a medical device that indirectly monitors the oxygen saturation of our blood.  I laugh as I remember how every morning we had this done on Kilimanjaro and how my heart would begin to race as my turn came up! Talk about panic that I won’t be well enough to continue! Really going to have to teach myself to calm my nerves.

Aconcagua has excellent emergency rescue services. Pic found here.

Aconcagua has excellent emergency rescue services. Pic found here.

The Kilimanjaro Ambulance. Pic by me taken on Kilimanjaro in 2012.

The Kilimanjaro Ambulance. Pic by me taken on Kilimanjaro in 2012.

Our summit day will be done in three parts. Hallelujah, we will only leave camp at 3am and not 11am like we did on Kilimanjaro! Hopefully we can get some good sleep in before the time comes to rise and reach new heights. We will head out from High Camp at 6000m to 6500m to a place called Independencia, where we will stop for a rest. This little wooden shelter is there to be used when the weather is really poor.  From what I have read and the latest photos I have seen, this hut is missing it’s roof so not much shelter from bad weather.  It is here will stop for a rest.

The little wooden hut at 6500m on Aconcagua, a hut which is used during bad weather.

The little wooden hut at 6500m on Aconcagua, a hut which is used during bad weather.

We will then move up to 6700m where we will take another rest. As you can see that it is merely 200m from our last stop and on this mountain, yet again, it will be a case of take a step, stop, breathe, take a step, stop, and breathe. From here you can see the summit, exciting huh but the soul-destroying agony for your body is that it will still take you about 3 to 4 hours to reach the actual summit from that point. Once again, looks can be very deceiving.

Walking above the clouds on Aconcagua. Pic found here.

Walking above the clouds on Aconcagua. Pic found here.

An average days walking will be around 5 – 6 hours and the first part on the mountain can be dusty, just like Kilimanjaro. Note to self, walk up front so you don’t eat your team mates dust again! It is more than likely that we will get snow, certainly from Base Camp and higher.

A long, steep walk to the summit. Pic found here.

A long, steep walk to the summit. Pic found here.

Up until Base Camp the donkeys will carry all the loads and we will only be required to carry our day packs. From Base Camp you carry your own load, this can be anywhere from 15 – 20kgs. Porters can be arranged to carry up the heavy loads from Base Camp for a fee. We are definitely looking at taking porters as high as we can to assist us with a successful summit.

There will be loads of ups and downs on the mountain (literally) going higher, sleeping lower, carrying loads up to the higher camp and coming back down to sleep. All of this will aid our acclimatisation.

A long, steep and slow walk to the summit. Pic found here.

A long, steep and slow walk to the summit. Pic found here.

We’ve been talking about this since getting off Kilimanjaro and now it’s all happening.

Best I start brushing up on my Spanish!

It’s almost time to start Walking4Air again ~ Yes, without a doubt in my mind I will be walking in memory of my best friend, Emma Walker, this time getting even closer to heaven!

I have just filled out my forms that will confirm me as part of the official team and they have been submitted.


Beyond words!


No more than climbing into my car each day, wondering if I will reach my destination!

Everything is a risk.

It is a risk to stay where we are in our lives just as much as it’s a risk to step into unfamiliar territory.

Another dream unfolds in the palm of my hand.

I’m so ready!

Lessons In Life ~ Take 5863! (1)

“We can only connect the dots that we collect, which makes everything you write about you. … Your connections are the thread that you weave into the cloth that becomes the story that only you can tell.”

This has been a strange post that I don’t really know how to put into words. In fact, now this post is actually an old post that I wrote on the 29th May. It is one I decided in the end I wasn’t going to post. It seemed somehow like I was ‘blowing my own trumpet’ and nothing about the post sat well with me. But lessons are coming abundantly to me at present and somewhere in this post there was a lesson, and with very delicate threads, it all tied in.

The other day when I wrote and posted the epilogue for my Kilimanjaro story, my friend and Kilimanjaro team-mate, Judi, left a comment on the link that posted to my Facebook page saying:

“I don’t want to climb any of the remaining 6 summits without you! Someone should write about what you contributed to our climb… Can I hijack your blog to do this?”

Judi always says the nicest things!

After reading her comment I let my thoughts run back over our trip up the mountain and I couldn’t think of any one defining moment where I did something specific for someone or where I went out of my way for someone and in the most light-hearted way, that was kind of a terrible realization! Was I really up on that mountain for myself, what could I have possibly left any of my fellow team members with? I pondered the question a while, still came up with nothing and then let it go.

After a bit of a disappointing past weekend (now about two weekends ago), it has been a week of reminding myself to let things go. Last week (now two weeks ago) I was taught patience, this week (now last week) it’s letting go and trusting that the process is perfect just the way it is. We really are never too old to learn and the lessons just keep coming and I welcome them all as they continue to help me grow. Now this week (present day) the lessons continue to come and I find myself bumping my head against the same brick wall I have bumped into countless times in my life. I’m not sure when I will learn this particular lesson, I hope it’s soon, because this one is an eina (sore) one!

“In order for it to work, the door must remain unlocked. People might enter without knocking, they might crash your party and drink your wine. Let them in, and let them drink — because you might meet somebody interesting.”

Early this morning (now mid last week) I found an email in my inbox from Judi, who was replying to an email I had sent to her.

Going back to that blog post I had posted, she mentioned how the “Epilogue” blog had touched her and how I seemed to have a way with words and that I was “so fulsome in your praise of everyone” Writing all of my Kilimanjaro posts, even the last two posts and the epilogue once again brought up all the emotions of our journey, even though it happened almost a year ago now. Writing those posts weren’t always easy and the emotions would readily come up as I typed those words out onto the pages of my computer screen.

Judi’s email continued….

“…hence my comment on wanting to hijack your blog to write about you. So if you don’t let me here goes:

Lara is one strong woman. She doesn’t brag about her accomplishments but shares them with everyone. She lives through action as well as words. Her laughter is infectious and comes at unexpected moments catching you off guard. Her joy of being alive takes hold of you and shakes you up – makes you come to your senses and acknowledge that life is good, life happens all around you and every minute counts.  She is loyal, she is generous, she is a beautiful being with a powerful spirit that takes your breath away. I’m honoured to know her, honoured to climb with her and so very grateful I met her when I was living my adventure that was so important to me. Sharing it with her made the accomplishment that much more special – being part of her adventure and her continuing adventure is a blessing. No words can say how much richer I am for her sharing her gifts with me.”

So if anyone is ever looking for a testimonial on why they should climb a mountain with me, there you have it!

 “Once you’ve shared your art and it’s resonated with a single person, it’s no longer about you — once you share it, it’s about everybody. And if your art is found by a single soul, shared with a friend who links it to a friend, and the response is whatever it is, you start to see how art becomes about everybody — just through the act of being shared.”

My blog was never created to only talk about one specific genre such as the weather, or cars, or hiking, or cooking. My blog is about my life, who inspires it and ultimately it is about getting out there into the thick of life and making the most of this life that I have, along with all the ups and the downs, the good days and the bad days because at the end of the day, it is how we chose to share ourselves with others that richly creates the life we live. Maybe through it all, we can all learn our lessons together.

 “My words have always flowed so much better on ‘paper’ than it does in person. I always said since the beginning of this blog, that if this blog can inspire one ordinary, everyday person, a person just like me, to get out there and to live their dreams, I will have succeeded.”

What Judi wrote touched me very deeply.

It’s funny how in life sometimes we wonder what value we have to offer or we wonder what our presence leaves behind for others.

Maybe it’s not really what we physically do in life, maybe it’s how we are by simply just being “me.”

For the past few weeks I have had a wonderful friend guiding me ever so gently with regards to this particular situation and whenever I need an ‘answer’ no matter what time of the day or night I ask for her help regarding certain things, she’s always got a reply and a smile for me. I’ve mostly listened to her and I’ve mostly listened to myself, completely trusting, and things were going well until this week when I forgot everything I was supposed to be doing and did what I wanted to anyway.

Full frontal face straight into the wall.

In fact, I hit the proverbial wall so hard my whole body reverberated! Ouch, that was a sore lesson to learn, again! When I see my friend next she is going to hit me hard and I will welcome the punch to my upper arm that I know is coming my way! After all, I really didn’t listen and only have myself to blame! I’m not quite sure that this particular lesson has been learnt, and I’m almost sure I’ll be meeting this wall again, but with a glimmer of hope in me, I really pray I won’t!

Patience, ah yes my favourite game! In order for things to happen, in order for anything to happen, we need to be patient. We first have to plant the seed of greatness and then we wait for it to grow. Great things take time and I need to learn how to give time, time.

I am super, abundantly blessed by the magical people who share this life with me.

Thank you for reading.

Thank you for following.

Thank you for being a part of my journey and thank you for allowing me to be a part of yours.

~ Pic from Favim

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