I left you at the end of yesterday’s blog in a state of anticipation as to the identity of the mystery man. You remember, the chap in the Invermoriston Arms missing his cycle gloves. Some of you will know him while others will need some introduction and the context.
During the first couple of days of this week I and a cycling couple have been a ‘tag team’. Barely out of Inverness on day 1 we met early on and assisted each other navigate around a building site. Me being on foot with go-faster trekking poles I was more fleet than the cyclists as they were pushing laden bikes uphill. Of course they cheerily overtook me later but then I overtook them while they took lunch and I pressed on. Naturally they passed me again later. On each occasion pleasantries were exchanged but there was no recognition.
On day 2, I made an early start but in due course the tag-team couple overtook me. However they were tempted by a trackside coffee shop (curiously hidden) and the guy spent some time trying to find the vendor and his offerings, without success. Meanwhile the lady had pressed ahead, presumably concluding that a cup of cold coffee wouldn’t be her cup of tea. While his foraging was underway I caught up with the chap. He explained the situation and we both moved on.
It was he and his cycling partner who I saw in the Invermoriston Arms later that day, but with their backs to me and my focus on the most excellent Red MacGregor there was, again, no recognition. Even when he returned to look for the missing gloves there was none.
Then early on the morning of Day 3, I received a simple personal Twitter text saying: “Hey Andy, are you they guy who keeps overtaking these two people on mountain bikes?” (Accompanied with a photo of the couple in cycling gear). And it was indeed me.
The goosebumps started when I saw the Twitter handle: it was from Mark Horrell. Indie author, hugely influential mountaineering blogger and Everest summiter.
“So what”, you may say. Let me provide some context as to his place in my life.
Back in 2013, when I still harboured the belief that I could stand on the summit of an 8000m peak, I was preparing for an attempt at Cho Oyu, the 6th highest mountain in the world. In scouring the internet I found a great ebook called ‘The Wrath of the Turquoise Goddess’. I absolutely loved it and subsequently bought another by the same author: ‘The Chomolungma Diaries’ which was an account of the author’s attempt on Everest. In particular I loved the author’s written style. He presented things in a matter-of-fact, entertaining and informative manner which appeared to be based upon daily blogs. I was thus inspired to do likewise. I went on to blog extensively during my attempt on Cho Oyu and upon returning I self-published a book: ‘The Turquoise Goddess – not just about the summit’. Some of you were kind enough to buy it. (It’s still available on Amazon 🤣). This was achieved. entirely due to my reading of Mark Horrell’s work.
Then in April 2014 I was in Everest basecamp with Tim Calder and others to attempt to summit. In the event that attempt was stymied by the dreadful impact of the Good Friday avalanche, which resulted in the death of 19 Sherpas and, through political incompetence, closure of the south face for that season. Nonetheless I still blogged extensively and discovered a love of wild trekking. Upon returning to Kathmandu in early May I was lucky enough to meet Mark in a well-known bar and thanked him. That was the only time we met but the legacy lived on.
Within a few days I learned that I had been made redundant and with my wife Clare’s assistance I decided to try writing as a profession. Again due to Mark’s inspiration and Clare’s belief and encouragement, that summer I wrote, and was paid for, several pieces for the now defunct magazine ‘The Ionian’. I even had a cover photo published. I still fondly remember receiving my first acceptance email from the editor. We were on a beach in Corfu and spent more on celebratory wine than I grossed for the article.
Was I made as a writer? Er, no. In the event, while I loved writing, it was never going to provide a living wage. In October 2014 I returned to gainful employment with CLS, which I loved. Nonetheless I look back on the summer of 2014, which was not a great period for many people, with enormous pleasure and I place Mark Horrell’s influence right at the centre of it.
So, Mr Horrell. It was a real pleasure to meet, albeit in transit and fleetingly, you and your beautiful and talented wife. She being the lady I now know to be Edita, a humanitarian aid worker and the first Lithuanian woman to summit Everest.
That’s it. The big reveal is over. Thank you all for bearing with me. I appreciate this blog won’t have been hugely entertaining to some of you but I believe in telling it like it is, or was. This week has been fantastic fun for me and it has been brilliant to be blogging again. It, and your responses to date have shown me that enough people like my writing to continue. Thank you so much.
As a result I will continue to blog travels and will now complete the blog from my Upper Dolpo trek in late 2016. Moreover I will endeavour to write the related book I promised: ‘The boy in the orange jacket’ which will attempt to explain Dolpapan transhumance. It will take a while but I will do it.
Why? Due to Clare’s encouragement, your support and Mark’s inspiration.
Thank you for indulging me. The full Day 3 blog will follow tomorrow.