Occasionally I meet people on climbs that leave a lasting impression. Brad Jackson and Sandy Hoby cross that requirement and more. I met them on Everest in 2008. They were on a different team but also climbing from the Nepal side. As is the case on Everest, you get to know other climbers over dinner in Base Camp, crossing a crevasse in the Ice Fall or struggling to breathe at a high camp.
Brad and Sandy stood out for many reasons but mostly for their dedication to one another as well as their climbing ambitions.Now they are returning to Everest, not only to finish what they started but to raise awareness and funds for bowel cancer.
You see Sandy had her entire lower intestine removed in 2001 because of this disease. I can attest first hand to her strength of body, strength of mind and strength of character.Watch this video to meet Sandy up close and personal.
Brad, an accomplished photographer, is a strong partner. He was literally in the airplane on his way for a repeat climb of Ama Dablam a few months ago when Sandy broke a bone in her foot. He abandoned his climb to give her support.
Together, they have climbed the Matterhorn, numerous smaller mountains in New Zealand, Mustaga Atta in Western China, Cho Oyu in Tibet, and Mt Fuji in winter in addition to their 2008 Everest attempt. Brad has even more climbs including Mera Peak and Island Peaks in Nepal.
I wanted to catch them during the holiday break at their home in Sydney to discuss their upcoming expedition but it was quite a challenge. Brad spends most of time on oil wells in the Gulf of Thailand and Sandy flying at 40,000'above it as a Flight Attendant for Qantas Airlines.
Q: Sandy, in 2001 you had your entire large intestine removed due to cancer. How did this experience impact your life?
I guess I can say that it unleashed a "just do it" attitude.....because it gave me a second lease on life. I appreciate the smaller things in life. As corny as it sounds- it made me stop and smell the flowers and if no one was looking........ I picked them.
Q: Do you do anything different while climbing as a result of the surgery?
I normally don’t let myself think that I have got some sort of handicap as a result of the surgery but when it comes to climbing mountains-I guess I do find it tougher than most people as I have a weaker immune system which leads me-I hate to admit it-to getting sick easier. I need to really manage my intake of food-what I eat-what time I eat and I try stay away from preservatives which proves difficult as just add water 'mountain food' is full of preservatives etc.
I also get alot more dehydrated than most people as having no large intestine disables the body from retaining fluid in the body. It’s always challenging for everyone to remain hydrated at base camp –but for me- it’s a little more challenging ... drinking more fluid means little toilet stops in the middle of the night and that can be quite irritating !!
Q: Brad, how do explain such strength in Sandy?
Actually Alan, in a world exclusive I can now reveal that Sandy’s strength is actually the result of secret genetic experimentation combining New Zealand and Japanese parents. This rare mix, combines the DNA of the first male and female climbers to climb Everest. Thus, Sandy is an exotic blend of Japanese steely reserve and Kiwi rugged individualism. Unfortunately, it also means that Sandy wishes to use Hello Kitty crampons and we have to restrain her from performing the Haka at the Puja ceremony.
Q: We all climbed together on Everest in 2008 with none of us summiting. What lessons from that climb will you apply in 2010?
In a nutshell, we weren’t sufficiently physically and mentally prepared for Everest in 2008. We were both working like crazy to get money for the trip. We didn’t have time for the incredible amount of training required. 2010 will be different as we have had 2 years to contribute to an Everest fund and on the fitness side, we have managed to raise our training to a whole new consistent level.
Another lesson learnt, is that we plan on doing much more acclimatization hikes once we are at EBC. In 2008, our Altitude Junkies group was so cool and those crazy guys at Mountain Professionals so much fun to hang out with, we kind of dropped our eye on the overall prize and spent a lot of time chatting and socializing. Next time less socializing, more walking.We all know that acclimatization is aided with gentle exertion, the more we breathe, the better we acclimatize.
So next year, we plan to spend more time hiking to Pumori Base camp Kala Patar, Lobuche or through the icefall. Depending on how I feel, I/we also want to sleep at Camp 3 prior to summit bid, we didn’t do that last time.We also had some bad lack, with my getting HAPE at Camp 2 and Sandy climbing without a team mate from Camp 3. To quote the SAS motto, fortune favors the brave and we’re hoping some bravery with a helpful dollop of preparation and experience will get us to the top second time around.
Q.Tell us a bit about your Australian Everest Expedition team and expedition.
Well I asked Sandy this question and she replied that she was very lucky to be climbing with 4 handsome men but I suspect that’s just some pre-emptive flattery so one of us will offer to carry her sleeping bag and suit to Camp 2...but seriously the expedition is the brainchild of Stephen Bock.
Very sadly his father succumbed to bowel cancer last year and this expedition was formed to try and raise awareness of Australia’s second most fatal internal cancer after lung cancer. A couple of months ago , Sandy and I walked into a gear shop and saw a poster advertising an Everest expedition raising awareness for Bowel Cancer.
The symmetry seemed incredible and we rang the number on the poster. We met Stephen and another team member Peter the next day, Darren soon after and the rest as they say is history. A lot of the details can be seen at the website
Q: You both have careers that involve extensive business travel. How are you training given your work schedules?
Yes we both travel a lot for work and I am sure those climate people at Copenhagen have a folder on us marked Public Enemy No.1. Luckily for us, we get a lot of down time as well. I don’t know how Sandy does it but she can fly to LA or Jo’burg and do an intensive 1 hour gym session straight of the plane.
I on the other hand, tried that once. I walked of the plane in LA from Sydney and didn’t have the strength to change the tv channel from the home shopping network for 2 days.We also have differences of opinions about training. Sandy would prefer to do a lot more gym and endurance work and I would prefer to climb. Sandys’ method is a lot more pragmatic for us flatlanders but I also think that efficiency of movement in the mountains is highly important and often under-recognized as a component of mountaineering.
It is with much jealousy Alan, that I read your continuous stream of reports of climbing the Colorado 14ks.As my place of work, where I spend exactly 6 months a year, an oil rig in the Gulf of Thailand, I do a lot of work on the helideck. Skipping Lunges, squats, pushups, pull-ups and burpees. I can do an hour session with my heart rate hovering in between 160-180 bpm. If the treadmill was operational, I would also like to be running on high gradients but alas not an option at the moment. (I hope the rig manager reads this!)
While Sandy’s foot repairs, she is doing a lot of swimming and upper body gym work. Once she has healed completely we have a fairly intensive regime mapped out of gym work, interval training and endurance training.
Q: Brad, you are an awesome photographer. Any thoughts on how you will capture this climb?
..Aww shucks. Like you Alan, I am a Nikon/Mac user for capturing and processing my photos. I was simply thrilled with the performance of my D300 on Everest in 2008, especially with regards to long exposures in brutally cold conditions. Next year, I may switch over my 18-200 for a 16-85 as my climbing lens . I rarely use the longer focal lengths and often wishing for something a bit wider. Those mountains are big! The 16-85 is also a bit smaller and lighter. I cant justify a D300s for the HD video option.
I will take along my trusty LX3 if I feel the need to catch some movies.For me, the key for successful mountaineering photography is accessibility. My favourite photographers, the likes of Jake Norton, Jamie McGuiness, Mark and Cathy from Cosley Houston and Jon Griffiths all seem to have the knack of getting lens to bear at the right moment. To do this, you can’t have your dSLR buried in the pack. It has to be accessible.
There is a great article on this at luminous landscapes by Alexandre Buisse. http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/mountain-climbing.shtml. So i will be continuously experimenting with systems that give me good accessibility to my camera. In 2008, I used the Aarn pocket system. In 2010, I will once again use an Aarn pack but will also experiment with a camera holster system from Cotton Carriers in conjunction with a Cilogear pack..
Q: Anything else you would like to add?
..yeah , for all the rhetoric about bravery, endurance, goals anddreams, I still think Everest (South) can be seen as a (relatively)rich man’s folly. With Himex now moving acclimatization walks away fromthe Khumbu icefall to reduce risk to clients, we all need to be keenlyaware that Sherpas are still ferrying most of our supplies through theicefall for the same level or risk.
They don’t have the luxury of analternate route and is why Sherpas make up most of the fatalities inthe icefall.The climbing sherpas are of course paid relatively well and a huge partof the Khumbu economy but at the very least, the additional risks theytake should be part of the conversation of climbing Everest.