The Adventurer's Spirit in the face of adversity
Rebecca Stephens had been the first British woman to climb Everest, and has climbed the Seven Summits - the highest points in each continent. She's now a motivational speaker. Jo and Rob Gambi had overcome illness to climb these summits and also visit both Poles, whilst Benedict Allen had faced great difficulties attempting to cross the frozen Bering Straits on foot with dogs in 2001.
Benedict Allen explained how he and the dogs had been heaving the 300 kg sledge across pack ice, but then he lost his way and had to go ahead without the dogs to try to check the route. A blizzard came in and he couldn't find his way back to the dogs. Although he had his survival kit with him, his stove also went out, and he knew he had to find the dogs to survive. Next morning he managed it - but it made him think deeply about what it is that makes you put yourself out on a limb like that. Partly it's because of those great moments, such as when he gound the dogs. It wasn't just about crossing the Bering Straits, it was about going into the abyss, about what keeps us going, and about these inner resources that we all have.
Jo and Rob Gambi had a different kind of story - he suffered from Hodginsons' Disease, and it was after the specialists had treated him and told him he had a 50% change of recurrence that they reassessed what was important to them. They didn't start by thinking of climbing Everest, but they both loved climbing and decided they needed quality time together. They gave up their jobs and started getting fit. Then it became a dream to do the 7 summits (it became 8, as there are two in different parts of Australasia). They started with smaller mountains, and almost came to grief in Nepal when Rob was unwell and had to be helicoptered out. When you're in an adventure like that, sometimes you have to call on other people to help you out, so they were very grateful for the helicopter to come through bad weather for them. It would have put a lot of people off, but they went on - they felt they had to confront and overcome their fears by doing it, to pursue their dreams.
Rebecca Stephens had also sailed to the South and North Poles and crossed South Georgia in the footsteps of Edward Shackleton. She had started to experiment as a journalist, and when she went climbing on a remote ridge she found it completely thrilling - something she'd never experienced in her life before. She marked that as the day she decided what to do with her life. McCarthy asked her if there were days when she wanted to give up, but she responded that there were days when she thought she'd have to give up, but not when she wanted to give up. She gave an example of a particularly difficult challenge, when she was driven back down the mountain by the weather but found the courage to go back up. It was the culmination of a 5-week expedition, and to go back would have been worse. You do everything in your control, then if the weather forces you to give up there's nothing you can do. We're just small beings in the vastness of nature. She also pointed out that the 7 Summits had completely different characters in different lands. The 8 highest peaks in the Himalayas over 8000m were a different kind of challenge.
McCarthy asked them what the summit of Everest was like. Rob replied that they weren't up there long, just 25 minutes, enough time to marvel at the curvature of the earth and the blackness of space. As a kid he had thought of people climbing Everest, thinking they were mad, yet there they were. Then they had to go down. Jo said that was the scary bit, they had limited oxygen and time, and had to pass dead bodies they had seen on the way up. Exhausted, they were at their most vulnerable.
Thinking of the common factors, Benedict Allen said that we are all explorers: it's part of everybody's life. McCarthy asked what the lessons were for ordinary life. The answer was, that often you don't choose the events that happen to you, but you can choose how to respond to them. In the midst of difficulties lies opportunity. When difficult things happen you get forced to move out of your comfort zone, good things can happen.
As John McCarthy concluded at the end, they had been sharing inspiring stories and the lessons learned.