Last year I was the successful recipient of the Mastering Mountains Grant for people with FND and MS. My objective was to climb a 3,000m peak the Southern Alps. When I first submitted my application for the Grant I had no idea of what my body was capable of. I had been diagnosed with MS just a year and a half earlier and I was still figuring it all out.
Prior to my diagnosis I had been an avid tramper and alpine climber. Although my activities had reduced a little with the arrival of my daughter, I was still managing to squeeze in a few good adventures each year. However since my diagnosis the longest walk I had completed was a 3 hour saunter with a light day pack. So the goal to climb a 3,000m peak was definitely a ‘stetch target’! When I heard I was the successful recipient of the Grant I began to worry I had over-committed. But there’s nothing like a goal to get me motivated.
I began by connecting with a neuro-physio, who put together a training programme. We worked through a range of strengthening exercises and I started to build my cardio endurance. Starting with short hill walks I progressed to longer days, overnight tramps and eventually some alpine trips.
Although this training programme was incredibly useful, the best part of the neuro-physio sessions was about symptom management. MS is present in my body every day – mostly as pins and needles, brain fog, fatigue and heat sensitivity. Every now and then I get too tired or stressed, and I get a dose of blurred vision, bladder problems, sleeping difficulties and the ‘MS hug’. So figuring out ways to manage these symptoms has been hugely valuable (top tip: meditate in the middle of the day for at least 15 minutes – your brain and body will thank you for it!).
When finally summit day rolled around I was prepared as I could be. I’d done the training, my body felt strong, and I was ready for the challenge. I still had no idea if I could make, but I knew I was going to give it my best shot.
As my climbing partner (husband Mike) and I walked in the early morning light towards the steep face of the climb I began to feel a bubbles of excited anticipation – this was actually happening! The climb was long, hard, and at times white knuckle Type 3 Fun.
Despite the challenges, climbing the Minarets was absolutely incredible. Mike and I stood (respectfully) on the edge of the summit looking along the spine of the Southern Alps to Aoraki, down to the Tasman Glacier and out to the ocean. We were on top of the world.
I am so immensely grateful to Nick and the team at Mastering Mountains. Now I look at my life as something full of potential. I’m not afraid to take on new challenges and I have confidence in my body and my mind. With the support of friends, family, and some very kind-hearted people I have been able to achieve something I never thought possible.
I encourage you to apply for the Mastering Mountains Grant – you’ll never know until you try!