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An acclimatisation walk up Nagarjun Peak


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The famous Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna believed that all things in existence arise solely through dependence on others. Well, our team put those words into practice yesterday as they climbed to the dizzying height of 4,800 metres up Nagarjun Peak.

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As we snaked our way up the ridge, I noticed a little stone hermitage off to one side where monks from Tengboche monastery sometimes stay in retreat for three years, three months and three days. They live in silence and are supplied with food from the local village, spending their time in meditation and implementing techniques to improve their mind.

Personally, I couldn't live in silence for three hours, let alone three years, but it did get me thinking about the mental strength that these soldiers have had to develop to recover from their injuries. They have had to find that fortitude to rehabilitate amongst the chaos of normal life, not in the luxurious peace of these mountains. Their positivism is surprising and infectious.

"Where's the oxygen gone? Does this hill ever end?" joked Frank Dupere.

These words coming from a man whose lungs are riddled with shrapnel and whose diaphragm is only half functional. Frank believes that a day without laughter is a worthless day and he proves that constantly with his good natured humour.

And it's not only Frank who was on fine form. As we returned to Pheriche, Michelle Quinton-Hickey, despite constant pain from her knees, was basking in the sun listening to music. When I asked her what she was listening to, I couldn't help but laugh. "Bryan Adams," she said, "Hurts so good!"

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And what made the day 'hurt so good'? Well, the expedition got its first view of Island Peak and the reality hit home for everyone that shortly we will be stood on its formidable 6,189-metre summit.

As I looked at that magnificent mountain, thought about the monk in his retreat and then looked at these CF vets, the words of Sir Edmund Hillary filled my mind: 'It's not the mountains that we conquer,' he wisely said, 'but ourselves!'


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