Hi everyone, Paul here.
For those that don't know me, here's a brief run-down...
I spent my childhood in various locations across Australia including Caloundra, Cygnet, Daylesford and Brighton. Most of my secondary schooling was at St. Leonard’s College in Brighton, which is where I gained a taste for a variety of outdoor activities including hiking, cross-country skiing, rock-climbing, sailing and canoeing. During summer, I would earn money by painting the Brighton Beach bathing boxes. When I finished school, I went to study Engineering at The University of Melbourne - which is where I met Fiona.
Fiona grew up in Melbourne’s eastern suburb of Heathmont and attended Ringwood Secondary College. Back then her main interests were art and music, but we soon took a hiking trip together and she took to like a duck to water!
Around this time, I decided that I'd like to try mountaineering and booked myself into a course in New Zealand. Here I gained my first mountaineering experiences and learnt about the technical aspects like crevasse rescue techniques, self-arresting (using an ice-axe to stop yourself when falling), glacier travel, and ice-climbing. Despite the fact that bad weather prevented a climb up Mount Cook, the exhaustion of long-days at altitude, and even seeing another party swept away by an avalanche (luckily everyone was ok), I was hooked. Fi joined me at the end of this trip for some hiking and traveling.
Not long after we met, we moved in to a shared rental house close to university – where the rent was cheap but we battled with ceilings literally falling down around our ears, some dodgy housemates, no heating whatsoever, and even a rat in the toilet!
We studied together and both worked in different Pizza Haven shops, saving to purchase our first house. After 2 years of engineering, Fiona decided to change her study direction and switched courses to study Marketing at RMIT. She later worked at a small firm as a marketing coordinator, and then at Accenture (formerly Andersen Consulting) as a business strategy consultant. In 1996, I started a small business with a friend doing I.T. support work. After going our separate ways with study and work, in 2000 Fiona joined the company I had started and together with Brad Bond, we worked together, managing Invizage Technology.
During this time we squeezed in as much travel as possible, visiting Nepal, South America, Africa, Canada and the US, Kazakhstan, Thailand, some Pacific Islands and parts of Europe. Much of this travel was based around mountain climbs –see previous climbing trips for more details on these.
Fiona also began studying her MBA with Melbourne Business School - she is still studying part-time now (almost completed now though).
In January 2005, we got married in a winery on the Mornington Peninsula.
During 2004-2005, Invizage was acquired in two stages by Sensis (part of Telstra and best known for the Yellow Pages and Whitepages brands). At this time, Fiona began working for Sensis as the marketing manager for a group of businesses which included Invizage, Whereis and UBD.
Given that a huge phase in our lives had come to an end (running Invizage), we realised that without business or family commitments, we now had an unique opportunity to attempt to climb Mount Everest in the 2006 climbing season. This had been a "fuzzy" goal that we'd held for a long time but one that was quickly coming into focus (see more about our dream here).
After returning from a trip to Europe where we climbed the Matterhorn and Mont Blanc, the decision was consolidated and the serious training began. This eventually meant that Fiona had to resign from work as the combined efforts of work, training and study were proving an impossible task (I hadn't worked since the final acquisition in July 2005).
In March 2006, we left Australia to tackle Mt Everest. We had an amazing adventure and Fiona reached the summit on May 23rd 2006. Unfortunately, I had a problem with my oxygen system which meant I had to turn around just 100 metres vertically below the summit! You can read a summary of our climb here, or access the daily updates we posted from here.
During this trip, we received an amazing amount of support which was extremely encouraging. We were also made aware of some cases where our trip reports had an motivated others... which inspired Fiona and I to set up the MyEverest site. (See more about MyEverest here.)
I spent the second half of 2006 preparing this site and doing some more travelling. After some deliberation, I decided to go back and try Everest for a second time (read more about why I'm doing this here). Which leads me to where I am today - training hard and organising my gear in preparation for the biggest challenge of my life...again!