Achieving the Summit - Aconcagua - Matt Shore
At 10am on the 16th of January 2020 Matt Shore achieved the summit of the highest mountain outside of the Himalayas, Mt. Aconcagua.
This was his second attempt at this remarkable feat following a previous attempt in 2018 that almost ended in disaster.
He overcame adversity through self perseverance and having a strong attitude to attempt the summit again, showing true determination and grit.
This blog post is dedicated to getting into the mindset of Matt during each phase, which can hopefully inspire Solid Ground Outdoors followers to use his achievement as an example to interpret into their own aspiring future goals.
The Setback - Know when to turn around.
As previously mentioned, Matt attempted this feat back in 2018. This almost ended in catastrophic circumstances as he suffered from severe altitude sickness and early stages of Cerebral Oedema (fluid on the brain). Not to mention the fact that he was in sub zero temperatures which included a major risk of frost bite. This deadly cocktail of serious health and environmental issues forced Matt to abandon his attempt 150m below the summit. However, he had a long way to go before he returned back to base camp. His journey from there is detailed in his own words in the testimonials below.
Self admission - Get back on your feet.
Upon arrival back to the UK Matt was left feeling disheartened due to the failed summit, however instead of pointing the blame to other outside factors he started to investigate the bigger picture, his own admission of lack of preparation and experience.
Matt decided to change his training technique over the next two years and build on other aspects of his training, including his mind. He knew he wanted to achieve the summit again and with careful planning and considerations gained from his initial experience of Mt. Aconcagua; along with treating his body in an active recovery roll he decided that in January 2020 he would attempt the summit once more.
Strength Within - The drive that's inside us.
Once Matt decided to overcome his adversity he realised that deep down he had an almost personal vendetta against achieving the summit. Feeling his inner drive and instinct of an adventurer, he was overcome with determination to achieve what he did not before.
His preparation that included testing and adjusting his equipment along with altitude training in Bristol University cemented the fact that he wasn't going home early this time.
I, the author and director of SGO spoke with Matt during this phase and he inspired myself at how determined he was with his training regime and I can honestly say that I have never met someone with such inner drive to accomplish their goal.
Achieving Inner Greatness - The Instinctive Success
Matt reached the summit of Mt. Aconcagua on the 16th of January 2020, driven by his mindset and preparation and overcoming many of personal setbacks along the way.
His achievement is something that Solid Ground Outdoors wish to show case, not only because we helped sponsor him, because Matt has shown us all that life's obstacles can always be overcome. Positive Mental Attitude is everything and if you want success, no matter your goal, prepare your mind and you will achieve it. Hopefully people reading this will relate to some sort and it will inspire them withtheir own goals.
Matt and Nirmal Purja MBE
We decided that Matt can explain more about his journey best in his own words so we asked him questions to answer below.
SGO - After your first attempt, tell us where you were with your mind. How did you feel knowing that the effort you put in and preparation had been in vain, to a certain extent as you had not reached the summit?
Matt - My first attempt was in January 2018. I had missed the top by 150m due to severe altitude sickness and suspected early stages of Cerebral Oedema. This was combined with severe cold and risk of frostbite. I was disappointed that I hadn’t summited but while I felt that, I also realised on the mountain in the latter stages that I had gone out there under prepared, under equipped and with insufficient experience to have foreseen what could really go wrong.
To be honest, the disappointment at missing the top was numbed down by the fact that I had managed to get back to base camp without dying and with a small amount of frostnip in the ends of my toes. Coming down from 6800m to 4300m of base camp was the hardest, most scary experience of my life and I was purely grateful to have made it back.
I remember getting back to the trail head glad to be back in one piece, but at the same time determined to come back again as soon as I could raise the funds to try again and to learn from the errors.
SGO - You obviously overcame the setback, but at which moment did you realise that you were going to attempt it again. Can you describe the feeling and drive that you had?
Matt - When I got back to the UK in Jan 2018 I had planned to race again in the summer fan Dance. A Special Forces based event open to civilians that I had designs on trying to beat my 3hr 30 best time from the previous year. I picked up the training as soon as I got back from Aconcagua but by May my body was wracked with pain. I had wanted to go back for another go at the mountain in January 2019 but it became very quickly evident that I would not be fit and had too much pain in my body.
The process showed me that I hadn’t allowed myself to acknowledge what happened to me on that summit day on Jan 18th 2018 and hadn’t seen how far into my reserves I had had to dig within myself just to make it off the mountain alive. The pain showed me I hadn’t recovered, I was pushing too hard and that I needed to rest. I pulled out of the Fan Dance and spent the rest of 2018 recovering through movement based light training, predominantly with the steel mace. I had lost all desire to run, to Tab or to do any heavy strength based training. To be honest I was fearful that I had broken myself and that climbing mountains, running and tabbing would be out of the question. I remember my physio telling me that I needed to reconsider my training moving ahead – which, at the time, filled me with sadness and stayed that way for around 8 weeks.
I had taken on board what the physio had said to me 2 months before. I am fortunate enough to know my own body very well as I am very in touch with myself. I woke up one day and said to myself “Enough of this, If anyone is going to heal themselves, it is Me.”
Little by little I began to increase the training.
It wasn’t until March/April 2019 that I started to notice some reasonable element of fitness return. I had been building endurance on the Assault bike due to its low impact. I was feeling stronger again too. I noticed within myself a desire start to run again, to increase the training and re-build my strength.
By June 2019 I was starting to feel back to my normal self, I felt strong, fit and endurance trained. I noticed a desire in myself to go back to Aconcagua and after a few weeks of sitting with it the urge to go back had become overwhelming.
That was when I booked with Elite Himalayan Adventures for January 2020 to return to Aconcagua.
SGO - In SGO media we try promote stronger mindsets to our followers and customers. In your own words can your describe to us in your situation how important having mental resilience is.
Matt - Mental resilience, to me, is massive and plays a huge role in my own life. There was a time almost 20 years ago when I was a very different person. A person who lacked any degree of confidence, hated myself, wanted to be someone else which eventually lead me into suicidal depression. I now look back on that time as one of the best things that happened to me. It was a turning point within which I said to myself, I didn’t want to live like that for the rest of my life. It lead me on a path of seeking a mentor, who, ultimately helped me to understand the false Ideas I had about myself and more importantly, to be able to become consciously aware of them and move beyond them, healing them over time. For me, physicality has always been a way in which I was able to express my own inner strength, but at times, it limited me into destruction. My desire to push and succeed was so great. Now many years on, I am able to for the most part channel my energy better into whatever endeavour it is I choose to take on. I recognise the push and now operate more from a place of relaxed flow, for want of a better term. My mental resilience is not just about achieving physical goals but psychological ones too. To be able to recognise my fears and limiting beliefs and choose to respond in different outcomes. Of course, psychological fears/tensions play out hugely in hard physical effort and it is all linked. So yep, mental resilience is something I see as incredibly valuable in becoming a more capable human being and be able to achieve more than we initially might have thought possible of ourselves within our lives and the lives of the people I work with as a Coach and Mountain Leader.
SGO - During the climb, honestly, did you ever feel like giving up? Was there any part of you tellingyou to quit?
Matt - This time around It was a funny mix of confidence and fear. The summit strategy we had been given was an aggressive one but at the same time, I could see the reasoning behind it. I knew it would stretch me and it did. It took me 11 hours to summit after leaving high camp 2 at 11pm on 15th Jan, skipping out camp 3 and going straight for the summit at 10am on 16th Jan. We didn’t stop all night.
I was aware that I had feelings of how hard the climb was. Especially when coming to the end of the long traverse before heading up to the Cave – the final resting point before the last big push to summit. I remember closing my eyes for seconds and feeling like I could just sleep for a few minutes. I remember breathing so hard, feeling sick, sometimes feeling like my stomach might turn at any time or worse. I remember being bombarded with thoughts of how I just wanted the suffering to be over and to stand on the top. I also remember thinking to myself, what If I cant make it. On the final push I experience some slight hallucinations and random mental ideas. I just observed them and brought my awareness back to trying to breathe better – take 5 steps – rest for 15 to 20 breaths and repeat. Basically trying to avoid tension, which, as I see it, could cause restriction and ramp up the negative experience of altitude.
Each time I did I recognised my projections were causing me anxiety and that in order to be rid of it, I just needed to bring myself back to the present moment. To the next foot step, then the next and the next. I had been given a Buddhist Mantra to use by a good friend of mine before I left for the expedition and I found repeating this in my head over and over again a good way of managing the severe discomfort which ultimately helped me land on the summit.
SGO - When you reached the summit that morning, describe how it felt. After all the work you put in and the set back before, do you feel like your preparation was on point this time? Did you train differently or do you think your mindset was at a different stage?
Matt - When I reached the summit there was a huge sense of relief. On the way to the summit I remember stopping briefly at the point I had had to turn around last time. I remembered back then how scared I felt when I was losing control of my legs and also remember thinking about my little boy and how I needed to get off the mountain and home. This time, even though I was suffering so badly I knew that things were vastly different.
On reaching the summit I sat down with a good friend of mine a few metres away. I could feel a huge sense of emotion building up and so I pulled my shades to cover my eyes and truth be told, could not contain the wave of emotion that came over me. Tears streamed down my face from the realisation that I had made it and the recognition of my own strength in getting there began to sink in.
My preparation was totally on point. Unlike last time when I suffered with headaches and nausea from the moment I arrived at base camp, this time I experienced little of that.
I had zero headaches until Camp 2 and even then it was only a slight head pressure. My appetite was fine whereas last time I lost 7kg in 12 days.
That said, all of us on the expedition experienced bad runs due to the water at basecamp and this was something that needed a strong resolve to overcome – especially when moving higher up the mountain.
I did train differently yes. Last time I had been running and tabbing and so my cardiovascular fitness was on point.
This time I knew I needed more altitude exposure. So I completed the Tour Du Mont Blanc in July 2019 and then went on to summit Mount Toubkal in Morrocco in October 2019.
I then managed to secure 30 hours of active training in the Extreme Environmental Chamber lab at Brighton University. This saw me completing 2-3 sessions per week of 90 mins to 30 hours at simulated 4500m with a heavy bergan and 8000m summit boots on on an inclined treadmill. This was from the 6 weeks out before the expedition.
In addition I hired an altitude tent from The Altitude Centre, Covent Garden and slept around 20 nights in this in the 5 weeks before the expedition.
When not training at altitude I was completing some running and tabbing sessions along with complimentary strength training.
All said and done it was around 9-12 hours per week of training, all done while running a full time business and being a father to my son.
My mindset had been one of, I failed last time, so this time I must do everything I possibly can to put myself in the best possible position to succeed. I left no stone unturned and I firmly believe that if you want to achieve something great, an extraordinary amount of effort needs to be put in. I had been visualising success from 6 months out. Preparing my mind for how it might feel, how I would feel. Meditation played a large complimentary role to my physical training.
So in answer to your final question 'Did you train differently or do you think your mindset was at a different stage?' It was both, it had to be both. Adopting the same approach as last time and expecting a different result, well, it’s like the Einstein Quote about Insanity – doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
Matt with his trusty SGO cap.
Aconcagua delivery service.