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So Far…

The Life and Adventures of Glenn Shaw

By: Ben Bernstein

Glenn Shaw is, in most respects, an ordinary man, with a compulsion to do extraordinary things that most people would love to do or wish they had the opportunity to do.

At the age of 18, Glenn embarked upon a career within the world of Banking and Financial Services, which has led him to his current role of Compliance Auditor, for an international life assurance and investment house.

For Glenn this career path was never enough and so it was at the age of 26 he decided to try his hand at adventurer travel and expeditions, which he is still very much involved with, now at the age of 32 Glenn balances the world of financial services and the world of expeditions. To date Glenn has either taken part in or led successively less conventional trips & expeditions. These have included: Sea Kayaking in Antarctica, Canada and the Middle East along with various other locations here in the UK. He has also been seen trekking in the shadow of Mt Everest. Glenn also enjoys driving Dog Sled Teams in the wilds of the Colorado Mountains in temperatures of well below freezing. You may find Glenn skiing at the National Sports Center for the Disabled in Winter Park, Colorado.

However, the detail that makes Glenn rather extra-ordinary is that he has been confined to a wheelchair all of his life. He suffers with a bone condition that is commonly known as 'Brittle Bones' and knows that even a simple fall could cripple him for life or kill him out right. Yet the moment someone tells him, "With your condition, you can't do that" he takes it as a personal challenge to prove to himself - not to anyone else - that he can. Then he does it.

A key part of Glenn's expedition equipment is his specially built wheelchair, which has had numinous rebuilds over the years. This lightweight wheelchair or (Snowmobile) Glenn built from the ground up using parts from Quicki Wheelchairs of America and assistance from his long term supporter Kent Mobility, who are based in Tonbridge, Kent in his native England.

All that Glenn undertakes has to be accomplished in the 'Snowmobile'. Powered by the strength of his arms and his adventurous, cheerfully pragmatic spirit and with his trusted Land Rover by his side.

To the best of Glenn's knowledge he is the only person with 'Brittle Bones' to have taken his wheelchair 'Snowmobile' to the cold of Antarctica and to the Himalayas, along with kayaking in Canada, and the Middle East and skiing and driving sled dog teams in Colorado.

Glenn is always planning to undertake journeys that many of us would never undertake even though we may have always dreamed of it. His book, "Just Another Mountain" is as much about that mountain which makes every day for Glenn a challenge to be relished and enjoyed as about his expeditions including his last Everest near miss. Yes, near miss, he fell off the mountain!!!

In the meantime, Glenn devotes his time to two other organizations both of which call upon his ever-increasing schedule; these are as a team member, Brunel Universities Research & Development - Design for Life Adventure Designs who are based in Surrey, their aims and objectives are to develop, design & test new kayaking & canoeing equipment, clothing and safety equipment for fellow disabled adventurers to enable them to enjoy the wonders of our planet.

Glenn's other focus for attention is the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) where he can be found attending social events. He is a resident guest panelist, speaker and adviser speaking about disabled expeditions and integrated expeditions for the RGS. Glenn also attends many other RGS events including the Annual Expedition Explorers Forum and the like to raise the profile of inclusive and disabled expeditions. In April 1999 at the RGS, Glenn received with a great deal of honour his fellowship to the Royal Geographical Society which formerly recognizes his expedition and mountaineering career and acknowledge the expertise that he now holds.

Colorado 1995 - December

In December of 1995, Glenn embarked upon his first expedition to Colorado.

Glenn made his way from London to Colorado, where he was met by two of his long-term friends Jon Clark, and Doug Hick. Glenn and Doug both found the trip to Colorado exciting and yet exhausting. After a couple of days with Jon in Denver, using his apartment as a base camp a group decision was taken to go skiing! Skiing was not on Glenn's agenda because of his bone condition, however Glenn, Doug and Jon all headed from Denver to Winter Park Ski Resort, which is the home of the National Sports Center for the Disabled, after many conversations with a number of ski instructors it was agreed that Glenn could ski, but with a great deal of help and care. Upon hearing this the following day Glenn made his way up the mountain with four ski instructors and learned to ski (well sledding is more of a accurate description). Glenn was hooked! After a while Glenn progressed to having two instructors and from his sled Glenn was now in a Bi-Ski. During this trip Glenn was introduced to running dog sled teams, again this was a great success, after about three weeks of skiing and running dogs it was time to return home to the UK, this journey Glenn made on his own as Doug had decided to stay on in Colorado.

Canada 1996 - Spring

In the spring of 1996 Glenn kayaked & canoed solo through British Columbia & Alberta, Canada. During this expedition Glenn's knowledge and experience grew and started to take shape. Also his drive for more adventure played on his mind during this three week trip that took him to places like Banff, Whistler & Lake Louise.

Not content with seeing and experiencing some of the most majestic mountain landscapes that our plant can offer. Glenn signed up for a trek to the base camp of Mt Everest.

Everest 1997 - March

On the 28th March 1997, Glenn joined five more conventional pedestrian adventures on an Oxventure Expedition to the roof of the world, flying into Lukla, via Kathmandu, before setting out on a fifteen-day trek to Everest Base Camp at just under 18,000ft. On the sixth day out on the trek, Glenn suffered a dramatic fall, breaking both legs in a total of eight places, but using his considerable upper body strength and speed of thought prevented the Sherpa who fell with him from tumbling some 3,000 ft to the gorge below and to certain death.

Legs now broken, Glenn was airlifted off the mountainside, while the other expedition members struggled on. Glenn made a solo journey back from Nepal to a hospital in Kent, which was close to his home, at the time of the accident.

This account demonstrations the nature of one man's spirit and determination to have the presence of mind to think of a fellow man over and above his own personal safety. I'm sure that many people would consider Glenn's 4 ft. 10 in. frame to hold a spirit larger than life.

Middle East 1998 - February

With legs still not fully recovered in February 1998 Glenn took part in a sea kayaking expedition to the Middle East with Brunel Universities Research & Development Team with the express aim of testing and developing kayaking & canoeing equipment for fellow disabled adventurers. This trip went extremely well until the end of the trip. Glenn and his companion Dale were paddling a double sea kayak when as they were surfing a wave back to the beach. Just before hitting the shoreline their kayak was caught by an unexpected wave. The kayak capsized. Dale came out of the kayak, no problem. Glenn was trapped upside down underwater with the kayak on top of him with his head being driven into the beach. Fortunately, Dale had the presence of mind to come back for Glenn and lift the kayak off him. He drug Glenn though the surf and onto the beach to recover. Glenn and Dale are now firm friends.

Colorado 1999 - January

In January 1999, Glenn went back to the American Rockies with two aims. The first of which was to cross the Great Continental Divide by driving his team of huskies. This trip did not work out due to events that were completely out of Glenn's control, namely his guide had an accident that stopped everything in its tracks. Therefore, Glenn focused his attention to down hill skiing at Winter Park, Colorado; Glenn had skied there before in 1995 so he knew what to expect.

During this trip he had to come to grips with the idea of being high in the mountains again after his fall in the Himalayas. This mental obstruction was overcome with a degree of fear and trepidation. Having faced his fear he now completed his come back expedition.

Colorado 1999 - April

On the 26th April 1999, Glenn returned to his beloved American Rocky Mountains with two aims the first of which was to continue the testing of his now rebuilt off road wheelchair 'The Snowmobile' in his favorite back yard which meant he had to contend with very changeable weather conditions. He faced heavy driving snow that was then followed by heavy rainstorms. If he was very lucky, he woke to bright sunshine and clear blue skies. The 'Snowmobile' worked just fine. With testing out of the way, Glenn turned his attention to completing his husky trip. Sadly, once again the attempt failed. This time the failure was caused by rapid snowmelt. Just to compound matters his guide was still not 100% fit, so Glenn had what most people would call a holiday!

Colorado 2000 - January

On the 26th of January 2000, Glenn left England once again for his second home, The American Rocky Mountains of Colorado. He planned one month hoping to pick up where he left off improving his downhill skiing and a third try to cross the Great Continental Divide. This time the weather was with him, but his guide was not. Attempt number three had to be abandoned. Frustration!

However, Glenn's skiing went in leaps and bounds until Thursday 4th February 2000, Glenn was skiing a run when his instructor who should have been behind him to act as a brake should anything happen, however he overtook Glenn with the result of Glenn skiing over his safety tether and being launched into the air which resulted in three barrel rolls and a slide up-side-down on his head covering a total distance of around 30ft. Fortunately, Glenn wears a helmet which saved his head and neck. The only injuries Glenn suffered that day was a cut to his head and three bruised ribs and just to round things off he was knocked out.

Apart from these minor injuries Glenn was fine and completely able to pick himself up. He managed to ski the run twice more before going back to the ski area where Glenn collapsed in a heap, licked his wounds and went to sleep. The following day Glenn went back out on the slopes and skied for a further two days before taking a rest, because he had skied for 11 days straight by that time.

After resting with friends for a few days Glenn was skiing again and he had managed to find a guide that would run a dog team with him, sadly not crossing the Great Continental Divide, but as a compromise he would run a team of dogs in Colorado's 'Back Country'. This trip was still demanding as Glenn and his guide covered some 8 miles from a starting altitude of 9,300ft and finishing at 10,200ft, which may not sound too great in it's self, but with bruised ribs and a unknown trial, guide and dog team, Glenn did have a lot to contend with and just to add the icing on the cake his guide managed to turn the sled over three time throwing Glenn out each time.

The crossing of the Great Continental Divide has again eluded him; Glenn has taken the view that maybe just maybe he could pull the crossing off another day?

Iceland 2000 - July 'A miss opportunity'

On the 27th July 2000, Glenn was to leave England for a 22 day expedition to Iceland which was to be run in association with the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) and the Icelandic Government, the aims of the trip were to carry out glaciology and geology research on the ice cap and surrounding land mass, however because of work pressure, Glenn was unable to participate in this expedition.

Colorado 2001 - February

Not content with starting to plan going 'South' at the end of 2001, Glenn has planned a further expedition to Colorado, which commenced on the 10th February 2001, by way of flying home, to Colorado to ski at the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD) at Winter Park, Colorado. Glenn was awarded a ski scholarship for the winter season. This has happened because the NSCD felt that Glenn would benefit from this type of coaching. Glenn may also have another crack at the Great Continental Divide which to date has alluded him.

However, things did not quite go to plan. On the second day skiing Glenn had an accident falling over and breaking his shoulder in two places. The accident happened, just as he reached the lift line to go back to the top of the mountain. Three days later Glenn was brought home to hospital in the UK and to start his recovery and to start training for Antarctica. Imagine that he plans a trip to Antarctica while in the hospital.

Antarctica 2001 - December

During the spring of 2000 Glenn and his long-term friend Paul Deegan, who is a well-respected adventurer in his own right were discussing where to go, what's going to be the next job! (Expedition). After some in-depth conversation Glenn shared with Paul his desire to go 'South' (Antarctica). Upon hearing this Paul asked why? After yet more conversation Paul decided to help Glenn with his plans to go 'South'. In the summer Glenn attended a meeting with World Expedition, who are based in London. He discussed the possibilities of going 'South'. After an initial meeting and many telephone calls and e-mails Glenn got the go ahead from World Expeditions to join Greg Mortimer. Greg is the first Australian to climb both Mt Everest and K2. He operates an ice breaker (Polar Pioneer) in Antarctica under the banner of Aurora Expeditions.

Antarctica 2001 - December

After many months of research, and yet more telephone calls and e-mails a decision was reached to give Glenn the chance to kayak in the chilly waters of Antarctica. A further seventeen months of planning that entailed obtaining financial support and equipment passed. With regard to the finance for this expedition Glenn secured sponsorship via a traveling fellowship with the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. Equipment and supplies were provided by Paramo Directional Clothing, Rab Down Clothing, Knoydart Kayaking, Kent Mobility Limited, Boots The Chemist, Jessops and Rayzume Limited for communications and web site support. Friends are everything in Glenn's line of work.

On the 15th December 2001 Glenn and Paul Deegan started their journey from London to the Antarctic Peninsula, it took some 5 days to reach the Antarctic Peninsula, sailing via the Drake Passage and through Southern Ocean heading south.

During this expedition Glenn succeeded in making several journeys by kayak from the support vessel, including a circumnavigation of Enterprise Island and a partial exploration of the ice-choked Lemaire Channel. Glenn's support team included experienced Antarcticans Kieron Lawton, Rosy Wheelan and Roger Kirkwood. Glenn's paddle partner was American Bob Powell, who has represented his country at three consecutive World Kayaking Championships.

In addition to his kayaking exploits, Glenn also succeeded in making a landing on the Antarctic mainland at Portal Point." Before going to Antarctica, I was really looking forward to seeing whales, seals and penguins," said Glenn. "But in the end it was the physical environment of rock and ice that impressed me most. On one occasion we paddled into the centre of a three-sided turquoise iceberg."

After six days of exploration it was time to start the long journey home, which was the reverse of the outward journey. This return journey took a little longer as the Southern Ocean showed her power. With all this said and done Glenn returned home to London to share with this family his experience of being 'South' and to spend New Year's Eve.

Glenn is still not content to hang up his rucksack for the last time even though he has covered a lot of very punishing miles. Glenn is of the opinion that he still has a few more miles left in him which he hopes will include an expedition to Greenland, recreating a journey by sea kayak (with his wheelchair lashed to the top) of Eric the Red's first voyage through the treacherous seas on the rim of the Artic. Glenn has a very deep-rooted desire to return to Mt Everest. And he hasn't forgotten that illusive Continental Divide in Colorado.

Life can be lived many ways. Most people choose the safe way. Glenn Shaw has chosen the way of the adventurer.

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