A typical week for 67 year-old Neil Fletcher, who runs a design business in Melbourne’s bayside, includes a training session in an altitude chamber on Mondays and a high intensity workout with a personal trainer on Tuesdays.
On Sundays he either takes a 20 to 30km run, or covers the 56 km return trip on the Mornington Peninsula’s 2 Bays Trail (carrying a 20 to 25kg load), or heads down to Johanna Beach on Victoria’s west coast for a surf.
Neil is preparing for an Everest summit climb in April this year. He’s aiming to become the oldest Australian to have climbed the mountain’s north east ridge.
He decided to get to the summit after a trip to Everest Base Camp in 2011. April’s trip will be his fourth to Nepal.
“The Himalayas are epic, like giants all around you. You look up, and up, and up and they go all the way into the clouds. It’s nothing like we have in Australia,” he said.
“My five year plan has blown out a little, but all my training has focused on getting fitter, stronger and ready for the challenge ahead.”
So far, his Everest training has seen him climb Nepal’s Mera Peak, at an altitude of 6476 metres, complete a 12 day alpine expedition in New Zealand’s southern alps, and attempt to climb Nepal’s Manaslu, altitude 8156 metres. He had to abandon the climb at 7500 metres due to snow blindness in one eye.
The Himalayas are epic, like giants all around you. You look up, and up, and up and they go all the way into the clouds.
Neil turns heads when he goes to his local gym – it’s not often you see a late-60s face on what looks like a very fit 35 year-old’s body.
His drive to be as fit and strong as possible was spawned by his older sister’s death from motor neurone disease.
“I decided to do everything in my power to live a long healthy life,” he said. “MND isn’t hereditary, but I thought if it comes after me, it’s going to have a fight on its hands.
“I changed my lifestyle and fitness becoming vegetarian, then vegan – not because I objected to meat, but I got sick of it. I feel much better for it now.
“I’m faster, fitter and stronger than I’ve ever been. It annoys me when people say losing muscle mass is unavoidable as you get older – it’s a sedentary lifestyle that causes it,” he said.
Neil says he has had three ‘Everests’ in his life. Raised by his grandparents, he and his sister grew up in a loveless home.
“I was never kissed or hugged as a child or told I was loved. I just wanted to get out of there.
“Later after divorcing, I became the main care-giver for my four children on a sole parent’s pension. Then when my second son was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age 20, I cared for him for 15 years.
“I’m proud of the mental strength I developed and knew I could cope with any ‘Everest’ challenge. So I thought why not attempt the real one?”
Neil is looking for a sponsor. He would love to hear from any organisation interested in accompanying him and/or being represented by a super-fit senior as he tackles the climb.
“We put so much time, effort and money into superannuation and achieving financial security in older years. While I’ve done that, for me, my body is my superannuation – that’s what’ll keep me going.”
For more details contact Neil on 0414-545-988 or www.recordbreaker.info.