Hugh Newall: The Narcoleptic Adventurer
I am an adventurer on a mission. I spend my time skiing steeps and climbing peaks. I’m preparing for a major expedition to Antarctica in 2024.
I suppose I’ve always been an outdoors man, but it wasn’t until after a major ski racing accident in Canada and a subsequent Narcolepsy diagnosis that the fire really got going. In short, there are two types of Narcolepsy, the first causes sudden sleep attacks, and the second causes only excessive day-time sleepiness. Fortunately, I only have the latter.
I soon discovered that people with Narcolepsy often suffer from chronic depression due to the condition’s impact on everyday life. Coupled with the fact that the most effective medication is up to $,1600 per month, and unsubsidised in Australia, I figured I’d better figure out something else.
I have found great happiness in the wilderness, pushing myself and overcoming challenges. It keeps me awake and I hope my efforts will inspire others with the condition. My philosophy is that we all have unique journeys and unique burdens. We can think of those burdens like backpacks—maybe my pack may be a little heavier, but it is no cause to give up.
The above picture was taken on a 43-day expedition to the Cordillera Blanca mountain range in Peru. My team summited a number of objectives, including the beautiful Shaqsha, a mountain that is displayed on the cover of the famous Brad Johnson Guidebook, though it rarely sees many ascents.
I’d say this expedition marked a transition in my approach to packing for mountain activities. Previously, I liked to lay siege on my objectives. My 150-litre pack was my pride and joy, and I’d fill it with all the bits of kit required for any contingency. However, hauling a giant pack around at altitude in Peru, I quickly realised the benefits of shedding unnecessary weight.
Aided with lightweight and extremely packable gear like my Sea to Summit Spark Series sleeping bag, going light doesn’t always mean losing comfort either!