Alex Staniforth is a 20-year old endurance adventurer, motivational speaker, charity fundraiser, and ambassador from Cheshire.
Alex has faced many obstacles through childhood such as epilepsy, stammering, mental health problems and bullying. Rather than being brought down by his experiences, an affinity for the great outdoors and making a difference became his way to fight back and achieving great things – including twice attempting to climb to the summit of Mount Everest in his teens, raising £29,000 for charity in the process. Both attempts were cut short by two of the biggest avalanche tragedies in Everest history!
Here, Alex tells us his amazing and hugely inspiring story.
We all have goals which means that we will inevitably have obstacles or hurdles to overcome along the path to success. For me, my biggest goal happens to be a huge physical, mental and financial challenge – climbing to the top of Mount Everest and as I’ve learnt, the journey has been a long, winding and challenging road littered with obstacles.
Discovering my obstacles
My obstacles began at the age of four when I developed a bad stammer in my speech. I’m now 20 and my mum makes all my phone calls for me! Sometimes I can’t get a single word which has been hugely frustrating through my life – I used to skip lessons through the fear of giving a presentation to the class.
At nine years old I developed epilepsy. This was a pretty unsettling experience that left me suffering panic attacks and anxiety which stopped me trying my best at school. Because of it I just let myself fit into the crowd like everyone else – not reaching my full potential. Being badly bullied didn’t help and I hated sport, too!
My life changed when I found the outdoors and unlocked a confidence I never knew I had. All I needed was willpower to force myself outside of my comfort zone and try something new, like paragliding in Turkey. It terrified me, but I told myself the feeling of achievement is always better than the feeling of comfort. From then on I realised I could achieve things and overcome any hurdle by having the determination to feel the fear and do it anyway.
Climbing Everest seemed the biggest obstacle of all. Even before I could get there, I was injured and couldn’t train for 18 months, I didn’t know if I’d ever run or cycle again which led to my first crippling bout of depression. I needed to give myself a new focus to overcome this and the outdoors reminded me that I would get through it with enough perseverance.
Fast forward four years and I couldn’t believe I was standing at Everest base camp for my first attempt, just aged 18! After intense training, years of climbing experience and raising over £40,000 single-handedly in a year (made harder by a stammer), I had overcome all the hurdles in my way. However, a tragic avalanche cancelled the expedition. Back to square one…
The biggest hurdle would be raising the money all over again. But every obstacle is an opportunity in disguise – we have to adapt and overcome when things don’t go to plan. So I started a series of ultra-endurance challenges to prepare myself for the next attempt and raise the money. It worked but during Everest 2015, the Nepal earthquake struck and triggered an avalanche which rushed through me in the Khumbu Icefall. I thought I was gone. A huge avalanche destroyed most of our base camp and took the lives of three team members. The expedition was over and I had failed to reach my goal again.
Down but not out
I came home even more determined to achieve my potential because life is fragile. I have now released my first book, ICEFALL, endorsed by Bear Grylls. On the anniversary of the earthquake I organised the Walk4Nepal on Snowdon, which raised over £17,000 for charity.
My advice: Obstacles can be a very positive thing – if you don’t give up.
As for the stammer? I’m now a motivational speaker, and have spoken to rooms of 500 people. I decided the stammer was part of who I am, and wasn’t going to hold me back anymore.
The bullies? Nowhere to be seen.
Lack of confidence? Nope!
Hating sport? I recently finished second in a 10 km race (out of 700 runners). I still battle with depression, which is nothing to be ashamed of: we all have our vulnerabilities. But I’ll overcome that too.
Embrace your obstacles
What matters with overcoming obstacles is not always how we succeed – but how we keep on trying. It’s outside of our comfort zones that we learn and grow the most. Many young people are afraid of failure and maybe that’s why they don’t strive too high– but failure is to be embraced.
Aim for your Everest in life – and remember, the biggest obstacle will always be ourselves.
You can read and learn more about Alex’s story in his new book ICEFALL which is available to purchase from his website where you can also find out more about Alex’s latest work and fundraising ventures: