Who does not love exploring?

When life drops a massive, amazing, scary bombshell, you evolve and grin like an idiot! (With a wildly late 2013 wrap up)

This was 2013:
January New Years in Denmark, still love fireworks. 
February Skip out of work for a paragliding road trip.
March Work in a pharmacy arguing with highly strung accountants and lawyers in Melbourne’s CBD.
April Switch to relief pharmacy work instead.
May Marry the most awesome girl in the world.
June Decide to climb a big mountain. Realize my gut has grown. Madly start training.
July Get locum work in Avoca. Ride motorbike in freezing conditions through the only snowfields in Victoria to get there. Enjoy helping sick farmers and ‘real’ people.
August Freak out about gut again. Start training. Stop eating hamburgers.
September Go to Nepal. Get caught in biggest storm in Nepali history. Gut is gone.
October Leave mountain as I enjoy the use of fingers and toes too much.
November Release book. Get awesome feedback. Grin like an idiot. Eat a hamburger.
December Small business course. Start planning more pharmacy work. Tasmanian road trip. New Years watching Billy Connelly with Jette, Mum and Dad.

You probably read this and thought, ‘where is the bombshell?’ Well I hate suspense, the bit in those movies with the quiet violin music and a first person view moving through a darkened room kills me, so here it is:

In the bit between giving up hamburgers and going to Nepal, Jette and I discovered that we are having a baby.

A frikkin’ baby, a little person that we will need to care for and argue with about bedtime and eating vegetables…

We’re making a person.

Mainly Jette.grey When life drops a massive, amazing, scary bombshell, you evolve and grin like an idiot! (With a wildly late 2013 wrap up)

To my relief I have been chosen as the main supporting actor. All things going well, we are expecting a small human to create havoc in late April. Jette is doing great, and the bub is growing and kicking and moving about like something out of Alien, as apparently they should. Despite having written flat out since 2010 I cannot find words to describe how stoked, surprised, scared and thrilled I am with this parcel of news. I am also rather excited that the baby looks like Han Solo in carbonite but I digress.

Clearly things are about to change around here, mainly get noisier and messier, so in the spirit of change I have done some thinking about my future blogging plans. Right about now you are are probably thinking, “He’s going to launch full tilt into the Matrix, picket fences, father’s groups, ironed shirts, saturday ballet practice, all that stuff…”

The Red Rucksack has been, and always will be, an advertising-free space where I recount my adventures and sometimes offer advice (and hopefully some inspiration) to fellow adventurers. I love writing, and have spent an incredible amount of time building this site to be what it is.

There will be updates on here when I have mountainy adventures, and DO NOT STRESS:

Important statement coming … *Hand on chest*.

“I, Benjamin John West, do solemly swear that, despite impending fatherhood, I will still be having plenty of RedRucksack-worthy adventures. Furthmore, I do promise to continue sharing the aforementioned adventures with you here on Updates will continue in the form of the same high kwality posts you’ve come to expect, for free, and as they happen.

I make this statement on this, the twenty-fifth of March 2014 being of  sound mind <mostly> and free of inducement.”

Evidence to support this statement:

  1. Despite our news, Jette continued to encourage and fully support my desire to climb Ama Dablam  (I’d marry Jette twice if I could!).
  2. We are going to Thailand and Denmark mid-July through early September to introduce Cletus (bub’s current name is Cletus-fetus) to Jette’s Danish family and my Saudi Family. I am planning a side-trip to Switzerland to fly paragliders and climb the Eiger.
  3. Jette is as passionate about travel as me, we will be spending as much time abroad as possible.
  4. Tasmania is only 45 minutes away and I simply love playing on home turf.
  5. Cletus is currently kicking and swinging about like a gyroscope, it won’t be long until I am writing daddy/daughter adventures.
  6. I might consider opening up the Red Rucksack to adventure posts from select readers (only if you can ‘spell good and stuff’). This means that when you have adventures I might give you the chance to share your adventures and enjoy this great platform that I have built up over 4 years. Who knows, you may even end up writing a book

So there you have it. Rather than trying to forge on by writing empty ‘Top Ten’ posts or having off topic rants I will maintain the initial focus of the Red Rucksack which is to share quality, free posts about adventures. The main difference is that now you have an opportunity to join the fun.

Watch this space for more paragliding fun and news on my Switzerland trip.

As always, thanks for following.

Blue Skies and Happy Feet to you all…shit I’m going to be a dad! grey When life drops a massive, amazing, scary bombshell, you evolve and grin like an idiot! (With a wildly late 2013 wrap up)


Home – getting back from Ama Dablam

When I made the somewhat difficult call to leave the mountain and get home, I thought I’d make a little video for Jette.

It follows my journey from Camp one on Ama Dablam and continues down through the snowline to Pangboche, Tangboche, Namche Bazaar and Lukla, then on to Kathmandu, Singapore, to Melbourne and then HOME!

At 4:40, due to a cheap upgrade, I was sitting in Business Class, stinking like hell, sipping wine and watching the entire Himalayas slide by.

Hot air ballooning in Melbourne with Andy from ‘Picture This’

You may notice in the attached photos that my wife has suddenly got a whole lot more hirsuite, this is because after booking our little adventure, Jette sadly fell ill and was forced to stay at home. It was too late to cancel or re-book, so I called my best mate Guy to ask if he wanted to wake at 4am on a Saturday morning, “No probs, that sounds great”, came his reply after I explained my plans for him.

The reason hot air balloons fly is the same reason midgets can survive mexican buffets; hot air rises. The cooler the surrounding air, the more reliable the lift. This is why hot air balloon rides leave so damn early. After meeting in town and signing a disclaimer that said we wouldn’t sue if we plonked down in a tree, we got to the launch field at around 5am. Our Pilot Andy efficiently organised us to help set up this big rip-stop nylon death machine. First cold air is blown into the balloon. This is done by holding the bottom end open and pointing a massive, petrol powered leaf blower thing inside. Soon the sheer size of the balloon became apparent, I’m guessing you could make at least 100 paragliding wings out of one balloon. The fan was making a raoucous and I noticed lights coming on at nearby houses. I could imagine the conversations, “Every bloody morning…I told you this park-side house was suspiciously cheap Beryl…”

Once Andy determined that enough cold air was inside it was time to heat things up. With the wicker basket on its side, Andy turned on the gas and gave the balloon a long hot blast from the burners. They sounded like some kind of possessed fighter jet, “Every bloody morning…” Soon the balloon was straining to lift the basket (which was very cleverly anchored to the van). Once the balloon was stable above the basket, Andy told everyone to clamber in.

Before I could say, “how safe are these things?” the anchor was untied and we silently floated up. The feeling was like being in a totally silent elevator, there was absolutely no breeze and we were all hushed as we skimmed over the trees. Launching a hot air balloon is far more relaxing than hurtling off cliff with a paraglider wing above your head. As we cleared the park we saw right into someone’s lounge room. A poor unsuspecting lady sat, relaxing in her lounge room, drinking her coffee and reading the paper in her nightgown. When she looked up with a startled expression Guy and myself waved and grinned manically until she scuttled red faced out of view.

Hot Air balloon pilots have two controls: blast the flame for up, release hot air for down. Pilots cannot steer the craft in the normal way but they manage to fly the whole rig going where they want. This piqued my curiosity. Once we were well above the city and in a pack of about six balloons, I started interrogating Andy. The magic force which pilots use to steer are called inversions. Usually as you increase in height, the air gets cooler. Sometimes there is a layer of air which is warmer than that  just below it called an inversion. Inversions create a change in wind direction so that if the wind is going North – South, it might be going East – West at the inversion layer. By bobbing between these subtle layers, hot air balloon pilots can effectively steer the craft and go [almost] anywhere they want. The level of skill required boggles the mind. I struggle to land my Paraglider on a big cliff with up/down/left/right steerage!

The views were expansive, the whole of Melbourne sprawled out before us as we watched the sun rising over distant mountains. As we were going with the wind there was not a single puff of breeze and an intermittent blast from the burners kept our shoulders warm. Soon Andy was busily radio-ing fellow pilots in the group. It was comforting to hear them asking him for advice. Peering over his glasses Andy was checking weather monitors and carefully adjusting our height. I was hugely impressed when he bought all his knowledge into play to swing us around in a big, graceful loop to land right in the middle of Fawkner park, St Kilda. We touched down with nary a bump and a rope was pulled to let all our hot air out. I felt rather deflated to be finished with the experience [I know, sorry].

We all helped to pack up the rig and were chauffered off to the Sofitel Hotel in the CBD where we were treated to the most impressive champagne breakfast buffet that I have ever gourged on.

I can highly recommend that you try hot air ballooning, even if you are scared of heights. There is a real feeling of security inside that tiny wicker basket full of propane tanks and flames, no really.

I know what you are probably thinking and yes, I asked Andy about launching my Paraglider from one of their balloons (see video at bottom). Andy gave me a contact who should be able to make this happen. This activity has received the green tick from the ‘safety committee’ (my wife) so I’ll keep you posted.

Blue skies and Happy Feet to you.


We flew with Picture This – Hot air ballooning The crew were highly professional and looked after everyone really well, especially the little nine year old girl who was hysterical before lift off. This experience and post was in no sponsored by Picture This.

Post note: On Tuesday morning, three days after our flight, Guy forwarded this article to me. Andy was forced to make an “unscheduled landing” that was “highly controlled”. Read: The wind died and Andy pulled off an incredibly prescise spot landing between Anna’s roses and back fence!! Read more here


Nepal slideshow – pre-trek

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Travel Blogger Calendar 2014 – Help elephants, win a $3300 holiday!

grey Travel Blogger Calendar 2014   Help elephants, win a $3300 holiday!

Before I speak about this year’s Travel Blogging Calendar I have three questions for you:
grey Travel Blogger Calendar 2014   Help elephants, win a $3300 holiday!
 - Who loves Elephants?
- Who would love to win an amazing holiday package worth $3300 while helping said cute old elephants?
- Who agrees that I should never, ever, participate in another calendar featuring my naked ass in a freezing lake?
Same here! Feedback on last year’s charity calendar was pretty much unanimous in that we should keep our clothes on, but do it again in some form or another.
Following months of intensive online brainstorming inside our safe bunker (Facebook group) away from the spotlight we have emerged with an amazing idea, a great charity to sponsor and a truly awesome prize to give away…we are like a bunch of determined, cyber phoenixes.

The Travel Blogging Calendar is back, bigger and better than ever. 

This year we are going digital while holding a raffle. Thanks to the awesome people at Flight Network and Ian Ord of Where Sidewalks End we have arranged a prize package including $2000 towards a flight to Thailand, and an 8 day, 7 night tour where you will get a chance to  explore Thailand and meet some elephants at the very sanctuary this initiative is helping.
Even if you miss out on the trip to Thailand, everyone who buys tickets will get exclusive weekly blog updates written by our team of professional blog experts (and me). Each post will highlight different cultural holidays or events taking place all over the globe.

Even if you don’t win, you win…win/win!

grey Travel Blogger Calendar 2014   Help elephants, win a $3300 holiday!The elephants also win as all monies raised will be handed directly to Save Elephant Foundation founder Lek so she can rescue more abused proboscines (I just won by learning a fancy new word!). Our intrepid Jeremy of Travel FREAK paid a visit to Lek on his way through Asia and learnt that this lady is genuinely passionate about these lumbering, loveable beasts.
I think we can all agree that elephants are magnificent; the way they are treated by captors in Thailand, however, is not. Elephants, as you know, are huge. To domesticate them such that they can be treated like livestock, poachers have to instill fear into them – otherwise the elephant would just stomp on the bad dudes and go about their business.
No doubt you are picturing an elephant in some shit-ridden cage being whipped mercilesly. Even the clean, healthy looking guy with bells around his neck (that you took a ride on last holiday) has been through a horrendous breaking process. This is why the incomparable Lek founded the Save Elephant Foundation in 1995. Lek buys elephants from captors (this is a tightrope as she cannot pay so much that people poach them purely to sell to him) and relocates them onto what is as close to their natural habitat as possible. Here they are allowed to roam free. As the website says, ‘there are no tricks. There are no rides.’ Just elephants doing what they naturally do and generally being wicked.  Currently Save Elephant Foundation are at capacity and urgently need funds to rescue more elephants. Read more here.
Now is the time to think about responsible tourism. Don’t just think about how your holiday affects you, think about how your holiday affects the people, places and animals you meet on the way.
“Enough banging on about social responsibility Ben; I will keep this in mind when I explore,” I hear you say. “You had me at ‘cute elephants’ … how can I donate to be in the running to win this awesome prize?”
Click on the link below:


Remember, the more you donate, the more entries you get in the holiday package.


Massive thanks to:

The guys at Flight Network who donated this brilliant prize. We expect this year will be huge, largely due to their generosity. Go over, say hi and tell ‘em I sent you! Say thanks for being awesome to Flight Network

Ian Ord of Where Sidewalks End; his startup tour company is both socially and environmentally sound. We need more like you mate!

Jeremy Foster of TravelFREAK; without your energy and commitment this initiative would not be as amazing as it is.

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The Red Rucksack - Available now

This business partnership has expired.” Ben has no idea what adventures are in store when he sets out to discover what lies over that next mountain.

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