MEET NICK ALLEN
Posted on 5th Apr 2017
Nick’s been a passionate Macpac supporter for almost as long as he has loved the outdoors. It all started when he was 14 and his dad bought a Macpac Pursuit backpack. Nick loved the pack, it’s robust construction and comfortable harness. He also loved the fact that it had ice-axe loops – something he was determined to make use of.
“Then when I was 16, I worked a whole summer at a factory and saved all my money so that I could purchase two Macpac products I’d been wanting for ages: a Resolution rain jacket and a lightweight Neve sleeping bag.” Stuffing these, his most prized possessions, into his mum’s Pursuit backpack, he was set for year’s of adventure.
As a teenager, Nick went after his dream of climbing in the Himalayas. With a map of Mt Everest pinned to the ceiling above his bed, Nick would fall asleep dreaming of what his climbing future might hold. Nick learned how to rock climb, got fit, and planned trips, all for the purpose of one day climbing the Himalayas.
“Spurred on by the accounts of others, and supported by my family, I began pursuing my dream to climb mountains. I was determined to reach Everest – and my mind often darted back to that poster above my bed. It was a goal that I believed was achievable,” says Nick.
That dream was all but stamped out shortly after Nick turned 21.
“One day, I unexpectedly found myself extraordinarily weak, fatigued and unwell. Days stretched into years, and I could not get on top of my health,” he recalls.
Nick stopped tramping and climbing through a seemingly endless series of defeats. He became increasingly incapacitated and found this progression incredibly hard, especially as it isolated him from the outdoors. Eventually he began to think that he would never again be able to access the mountains, leaving him completely devastated.
Four years later, Nick was diagnosed with Primary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis.
“By that point, I was already dependent on a motorized chair to get around. I was unable to walk on any uneven surface because of poor balance, and could not walk for more than five or ten minutes at a time due to fatigue. Mountains began to represent the impossible and insurmountable – a failed dream.”
Nick knew that he did not want to live this way for the rest of his life – he decided he needed to do something if he wanted to change. He also knew that getting outdoors was going to be key: “Getting outdoors always left me feeling refreshed and ready to go. In the past, I had found such peace and freedom in the outdoors and I needed it in my life again. I knew that I couldn’t go on without it.”
He got in touch with a physical therapist and a specialist personal trainer and began working out three days a week, focusing on strength, balance and flexibility. He also took a radical approach to his diet, cutting out anything that could negatively impact his health.
Nick’s desire to get outdoors again provided the boost he needed to make progress: “Moving and exercising with MS can often be really hard, and I knew that getting outdoors would provide me with objectives that’d motivate me to keep on going. Knowing that all those boring or painful reps at the gym would help me climb a particular peak or tramp to some remote hut was a huge motivation.”
With time, he started walking and tramping again. It started off with very short day walks and eventually built to easy overnight tramps. Yet Nick wasn’t satisfied with this. He wanted to go further and he knew he needed the right gear to do it: “I wanted to go longer and harder, but to do that, I needed gear that was smarter and lighter.” Slowly, he began acquiring more Macpac clothing and equipment, enabling him to take on bigger challenges.
In 2015, Nick embarked on an incredible adventure. Kitted out in his Macpac gear, he explored Northern India and Nepal, trekking and climbing, and managed to summit Island Peak (6,189m), next to Mt Everest.
For Nick, summiting Island Peak was a dream come true. “It was one of the most amazing moments of my life,” he explains.
His summiting experience motivates Nick’s other passion: helping others push the boundaries through healthy living. Nick is passionate about challenging the perceptions of what’s possible with MS, and about encouraging people to pursue healthy lifestyles. For that reason, he founded Mastering Mountains – a charitable trust that assists others with this condition to get outside and enjoy activities such as walking and tramping. Through his trip to Nepal, he raised roughly $10,000 to offer an annual scholarship to help someone with MS get outdoors.
When Nick isn’t climbing he works the occasional shift at the Macpac store in Palmerston North, contracts to Transpower as an Instructional Programme Designer, does a bit of travel writing, and is plugging away at a PhD looking at the development of alpinism in the New Zealand Alpine Journal. You can find out more about Nick’s journey in his book To the Summit.