Man vs. mountains: Guy Manning

Celebrating at the South Pole.

From his office desk on an island 22 miles long and averaging 18 feet above sea level, Campbells law firm partner Guy Manning dreams up expeditions scaling the world’s highest mountains and spanning the length and breadth of countries.
It seems he has done it all…but he’s not stopping yet. Living caught up with Guy to talk about his recent accomplishments and future plans.

Where are you from originally?
I was born in London but grew up in the north west of England, between the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales. Cayman has been home for 14 years.

Have you always been an adventurer of sorts? When did this interest turn into serious mountaineering?
I have always enjoyed travel to exotic places and sport. Mountaineering is a great combination of both those interests, but I only took it up at the age of 30, just before I moved to Cayman.

You have climbed the Seven Summits, skied to the South Pole and completed Race Across the West and Race Across America. Are there any adventures we are missing?
I have been on various other climbing trips to the Alps and the Andes. Last year I cycled the length of the UK, and this month I completed seven peaks around Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales in seven days.

Which of your adventures have been your favourites and which have been the most challenging?
Everest has been my favourite and most challenging expedition so far. I had always been fascinated by the challenge of standing on the highest point on the planet and it didn’t disappoint! Climbing above 8,000 metres is very, very hard work.

Race Across America was a great team event and was very tough in terms of sleep deprivation. I averaged two hours a night while we cycled across the States in a week.

How long did it take you to complete the Seven Summits?
It took me 12 years from 2004 to 2016. I was lucky to climb five of the seven peaks on my first attempt. Elbrus took two expeditions because of bad weather and a sick guide on my first attempt, but most of the setbacks were on Denali. I turned back due to bad weather and/or dangerous conditions on my first three attempts in 2009, 2012 and 2015. I finally got to the top on my fourth attempt in 2016. Each expedition takes three weeks, so I have spent three months of my life in a tent on that mountain.

You are aiming to complete the Explorers’ Grand Slam by skiing to the North Pole in April 2020. How are you preparing for this?
It is still a little far out to be training specifically for the expedition, but over the next few months I’ll be steadily increasing my cardio sessions, putting in more hours on a Ski Erg machine, and focussing on the strength training necessary to be able to haul a heavy sledge over rough terrain all day for a week. I have no intention of ending up in the Arctic Ocean so I will not be working on my swimming!

After you complete that what will you next set your sights on?
I am not sure yet what will be next. There are several mountains in the Alps, Andes and Himalayas on my bucket list, and I’d like to take on an ocean rowing challenge at some point.

How does training for mountain climbing and endurance cycling differ?
Both are heavily endurance-based, but when I’m training for climbing expeditions I mix up my cardio sessions (mainly running, cycling and rowing), whereas I focus on riding for long-distance cycling challenges. Lighter is always better on the bike, so I try to get as lean as possible and cut back on the upper body work. I usually bulk up for climbing expeditions because of the need to carry heavy loads all day. A little extra body fat also helps you stay warm, although it’s obviously counter-productive to overdo it. I always lose weight on the longer climbing trips – almost 30lbs on Everest, so it’s not a long-term problem.

How do you fit in training alongside your busy career and personal life?
It’s just a question of being disciplined. I usually get my expedition training done very early in the morning, before the rest of the day gets in the way. I’m an early riser and I enjoy the training, so I’ve never found it to be an issue. I also think my training makes me much more productive, as it increases my energy and reduces my stress levels.

Even when not in training for an event, do you train regularly?
Yes, I’m probably a little obsessed. I usually train at least five times a week even when I’m not preparing for an expedition, but the duration and intensity of the sessions are lower.

Have you ever suffered any injuries during training or expeditions?
Not many. I’ve been quite lucky in that regard. I have had a few bouts of overtraining syndrome, and tendinitis in my knees, but they have never stopped me from completing a challenge. Frostbite on Everest has been my most serious injury, but thankfully I kept all my toes in the end.
Even when completing events in teams, surely there are a lot of isolated moments. How do you get through those?

I usually enjoy the isolated moments. Part of the attraction of expeditions is that you do get to disconnect from the rest of the world. If it’s a physically challenging moment, I get through it by thinking about all the work I’ve put into training to get to this point, and how I’d feel if I gave up.

How much money do you think you have raised for charity and which charities have benefitted?
[I have raised] about US$330,000 so far across four of my challenges, all for the Cayman Islands Cancer Society.

Reaching the summit of Mount Everest, despite frostbitten feet.

Quick bits

What items do you never leave the house without?
Nothing unusual; just my keys, wallet and phone.

Favourite musical genre, song or band?
I have very eclectic musical tastes.

If you could invite anyone to a dinner party who would it/they be?
It’s always tricky to narrow down this invite list, but I think Sir Winston Churchill, Christopher Hitchens and Muhammad Ali would make for an interesting evening.

What book or TV series are you enjoying right now?
I’m currently reading ‘Mukiwa: A White Boy in Africa’, Peter Godwin’s fascinating memoir of growing up in Rhodesia / Zimbabwe during the country’s transition from white rule to the Mugabe regime.

What is your favourite food?
If I have to pick one, I’ll go with Japanese.