How do you climb the world’s highest peak?
A question I asked myself approximately 3 years ago, actually. In fact, on that quintessentially rainy Lakeland day walking Southe Fell in the Lake District, puffing for breath like a seasoned chain smoker yet nevertheless enthusiastic, I didn’t even know where Mount Everest was. On my second day ever out walking, I became captivated in the thought of climbing this peak. It seemed like the ultimate challenge, the ultimate thrill and an honour like no other.
Mount Everest, or Chomolungma- ‘Holy Mother’, stands proudly at 8850m. 29,035ft high. The only way you can visit somewhere higher is by plane (you don’t quite get the same magic effect), or if you’re an Astronaut. Or Felix Baumgartner.
So how, and why, is a lanky 17 year old Sixth Form student with a stammer who earns £40 a week in a local restaurant and lives in a leafy rural Cheshire village going to follow the historic journey that Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made back in 1953, as part of a British expedition, climbing Mount Everest for the very first time?
My mountaineering CV, at the time, was an ascent of Ben Nevis in March 2010 with my dad. We’d turned back before the summit plateau due to heavy snow. My dad isn’t a mountaineer, although he had inspired me to take up running about a year later. I’d turned us around- I felt unsafe and knew that a slip without crampons or ice axes could have caused a fair slip. We had no avalanche awareness skills and shouldn’t have been there (nor should the 3 blokes in jeans who we passed on our way down clutching their essential survival supplies of a 2 litre bottle of Coke and a Mars Bar). The sun shone though, and the weather was cracking. Although as a naive 14 year old I was disappointed, from that walk I took away a feeling of pride in the decision that I made to turn us around. I loved the leadership, and that’s stayed with me ever since.
I’d been invited to a walking holiday with a friend and his family. They weren’t your Hillary’s, or Ueli Steck wannabes, they were your typical laidback hillwalkers. And looking back on my achievements in the mountains so far, which are all part of my journey to Everest, I really owe them one. I thoroughly enjoyed the week I was there. It was May 2011. I remember going on my internet on my iPod the very night we got back down off the hill. Straight away, when I read the Wikipedia article on Mount Everest, I was completely enthralled. My mum however, didn’t quite share my enthusiasm. I became obsessed with Mount Everest. Breathtakingly beautiful, yet fearsome and aloof, it drew me to it’s allure like it has to the 3,142 individuals (as of 2010) who’ve climbed to the top. And the rest, as they say, is history…
I was on holiday in France, mountain biking to my cautious heart’s content, when I came across Tim Mosedale’s website. Tim is a mountaineering instructor based in Keswick, and had climbed Everest in 2005. This was in August time, and it brought back the memories of my holiday to Keswick. I’d never tried rock climbing. But now I seemed really interested to try it. It’s one of those things that happens and you don’t really know why. I wanted to find out first-hand more about this new goal of mine. I’d booked myself onto a rock climbing taster day pretty quickly after. It came to October and I found myself nervously clinging to rock faces in Borrowdale yet absolutely loving it. One small step on my quest.
Tim must have felt like he was being interrogated- I was full of questions. From this point, I was still an amateur. Enthusiastic, but an amateur. I had a lot to learn. I was eager to learn as much as I could. One of the key things I learnt from Tim was that I had to approach Everest in a way where I wasn’t a liability to anybody else. It was a serious endeavour that needed to be taken on responsibly and that I had a long way to go before I could be in a stage to attempt one of the most prestigious and sought-after challenges known to man. Tim went on to summit Everest again in 2011 and is guiding an expedition this year too. No doubt that Tim will be my choice to guide me to the top of the world in 2014.
At this point, I had a poster put above my bed. It’s stayed there since. I look at it when I need motivation. It shows Everest’s beautiful, majestic North face from the Tibetan side on Kala Patthar.
One day, I’ll really live the dream.