Friday, 25 February 2011 00:20 | Written by Malcolm Walker |
Today we’re putting out our press release about the Iceland Everest Expedition and launching this website, and I suppose it’s beginning to dawn on me that we are actually heading off to climb Everest next month. I haven’t really given it a lot of thought up to now, to be honest. My son Richard, who is coming with me, keeps telling me that I am not taking it seriously. Though that is a better reaction than I get from the rest of the family, who just keeping looking at horror videos about the Death Zone and begging me not to go. It’s too late to change my mind now, though.
Richard is turning into a fitness fanatic, but I’m afraid I’m not. I was lifting weights two or three times a week at one stage, but somehow I seem to have reverted to mainly lifting a bottle of red wine in the evening. I’m hoping I can get fit on the mountain!
The only thing I am stressing about at the moment is my kit, because we’ve all got to get everything bought and packed up for DHL to fly it out next week. There isn’t going to be a lot of space in checked-in baggage on our own flight out to Kathmandu for anything we might have forgotten about.
I’m spending a fortune at Snow+Rock, one retailer that surely ought to be bucking the recession as a result. It’s made worse by the fact that I keep buying stuff and then finding out it’s not right for Everest. Not every shop sells Everest summit boots: we had to have our feet measured specially for those in London, then when the boots turned up they were too small. I’m terrified of frostbite and paranoid about getting the right kit to minimise the risks. I’m having a special down-filled summit suit made in France. All right, I know I’m not actually supposed to be aiming for the summit, but one thing I do remember from the Boy Scouts is “be prepared”.
Our main training effort so far has been Kilimanjaro last month. We made a short video that you might enjoy. It was tough, but quite easily manageable, so long as you took the porters’ advice and kept going “pole, pole” (Swahili for “slowly, slowly”) – making the final ascent to the summit more of a shuffle than a climb. I was more put out by the squalor of the camp sites we were staying in than by the actual climbing. I’m more of a five star hotel man myself.
We learned three really important lessons.
First, our trial of our specially prepared Expedition Nutrition demonstrated that we had made the portion sizes too large and the packs not strong enough to stand up to the rigours of being impounded for several days by Tanzanian customs.
Secondly, it isn’t a great idea to major on hot and spicy food at high altitude. The final stage of our climb to the summit was hindered rather than helped by some really powerful wind assistance.
Finally, and most importantly, as everyone tells you, it’s coming down that’s the really hard bit, not going up. On summit day it’s a 5km trek back down over rough ground, and you’re doing it when you’re tired after three hours’ sleep and setting off at 11pm for the seven hour climb to the top, followed by another two hours walking around the rim of the crater to get to the highest point. Then there’s another 14km to cover after an overnight stop. I went flat on my face over tree roots and boulders on more than one occasion. No wonder they reckon that 80 per cent of the fatalities on Everest happen on the descent.
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