Staff blog: Everest Uncovered
They each had their own red armchair. Kenton Cool, Lakpa Rita Sherpa, Ian Parnell and Heather Geluk. Between them, they’ve summited Everest 30 times. And what incredible insights of the mountain they shared… Mount Everest with a peak of 8,848 metres is the Earth’s highest mountain. It’s located in the Mahalangur section of the Himalayas, and the international border between China and Nepal runs across the precise summit points. Its massif includes neighbouring peaks Lhotse, Nuptse and Changtse. With 11 summits under his Sherpa Adventure Gear, Kenton Cool couldn’t sit still. He fidgeted in his armchair while grinning cheekily at the audience, a mixture of ages and backgrounds, the youngest being only eight. He jokingly complained that the BMC (British Mountaineering Council) members of the crowd had ‘forgotten’ to invite him (and Ian) to an event many years ago – only to find out that Ian had indeed been invited, leaving Kenton looking amusingly shocked and the audience in hysterics.
At 40, Kenton is one of Britain’s leading alpine climbers. As well as summiting Everest eleven times, he also led Sir Ranulph Fiennes’ 2008 and 2009 expeditions. He’s now based in the Alps and Greater Ranges of the Himalaya as a fully qualified IFMGA Guide (highest qualification in the world for leading people in the mountains) and Expedition Leader. Although provoking many laughs, Kenton also caused some tears. While completing the Triple Crown (Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse) in May, he heard moaning from a nearby tent. Inside, he found 58-year-old Taiwanese climber Xiaoshi Li. Li had summited Lhotse (8,516m) a few days before, but had begun to show symptoms of HACE (High-altitude cerebral edema, where the brain swells with fluid because of the physiological effects of travelling to a high altitude). After consulting the Himalayan Rescue Association at Base Camp, Kenton chose to stay, giving Li CPR. With tears streaming down his face, he said: “I had my alarm set at thirty minute intervals, and each time it sounded I jolted awake. I hadn’t slept for over 50 hours.” Kenton continued the CPR until Li’s heart stopped and he resorted to cardiac massage. But after nearly three hours, exhausted and devastated, he had to admit defeat. Lakpa was very different to Kenton. He sat quietly in his seat and carefully thought about each question before answering. He’s known to be on the world’s best climbers and the first Sherpa to climb the Seven Summits. With such understanding for mountains you would expect his children to be equally interested. No such luck. They would much rather stay at a normal altitude. His brother however, has summited Everest more times than him!
Finally, Ian welcomed Heather to the stage. With only one Everest summit, Heather was able to appreciate what a lot of people were probably now thinking; Everest was no easy feat. Heather works as a management consultant at Pricewaterhouse Coopers, London. She said: “I was asked what I was passionate about in my interview as my CV was pretty dry. I just said ‘I enjoy climbing and I’d love to summit Everest’. My interviewer replied: ‘Well what are you going to do about it?’” And so it began. Heather made a successful summit in September 2012 and hasn’t looked back since. Sadly, Everest, like many other iconic landmarks is affected by global warming. Apa Sherpa recently reported that a lot of the snow in 1989 is now just bare rock. A study recently conducted by Sudeep Thakuri of the Graduate School of Earth, Environment and Biodiversity at the University of Milan, Italy, says glaciers on Mount Everest have decreased by 13 percent over the past 50 years, and the snowline has shifted upwards by several hundred feet. The continued changes could have dire consequences for surrounding human populations.
With this in mind, if you’re thinking of summiting the Earth’s highest mountain, perhaps try and do it sooner rather than later. Lakpa, with his wealth of experience said he would never forget what it felt like standing at the top of Everest for the first time. To quote Tom Whittaker, the first disabled person to climb Mount Everest: ‘Everest for me, and I believe for the world, is the physical and symbolic manifestation of overcoming odds to achieve a dream’. So, what are you waiting for? Sherpa Adventure Gear: www.sherpaadventuregear.com Royal Geographical Society: www.rgs.org Kenton Cool: www.kentoncool.com Heather Geluk:peopleyoumeetalongtheway.blogspot.co.uk Lakpa Rita Sherpa: http://www.alpineascents.com The BMC: www.thebmc.co.uk