So I’ve got three days to go until I depart on the biggest and most reckless mission of my life.
I bumped into Julian Stocks today (my former boss at JLL and now MD at Tishman Speyer)…
“How’s business?” he asked.
“Good” I said; “Except I’m climbing Everest for two months, so I’m slightly distracted”.
He looked worried.
I’ve been met with similar incredulity over the past few months, as people try to work out how a complete amateur thinks he can try to scale the biggest mountain on earth. But that’s the whole point in life isn’t it? Dreaming the impossible!
Twelve months ago I had a surreal conversation with my Dad. The ash cloud had enveloped Europe. I was stuck in Warsaw with work and he (hilariously, for a man with the attention span of a goldfish) was stuck on a remote island in the Arctic Circle called Spitzbergen. Dad had just flown to the North Pole with a famous explorer called David Hempleman-Adams…
“I’m climbing Mount Everest next year” said Dad.
“Why?” I asked.
“Ego” he responded.
“Oh. Well if you’re going I’m going too!” I stupidly exclaimed. In one minute of drunken banter I had unwittingly changed the course of my life.
I quickly learned that Everest is not something to be undertaken lightly. Recent years have seen grandmas and children scale the 29,029ft peak, and so I had naturally presumed there was now a motorway route to the top of the world. Not so. The horrifying statistic is that for every 10 climbers who attempt the summit, approximately one will die. The route to the top is littered with the bodies of climbers.
The summit lies at the cruising altitude of a jumbo jet, in the infamous ‘death zone’ – where altitudes of over 8,000m see the human body literally start to consume itself. Your muscles start to rot; your bones lose density; and brain cells disappear (not that this should be too troubling for a Chartered Surveyor).
Given that my expedition experience is limited to a Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and Raleigh, the last 12 months has been a crash course in all things mountaineering. We’ve had trips to all the main mountain ranges in Britain, the Alps, and Kilimanjaro. It’s been a hectic time, as both my Dad and I have struggled to fit in these trips around our businesses and family.
The last few weeks have been a mad flurry of working, training and eating (you need to put on a lot of weight before you go, given that on average people lose about 1.5 stone on the expedition). Packing for a trip like this is pretty epic too, and the wife is delighted that my five North Face duffel bags have finally left our living room to be shipped to Kathmandu.
I feel ready to take on this challenge, although it would be rather embarrassing if I couldn’t drag myself further than base camp due to altitude sickness. Given our amateur status, my Dad and I have set the responsible goal of aiming for the North Col at just over 23,000ft, while the more experienced members of the team head for the summit. Let’s see how we do.
Behind all my bravado is of course more sombre thoughts. Leaving my business for two months will be difficult, and leaving my young family will be much worse.
I’d encourage you all to take a look at the expedition website: www.icelandeverest.org.uk where you can find out lots more info on the trip.
Our ambitious expedition is suitably matched by our target of raising £1 million for research into early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is a rather unfashionable cause, and research into it is massively underfunded despite the fact we face a massive epidemic of dementia in this country. So please pay us a visit at http://www.justgiving.com/icelandeverest and think about making a donation - no matter how small (or large!).