DHL Everest Expedition 2011

May 17

Dispatch #15

Published at 12:17
Dispatch created from email
Firstly, should post a quick note to say James and Charles, with whom I climbed and spent every day with for the month I spent getting to camp 2 on Everest, summited yesterday morning. I am unbelievably happy for them, but it is very very difficult that I am not there with them, sharing what must have been an awe-inspiring experience. Charles, an experienced climber who had gotten 300 metres from the summit of Everest in 2006 before having to turn around due to weather, deserved to get there more than most. He was quietly determined and extremely wise, I knew from the first day we met that with a bit of luck, he’d get to the top. James was much newer to climbing, but he was strong, mentally and physically. I could see his positive attitude will allow him to overcome huge obstacles on Everest and in life. A huge congratulations goes to them both. They’re now on their way down as another team we were in close contact with are on their way up, leaving for the summit tomorrow.

For me, returning to the epitome of civilisation hasn’t been all that easy. I have been able to come through the huge disappointment on Everest by focusing on the numerous positives that came out of the expedition and also looking forward to possible future expeditions.
Initially, I have to remember I very nearly didn’t even get the opportunity to start the Everest expedition. Just one week before I flew out to Nepal, I got that call from the CEO of DHL. I’ll never forget the moment I heard those words, “we’re in”, two words that conjured up the hugest mixture of emotions amongst my family. I am eternally grateful to DHL for this opportunity that I would have never ever embarked on without them. I’d always said that Baruntse was the best experience of my life, and to even get a shot at Everest would be a huge bonus; from there, the summit was almost irrelevant. Perhaps that isn’t strictly true, but I couldn’t comprehend what getting to the top or missing out on it could ever mean to me.
Secondly, I’ve achieved my main aim after all- the priority of this expedition was never the summit, it was always to get back safely. Safety first, fun second, success third. I achieved at least the first and second of those and in some ways the third. The summit would have been a huge success but I was successful in other ways. I took a huge amount from this experience. It certainly wasn’t unsuccessful or a failure. I wasn’t weak, I didn’t lack preparation and I certainly didn’t “wimp out” as someone said. I was part of a group in which I pulled my own weight, I survived with a high degree of independence and was able to use my experience to help others. I definitely wasn’t the most inexperienced person on the mountain and it was believed I was strong enough mentally and physically to get to the summit. I have to remind myself the factor that stopped me was beyond my control. It was a serious and complicated issue and there was no option other than to termite the expedition.
I am now looking to next year. There’s a few “If’s”, mainly health and university. Over the coming weeks I’m going to London to see some of the country’s top high altitude specialists: I am hopeful that the issues I experienced will be solvable, perhaps by prescription of medication, to allow me to return to high altitude safely. I would not go back if it was thought to be high risk. The other main issue is that during the Everest season next spring, I will be in the midst of my first year at medical school. I have been given the opportunity to assist with medical research on both Everest and Aconcagua over the coming year so I am hopeful that university will allow me to embark on these opportunities, which will inevitably allow me to become a better doctor.
There is a lot I can take from the experiences I had this year on Everest that will be hugely beneficial for next year. I know so much more of what climbing Everest entails, including many things which no other research or preparatory expeditions will reveal. I am sure that a return trip to Everest will go much more smoothly in many respects due to the events of this year. There was a huge negative in the disappointment of not getting to the summit, but in the long run, there are only positives to be taken from this experience.
On Everest, I would wake up every morning and think “blimey, I’m climbing Everest!”. I felt so privileged to be there. When I was climbing, even when it got tough, I made sure to embrace every moment. I knew this was a very rare chance and the culmination of years of work. The mountain felt so serene and everywhere I’d look there’d be a stunning view. Before I went, when I was there and even now I find it hard to comprehend all that happened. I fought so hard just to get to Everest, that it became overwhelming as my dreams evolved into reality.
For now, I’m busying myself with short term challenges to keep me occupied over the next few weeks, such as walking round the Isle of Wight in one day (70 miles!) and swimming the distance of the channel in a week. For a few years now I’ve been training for Everest, so to come back and not feel the pressure I put upon myself to train hard 6 days a week has left me a bit lost! It has been nice in a way to have a few weeks off training, but I feel like I’m always going to be someone who needs to be working towards something. In September I start university, but perhaps I also need physical challenges.
I’ve already resumed training with a few light swim sessions, focusing on a stroke of a different kind! Looking forward is the only way I can prevent myself from looking back.
I’m trying to wrap up Everest 2011, both in this blog post and in life generally. But I can’t close this chapter in my life, because it’s most defiantly unfinished. Whether I return to Everest next year or in 20 years, I know there will be a next time, and eventually I’ll be graced with the opportunity to stand at the highest place on Earth.
The ambition remains. The aspiration resides. The dream lives on.
  • Name: .....
  • Elevation: ..... m
  • Latitude: 50° 5921North
  • Longitude: 1° 2947West

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