I am finding hard to summarise the expedition which culminated in the successful summit of Mount Everest on the 20th May. Dave Hill and Lopsang Sherpa got to the top at a little after 8am and Pasang Tendi and I followed soon after at 10am.
To summit with Pasang was a moment of particular poignancy for me; we have climbed Everest three times together now and there is a certain depth of relationship that can only come from sharing such intense experiences together.
In 2007 he helped me down from the Second Step when I got a pulmonary oedema that nearly killed me when I was climbing without oxygen. That act of bravery and friendship led to him becoming Director of Adventure Alternative Nepal, and a complete turnaround in fortune for him and his family. I owe him a debt that cannot be repaid, but I am trying.
Pasang is also a Trustee of Moving Mountains Nepal, which is a very successful NGO now. Using the money I have raised from climbing on Everest six times now, Pasang and the the others have overseen projects of which I am inordinately proud: building schools, monasteries, hydro electric plants, tea plantations, businesses and myriad community development projects which have made significant differences to the lives of the Sherpa communities in the Solu Khumbu area.
Created with Admarket's flickrSLiDR.
Happily for me I have been offered an insight into Sherpa life, and made many Sherpa friends over the years, and this is now a big part of the fabric of my own life. To say this is a privilege is to understate the impact that they have made on me.
Yet over the last eleven years I had only ever reached to within a few hundred metres from the top of the world, until now that is. I have climbed alone and without oxygen three times,and as a mountaineer I understand that I was lucky to come away from those trips alive and with all my extremities. In 2002 I descended with my friend Will when he dislocated his kneecap just below the summit and that was an epic I will never forget. In 2009 my mask froze and I descended with hypoxia.
So Everest has given me some pretty extraordinary experiences that have been emotional and powerful, and therefore it is no wonder that I was choking back the tears as I reached the South Summit the other day and saw the last hundred metres to the top. I was afraid something would happen once again to prevent me from topping out, but Pasang and I negotiated the narrow ridge to the Hillary Step without any issue and suddenly the thought hit me that, yes, I would stand on the top of the world.
I thought of so many people; for example Chris and Andy in the office who have provided their support and friendship for so many Everest expeditions, as well an unstinting integrity towards Moving Mountains. They truly understand what I am trying to do with the charity I started.
I thought of Elli, who has put up with my continued selfishness in wanting to climb this mountain and always understood my passion for the mountains.
I thought of my parents who have instilled in me the character to choose this life and to maintain the perseverence it has taken to reach this point.
And as the final summit approached with a death-defying cornice on one side I thought of all the people who have supported and sponsored me on these small adventures of mine in order to allow me to achieve something more worthwhile. From the top of the world I said my thanks and marvelled at one of the most unique views on Earth. It was truly wonderful.
A very tired Gavin calls in from Camp 2 after summiting Everest on the 20th May 2011 by adventurealternative
Dave Hill and Mike Hurry leave base camp with me now, and they have been wonderful companions over the past couple of months. They have become firm friends.
During the expedition I have tried to instil in them as much of my own experience so that in the future they can guide themselves. They are now competent and confident climbers and are already discussing future expeditions to Antarctica and a proper climb of Denali. Future plans are in the pipeline and they are very exciting.
A surprise awaits Dave and Mike in the coming days. At Namche Bazaar a helicopter will fly the three of us and Pasang directly to the village of Bupsa where Moving Mountains carries out a lot of its work. My Moving Mountains Ops Manager Gelgen is there right now arranging a celebration with hundreds of villagers. Over the years I have met them all many times and they know very well the link between my climbs, the charity and all the changes in their region.
We will land behind the monastery that Moving Mountains built in 2005 and all the head Lamas will be there along with the entire community from three villages. It promises to be a short but highly memorable visit, after which we fly into Kathmandu.
I am very happy that Dave and Mike will see this traditional Sherpa display because throughout the expedition we have created a tight team between us and the Sherpas. They will understand the meaning of Everest (or Chomolungma) to the Sherpas, and not just as the highest mountain in the world or something to be 'conquered'.
Our small team has become extremely close, and it's important that they see where the Sherpas live and come from. For me, this is a big part of the enjoyment of the expedition, and it adds layers and depth to the experience. I dislike intensely the habit of segregating Sherpas from 'members'. Many western climbers don't get to know their Sherpa's on a personal level which is very sad, even so our trip has been an extremely happy and collaborative one. This visit to the villages will be a wonderful experience and a fitting cheerio to our friends.
Dave not only made history in Sarnia for his ascent of Mt Everest, but he also made waves in his hometown of Barrow in the UK. We received a photograph of a newspaper vendor on a street corner with a huge poster proclaiming 'Barrow Man Conquers Everest!'. Well done Dave for a great achievement and also for his sponsorship of the Lamsar Everest Climb
for Kids in support of Big Brothers.
Michael Hurry, Executive Director of Big Brothers, attained the formidable altitude of just over 8400 metres. It's fair to say that the level of character
and lack of egotism Mike brought to the whole team is tantamount to a great representation of Canada on Mount Everest.
As for not reaching the top, Mike puts it best when he says "It was never a competition for me to summit at all costs; I just wanted to do my best, to represent Big Brothers, have fun and come back home safely". Those are mountaineers words, I believe.
As I said, it's been an absolute pleasure to take Dave and Mike to Mount Everest and I'm looking forward to the reunion in Sarnia with them and the Big Brothers Trek Teams!
We've packed up base camp now, the yaks are loaded up and the Khumbu Glacier is almost empty. We have decided to hang on to help clear up the camp and descend with the Sherpas. Again, many people rush down the valley leaving their staff to clear up, and I know for a fact that the Sherpas find this rather insulting.
I'm so happy that we all leave as a team, because we all summitted together as a team.
Thank you once again to everyone who has followed this climb on Everest, and more importantly for supporting the Moving Mountains Trust over the years... You know who you are and it is you that have helped make a difference in thousands of people’s lives across Kenya, Nepal, Borneo, Niger and Ukraine!
For full details of the updates and the blogs as they happened please click on 'Follow the Team' or 'View Live Map', there is a full history of entries from the whole climb.
Gavin’s dedication to making a positive impact in so many peoples lives is a huge credit to him personally, whether that is by employing a former street child through Adventure Alternative Kenya or by raising funds through his adventures to ensure that Moving Mountains can continue to support and develop 100's of projects, children, families, schools, orphanages, rescue centres and sports programs, I’m sure you all agree that there is no-one more deserving of standing on ‘Top of the World!’.
You can donate to the Moving Mountains Trust on Gavin’s Justgiving page.
Congratulations to everyone in the Adventure Alternative Everest Summit Team!!!