Having recently turned 50, I wanted to do something memorable, challenging and also to mark 30 years of running my life long business Swiftclean, which I originally formed in December 1982 with my friend Paul Argles. I will be undertaking the challenge with a friend Barry Daly who has a desire to attempt a summit of Everest at some stage. I felt it would be a good opportunity to raise some much needed funds for charity. I have chosen MIND as my charity due to the fact that mental health illness has impacted my family in recent years. They ensure that anyone with a mental health problem has somewhere to turn for advice and support. I will be funding all the costs, so any donations given will be supporting the charity and not my trip.
Sunday 9th December 2012 -
Woke at 5.30am, another great night’s sleep and the first in the buff since Katmandu. Had a photo with Tensing's Uncle Mingma the 9 times Everest veteran. Set off on the final frontier of our trek back to Lukla, I counted 200 steps from the hotel to the coffee shop, so it is about a 60 meter descent. The trek was downwards for a considerable time as we left the dizzy heights of Namchi Bazzar and the source of my Diamox addiction, although now I was clean, the last was taken the evening that we arrived at Tengboche two days earlier. I was feeling good as we weaved our way down the zig-
We had the traditional lunch of potatoes, carrots, cabbage and onion that we had all come to love so much! We sat in the sun for about an hour before pushing on with the final leg to Lukla estimated at 2.5 hours and mainly upwards. This was a real test of our level of fitness achieved in Tensing's extreme and high altitude boot camp. Baz and I decided to get our heads down, pick the pace up and power our way back to Lukla in a way that would have been completely impossible for us two weeks earlier. We were now ripping up the hills with virtual fire coming from our heels, it was the ultimate yomp home. The legs were really starting to burn at this pace and we had to take one stop to refuel for a few minutes on a grain bar and take in some water before continuing our drive for the finish. It was a great site after only 2 and a quarter hours when we saw the archway from Lukla which had marked the start of the trek and now the finish with fan fairs playing in our heads. It was a fitting final leg. We went into the tea house and decided to dispense with the tea, but instead to celebrate with a can of Everest which as others arrived turned into two and then three and then four etc... Our celebrations could not wait for Katmandu as we started to build our own Everest Mountain of spent Everest beer cans on the table. This new mountain grew in statue in reflection of the purpose of our trek to the point where I could no longer see Baz or the others on the other side of the table!! All that was left for the following day was one final trip on the wildest ride in the Himalayas and back to good old Katmandu.
I dedicate this adventure to my dear departed sister Karen x
Saturday 8th December 2012 -
When I awoke amazingly my headache was still clear, the mountains were beginning to release me. At the Tea house in Tengbouche we met up with a chap called Matthew who we had originally met in Scotland during our training weekend, he had summited Island Peak and his trek was led by Mingma who was the uncle of Tensing, he was a humble man who along with Tensing served our breakfast. He had summited Everest not once, not even twice but NINE times, in the UK he would be a hero yet here he was serving us our breakfast, somehow that did not seem right. It was a lovely walk back to Namchi Bazzar the sun was hot about 19 degrees C and I went down to my shorts, all thermals and down jackets had now been dispensed with. We arrived at the Tea house that we had stayed at for two days on the way up. Here we met with another 4 of the chaps that we had trained with in Scotland; sadly two of them had not made it to Kala Patthar due to sickness.
A few days earlier when talking about food I had said I would fancy a nice cheese and red onion sandwich in white crusty bread. For lunch we had a delicious tomato soup with cheese tomato and red onion sandwich!
Then my first shower for a week made me feel great, despite my tackle nearly being burnt off when someone must have put on the cold tap in the adjacent kitchen causing the temperature to soar while the flow was bang on target. We sat in the warm sunshine high in Namchi looking over the town for an hour and a half just relaxing. Our entire group headed down to the town to meet for drinks and MoMo's in the cafe. So steep was the climb that it must have been at least 60 meters if not 100m down in altitude. I did a little Christmas shopping and bartering before going to the cafe for a lovely capaccino coffee with the MoMo's. The coffee was particularly good considering I had been forcing at least 6 cups of black tea down every day to keep hydrated. Then the climb up had to be done, this time we climbed the stairs without stopping even once and the last ten I managed a little sprint, this was a real test of how well we had acclimatised and become much fitter, a week earlier it would have taken us twice as long with many gasping for air stops.
Dinner was a vegetable soup followed by pizza, chips and beans. Baz, Nigle and Russ celebrated with a can of Everest beer each, I knew it would not stop at one and could not face walking with a headache again, as in the morning we had a massive hike back to Lukla airport estimated at 7 hours. 4 cans were consumed each before stopping although Russ wisely stopped at 1. My celebrating would be done in Kathmandu. We gave Tensing our tips in appreciation for being such a great leader and doctor to the group. I asked him if I could have a photo with him and his Uncle in the morning and said how in England he would be a hero with 9 summits of Everest under his belt. To bed at 8.30pm it had been a wild Friday night out in Namchi, Baz had 3 visits to the loo before 9.30, that's Everest beer for you!
Friday 7th December 2012 -
Awoke again with a banging headache, the mountains hadn't finished with me yet. We set off from our highest lodge where cooking was done in the evening with head torches! The trek downwards was far easier and the uphill stretches as we descended seemed to get easier and easier, a combination of our increased fitness, increasing oxygen levels and loss of weight were all contributing to this. After about 30 minutes we parted company with Burba, Steve, Christian, Lee and Joe who were extending their trip. We stopped for lunch at the lodge from which we had done our gruelling rest day acclimatisation climb a few days earlier, my head was still banging so had a second of Tensing’s' tablets. We continued downwards covering the distance in one day that we had in 3 on the way up. Our night was in the lodge where on the way up we had awoken with thick ice on the inside of the window. This time we were given a lovely inside room with thicker mattresses, Zebra pattern sheets and carpets on the floor. By now my headache had passed and the sleep was the best so far on the trek, not waking until 5am the next morning, however not been to no 2's for 4 days now, Baz suggested that the tablet that Tensing gave me was cement!
Thursday 6th December 2012 -
In the night I noticed the difference in oxygen levels, at 50 per cent of what we have at ground level you simply cannot breathe in the normal shallow breath way, I woke up a few times needing to suck in deep to get sufficient oxygen. We arose at 3am for breakfast and set off on trek under starlight with head torches. I had another banging headache from the altitude and had taken some tablets again to try to suppress it.
We walked for 2 hours in darkness over various terrain until the sun started to rise at about 6am. We were walking alongside the Khumbu Glacier whose source is Mount Everest herself, we knew we were getting close. The trek continued for another half hour until we reached Gorak Shep at the foot of Kala Patar our final frontier and the target that we had been dragging our bodies towards for nearly ten days. All ten of our team were still together and willing each other for the final push. Laura had suffered stomach problems in Kathmandu but other than the odd headache had been fine on the trek. Christian, whose ambition is to have a team of huskies for racing in Norway, had suffered stomach problems starting in Namchi and headaches now and again, he was self-
Zoe had suffered vomiting, stomach problems and headaches; she had been on Diamox for altitude sickness and stomach cure tables from Namchi. Steve was similar to Zoe but had had far worst symptoms and had been through more than any of us. Joe was suffering with asthma at the 5000 meter plus level and had to walk at an extremely slow pace to keep it under control. I had been on Diamox since Namchi and stomach tablets as well as endless headache tablets. Russ had only had a cold and Nigel some headaches, whereas both Baz and Lee seemed to have suffered little if any adverse health effects. What was for sure was that the mountains were not going to allow us here without having to fight.
We sat in the restaurant as the fire was lit with paraffin poured onto the usual fuel of dried Yak dung. I still had a pounding headache despite taking tablets before departing Lobuche, the smell of paraffin did not help my head or appetite. I only managed a few mouthfuls of porridge and Tensing gave me one of his tablets for my headache. At 8am we started our ascent, from the base Kala Patar seemed un-
The higher we rose the more scenery was revealed around us, Everest was there to be seen now, with the Khumbu ice fall flowing down to our right in a steady curve. This is where many Everest climbers meet their doom as the glacier is continually moving, ice blocks the size of houses will break away crushing anything and anyone in its path and massive crevices 100's of feet deep wait to swallow those who climbers who lose their footing. With my video camera on zoom I could see these with my own eyes; we were climbing now at the height of the Khumbu ice fall level with the route from base camp to camp one of the biggest mountain in the world. Two hours past and the terrain changed as we gained altitude becoming rockier. Eventually we came to a plateau area where we could see over the other side of Kala Patar into a massive world like something from another planet, we could also see the area where Everest base camp would be in the climbing season, which seemed miles below us.
The final summit of Kala Patar was large boulders sloped upwards heading at about 45 degrees with sheer drops on 3 sides. I reached the summit with a roar of sheer delight that I had achieved what I had set out to do, knowing what a magnitude of effort that had been required to do so, battling altitude sickness on the way and the relief that now our journey would be mainly downwards. Many handshakes, hugs and congratulations took place amongst the group and summit photographs were taken.
The Swiftclean flag on behalf of ‘MIND for better mental health' was fixed to two walking poles which I rose with pride and was photographed with Everest herself as our backdrop, what a moment and what a way to complete 30 years of business. If anyone believes that charity sponsorship should be linked with effort levels then this will leave them with no doubt that it has been or will be a worthy donation.
With Everest as the canvass I also photographed a tennis ball given to me by Brenda from my tennis club with KETC penned on it for Kent Elms Tennis Club which I had carried all the way. Baz had his photo taken in his Wasps Rugby shirt looking good. It was an awesome sight as you turned 360 degrees and was hard to take in the incredible views and to be so high 5500 meters amongst these massive mountains was hard to believe. We sat there for about half an hour savouring the moment. Steve who I had grown particularly fond of started to reveal to Baz and I the detail of what he had been through with his cancer treatment over the last year or so, we had seen him battle altitude sickness which would have defeated your average man and turned them back, it became quite emotional at that moment. Others wanted their summit time so we started to make our way down. I collected a few small stones as mementoes of the trip. The decent was a long one but eventually we got down feeling quite weary then had to wade across the 400 meter sand field to drain us a little more.
Back into the Gorak Shep restaurant for lunch. The walls and ceilings were covered with signed flags and tee shirts of passed summiteers, so we signed the Swiftclean flag and organised for it to be fixed up. Then a 2 hour walk back to Lobuche, we had been out 12 hours that day. After dinner of egg and chips and my Diamox I headed to bed. Diamox is renowned for giving weird dreams and it did not disappoint as I found myself on the Jonathan Ross show with Madonna who was doing sit ups with me holding her legs on the coach as Jonathan questioned me about tennis!
Wednesday 5th December 2012 -
Had a beautiful sleep last night and dreamt of my dear departed sister Karen who I miss so much. I was up only once in the night and my stomach seemed to have recovered. Woke to the smell of the fire burning which every tea house had in the communal dining area, the stoves were all fired by dried Yak poo! Today was to be a 6 hour trek to our final summit camp, we are all still here and raring to get to the top.
On the news was a piece about ganglan style having the most ever hits on you tube, it was suggested that we should do this on the top of Kala Patar to see how many hits we get!!
I felt good all day keeping the pace with the front trekkers, although had to swallow some pills for the headache rearing up again. The trek seemed relatively easy compared with yesterday. We walked through an area full of shrines for those who over the years had lost their lives on Everest. There was one for a Canadian Lady who lost her life to Everest this May. Another for a Nepalese man who had summited many times and had spent about 21 hours at the summit without oxygen, he fell to his death in an ice crevice. We arrived in Lobuche at about 2pm and prepared our kit for summit day. At dinner Steve said he had diarrhoea again and a headache, that was not good for him with the long day to come. 3.30am start for tea and off with head torches, bed at 7pm ready in kit.
Tuesday 4th December 2012 -
Up only twice in the night although stomach had still not recovered and needless to say I had no confidence again in joining Baz in the trumpet concerto, he had to perform solo! In the night I had a semi pounding headache, which was becoming par for the course for me. Got out of the bag and put some toothpaste on my toothbrush it seemed to flow much easier than usual, I thought perhaps the temperature had risen. On getting to the communal sink and vigorously brushing I came to realise why my toothpaste had flowed so well, it was the Clarins face wash that Kurt had brought me for my birthday, it tasted disgusting! Porridge for breakfast at 6.30 after which my headache eased and our rest day acclimatisation climb would begin. It should have been called a you will need some serious rest after this day! We left the Tea house after one last insurance trip to the loo. Just outside our residence was a memorial for all the fated climbers who had lost their lives attempting to summit Everest in 1996, the worst year for lose of life on this forbidding mountain. We were to climb 800 meters on our steepest climb yet, estimated at 5 hours up and down, reaching 5000 meters at the summit. The upward climb seemed to go on and on and on, it was absolutely and completely exhausting. At these dizzy heights we saw lakes at high level on other mountains, an eagle, glaciers, the peaks of many tall mountains, although Everest herself was hidden from view. Breathing at this height was hard the oxygen levels in the air were getting lower and lower as we ascended higher, every step was a real effort. Eventually when it felt like our lungs would burst we made it to the summit, by this time my head was pounding again. We sat at the summit which had a sheer drop one side for about 20 minutes and while there a small bird landed which I fed with oats from a bar in my rucksack. I was wishing that I could fly down, but no chance obviously, instead it was a 2 hour gruelling steep decent. It felt like I had burnt all of my fuel, been through the reserve tank and was now running on fumes. The downward decent seemed never-
Friday 30th November 2012 -
We were advised that today was a rest day with a small acclimatisation walk about a 50 meter accent to a great view of Mount Everest and some of the other highest peaks in the world. It was breakfast for 7.30 and leave for our small walk at 8am. At breakfast we heard how bad Zoe had been in the night, she looked awful and could not face breakfast. Her partner Nigel a big 18 stone guy, ex army who had served in Cosavo and now worked for Red Bull Racing travelling the world with F1, said he had been up all night with her. Tensing administered the Diamox. It was Steve's 61st birthday and Baz had made him a card which we all signed with messages it was presented to him at breakfast with some tiger balm and a Yak bell, a birthday cake had been ordered for him from us all which would be baked by the Hotel chef that afternoon and given to him at dinner. We set off on our walk at 8 as planned with Steve wearing his Yak bell with a gentle rhythmic clanging as he walked. After about half an hour and climbing at least 100 meters we realised that this would be no rest day. Zoe was still not feeling well, after the night she had it was amazing that she got so far, she turned back with Tensing to the Hotel explaining later that her legs had felt like jelly. We continued the trek with Tensings younger brother Burba who had been with us since the start This was a very steep and long climb, somehow the 50 meters had been lost in translation, it was actually 500 meters to our summit for the day and about 2 hours of hard trekking. I was always amazed how well Steve at his age kept the pace so well. He had told me that he had planned the trip last year but was diagnosed with bowel cancer, thankfully after an operation he had recovered and was with us on our trip. Eventually we reached our days destination and the view was special, we could see Everest surrounded by other massive peaks, but Everest was distinctive with the plume being omitted from its summit. I had read about this and how it is caused by howling 100 to 200 mile an hour winds as it is so high that it sits in the jet stream. Everest can only be submitted when conditions allow and this tends to occur in May when the winds lift higher due to monsoon rains in the area. I got out my 'Swiftclean for MIND flag', attached it to one of my walking poles with some string and had my first flag photo with Everest in the background. We stayed for about 15 minutes taking photographs before heading back. On the decent we met some members of a 30 strong band who were following the same route as us. For a number of years they had been raising money for cancer charities and had actually previously performed a concert on the summit of Kala Patar where we and they were heading, they had been in the Guinness book of records for performing the highest altitude concert. After about an hour we got back to the hotel and had lunch, by this time my headache had returned slightly so Tensing dispensed another Diamox for me and this did the trick I was soon feeling much better very soon. I had my first shower since my fateful one a few days earlier after sun down and returned to my room with the warm sun steaming in, it was great to smell good again. Zoe was still in bed and Steve was not looking good, Nigle stayed at the Hotel and the rest of us tackled the steps into town for a little shopping and a visit to the bakery for afternoon tea. I had two cappuccino coffees meat dim sings and apple strewdle, my appetite had certainly returned. Just as we were about to leave we saw Steve outside and we headed back up the many hundreds of steps to the Hotel. I felt much better than the day before on the climb but Steve was struggling we stopped quite often to give him a breather. On our return we went back to our room for a lay down before dinner. As we lay there1e heard the toilet door open, which was right outside our door, someone was chucking up violently time and time again. Vomiting is another symptom of mountain sickness, it was Steve who was suffering now. Dinner was rice, chips, dial soup and veg. Zoe had a much better colour in her face and she was starting to eat better, the Diamox was doing its wonders. Tensing had been to Steves room on a couple of occasions to encourage him to come to dinner, eventually he did arrive and he looked absolutely awful, he sat at the dinner table next to Baz with sweating head in hands facing the table, mountain sickness had got him in a bad way. The lady who owned the hotel was extremely caring as she had been to me when I was not good. She brought out a hot water bottle for his stomach and rubbed his back in a motherly way. Tensing encouraged him to eat rice and I explained how this had made me feel better and I said to take the Diamox as it had made such a difference to me, I felt 100 percent now and could feel for Steve. He ate a little rice and had the Diamox also some beachams that Nigle got for him, in about 15 minutes Steve looked a whole lot better, the Diamox once again was doing its wonders. Then to bed tomorrow we would push on at 7.30am with a 5 hour trek to Tangbouche.
Thursday 29th November 2012 -
This was the hardest day yet our route took us up a valley crossing various bridges trekking up and down via the river, I was feeling a bit dizzy. Then a steep climb started up and up and up, from Monju the ascent was 800 meters up in altitude. We enjoyed our first sight of the big one Everest looming over, she looked miles away and we were walking to its base, it seemed too far away. My headache was getting worst and I was starting to feel sick, I did not realise at the time but I was starting to suffer with altitude sickness. We arrived at Namchi about 12.30pm, it was a nice hotel high in Namchi sun was hot and streamed into our room. We had lunch soon after we arrived which was a lovely tomato soup with herbs and bread which tasted a little like doughnut, I managed to eat the soup but only half of the bread as I was feeling nausea. Tensing recognised my symptoms and he gave me a diomox tablet to help counter altitude sickness, he said that i needed to drink at least 4 litres a day. I went to my room to rest in the hope that I could shake of the symptoms without taking the diamox, after an hour I still felt similar so popped the tablet. The side effect is peeing rather too often, I rested for the rest of day and peed 3 times in the first hour. Boy I felt rough. Summer had sent me a lovely text in the morning which cheered me up I replied to her and had an exchange of texts, that was nice. I phoned home and spoke to Chloe and Pauline was lovely to hear their voices, I was missing all of the family a lot. Most of the team had walked to the centre of Namchi and found a nice coffee house and had consumed hot chocolates, coffee, apple pie and other tasty sounding stuff. I can remember reading how Bear Gryles had enjoyed apple pie in Namchi. I was feeling a little better now so I took a walk down towards the town which was a set of massive set of stone steps of varying height but I could not face going all the way, I needed some down gloves for the higher altitudes as it would get much colder and although I had brought gloves in Kathmandu I only had one with me, I must have left one in my case in the Thamel Hotel. I brought a pair for 1000 rupees then walked slightly lower down but knew I would have to climb back up those stone steps, so soon I turned and started my climb, after about 50 or so steps slowly climbed I would need to stop to get my breath back. It was amazing how the lack of oxygen affected me and we still had 2000 meters or so to go. The rest of the team caught up with me on the steps having enjoyed their mid afternoon tea and accompanied me the rest of the way. We had dinner at the usual time of 6pm, Nigel had said earlier how he fancied pizza and chips, that was exactly what we got and Baz joked how perhaps Buddha had answered his prayer, the team were pleased having had carrots and cabbage mixed with either rice or noodles or in soup at all other times. Prior to the main we were served garlic soup! Apparently good to counter mountain sickness. Tensing gave me another diamox tablet which this time a took straight away. I went to bed leaving the rest of the team in the dinning room and hoped to feel better in the morning. I pulled the door too and pulled the bolt slightly across so that the door held closed but Baz would be able to open when he retired to bed, it must have been just before 7pm. I glugged water as I needed to get my 4 litre quota down, then dropped of to sleep, I awoke probably an hour or so later desperately needing a pee, after extracting myself from my sleeping bag I could see that Baz was still not back, I pulled at the door but could not open it, someone has slipped the bolt across from the outside, I was desperate to pee. After a bit of a panic and a few extra tugs at the door I realized that I had a few empty 1 litre water bottles on the table in our room, I grabbed one, quickly removed the top and carefully aimed into the bottle, it was a small target. Luckily I was a good shot and the bottle filled to half full very rapidly. It was a good job I did not need to use the other end! Baz found this extremely amusing when he returned to the room a little later as did the rest of the team when I recounted the story the next morning. I found out the next morning that Zoe had been up all night vomiting etc.. She was the second to suffer mountain sickness but much worst than me.
Saturday 24th November 2012 -
Awoke in the early hours to be advised by Baz that he thought he had been sleeping with a Bengal Tiger, i was nearly blown out of the bed as the trumpet concerto continued just a few feet away. I did however manage to get back to sleep eventually and caught up with the missed sleep, arose at 10am. After breakfast and Baz opening and declining a very dodgy looking egg (a light lime colour!) we set out back out into the streets of Kathmandu with Lonely Planet guide book in hand. Aimlessly we walked from Temple to Temple through the bustling streets dodging traders glances but regardless being dragged into look at goods from time to time. Eventually we found ourselves in an area called Durbar Square where we decided to contribute to the economy by purchasing tickets to see the royal palaces. A chap named Ramma approached us offering a historical tour and the price was whatever we felt it was worth. His knowledge of the Kathmandu history was detailed but ask me to recount much of it and I will struggle, however one thing that sticks in my mind was where the name Kathmandu originated from. There was an ancient temple in Durba square apparently made from one tree, Kassa meant house and Mandra meant tree, the word Kathmandu became a combination of these words 'house of tree'. The day was a holy day and much traditional music was being played and dancing in the square, the atmosphere was great. We purchased our Nepal guide some lunch watching the festivities from a roof terrace, before being taken to see the Kumari or living child Goddess who is said to be a incarnation of the goddess Taleju. We were told she was chosen at the age of about 3 years old with some purity and barbaric tests including being left in a darkened room with a severed animal head, if she was not scared then she past the test! She would continue in this role without being able to leave her palace or even walk on stone until her first menstruation, then she would become a Nun, what a life? Our final destination with our guide was to a shop selling thankra paintings, these are extremely detailed used by Buddhists for meditation, some of these taking many months or years to complete, a single yak hair is used to get the fine detail and some of the paint is liquid gold. We did a little trade paid our guide and headed back to the Thamel Hotel. That early evening our trekking team arrived. Zoe and Nigle were a couple we had met in Scotland during our training weekend, Lee and his wife from Manchester, Laura a young marathon runner from Ireland (who is due after th trek to start a top job with Burger King heading up acquisitions for Franchises), Christian a young British chap from Kent who lives in Norway, Steve a young looking 60 year old who drove to Kathmandu in a VW Beetle when he was 21 and Russ who I know little about at the moment). We all went out for a group dinner before returning to bed.
left. Garlic soup was served which I finished of as I knew how important fluids were to me. I had a bit of the curried potato main and unusual bread, but I felt a bit nauseous and left the majority. I took some tablets for my headache and went to the toilet which was better news but the effort to get off of the pan was immense, I can honestly never remember being so tired. I dragged my weary body a few yards up the corridor to my room where Baz was already on the bed, we slipped into our respective sleeping bags and slept for 3 hours like babies, awaking at about 4.30 feeling a whole lot better. We administered our traditional daily foot treatment with wet wipe clean, added a clarins soap clean, towel dry and dusting with baby powder. My socks had been active for at least 3 days so a new pair were fitted which would be my Kala Patar summit socks! Thankfully on awaking my headache had passed and I devoured all of my dinner. This tea house had a TV so we were able to watch films before retiring to bed. One more day and the following would be Kala Patar summit day
Thursday 22nd November 2012 -
I will travel from Kathmandu flying parallel to the Himalayan giants bordering Nepal and Tibet to Lukla Airport landing on the uphill airstrip built by Sir Edmund Hillary and the Sherpas in the mid-
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Many thanks Gary