Everest holds a unique position in the human imagination - the highest mountain in the world it has a mystique and majesty that draws climbers every year. For most climbers a successful Everest summit is a once in a lifetime highpoint, literally! Not so for British climber Rupert Jones-Warner. In April 2015 Rupert attempted to break two world records by becoming the first European, and youngest person in the world, to climb Everest on two different routes, one after the other. However, he was forced to abandon his attempt when tragedy struck Nepal in the shape of a devastating 7.9 magnitude earthquake. This year he’s back, aiming to make the same attempt; to conquer the giant not once, but twice. Currently at Everest base camp ahead of his first summit attempt, we got Rupert’s thoughts.
Everest: The Double Double
High altitude climbing is very different from anything else in terms of training and although its about endurance and stamina, it’s not like training for an event such as a marathon or a tough mudder. Everest is different - it’s not a fitness test. A lot of people assume you have to be a ninja and be an amazing endurance athlete and be able to do hundreds of pullups. It’s not like that, yes you have to be fit and I do a lot of running, but it’s more about the slog. It’s about being able to pick yourself up again and again, and trying to smile and stay positive when you're having a miserable time. I’ve been to Everest before so I know what to expect.
With regards to physical prep, I do a lot of running and have done a couple of ultra marathons over the last few months. I run a lot over the hills in the South Downs in Sussex, as well as time in the garage on the spinning bike. I have also taken up crossfit at my local crossfit gym (The Hive Fitness, Chichester) and that is amazing.
A lot of people ask that question and many can’t understand it. A lot of people believe climbing Everest means taking 2 weeks off work, packing your bag full of warm clothes and jumping on a plane. The reality is quite different. Its a 60-70 day expedition which if you don’t know what you are doing will kill you. When I went to Everest in 2015, it took a huge amount of time, effort and emotion just to even get to the start line. The 2015 attempt on Everest took 18 months of prep and when we decided we had to abandon our attempt, it was incredibly hard to switch that emotion off and put the project to rest.
As cliche as it may sound, it’s acceptable to fail but it’s absolutely not acceptable to give up. Unfortunately I have to keep going!
It can go wrong and when it does it goes VERY wrong. The media plays out Everest to be some sort of playground but its not. Both in 2014 and 2015, there were major incidents and many were killed. If that wasn’t on my mind there would be something wrong.
This is just a glimpse of the kit I will be taking. As you can see there is an array of extremely warm down jackets including a down suit for when I am high up on the mountain. There is also a lighter down jacket and a waterproof for lower down the mountain. There is an ice axe, to the left of that is a ultra lightweight climbing harness (it's all about saving weight), Fentimans ginger beer. To the right is a pair of crampons, these are to grip to the ice when on steep steep sections of ice. Opihr Gin (of course) and two heavy duty sleeping bags. And all this has to go into two bags!
Well it's not as easy as just arriving at mt Everest base camp and climbing it. Everest Base Camp is over 5,000m and this means you need to allow your body to acclimatize to cope and therefore the trek to Base Camp takes about two weeks. Fortunately, it's a beautiful trek with incredible mountain views the whole way. I would recommend it to anyone.
What has surprised me (and shouldn't have considering I have been here before) is the pace. High altitude mountaineering is a slow game. 90% of it is allowing the body to acclimatize. Therefore nothing happens quickly and a lot of the time is resting. It's a incredibly tiring process and it makes you incredibly lethargic. We have finished our acclimatizing and are now waiting at base camp for an appropriate summit window. Unfortunately it could be several weeks!
The big thing is the weather and finding an appropriate weather window. Usually summits happen between the 15th May and the end of May. Summits do happen earlier but it is rarer, it is also a lot colder. It's important for me to try and summit early so I have time to get another in on the other side! We will see, there is a lot out of my control.
Everest always seems to be in the news about rubbish. I must admit I am incredibly surprised at how little rubbish there is. In 2015, on the north side I saw very very little and this year on the south side it is no different. Yes there is a bit of rubbish but that is expected. We bring down everything off the mountain. Every pocket of every bag seems to be filled with wrappers!