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The Everest Double Summit

In April 2015 Rupert Jones-Warner 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.

Unfortunately Rupert was forced to abandon his 2015 attempt when tragedy struck in the form of a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake, which caused a series of avalanches on Everest and the devastating loss of 19 climbers on the mountain.

Undeterred and determined to complete the double summit, Rupert set out again this year to complete his goal of being not only the first European to climb Everest, but also the youngest. Sadly, fate had other plans...

“My previous attempt affected how I felt this time around but in a positive way. I had been to Everest before and the mystique had gone. I knew what it was about, and what it was like and because of that I felt far more confident.”

Monumental Efforts

Most expeditions to climb Everest take around two months. Everest Base Camp (on the more popular south side) is already at over 5,000m altitude; with the summit being at 8,848m. This kind of altitude has a massive effect on the body due to the thinner atmosphere and lack of oxygen. At the first Base Camp, there is half the amount of Oxygen than at sea-level.

When people go above 2,100m, the saturation of oxyhemoglobin begins to decrease rapidly, meaning your blood cannot effectively carry oxygen. The body can adapt and produce more EPO so that the blood can carry more oxygen, and many athletes take advantage of this to improve their performance. There is a limit however, at altitudes above 8,000m (often referred to as the ‘death zone’) the body simply cannot adapt or acclimatise.

"Its bizarre. Everything is just much harder and slower. Every few steps you need to stop and have a break. You feel incredibly fatigued but not in the same way an endurance athlete feels fatigued. your body just gets sucked of all supplies and you are moving so much slower. For instance, the elevation gain on summit day is about the same as walking up Pen Y Fan (a popular small hike in Wales, approx 880m). I walked up Pen Y Fan before going to Everest and it took less than an hour. The same elevation gain on summit day took 10 hours.

However, to counteract this you use supplementary oxygen. This basically stops you dying and helps prevent frostbite."

“High altitude mountaineering is a slow game. 90% of it is allowing the body to acclimatise. Nothing happens quickly and a lot of the time is resting. It's a incredibly tiring process that makes you incredibly lethargic.”

It’s not only the physical demands on the body that are challenging, mood and emotion also play a massive part in the success of an expedition like this. Rupert took a few luxury items, and tried to enjoy the journey as much as possible. In addition to the usual freeze dried mountaineering pouch foods, Rupert had chocolate, energy bars and even some ginger beer!

On asking Rupert what he missed the most, it’s an obvious response. “Showers, toilets, clean clothes, ‘proper’ food and of course, real coffee! The instant powder we had just didn’t do it for me. I’m a massive coffee snob”, Rupert said. Aren't we all?

Rupert stayed at the first base camp for two weeks, before proceeding onto the next major staging post, Camp 2, at the mouth of the western Cwm (a broad, flat, gently undulating glacial valley basin terminating at the foot of the Lhotse Face). From there, there were another 2 camps to navigate before Rupert could attempt the summit.

The expedition to summit Everest is both mentally and physically demanding - only around 50% of attempts are successful. To achieve his goal, Rupert would have to endure this challenge not just once, but twice, one after another.

Rupert successfully summited Everest from the South side on the 17th May 2018, and for a few moments, was the highest person in the world.

"It's completely surreal. Its very peculiar because on summit day you don’t wake up at first light have breakfast and set off to the summit. Having already spent most of the day climbing, you set off from the high camp at about 2200hrs the night before and climb through the night. 90% of the climb to the summit is in the dark and you have no idea of your surroundings until the sun begins to come up. At this point you are usually very close to the summit at almost 30,000ft. The view is incredible. However, because the last few days have been so demanding and you have had so little sleep, by the time you get there you are exhausted! There wasn’t quite the elation I was expecting but there was a massive sense of relief. Its only beginning to sink in now."

Missing Oxygen

Due to the distances, elevation and oxygen required to summit, expedition groups often place oxygen canisters at several key camps along the way - the success of these expeditions is reliant on having this supply available.

“I made my first summit on May 17th at about 0840. It took 4 days to descend and we arrived on the Northern side in Tibet on the 21st. I met two Sherpas here, Nima and Kami, who then joined me for the summit attempt.

The mountain was closed on the 22nd, but we had special permission to carry on climbing, meaning that we were now the only people on the mountain at the time. We planned to summit on the 24th, the weather was looking perfect on that day but would soon change, meaning that we only had 48 hours to make the ascent from Basecamp to the summit - which is incredibly fast, unless you’re Kilian Jornet). This was the last day to summit."

"We pushed up from Basecamp to Advanced Basecamp and then on towards the North Col (7000m), where a tent had been left for us with an Oxygen supply. Upon arriving, the tent was wide open, and was empty, and had been ransacked. It was empty, and there was no Oxygen.

As there was nobody else on the mountain, we couldn’t even beg or borrow for a supply. We were 1.5 days hike from any Oxygen. Had the weather window been open for longer, we could have gone back down and make another attempt.

My heart sank at the realisation that I wouldn’t be able to complete the goal of summiting Everest twice."

"It was devastating. People assume the challenge starts when you start the expedition. I would say the expedition itself was only 30% of the challenge. The real effort is in the months and months of preparation, the fitness and more importantly the raising of expedition costs. Climbing Everest costs a huge amount of money, and takes a lot just to get the starting line.

It’s one thing not being able to carry on due to fitness or injury, but to finally get within sight of the double summit only to be thwarted by something like stolen oxygen is really devastating. And yes, that does make me want to go back and do it again!"

Although Rupert didn’t quite make the goal of summiting twice, the expedition was still a success. Rupert successfully summited from the South Side, an amazing feat which only a very small number of people in the world have done. Adventures sometimes don’t go exactly to plan, and it’s often difficult to see the larger picture, when you’ve been defeated and disheartened. Rupert’s advice?

“Take everyday as it comes and try and enjoy it. It's very easy to get caught up with the summit, but you can’t guarantee it. If it doesn't happen you end missing out on what it's really about and that's the adventure.”

Check out Rupert’s profile here, and be sure to give Kudos and follow to see his next adventure.

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