Climbing Everest – A Culture Club interview

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On Wednesday the 12th of September, I was privileged enough to listen to the experiences and adventures of John Shelton-Smith, an accomplished climber and charitable fundraiser. Mr Shelton-Smith was 54 years old when he ascended Mount Everest, clearly showing his determination and strength of character.

The talk began with Mr Shelton-Smith telling of how he climbed several mountains in the Himalayas before his attempt on Everest. One day, when asking his wife for permission, (something all gentlemen soon get used to) for a climbing expedition in the Himalayas his wife asked “why don’t you climb a mountain everybody’s heard of?”, which he took as a green light to undertake the expedition!

We saw many incredible pictures of awe-inspiring and breath-taking landscapes; the feeling of natural might was incredible. We were told about the Tibetan people and how they had to carry equipment as heavy as 80kg every day for minimum wage. In this sense, the cultural boundary made the talk all the more fascinating.

One of the most gruelling ordeals appeared to be the lack of sanitation, and this is coming from someone who feels at home in mud and tents! The cooks would not wash their hands and the snow which produced drinking water was ridden with bacteria. Mr Shelton-Smith himself became ill for 5 days during the 2 month expedition. I believe that this truly showed persistence and a dare-devil attitude of staring death in the face in some of the world’s harshest weather conditions.

Sadly, staring death in the face was only too true, as there are 362 bodies littering the tracks from fallen travellers, mummified by the snow and too heavy to be removed from the mountain. I witnessed pictures of corpses frozen solid having collapsed through exhaustion or lack of oxygen. This truly hit home when we saw the wrapped body of a Swiss mountaineer who died on the very trip Mr Shelton-Smith was on!

I found Mr Shelton-Smith compelling, due to his vast knowledge and down-to-earth personality. This ensured the evening was intriguing and I continued to talk to Mr Smith over a good pint in the sixth form lounge. A truly inspiring man with a great outlook on life!

Tom Park