Bloke on Everest

….a bet is a bet is a bet.bolash will go to great lengths to capture a good picture…and if there’s an interesting story to go with it then so much the better!So we sent some of our team up a mountain….not just any mountain. Here’s what one of them had to say.

’I am not a particularly brave man, nor am I a particularly young man. I’m getting on a bit actually, and frightened of the dentist. Oh yes, and there’s one other thing…. dare I say it. I really enjoy smoking cigars and cigarettes and have done all my adult life! So when some very fit and long standing friends, who were clearly emboldened by the Government’s totalitarian approach to smoking, took it upon themselves to mock ’my unfit’, ’unhealthy’ ’smokers lifestyle’, my pride felt a little wounded. Lke a cornered animal, I desperately looked for an escape from their advancing disdain. ’OK, OK, I bet I could..’ I prematurely insisted, hands were shaken, beer glasses clinked, and I momentarily reflected upon having just made a potentially dumb and dangerous mistake. I had just bet the assembled group of testosterone fuelled adventure junkies that not only could I get my ’fag worn body’ up Mount Everest, I would kick back and enjoy a fine cigar whilst I was up there.

An expeditionary trek to Base Camp Mt Everest. Stupid I know. Call it ego, passion or the 4 pints of extra cold guiness I had just drunk, but when close friends doubt your metal, then a bet is a bet is a bet.

Sure, I admit that I do not go jogging regularly, nor do I eat my 5 recommended pieces of fruit/veg per day; and instead I can regularly be found drawing back long plumes of smoke from an assortment of tobacco leaf; but let’s be clear here. I am not the pathetic, coughing and wheezing, nicotine riddled victim the anti-smoking lobby would have you believe and TV Commercials routinely portray. So to those agencies of the ’nanny state’. I say. Yes I am aware of the risks involved in the process of smoking, just as I am aware of the risks involved in the process of regular air travel. And yet I am still not persuaded to desist from doing either.

As I am sharing with you at least some of my pecadillos it would be remiss of me not to probe deeper into my character for other possible social flaws. I confess to being a ’bloke’, urbane, well educated, but nevertheless a ’bloke’. I like bloke things, the company of women, beer, telly, engines, adventure, meaningless sporting activities, and the ability not to take myself too seriously around other blokes. However, in spite of all this I appreciate that in the 21st Century PC, metrosexual, enviromentally correct, consumerist, world we inhabit today I am simply a dinosaur.

But enough of my shortcomings, I’ve got a mountain to climb!

EXTRACT: Letter to a friend. May 2008.

’ …There were seven in our team, 2 expert Sherpas, 2 young Nepalese porters (who possessed remarkable strength), myself, my adrenilin junky of a buddy Adam, and finally a professional mountaineer called Eddie, a real good guy, only 23 and superfit. (have you spotted the potential weak link in this group, yet?) We were accompanying the climber ’steady’ Eddie to Base Camp where he was to meet up with a commercial expedition waiting to Summit Everest.

We trekked from Lukla mountain airport…….As it happened we boys couldn’t believe it when our pilot from, (get this) ’Yeti Airlines’ turned up on the tarmac at Kathmandu International to fly us in the prop to the mountains. She looked like a chinese version of Angelina Jolie, so stunningly beautiful was she that in my distraction I actually forgot to take her picture. Anyway she was pretty good pilot as well and she landed us safely onto the mountains at 2.600 metres above sea level.

We trekked on to Phakding, then on to – Namche (3,500 metre asl) – Machermo (4,500) – Gokyo- Gorak shep (4,800 asl) – Everest Base Camp (5,400 metres asl) Oxygen 60%, daytime temperature -5 degrees c. Then back to Lukla airstrip via the east, and descending past Tengeboche monastery. What is remarkable though is that we covered the distance in 12 days, this we were later to find out from sherpas and locals was quite an achievement, since local guides set the minimum at 15 days and the average is 21 days. (weather permitting).

Adam and I had no idea at the time, but the expedition Company had given the Sherpas instructions to acclimatise the mountaineer Eddie for extreme altitude very quickly, so that he would be ready to climb as soon as we reached Base Camp. The expedition planners had half expected that Adam, and most certainly I would not make it much beyond Namche, and that we would settle for a few long distance photo’s. How wrong they were!


We marched and trudged up and over mountains for 9 consecutive days. For 8 and sometimes 9 hours a day. Crap food and worse still nowhere to crap! Always the last one into camp, I continued to be the Sherpas’ outside bet to make it to Base Camp 5,400 metres asl.


The Himalayas are an absolute wonder to the eye though. The mountains are like giant pyramids of rock and ice stabbing at the sky. The air is thin and fresh and if the weather is clear, the eyes can see for miles.

For the local population, especially in winter, life is brutally harsh in these mountains as there are few resources above 4,000 metres asl. By the time we climbed up and crossed the infamous Chola Pass (not even the Sherpas like this place), I was so exhausted I didn’t care where I was. I just wanted to go home.


On the ninth day I wearily staggered – last as usual – into base camp, oblivious to the fact that I was being welcomed by one of the finest mountain climbers in Nepal. A young Nepalese man who was attempting his third successful summit of Everest. When he passed me a mug of hot black coffee I mistook him for the expedition cook and I handed him my camera and asked him if he would take my picture. (He must have thought….’cocky bastard’).


In fact the whole climbing team were really friendly towards us, and seemed genuinely pleased to see us. They were an Indian/Nepalese team who had been dug in at Base Camp six weeks prior to our arrival; delay was due to the permission being sought from the Chinese to summit Everest into Tibet. With the coming Olympics, everything is very political up there at the moment.


After a fast three day descent we made it safely off Everest and back to Lukla airstrip, minus the climber Eddie (who was match fit and ready to get the ropes out). Alas the pilot had changed, and so on the short return trip to the capital, I mused on the fact that the twin engine was cruising at an altitude which was several thousand feet lower than we had actually trekked to.

AND THE BET!….A pint of Guiness in the finest Irish bar in Kathmandu…..actually it turned out to be a rather warm bottle of Murphy’s stout, in the finest Irish bar in Kathmandu…still…you can’t have everything.

Médecins sans Frontières and/or Amnesty International

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