This year I was invited to be part of an incredibly strong team to take on ANNAPURNA – The tenth highest mountain, and by far the most coveted of all the mountains above 8,000m. To be part of an expedition like this was a real honour and a privilege. It may have seemed too soon to be jumping on another expedition having only finished such a massive project less than a year ago, but when I got the invitation, I thought I would be a fool to turn it down…
I would be climbing as part of a small team led by a man called Nirmal Purja MBE. If you haven’t heard of him yet, you by next Christmas he will be a household name. Having left the military soon before the expedition, Nims had an illustrious career in the Ghurkas followed by the Special Boat Service (SBS) and already holds records on Everest. We also had Minga David Sherpa. An incredibly strong but even more modest climber who is Nims’s partner in crime. Again, Mingma holds numerous records on Everest including record holder for the highest longline rescue in the world. Hakon Asvang also joined the team aiming to be the first Norwegian to climb Annapurna. This was his second attempt after his first attempt in 2017 was thwarted by poor weather and extreme avalanches – he was lucky to come back in one piece.
Annapurna is statistically the most dangerous mountain on the planet. If you google Annapurna, it says it has a 34% death rate. That is higher than any of the other 8,000ers (mountains above 8,000m) including K2. And as someone pointed out to me recently, ‘Its like playing Russian roulette but with two rounds in the chamber’.
Taking on a mountain like Annapurna is incredibly dangerous and that level of risk is almost unimaginable. But to some, like me that risk is a lure.
I grew up on the water sailing. Every chance I could I would be out on the water training and trying to get better. I loved the solitude the sea gave and I loved challenge. At that age mountains had no real appeal, I was going to be a professional sailor and that was that. It wasn’t until I skimmed through the 60th anniversary book of Everest in Waterstones when the interest started. After that I read book after book after book on mountains, mainly Everest and less than a year later had had swapped my sea legs for mountain legs and made a trip to Chamonix to climb Mont Blanc. Not long after that, I was on my first trip to the Himalayas…
Different people are motivated by different things – for me the lure of Everest came from the stories of triumph and tragedy on the mountain over the years. I wanted to witness this for myself and see whether I had what it took to climb Everest and stand on the top of the world. I can’t quite explain what it is that motivated me to risk it all on a mountain but I think a lot of it is seeing whether or not I could do it. For some people, this sort of question seems mad. For me the lure was irresistible also wanted to know what it was all about.
I would be lying if I said there wasn’t an element of ego in there. At 23, when I first went to Everest, I think one of the driving factors probably was ego and trying to prove something to someone, who I don’t know. At the time I didn’t see it but in hindsight on my second it appears apparent.