Is it simply because it is the highest point on earth? An absolute in a world with few true absolutes. Yet still humanly possible.
Is it the magnificent history?
Or the cornucopia of characters and climbers?
Or is it still, despite all our human failings, a unique adventure with a sense of positive energy you get from no other mountain.
Or is it simply personal? An intense, admittedly dangerous and potentially life changing journey that has no compare.
I first guided Everest in 2003, on the Jagged Globe 50th anniversary ascent, reaching the summit with David Hamilton and Sibusisu Vilane. Sibusisu would go on to complete the 7 summits, as well as climb Everest again from the North side. David has just finished his 10th successful guided ascent.
In 2010 I returned to again guide Everest. Having been up once and gotten that “can you really climb Everest” question out of the way, I could really enjoy the climb, be humbled by the view and the experience. Again I had a great team, friends who were quietly confident and more than qualified to be there. We had, if it should be allowed, fun on Everest.
On my team was Tore, who became the first Norwegian to climb Everest from both the north and south sides. Also along was Tim, who was finishing his 7 summits, and the fantastically fun and talented Ruairidh and Foo, who I went on to climb Vinson with when they finished off their own 7 summits a few years later. And Michael, who rented his crampons because he just didn’t want to start taking 8,000 meter peaks too seriously. Fortunately, he certainly knew how to use them.
Yes we did have a bit of a line on our way to the summit in 2010.
We also had moments of complete solitude, in the Western CWM, the valley of silence, where you are encapsulated by mountains and can be very much alone.
Of course there was fun steeper climbing up the Lhotse Face and over the Geneva Spur to the South Col. After an afternoon at the South Col we made our final unencumbered journey up to the summit and back down again for an early lunch.
Everest is never remotely the same, – the people, the players, the weather and ever changing route and weather see to that. So going back to Everest you are always guaranteed another experience, and a big experience, whether you want it or not.
As much as there are more challenges than ever on the mountain, and the age of innocence on Everest is long passed, the lure to go back, with a new team, to share the experience, to make it as safe and successful as we can, just doesn’t seem to abate.
If anything, knowing the mountain, knowing the challenges, and knowing the climbing, it makes Everest more interesting than ever.
This year I returned with Peter Hillary after we had teamed up on Carstenz Pyramid a year ago, for another fantastic and memorable adventure up to Everest Base Camp with our families – a mix of culture, history, fun people and fine walking up to the big hill. Phoebe put together the 4- minute, dancing our way to Base Camp video – perhaps not on too many trekkers acclimatisation schedule, but it does capture the atmosphere.
Base Camp felt a bit strange -“What, all this way. And no climbing?”
So in 2020 I will go back to guide again. Because there really is nothing like Everest.