Crew Adventures - Episode 2

Mar 3 2022

Dave at the top of Mount Everest

Our expert crew live for adventure and the great outdoors which leads them to extraordinary achievements. In this edition, Dave, our operations manager at Tile Barn, speaks to us about his journey to the summit of Mount Everest in 2007 and the effect climbing to the top of the world has had on his life.

THE JOURNEY BEGINS

“It all started when I became a member of the Scouts. On a camp in the New Forest, we were given a talk about Hampshire Scout Expeditions and they pitched a trip that they were running to the Himalayas in autumn 1998.

"So after the camp, I go home and say, ‘Mum, I’m going on this trip. It’s only £2500.’ As a 15-year-old kid from inner city Southampton it was about as impossible as it comes; I’d never even been on a plane before! But I set my sights on it and with the support of my family we fundraised the money for me to go, so I went on a six-week trip to the Himalayas.

"We trekked for two weeks to get to Everest Base Camp, worked at a hospital and in local villages for our community project. I was the youngest person to summit the high point of the trip, Island Peak (6,160m). That experience threw me into the Hampshire Scout Expeditions group where I became a young leader. Things became much less about the ‘normal’ Scouting and more about adventure mountaineering, rock climbing and expeditions.

"The idea of the Everest expedition was conceived on that first trip. As early as 2000 they decided that a trip to the peak was the best way to celebrate the centenary of the Scouts in 2007, so the campaign was launched."

A boy wearing a back pack, hiking a across a bridge in the Himalayan foot mountains.

PREPARING FOR THE CHALLENGE

"Initially, 15 of us wanted to go on the expedition, so we became a training team with seven years to prepare. Each February half-term was spent training in the Cairngorms and we did multiple trips to the Alps. They also arranged two warm-up expeditions: one to Mount McKinley (6,190m) in Alaska to get used to the cold, and another to a peak in the Himalayas called Cho Oyu (8,188m) to test altitude resilience and oxygen gear.

"I didn’t make it to the two big training expeditions, so to make up for it, we took an unscheduled trip to the Alps in 2006 and summited Mont Blanc (4,809m). I also did a lot of cardio in the immediate lead up to the trip, just to get as fit as possible. I probably didn’t need to do as much as I did - I began the expedition super fit with not a lot of fat to lose and lost another stone and a half during the trip!"

A boy wearing a back pack, hiking a across a bridge in the Himalayan foot mountains.

A montage of images showing people stood on top of a mountain under a clear blue sky.

TOUCHDOWN NEPAL

"We ran the expedition parallel to a trip for 14 to 15-year-old scouts. Trekking together as a team,  we supported their attempts to summit Island Peak - the same trip that I’d done at that age. It wasn’t until they left and we walked into Everest Base Camp as a team that we switched into this mode of, “we’re here to do this!"

"Once we’d settled into Base Camp it was all about acclimatising to the altitude as much as possible. We ended up doing six or seven trips up to camps two and three."

A climbing team holding up a Scouts flag in Everest Base Camp and a diagram of the Everest Camps and Mount Everest climbing route.

THE ASCENT

"The summit attempt took three or four days. We were fit enough to go quicker but our team was down to three due to injury and illness; the group leader was recovering from a chest infection, so we waited in Camp two, hoping he’d get well enough for the summit. In the end we had to leave for Camp three without him. Camp three is pretty much at 8,000m - beyond that is referred to as the ‘death zone’, where you aren’t able to acclimatise and need to wear an oxygen mask 24 hours a day.

"The biggest challenge was keeping going. Once the oxygen masks were on it was very hard to sleep. After a big day getting to Camp four, we had about five hours to change our kit, eat, and try to get some nervous sleep before our summit attempt started at 9pm. We’d just climbed the Lhotse Face to get to the South Col, and then went on the biggest day of our lives with very little rest or sleep.

A team of climbers ascending Mount Everest in a line.

Views from Mount Everest

"The most thrilling part was quite literally seeing light at the end of the tunnel. We climbed all night in the dark, not really knowing how we were getting on. Halfway to the south summit the sun began to rise. We had the sunrise on one side and the shadow of Everest over Nepal on the other. That was an epic moment after climbing all night - knowing we were going to make it to the top and shedding a few tears!"

A view from Mount Everest above the clouds showing mountaintops and sunrise.

STANDING ON TOP OF THE WORLD

"Reaching the peak was amazing! Staying for an hour, we were able to take our oxygen masks off for a bit and soak it all in. We thanked our sherpas as without them, there’s no way westerners like us would make it. Everyone just felt so lucky to be there. We’d trained for years for this opportunity of a lifetime and now we were literally on top of the world."

Climbing team and Sherpa celebrating at the top of Mount Everest and a view of the summit ridge.

INSPIRING THE NEXT GENERATION

"After the expedition, I was offered a job with the Scouts and went on the road giving talks to young people. We coined the phrase ‘everyone has their own Everest’ which isn’t about people climbing a mountain, it’s about people signing up to their own challenges and seeing it through, no matter how big or small. And I think that’s still relevant today, however impossible something seems right now, set your goals and go for it."

FROM SUMMIT TO YOUR AVERAGE SUNDAY

"The Everest expedition taught me a few things that have influenced my everyday life, including staying calm under pressure and knowing the value of building a good team within a supportive environment. But mainly, I realised there are few things in life that are really important. We worry about a lot of things in everyday life, but only a few of them truly matter – so try not to sweat the small stuff.

And as the saying goes… don't put off until tomorrow what you can do today."