Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes…
I have done it ive reached the TOP OF THE WORLD with in one hand proudly holding the Donegal flag & the other the Irish flag and my emotions are in free fall as i share that hallowed ground with the giants in this sport of adventure and expedition Edmund Hillary, Tenzing Norgay, Mallory and Irvine.
The very mention of there names in my shared sentence gives me a real sense pride personally and for my family, friends and county.
So let me share with you with journey to the top of the world at 29.028 ft to summit the might of Mt Everest.
It all started after spending a month and half climbing up and acclimatising to advance base camp located at 21.000ft on the edge of the Rombu glacier. After careful planning and many discussions with the weather station based in Switzerland, we looked at the jet stream movement the winds speeds
and directions the temps expected on the summit at 29.028 ft. So Nima and myself set our summit date based on the information we had for the 19th may.
Preparations now were in full swing everything from our technical high altitude down clothing and boots to my high altitude food from the Irish army which proved a huge success on the summit small high alt gas cookers to heat and boil the snow ice, tents and sleeping kit.
So on the 17th may heavily loaded with equipment and with a real sense of – this is it, I’m on my way to the summit of the world. We set off and I knew it was going to be the toughest physical, mental and emotional battle I was ever about to endure, the fear that there was absolutely no rescue and no room for error as margins are so small.
Climbing that day was tough with sometimes a vertical climb to the north col and camp one. From there looking up the north ridge with Mt Everest summit sitting high in the stratosphere we settled down for the night at 23.300ft, my food this night was made up from high alt ration packs of chicken casserole and it was tasty. Nima always reinforcing the fact you must alway eat even though your body dosnt feel like it.
Early morning start after a short sleep we head up the north ridge which was fully loaded with snow and a fierce wind coming in on my left ear, a wind that would just cut you in half. The objective today was to reach the next high camp location of 25.250ft camp two.
It was an exhausting climb with the difficult conditions taking us seven hours beating against the high winds. By now we were in super high altitude territory and the air was so thin making its very hard to catch your breath even while stationary, from here we moved to the use of assisted oxygen, so on with the masks as we were carrying the oxygen in our rucksacks. Breathing became less difficult with the assistance of O2 but nothing like breathing naturally at sea level.
We quickly got set up for the night, melting snow for fluids for the body and getting some food on to fuel this tired body, melting and boiling even a couple of cups of tea would take any thing up to 1 hour to do . Falling into bed the ferocious storm continued with the tent taking the most fearsome beating with winds gusting 100mph and I was freezing both from that and with the cold coming up from the rocks I was laying on. I Found it hard to sleep with the oxygen mask on while trying to sleep, the sound of the oxygen hissing and this abnormal implant attached to my mouth, with your head not thinking straight at all at this altitude it was becoming impossible to tolerate.
So with no sleep we rose up early next morning boiled up some hot black tea and quick bit of food by now I don’t feel very much like eating, body’s rejecting everything.
Stepping out of my tent I could see the damage the winds have left in there wake, ripped torn and some totally destroyed.
Suited up in my down expedition jumpsuit and with the kit equipment packed up in our rucksacks, which now felt like I was carrying a small car on my back, mainly due to the conditions and environments effects on the body.
So now we were just about to enter the most dangerous level for the body at 8000mts the death zone where the body is in dying mode so with oxygen set on level 2 in the death zone at 26.250ft where the colour of the rock surface changes to a strong yellow colour known to the mountain as the yellow band. So our destastanation today is 27.250ft camp three, by now the conditions are so bleek with all the snow removed by the jet stream leaving only a Mixture of rock and ice making it hard work wearing 12 pointed crampons. Every step felt so painful trying to balance my pace with the available amount of oxygen that I could suck into these two huge lungs to power me up this mountain, each step required so much concentration having to work the body so hard which was already struggling from dehydration and the thinking of extra haemoglobin in the blood.
At times what took my mind of things was athe views over my shoulder are just breath taking and eery at times as we rise above the clouds.
The winds still blow hard making it really difficult to catch your breath, but I knew I wanted to push myself right to the limit but a safe limit at least in my head.
We get into high camp three at 4pm exhausted as each step feels like hell to achieve
Nima informs me were not staying here for long, just long enough to catch some some food “not that I can eat ” and four hours later at 8pm pitch black and really cold temps we head on for the final summit push, with a mixed feeling of excitement and fear we set off, extra gloves balaclava and energy food, oxygen etc.
Leaving the tent pitched and some food and the gas stove burners as our fall back plan incase things turn nasty up ahead.
My head torch now firmly fixed on the bare route ahead Nima forcing me to lead the way, not knowing times to push hard or plodd along, my lungs simply answered that question, “plodding” working within my lungs reduced capacity.
On we plodded and the higher we went the harder it was to breath and man it’s tough to climb as. The energy levels are so low with the exhaustion , my body’s screaming at me as its in huge distress, now it’s taking all the Mental Stamina I can gather up to keep me going putting one foot infront of the other. Step after step the fears grew stronger knowing that there was absolutely no rescue off this mountain from this altitude a sick sense of suffocation came over me where my breathing went hair wire and I was sucking what ever little amount of oxygen was available but with a feeling that still not enough to satisify the body’s demands, thinking is this it is it all going to end here looking around desperately for any glimmer of hope or scantuary. “Pull it together Jason ,I kept saying to myself” and finally slowly filling my diafram in stead of being the spectator I took control of my body again.
It wasn’t like anything I’ve ever experienced before as like if I was beat on the bike or training or running I could just pull over get off and say that’s that, here there was nowhere turn to go look for help it was final, get it wrong on Everest and that it, it’s all over, your simply dead.
It’s now 12 midnight and the temperatures are super low -20 -30 deg and my face hurts sore with the pain of the cold winds, my nose and cheeks numb, I’m now carrying 3 tanks of oxygen in my rucksacks rack each supplying 600mins each.
About 1am I felt my body getting very weak I was sucking and sucking with a real fear of suffocation and I quickly checked my tank to find it empty, switched over it was like someone put the life back into me and on I plodded 2 – 3 – 4 o’clock each hour bringing its own pressures but in a sick way it’s where I wanted to be and it was fantastic, electric seeing how far this body that I know so well and that I’ve lived inside for 42 years, now lets see how far I can push it, the rush was pallet able.
climbing higher and higher out through the exit cracks onto the narrow north east ridge each side dropping for thousands of feet left to nepal and right to tebit. Next land mark was mushroom rock, where a good friend billy had an unplanned sleep for an hour days earlier on his ascent to the summit crazy I know but extremely nessecary as they where experiencing huge climbing difficultly. He was with Namgil who died on the decent which may help to explain there issues. From there it was on to the first step, no bother I felt and traversed along the cliff edge reaching the part of the climb which was the feared “second step” which is a substantial vertical climb with a combination of badly placed and secured or simply not, ladders and ropes. Times I knew my life depended only on a 6″ ledge to walk on with drops of over 10.000 ft directly below. The fear of god was genuinely running through my veins as climbed higher and higher, that combined with the heavy breathing which by now I have to say I was getting control off. Ill never forget that second step as it was so exposed with death written all over it, I could taste the blood in the back of my throat I was that frightened, but I knew it was the gateway to the summit and there was no avoiding it, it just had to get done.
And done it was I move on to the third step, knowing in my head that I could do it, just keep pushing Jason, I said over and over getting stronger with every step forward.
By now it was sunrise and it brought with it the most magnificent views and the most deadly reminders of where I was, as now the dead bodies were in full view preserved in there full state some newly dead and others there a while, I had to block out and not let it interfere with my progress, sounds simple but not at 28.000ft. It was hard to avoid the thoughts of what happens if something happens me up here, I’m I next?, who, what, where, when. There was disgarded oxygen bottles scattered left and right, abandoned rucksacks, boots sticking out from behind rocks, I presume still attached!!!! Stop, stop I shout to myself and focused again on the job ahead.
Finally I see It, the summit close up ahead and the sun setting as my emotions started to run wild, “I’m here I’m finally here”, Nima reminds me it still and hour away and I knuckle down again climbing higher and higher, the final part proving very, very difficult attached to the mountain with an 8mm red rope and directly on my right side is a bottomless drop but I looked out into the valley of silence been encouraged by the faces of Ama Dablam,Nuptse, and Makalu as the sun was smiling on there faces, turning left zig zagging impatiently trying to rush it, taking more steps than normal thinking im there im there, rushing finally collapsing in a heep, slumped against the slope, mouth gasping like a fish out of water, but the final slope was short and the rewards so high, I managed one final push six – seven – eight continuous lung wrenching steps, floundering ecstatically for the first time I could safely say I was going to make it, nothing was going to stop me now and I push and pushed not allowing my legs to out strip my lungs again.
I plodded across this great white roof driven now by euphoria “I’m finally here” where’s everyone else at 7am I’m the only person standing on The summit of the world at 29.028ft, minutes later I see a team arriving from the south side, but for a few simple Minutes it was me and mt Everest alone and it was wonderful amazing majestic spectacular.
I sat down in awe of where I was, all my child hood dreams have come true. Then a moment of weekness as today I stand closer to my mother and brother who both passed from this world and today for a brief moment I felt so reconnected.
Proudly getting out my Donegal and Irish flags Nima snaps a few pics as a lifetime reminder of this wonderful moment in my life. What a treat what a privilege to be here feeling the same holds and touching the same rocks as Hillary, Tenzing and Mallory, all those years ago, trying to take it all in, memorize the views, the sounds, I was in heaven or as close as. So I just had to make the most of my Lonely meditation, trying to soak up the experience when Nima taps my shoulder saying we gotta get moving , taking my final look around and been so proud to be the first Donegal person standing on top of the world, a feeling ill take proudly share with all that care to listen.
Slowly we started the decent proving as difficult as it was to climb Mt Everest. By now we were climbing non stop for days and days running on adrenaline which was quickly running thin.
On my decent the reminder of where I was quickly grounded me as I counted 14 plus dead body’s they were everywhere and it was so, so sad to think that this was their
final place of rest.
Arriving back wrecked to camp 3 at 27.250ft where I fell Into the tent exhausted, my mind running wild with excitement.
I needed no rocking as I slept, not even having power to get into my sleeping bag or taking my moon boots off – I passed out.
Next morning Nima woke me “hot tea” and we need to get out out this danger zone of 26.250ft down to a safer altitude of either the north col or if the energy provides get back to advance base camp.
What a fantastic summit day to the top of the world and I have so many
people to thank for this experience and survival.
An experience that I wish to pass on to the youth of our county, hopefully inspiring them that no mountain is to high or no problem to big to conquer.
Today I’m safely back in basecamp after days and days of descending my focus clearly on getting home safely to my wonderful family, friends and to my county of Donegal to share my stories, good and bad and take my Mt Everest Donegal flag back to the most beautiful mountain in the world the Summit of Mt Errigal and I hope you all can join me that day.
Thank you a for allowing me into your lives and I hope you have enjoyed this wonderful expedition to the top of the world, on this majestic yet ruthless mountain standing 29.028ft ..