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Everest Eight for Kenton Cool

British mountaineer climbs highest mountain a record eighth time

by Kenton Cool


Kenton Cool summits Everest for the 8th time © Kenton Cool

Too many people may mar the enjoyment of reaching the summit of the world's tallest mountain for some, but in this report for WideWorld, mountaineer Kenton Cool describes how he and his Sherpa passed other climbers to enjoy a crowd-free Everest summit – for the eighth time.

On May 17, 2010 I stood on the summit of Mount Everest for a record 8th time.  The initial part of the day went very well, in fact it went like clockwork, while the second half of the day was slightly less than perfect [for more information on the rescue, see the Guardian's coverage here)

Summit day started at 9pm on the evening of May 16 when the team and myself left the South Col Camp for the summit. The weather forecast had shifted somewhat and the initial reports of great weather were replaced with possible strong winds and snow.  The team therefore was looking for a quick, efficient summit and that’s how it began.

Making good time towards the Balcony at 8,500m I quickly found myself towards the front of a group climbers. Deep snow had slowed down the group allowing me to catch them up, but when I reached the Balcony there was certain reluctance for anyone to continue towards the summit, down to the amount of effort required breaking trail in the snow. It came down, like in did in 2006, for myself and a Sherpa (in this case my friend Dorje Gyelzen whom I summitted with in 2009) to break trail through the snow to the top of the world.

In reality, being out in front is what I prefer; it means that I don’t get caught in any crowding that's occurring and has more of the essence of mountaineering. It also ultimately came down to the fact that if Dorje and I didn’t break trail then no one would, leading to a bit of a disappointing summit day for many people.

Leaving the Balcony at around 1.45am, Dorje and I made steady – if tiresome – progress upwards. Breaking trail in deep snow can be unforgiving, hard work.  This was no exception, combined with the fact that we had to pull and dig the fixed line out as well. We finally reached the South Summit (8,700m) just as the very first glimmer of light broke in the west over Tibet. Ploughing on through the snow, being careful not to step too far to our right and therefore possibly falling through one of the huge cornices that existed between the South Summit and Hillary step, we made it to the bottom.

First climbed on May 29th, 1953 by Edmund Hillary, this last obstacle to the summit bears his name. Back then it would have presented a formidable challenge, but now with a rope in place a competent climber should be able to surmount it efficiently and quickly, but it’s a scene of some profound buffoonery.  Dorje and I were up the step in a matter of minutes and the summit slopes spread out in front of us.

Summits should be free of crowds, that’s why I climb, really, for the experience – and people can mar that. This summit has to be one of my best yet: just my friend Dorje and myself with that view that takes your breath away. We even had the Everest shadow over our shoulders. For a mountain that many say is overcrowded, I think this proves that if it’s done right that magic moment still exists. It's more than just climbing the mountain that counts. I have a phrase that I use sometimes and hold dear: style matters. Dorje and I climbed with style that day and were rewarded with an empty summit.

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