by Paul Hameister
At 8.30am on 11 May I was privileged to be the first climber for the 2011 season to stand on top of the world. At the same time, I became the 68th Australian in history to summit Mt Everest.
However, the reality is that I stood on the shoulders of many others to whom I am sincerely grateful:
· My guide, well-known New Zealander Dean Staples, for whom this was his 7th summit of Everest;
· Our superhuman team of sherpas: Lhakpa (7th summit), Tendi (4th summit) and Gelu (2nd summit);
· The rest of the team at Adventure Consultants who provided infrastructure and support for the entire trip;
· The core Melbourne support group who cared for my wife and kids while I was away (you know who you are);
· My family – my mother (once a mum always a mum, even when your boy is 41) and father – and Dad, who is almost 70, walked heroically with me to Base Camp at the start of the journey; and
· Most importantly, my wife and kids, without whose strength, support and love, the achievement of this dream would not have been possible.
I will save the detailed stories for another time, suffice to say that aside from now being 10kg lighter, still coughing up blood and some frostbite on my face (kisses from Chomolungma herself), I am in relatively good shape.
There was only one other group on the mountain on the 11th – they summitted an hour after us and it included Apa Sherpa, the world record holder for number of summits (this was his 21st summit) – he (at 51 years of age) had the good sense to let us break trail for the night (we left from the South Col for the summit at 11pm).
The following day the weather turned for the worse, but encouraged by our early success a number of groups had a crack and none made the summit and sadly the veteran Japanese climber Takashi Ozaki lost his life from HAPE (he had climbed 6 of the 8000m peaks including Everest previously) on the 12th May on the same route as us.
It has been a very cold season and I have had reports of summit attempts in recent days resulting in bad frostbite injuries that will require amputations. Most groups are still on the mountain at Base Camp waiting for the weather to improve.
The summit itself is the most magical place I have ever been and I will never forget my first sight of those prayer flags fluttering in the wind.
For me though, the 45 days I spent on Everest (and the months of training) will forever be the high watermark of selfishness as a husband and a father in my life and I have an incredibly unique wife to have allowed me this self-indulgence. Now for some rest and some quality family time.
The night I left Melbourne for this journey, my 9-year old daughter Jade made me promise that I would come home safe. I am delighted to still be able to tell my kids that we don’t break promises in our family.
Thankyou to those who donated to Sunrise (refer below email for details if you still feel so inclined). Together we raised around $25,000 for the educational scholarship program for 70-80 at risk young kids in Nepal that will now run for 2011 and 2012 and make a real difference to their lives.
P.S. for those who supported me/Amelia Fuller’s Canteen fundraising efforts on my Denali climb last year (where I was turned back before the summit by bad weather on the same day that Amelia passed away), I did take a part of Amelia’s Canteen t-shirt to the summit of Everest and tied it to the prayer flags up there. I hope that in some way makes up for my non-summit last year.