What’s the best way to the summit of Mount Everest? You could answer that it is the south col route from Nepal or maybe that it is via the north east ridge from China. Either way, the journey really starts at a point somewhere else altogether.
In order to stand a chance of reaching the summit you will require mountaineering skills and experience of climbing at high altitude, as well as physical and mental stamina. Proper planning and support are also essential. It can take several years or more to develop these skills.
A challenge this dangerous and extreme is not something to be taken on lightly, and as such, I am completing a gruelling training regime which I started specifically for Everest in June 2010, and as a marker to my progress, completed the Marathon on the 5th September 2010. My training also involves rock climbing every week, and several larger climbs and expeditions.
Matthew D Thornton Interview
So where do you start and how do you gain the necessary experience to reach the summit of the World’s tallest mountain? Matthew Dieumegard-Thornton is on that journey. This year he is going to attempt an Everest summit. If successful, he will become one of the youngest Britons to climb Everest. We asked Matthew to tell us about himself, the journey that he is taking and the challenges that lay ahead.
CheapTents: How did you get into hiking and mountaineering?
Matthew D Thornton: I have always been a very active person, even from walking age, my Christmas present was always a bike which instilled the love of sport in me. As for hiking and mountaineering, the first time I can remember was when my dad took me to the Lake District for a backpacking trip at the impressionable age of 7. That trip included me walking straight into the tent with muddy boots (I didn’t even have to bend down I was so small!), and then an epic up Red Pike in Buttermere where we precariously scrambled up holding onto tufts of grass for dear life… I guess it’s all progressed from there.
CheapTents: Why have you chosen to summit Everest, as opposed to other mountains or challenges?
Matthew D Thornton: For many years, I have had the desire to climb Everest, perhaps ever since I went to an Everest exhibition in Cumbria years ago. Since then I’ve read many books that just fuel the desire to attempt an expedition on Everest. From this, choosing to climb Everest seems natural to me, it was the one mountain that created the greatest spark in me and as soon as the idea to climb Everest was conceived, I never looked back. I love technical climbs, and would love to climb the Eiger North Face and some harder Scottish climbs eventually, but for now, my eyes are set firmly on Everest.
CheapTents: What is your biggest weakness?
Matthew D Thornton: I don’t think I have one particular weakness but I hope by the time I am on Everest this spring; I will have ironed out all the little creases to give me the best possible chance on the mountain. Equally nobody is perfect, so climbing in a strong team allows everyone’s weaknesses to be covered and strengths to shine.
CheapTents: Last spring you participated in an altitude Sprint Study in NTU’s environment chamber. How did running in a reduced oxygen atmosphere affect your body?
Matthew D Thornton: Fortunately the chamber was only at around 2500m I didn’t end up with too much of a shock to the system in terms of altitude. The study was based on sprint exercise to exhaustion/failure and this combined even with only a small drop in oxygen mean the tests were extremely painful.
The effects of hypoxia however are normally felt above 3000m, and I was fully exposed to this on Peak Lenin, Kyrgyzstan in July 2011. The fast ascent used on Lenin just highlighted the need for steady acclimatisation, as your body screams at you for oxygen. Eventually after days of ascent, the weakness is overwhelming and simple tasks like unpacking a bag or getting in a tent become monumental events of effort.
CheapTents: Last year you went on an expedition to the Baruntse & Mera Peak. What were your highlights of that trip?
Matthew D Thornton: Fortunately the lessons I learnt on Lenin were put into practice on Baruntse & Mera Peak and I managed to avoid altitude sickness. This meant I had a great time, in effect the trip of as life time. I have four highlights from the trip. The first being the summit of Mera Peak where I surprised myself and managed to summit being rewarded with the most incredible views. The second was the summit of Baruntse which was just a culmination of everything I had worked for up until that point, the euphoria and exhaustion on the summit is so hard to describe. Thirdly there was the Amphulapcha Pass which was some of the most stunning and breathtaking scenery I have ever seen, at the end of a desolate valley to crown off the expedition. And finally, the most important expedition of the expedition was the team. I had a great team with fantastic guides and amazing Sherpas. It was a privilege to share such an expedition with such a great team of people.
CheapTents: What lessons or experiences will you be able to take with you to your Everest Challenge?
Matthew D Thornton: I expect the first thing will be the confidence I gained on Mera Peak & Baruntse and the preparation I used to be successful there. Then there are little things that you only learn on prior expeditions such as the importance of food and water, my personal climbing pace, and the importance of rest.
CheapTents: What difficulties do you think that you’ll experience when tackling Everest?
Matthew D Thornton: In short, there is the incredible exposure to high altitude, so acclimatisation will be key. Then there is the exposure to the cold, the mental stress of climbing under such conditions, the utter exhaustion and the length of the expedition. All these factors, amongst many others will need to be managed in order to have the best shot at the mountain.
CheapTents: As part of your Everest challenge, you are raising money for Global Angels quest for clean water for every child. Why is this important to you?
Matthew D Thornton: As an athlete, water is such an important quantity, and in effect becomes liquid gold, an elixir of life. If you don’t have water as athletes, your performance drops even at a level of 1-2% dehydration of body weight. Everyone knows the importance of water, but I think athletes know of this importance more acutely. I had seen the charity Global Angels from the fundraising that adventurer Bear Grylls and climber Bonita Norris have done, and was taken by their desire to give every child on the planet a future. Their water scheme hit me hardest as I was shocked by some of the statistics such as “about 4,500 children die each day from unsafe water and lack of basic sanitation facilities.” Whilst many athletes succumb to the effects of 2% dehydration needlessly, many children all across the world fight daily just to find enough water to survive. The quest for clean water for every child is simply something close to my heart, where I know I can make a real difference.
For every £10, Global Angels can provide at least one person with enough water for 20 years. With my sponsorship target to raise the height of Mount Everest (8848m) in pounds, at least 884 people will have access to clean water for 20 years.
CheapTents: You are promoting the organisation Climate Unchange. Do you believe that we, as individuals, can make a difference in reducing the affect of climate change?
Matthew D Thornton: This is such a hard question to answer as everyone has a different opinion on climate change; however it’s something I am passionate about as a mountaineer. At a shallow level, mountaineering takes place outdoors, and is therefore linked to the environment, however if you take the time to look deeper, you realise mountaineering usually takes place in some of the most precious and delicate environments on earth, as well as some of the most beautiful. I believe, as inhabitants of our earth, we have a duty to protect and conserve the environment as best we can.
Climate change is a naturally occurring phenomena, and the key is in ‘natural’. I don’t think that humans can or should try to stop climate change, but instead, take account for our own actions.
By taking this standpoint, I think we can drastically reduce the impact humans have on the planet. We may not be able to stop climate change; however we can allow the earth to change naturally, and at its own pace.
CheapTents: What are your favourite bits of gear, and why?
Matthew D Thornton: Some of my favourite bits include trekking poles which are often undervalued at high altitude, and also my icebreaker baselayers which are the best merino wool products I have used. Equally, I use Osprey rucksacks and love their ability to be stripped down; I climbed Baruntse without the rucksack lid just to save weight. Finally, my RAB Photon Pants and Marmot Greenland Baffled Jacket are the warmest bits of kit I’ve ever used.
CheapTents: Any people or sponsors that you would like thank?
Matthew D Thornton: First and foremost are my family and friends that have supported me on this journey so far. My mum has been there for me since the beginning and since the initial shock of being told I am going to climb Everest on the drive home from the French Alps, she’s been with me all the way.
I would like to also thank the Wempy and the team at Wardour And Oxford, who have given me so much support and opened up fantastic new opportunities for me.
Finally, I would like to thank my sponsors, Osprey, Trek Mates, Vango Force 10 and Maximuscle for their support along this crazy journey which has taken me to Bombay and beyond.
CheapTents: Anything else you would like to say?
Matthew D Thornton: I am still searching for corporate sponsorship for this expedition and would like to encourage anyone who can help to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for the interview.
Many thanks Matthew for taking the time to answer our questions. Good luck with your Everest summit attempt!
Inspiration for Adventure!
Matthew D Thornton is gearing up for his first major climbing adventure and this interview gives a good indication of the preparation needed to tackle an 8000+ metre mountain. For many mountaineers the quest for adventure continues with harder climbs or less favourable conditions. A solo winter ascent of Mount McKinley, aka Denali, in Alaska is the current challenge for explorer Lonnie Dupre. After being beaten by the weather in January 2011 and again in January 2012, it is easy to see that mountaineers face tough challenges. In our interview, Lonnie Dupre talks about his love for the cold and his first winter attempt on Denali.
More inspirational mountaineers and explorers that we have interviewed include extreme sports polar explorer Dixie Dansercoer, Polish explorer Rafal Krol and The North Face climber Renan Ozturk. If you need some enthusiasm to get out on an adventure of any size, reading about these guys will be sure to fire you up!