Rupert Jones-Warner is planning a record-breaking Everest attempt, to become the first Brit and youngest person ever to climb both sides of the mountain in one mission. Chantelle Kelly speaks to him to find out more…
Rupert Jones-Warner is remembering a lucky escape, back in 2015: “We managed to get up the North Col (7000m) before any of the other teams, but 24 hours later back at base camp the earthquake hit. We were incredibly lucky we got down when we did. It was game over for the expedition and we were stuck at base camp for several days.” Miraculously, he managed to come away unscathed.
Three years later – in April 2018 – he’s returning to the peak.
“I just wanted adventure and I wanted to do something completely new,” he explains. “A double ascent of Everest from either side consecutively is really ambitious and the odds are stacked against me. It’s about trying to find my limit and seeing how far I can go.”
No, you don’t know the name Rupert Jones-Warner – he’s not a famous mountaineer or legendary explorer, and before 2015 had never attempted anything on this scale, “although”, he says “I did take part in my village run the other day.” When asked to describe himself, he simply says “I’m a pretty average 25 year old.”
Dream to Reality
Rupert says he’s “always had a love for the outdoors”, but you usually find him on the water as opposed to up mountains. “I’ve been addicted to sailing from the moment I started, 15 years ago. I spent every spare moment on the water and quickly worked my way up the ladder and began competing in international championships.”
So, where did he get the idea to take on Everest? “Originally I just wanted to experience the mountains. I remember watching documentaries about the early Everest expeditions and then reading about people like George Mallory. I wondered whether or not I had what it takes. It has been an obsession ever since.”
Preparation is Key
Even though Rupert witnessed first-hand the devastation following the earthquake, he remains determined to do it: “Raising funds to go and climb Everest is incredibly hard, and I am very grateful for the people who supported me. I want to go back and honour that, I can’t walk away now.”
When he originally decided to take on the challenge he had no mountaineering experience, so he headed to the Alps to learn the basics and then went to the Himalayas to develop those skills and acclimatise to the altitude. To prepare himself for the second attempt, he’s focusing on fitness, but as well as preparing for the physical challenge, Rupert has also been training himself mentally: “With this sort of expedition, it’s about trying to operate when you are completely physically drained. I spend a lot of time in Snowdonia carrying weighted bags over large distances. The weather and terrain can be incredibly punishing and proves to be by far the best training ground – it prepares you both physically and mentally.”
Rupert’s expedition will last around 70 days. He’ll start with a 10 day trek to Everest base camp, then cross the Khumbu Icefall before travelling through the Western Cwm where camp 2 is situated. Rupert will then tackle the Lhotse Face, visiting camp 3 on route, which is located halfway up, before crossing the Yellow Band and Geneva Spur rock faces to reach camp 4. He will then trek to the South Summit, cross the Cornice Traverse and Hillary Step, and then finally reach the summit of Everest – for the first time.
Once back at the Nepalese base camp, he will be taken by helicopter to the Tibetan border. From the Tibetan base camp he will travel to the advanced base camp and then take on the 2,200ft climb to the North Col. From here he will make his way to camp 3, then onto camp 4, where he will have to climb the three ‘steps’, Mushroom Rock and the Chinese Ladder before finally reaching the summit, again.
Has his first attempt changed things, is he planning on doing anything differently this time? “Yes, in 2015 I chose to start on the north side of the mountain, because the previous year an avalanche killed 16 Sherpas on the south side. Usually the south side has a slightly earlier summit window, so next year I will start there to maximise my chances.”
Rupert will take on his record breaking attempt in April 2018, but he’s already set his sights on future challenges: “I am a very keen sailor so one day I would love to sail around the world solo. I think solo expeditions are probably the most demanding psychologically, and I would love to see how I would cope. Then of course there is K2…”