Everest the Old Way – the story of the first recorded trek to Base Camp — John Driskell and David Peckett — 7th April 2014.

Inspired by ‘The Spirit of the Hills’ by Frank Smythe who reached 28000 feet up Everest in the 1930s,  and also the poetry of Geoffrey Wynthrop Young, John Driskell and David Peckett  dreamed of spend­ing a year, get­ting as close to Everest as they could, with 3 others, in the early 1960s.

Two Yorkshire men who met at Sheffield Teacher Training College (now part of Sheffield Hallam University) in 1961, John and David prac­tised their climb­ing in the Peak District, saved 25% of their teach­ers salary as soon as they had qual­i­fied, and then 5 of them, includ­ing a girl and a qual­i­fied Pharmacist, set out in 1967 in their Land Rover from Barnsley, over­land to Kathmandu.

We were shown photos of the mar­vel­lous scenery, ancient ruins, and coun­tries they passed through, includ­ing Mount Ararat, Persepolis, Isfahan and the Taj Mahal, almost devoid of tour­ists and camp­ing restric­tions.

Living very rough, with a few broken springs, and punc­tures, they even­tu­ally arrived at Kathmandu and set out on 150 miles of hard walk­ing, having left the Land Rover in the care of a Princess of Nepal, and having taken on 2 bare­foot Sherpas car­ry­ing up to 1 cwt. each, for 27p/day.

Rice and por­ridge, occa­sional alti­tude sick­ness, prim­it­ive accom­mod­a­tion, rope bridges, a Sherpa dis­missed for drunk­en­ness – it was an epic 10 day jour­ney, always only up or down, to Base camp at 18000 feet, and they were determ­ined to keep records, to ensure the next gen­er­a­tion knew of their exploits, unlike those of their fath­ers and Grandfathers.

They revis­ited this trek in 2010 and showed us com­par­is­ons with the 1967 trip.

Base Camp which was barren when they reached it in 1967, now has 80,000 visitors/year and there is a hos­pital, res­taur­ants, and qual­ity accom­mod­a­tion. Airports, roads, bridges (where there had been only rope Bridges) and modern facil­it­ies, means there are 9000 people on Everest at any one time and queues can form, espe­cially at the top, where there are people who have paid £50,000 for a guided trip to the top (book­able at Jagged Globe in Sheffield!. But beware, above 26000 feet, your body is dying slowly). We were shown a photo of a 39 person queue at the top where 2 of the queue had died, wait­ing for their turn on the top, thus adding to the 250 who have already died on Everest.

How the world changes! We were enter­tained, enthralled, and inspired by the spirit of adven­ture shown by both John, and David in par­tic­u­lar, who had suffered ser­i­ously from TB in his teens, which had left him with a limp, but which hadn’t held him back. All in con­trast to todays mass appet­ite to exper­i­ence Everest the easy way which has res­ul­ted in an accu­mu­la­tion of rub­bish and corpses.