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.