Saturday, May 19, 2012

Toughing It Out, by David Hempleman-Adams

Toughing It Out: The Adventures of a Polar Explorer and Mountaineer, by David Hempleman-Adams, is a fun read for me since I enjoy the occasional polar traveler book on the side of my Everest hobby. As a young boy, he decides he will climb Everest. At the age of 16, he writes to Chris Bonington offering his services as a porter for his second Southwest Face attempt (see Bonington's Everest: The Hard Way); Bonington kindly refuses, but encourages his passion. A couple years, and several mountains later, he informs a 1979 German and Polish team (see Herrligkoffer's Everest Ohne Sauerstoff) that he's coming up with them. He finds when he arrives in Nepal that he can only afford a trekking permit, and heads to Base Camp to at least check things out. The following year, Reinhold Messner ascends Everest alone and without supplemental oxygen (see Messner's The Crystal Horizon), and Hempleman-Adams decides that there's nothing left to strive for in the mountains. He instead heads to the North Pole, coming up shy in a solo air-supported attempt on foot after cracking two ribs in a fall. He then bags the Magnetic North Pole in an unsupported solo run, and then heads to the Geomagnetic North Pole a couple years later with friends after a school boy informs him at one of his lectures that it exists.

Hempleman-Adams settles down to run the family business after all this North Pole business, but then finds an ad for Himalayan Kingdoms in the paper. For the low (compared to a North Pole trip) price of 25,000 pounds, he can have someone else do the organizational work for him, and all he has to do is train hard and show up for a chance at Everest. There are no openings for the advertised Everest climb when he calls Himalayan Kingdom's Steve Bell (editor of Seven Summits), but someone drops out two months before departure, and the author puts his training in high gear. His expedition uses the South Col route during the 1993 post-monsoon season, and compared to his polar excursions, he makes it sound like a walk in the park. His climbs with a number of well-known personalities and climbers, including Roger Mear, Brian Blessed (see his Blessed Everest), Ginette Harrison (first British woman to climb Kanchenjunga), Gary Pfisterer (Harrison and Pfisterer would later marry and climb many mountains together.), Roman Blanco (who would become the oldest to climb Everest), and Graham Hoyland. Though the author head to Everest as a "training exercise," he has no trouble keeping up with his fellow climbers, even with a broken rib from a horrible cough. Though an avalanche wipes out their Camp III on the Lhotse Face, they scrounge enough oxygen to make an attempt, with twelve individuals making the summit.

This guy cant sit still! Two years later, he's finished the Seven Summits, and then moves on to reach three poles in one year, including an unassisted solo slog to the South Pole (likely inspired by Mear), sailing by yacht to the South Magnetic Pole, and leading a group of amateurs to the North Magnetic Pole.  He then makes another go at the Geographic North Pole with a friend, but runs into unexpected difficulty. He will get to the pole, he tells us at the end of the book. Just give him another go!

According to Khoo Swee Chiow, in Journeys to the Ends of the Earth, Hempleman-Adams finally makes it to the North Pole in a 57-day unsupported trip. Over the course of his life, he would reach different poles a staggering 14 times on 30 expeditions. He has since also set many records in hot air balloons. This post is a revision and expansion of an earlier entry, which starts here.

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