“IT was harder than anything I had ever done before.”
Those are the words of Lower Largo man Keith Partridge on his return to Fife after climbing Mount Everest.
In last week’s edition the Mail told how Keith, an adventure cameraman, had reached the summit of the world’s highest peak to fulfil the Samsung Olympic Games Pledge, with experienced mountaineer Kenton Cool.
Together they took with them an Olympic gold medal, awarded to one of a group of tragedy-struck climbers who failed in a mission to the top of the mountain in 1922.
Keith, who arrived back in Lower Largo on Thursday, told the Mail at one point he didn’t think he would make it to the summit.
Keith explained how the pair initially did what is called ‘rotations’, where they repeatedly climbed from base camp up to camps one, two and three and returned back to base camp, over a number weeks to acclimatise.
He said: “I was so ill at the start. I had a very bad head cold and a cough. When we reached base camp (after a 10-day walk from Lukla) I literally coughed for 11 hours every night.
“I dropped 1000m down and stayed there a few days. The next time we tried to get through the [Khumbu] Icefall (en route to camp one) I didn’t even get halfway. It was devastating.
“The next time we tried we went through to camp two, but it was a disaster. I made it, but it just took me so long. I was managing six paces then I had to stop.”
Keith said, after much analysing, he realised he wasn’t eating enough food to give him the energy to climb so, for the next rotation, he stuffed his pockets with biscuits and cakes, which helped instantly.
After another series of rotations they made it up to camp three, feeling good.
The pair then dropped back down to below base camp for a few days’ rest before beginning their summit attempt.
“We cruised through the icefall up to camp one and only stopped briefly,” Keith continued.
“We got up to camp two and stayed overnight, then went up to camp three and we were thinking ‘this is alright’.
“We spent the night at camp three and the following day we did the rest of the Lhotse Face, which just goes on and on. We got to camp four (the last camp before the summit) and it was ripping with wind.
“We deliberately planned to have a rest day and just bundled into the tent and ate. We both felt reasonably confident.
“In the evening we started getting our boots on, the sun was starting to set. It was really beautiful. You get out of the tents and there are a lot of people all jockeying for position.
“We came off the fixed ropes and we moved like rockets. I have never climbed so hard and so fast for so long. The next thing I realised we were an hour away from the top.
“We then dived into an alcove for 40 minutes and at that point we were 10 minutes from the summit, but we couldn’t do anything, as it was pitch black and we couldn’t film. We waited for the first rays of light to come up and we beetled on up.
“It was incredible. You put your mind and body through everything and when that reward does come it’s a very sweet moment. I remember everybody looking at the sunrise thinking that’s the most wonderful thing they had ever seen, but I looked the other way and you could see the whole shadow of Mount Everest cast over the other mountains of the Himalaya into Nepal.”
Keith explained the team, which as well as Kenton included three Sherpas, then focused on their descent.
“I was absolutely trashed,” he continued.
“Kenton wanted to get all the way to base camp because he wanted to send out the stills. I said I would try to get to camp two.
“I hadn’t even reached camp three but I was so tired. By the time I got to camp two I had been going for 20 hours or something. I just staggered in, got a bit of food, some fluids and had a few hours sleep, then I got going about half eight the next day. I’d been on my own for hours at this point and it felt very lonely.
“When I got into base camp, I didn’t take my rucksack off until I was in the mess tent.
“Kenton was there – we had done it.
“It was quite something.”