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By Dave Morris (Issue 370, December 2009)
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High on the mountain a cloud of spindrift tore across the upper slopes and out into space, the swirling snow briefly obscuring the rising sun. It was 7.30am and there was no sign of human activity. We feared that high winds over Ama Dablam would keep the climbers pinned into Camp 3 on what had been planned as summit day.
The tension was considerable, knowing that the five climbers and four sherpas above included my 16 year old son, Calum, who was extending his October school holiday in order to climb a 22,000 ft Himalayan peak. I wondered how he was dealing with the wind, the snow and the cold on a mountain which Sir Edmund Hillary had once described as "unclimbable".
We arrived in Kathmandu on 4 October, joining friend and mountain guide, Sandy Allan, along with other members of our Team Ascent expedition. Three days later, with food and equipment for a month in the mountains, we clambered into a small plane for our flight to the Everest region. This was scary. Mist and rain obscured most of the landscape until we suddenly plunged down through a gap in the clouds. Moments later, somewhat relieved, we landed at a tiny airstrip perched between terraced fields and a steep rocky hillside.
Two days later the sun came out and marvellous weather followed - blue skies every day. Only Everest, with its ever-present plume of cloud and wind blown snow, reminded us that up near the summits conditions were going to be harsh.
For over two weeks we prepared for Ama Dablam, walking several hours a day through fields, villages, forests and rugged hillsides. We slowly adjusted to the altitude, resting frequently. We practised our climbing techniques and ascended through steep snow and ice to 20,000 ft on a training peak. We walked to Everest base camp and then finally arrived at Ama Dablam base camp on 19 October.
At this stage plans had to change - a chest infection was constraining my acclimatisation. Having had my voice box removed in a hospital operation in January, as a result of cancer, I was already restricted to breathing through a hole (stoma) in my throat. So a more passive role followed as I swallowed the antibiotics and prepared to follow the climbing action with my binoculars.
For three days I watched the climbers move up to Camp 1 and then along a narrow ridge. Rock slabs, pinnacles and towers barred the way. Rest was not easy, in small tents perched on ledges over massive precipices. The approach to the final camp required steady balance with steep snow slopes falling away to each side and large ice cliffs nearby.
Then, at 7.45am on 25 October, the wind began to ease. The climbers appeared, ant like figures, black dots on a white backdrop, slowly moving up the snowy ridge that led to the top. Just after 1pm they reached the summit and excited voices over the radio said everything was OK. Summit photos were soon followed by a steady descent to the camps below. Four hours later Calum reported he was back in camp 3, drinking tea and getting the warmth returning to his fingers and toes. Next day the climb ended with the long descent to base camp, covering the final slopes by moonlight. Then followed the satellite phone call home to Kinnesswood to report the good news of a successful climb - and to hear about the excitement of the first few days in the new Kinross High School!
During this climb of what has long been recognised as one of the world´s most beautiful mountains, Calum has been raising money for the Teenage Cancer Trust. This acknowledges the help the Trust have given to his sister, Esme, who had a brain tumour operation in 2006 when she was 11 years old. Anne, Esme, Calum and Dave are extremely grateful for the generous donations made to TCT in response to news of the expedition´s progress in the November edition of the Newsletter.
For further information about the expedition and to give your support to TCT in their efforts to develop new facilities in Edinburgh please go to
or send a cheque made out to Teenage Cancer Trust to: