To tell the story of summit night, I really need to tell you a little about the others in the group. There are 27 of us in all. Damon, our expedition leader is an ex-Army warrant officer. He has brought us this far and, in doing so, has turned us into a coherent team, working together, following instructions properly, keeping to the schedule. The fact that we are a team now will play a large part in getting most of us to the top of the mountain.
Supporting Damon is our expedition Doctor, Suzanne and Frank, head of the guide and porter team. 27 summit porters will make the climb with us, one for each of us. We’ve already lost two porters to illness on the way up but these 27 are the cream of the crop.
Now for the team: Jonathan, John, John, Noel and Paul are five good friends from Donegal. Aged from 44 to 59, they’ve kept everyone’s spirits up with their banter over the last few, very wet days.
Laura and Sheila come from County Down and County Monaghan respectively. They’re both gorgeous smiley, cheerful girls in their twenties.
Sheila’s a nurse and Laura’s a veterinary nurse. For SMC readers, Laura has more than a touch of Katie about her.
The Irish contingent is completed by Philip, an electrical contractor from Dublin and his wife Audrey.
Darren and Maz are from my home town of South Shields. They’re husband and wife, in their mid to late thirties. Darren was invalided out of the army after an accident and this climb is the start of his road to full rehabilitation.
There are eight other girls in their twenties in the team, some of whom have made the trip on their own. Lucy, Alex, Marie, Ange, Helene, Emily, Gemma and Hannah are all amazingly resilient, resourceful individuals. They’ve coped like born infantrymen with the wet conditions, lack of sanitation and the toilet humour that seems to take over when people are leveled in this way. Their toughest challenge awaits them all tonight.
Originally from Merseyside, Nick and Chris are two lovely lads who grew up together on the Wirral. Chris is a conditioning coach in Bath and Nick is an IT project manager.
As you might imagine, Chris is a fit young man but he came on this trip, at Nick’s request, with two clear handicaps – he hates walking and he hates the cold! Ricky is also from Merseyside. He runs his own mobile car wash and valeting business in Ellesmere Port. He’s a big lad but very fit because of his job. I’ll be following Ricky up the hill. The image of his blue Vango rucksack will be indelibly tattooed on my subconscious.
Last but not least, there’s Anne. To be honest, Anne’s the one we probably all thought would give up first. She’s an overweight (by her own admission) fifty-eight year old midwife who hails from Scotland and works at St. Thomas’ in London. But she’s proved us all wrong and she’s still here and going strong.