David Bradley has a wish. He wants to scale Everest.
So do many other self-confessed adrenaline junkies, but given David has just turned 60, only took up climbing six years ago and the last time he attempted the feat he was caught in avalanche triggered by the devastating Nepalese earthquake, he would have been forgiven for opting for a more gentler hobby.
However, not only is he determined to return for a third, and what he insists will be a final attempt at Everest, but this time he will be accompanied by his son.
“It’s true what they say, mountain climbing is an obsession and Everest is unfinished business, ” says the semi-retired accountant from Thirsk.
He’s referring to the fact that on April 25 this year he was part through a second assault on the 29,000ft mountain. The expedition had been going well. David, who had undergone a heart operation the previous year, was feeling the fittest he had in years. But then came the low rumble.
The earthquake, which registered 7.8 on the Richter scale, left more than 8,000 dead, many more homeless and hitting during the peak climbing season it left those like David trapped on the edge of the world’s highest mountain.
“We were in a complete white out,” says the semi-retired accountant from Thirsk. “We couldn’t see anything, but we could hear it. The earth shook and the noise was incredible. The whole thing lasted about three minutes, but it felt much longer.”
There is no training which can prepare climbers for being caught in an avalanche, but the advice on Everest is to remain clipped to the fixed rope route which runs to the summit.
“The idea of it is to prevent people falling off, but as soon as I heard the avalanche I unclipped myself. I didn’t want to be attached to a rope so close to the ground; I feared I could be trapped under a deluge of snow. I don’t know why given I couldn’t see a thing, but I honestly thought I might be able to outrun it. My climbing partner stayed clipped on reasoning that he could easily be swept into a crevasse by the power of the snow. Fortunately we both survived, but it could have been different.”
When the tremors ceased and visibility returned, David knew he had been lucky, but up there on the mountain he had also had no idea of the devastation the earthquake had caused elsewhere. He had left base camp just eight hours earlier, but when he was airlifted back he saw just how close he had come to death or serious injury.
“There was nothing left. It was ruined. They often say base camp is the safest place to be, but it wasn’t this time. Three of our team - two cooks and a sherpa - had sought safety in the mess tent, but it was flattened in the avalanche and they didn’t survive. Had we still been there we might not have survived either. I managed to retrieve some personal possessions which I had left in the tent, but that was it.”
Back home, his wife Helen, who had accompanied David part of the way on his first attempt at Everest in 2014 faced an anxious wait for news.
“I managed to make a very short satellite call back home to tell them I was safe, but yes, Helen had been preparing for the worst.”
Two failed attempts and one earthquake might have been enough to put some people off returning to Nepal and David admits as he flew back to Britain a third attempt at Everest was the last thing on his mind.
“I honestly had no intention of returning and as is tradition, I gave various bits of my equipment to the sherpas, but once I’d got back home and slept on it a few nights, I knew I had to try again. What happened in April was a natural disaster, there’s no reason why something like that would happen again.
“There is also a personal reason. While I’d been in training I’d experienced quite significant back pain and after various tests I was told one of my arteries was clogged. I had a stent inserted to widen the artery and the impact was immediate. My fitness improved overnight. I know I can get to the top and I just feel that I have to give it another go.
David was in part persuaded to return to Nepal by his son Chris. The 32 year old has never attempted to climb Everest and if the pair make it to the top they will become the first UK father and son to achieve the feat.
“Six years ago it was Chris who persuaded me to climb Mont Blanc. I’d always been a keen fell walker, but that was my first proper mountain. I was hooked. Four years later I scaled Mount McKinley in Alaska at the second attempt and I just want to prove to myself that I can do Everest.”
Between now and next April, father and son will embark on a rigorous training programme, involving spinning classes, interval running training and regular sessions on a rowing machine.
And when they do land back in Nepal, it will have special significance as they are hoping to use the expedition to raise money for the families of the three team members they lost.
“One of the men who died had three daughters and their home in Kathmandu was also flattened in the quake,” adds David. “There are so many thousands of people who were affected by the disaster, but we are really keen to support the three who had been part of our team.”
Any organisations keen to be involved with the expedition can contact David via email at firstname.lastname@example.org