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Snooth User: Philip James


Posted by Philip James, Feb 10, 2009.

I don't talk about this too much, but in 2003 I climbed Mount Everest. My friend and climbing partner broke his leg at 28,000 feet. As a result no one in our expedition reached the summit, but we did get him down safely in what became the worlds highest altitude rescue.

I'd set out to become the youngest Briton to climb the North Face of Everest and had joined a small independent expedition with just 5 other climbers. After 60 days on the mountain we ended up with a 120 hour rescue that ended with a broken leg, broken ribs, dysentery, frostbite leading to several digits being amputated as well as several fatalities and multiple medals of valor.

The reason I'm writing this here (and now) is that I gave a talk last night to the Fortnightly Club of Westchester and wanted to share the slides. This is less a presentation and more a slide show, and there are some great images, so please enjoy.

If you want to learn more about the expedition itself, here are some news articles about the event:

BBC News article - Everest on his knees 
Manchester Evening News - Amazing Escape of Everest Survivor
Everest News - Everest North Side Expedition '03

There's also a documentary in production - I'll post when that's released as well, as you get to hear me recount the story for about 15 minutes of the hour long piece.

Click here to download the slide show (45mb). Finally, if you want to see it in the "Tilt Viewer" format - click here .


Reply by Adam Levin, Feb 10, 2009.

not to downplay Everest, but that Tilt Viewer is very cool

Blog comment by Joe Lange, Feb 10, 2009.

Very cool Philip. Thanks for posting the pics - I had no clue you were part of that expedition.

On a much smaller scale, our family went to Nepal in 99 and had a great experience hiking around Everest.

Any plans to return?


Reply by Philip James, Feb 10, 2009.

I'll go back to the Himalayas for sure, but I dont think I'll climb another 8,000m peak. I'd like to climb something smaller, easier, safer and more alpine out there. And do some hiking as well.

Its a beautiful, if harsh, part of the world.

Joe - which route did you do? The south side up towards basecamp? Tengboche etc?

Blog comment by Joe Lange, Feb 10, 2009.

Hi Philip-

We went the Namche/Tengboche route to Kala Patar - the views of the Khumbu icefall and Everest etc were awesome. For me, it was the highest I had been - the rest of the group had made the summit of Kilimanjaro a few years prior, so they had me beat by a thousand feet or so! Amazing nevertheless.

But this is all small fry stuff compared to Everest... ha

Reply by fibo86, Feb 10, 2009.

This is amazing, do you ever regret the fact you didn't get to the top? Do you think that you could have done what the other climber did?
My thoughts are sure you didn't reach the top but you still achived a record.

Reply by Philip James, Feb 11, 2009.

Joe - I climbed from the North side so havent seen the route you describe. I'd like to do the trek from the south and maybe get up close to the smaller, but very beautiful mountain called Pumori:

Thats a climbers mountain! Less traveled, perfectly regular shape, technically harder, but you dont need oxygen or anything. Its more of a manageable expedition.

Fibo - Honestly, I'll never go back there. I'm happy with what I did, and very pleased to know that when it came down to it the whole team was able to pull together to save our team mate. There had been no successful rescues from that altitude and we literally had famous climbers (people who i'd read books about since i was a child) walking past us, past Conan, and tell us to "leave the poor b$#@%$#%d he's dead already".

I'm not going to disclose the names of the mountaineers who said that, as it was one of the most despicable and demoralizing things I've ever heard. Today, 6 years later, it gives me strength to know that we proved those guys wrong.

Reply by gr, Feb 12, 2009.

Whose fingers got the frostbite? Youch. (And of course the fatalities too, but that's more obvious.)

Blog comment by Joe Lange, Feb 12, 2009.


I remember seeing alot of Pumori! That's a beautiful mountain but I think Ama Dablam takes the cake for me - one afternoon we watched (binoculars from a sunny valley perch!) climbers scale the big hanging glacier (I think above Camp 3?) It was a trip to watch them up there.

Re: "leave the poor @&!*(" I remember sharing your views while reading Into Thin Air - guides and other climbers just leaving people left and right. Isn't my place to judge cause I wasn't there/never will be, but good on ya for the great job you did to prove them wrong.

Reply by Philip James, Feb 12, 2009.

Ama Dablam is one of the other very well known "pretty" mountains:

Others, from South America, and some I've climbed are:

Pequeno Alpamayo, Bolivia - I climbed this as a warm up to the next pretty one I'll post

Cabeza del condor - head of the condor - and looks like a condor's head with the neighbouring peaks being the outstretched wings - climbed, but failed 100' from the summit due to very unsafe snow

Alpamayo, Peru - not climbed, but want! The cool route (directissima!) is straight up those channels on the South West face, its not hard, but a little dangerous as the runnels channel all the debris onto your head

Reply by Philip James, Feb 12, 2009.

Gr - Peter got the frostbite. On the last slide, with the 3 of us. He's the guy on the left - you can see bandages on his fingers. I'm on the right, but barely recognizable.

Fatalities were:
- 1 sherpa (i never knew his name) due to a stomach absess
- 1 helicopter co pilot, died while trying to land at basecamp, when the chopper's landing skid clipped something and the helicopter crashed
- 1 onlooker, who died as the rotor ripped off and flew through the crowd of onlookers

Its very hard to fly a helicopter at that altitude - the airs so thin there's not enough for the blades to bite on, so accidents are common. This one was particularly bad.

Reply by fibo86, Feb 14, 2009.

Wow, when's the doco?

Reply by Philip James, Feb 18, 2009.

Fibo - I'm not sure, it seems to be stuck in post production - very frustrating as I cant wait for it to come out.

Just got an email from Slideshare today, and the everest post is on their homepage:

"Hey snooth!

Your slideshow has been featured on the SlideShare homepage by our editorial team.


- the SlideShare team

p.s. Why not blog/twitter this and let the world know about your awesome creation? "

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