My new book is based on Everest, a world of extremes in which human beings are tested to the limit. My own experiences climbing to the summit have given me a good depth of knowledge about the mountain and I certainly don’t hold back in putting my characters to the test. My main hero Kami, a sixteen year old Sherpa lad, faces a whole range of natural hazards…and also the lies and betrayal of his fellow team members.
But what were the three WORST moments from my own ascent? What are the memories that plunge me into nightmares even now and have me waking up in a cold sweat?
Everest nightmare number 1 came on a steep section of climbing high on the North face of Everest. It was three o’clock in the morning and we had been climbing since midnight. All of a sudden one of the climbers above me accidentally dislodged a rock. It was pitch black and all I could hear was the sinister crashing noise of this huge stone as it plummeted towards me. A split second later this suitcase sized rock hit the ground next to me with a mighty smash and exploded into a shower of rock splinters and sparks. It had missed me by inches… I was shaking with fear for ages after that!
Everest nightmare number 2 happened at a high camp which we had left unattended for a few days. When we got back to it we found half of our food was missing and someone had helped themselves to our cooking gas. What was worse they had also been sick in the tent and left the whole place in an incredible tip. It was just horrible! So we had squatters on Everest! It seems that nowhere is safe from people who will steal and cheat when they get a chance; a true climbers nightmare.
Everest nightmare number 3 came when I filmed on the summit of Everest. The temperature was about fifty or sixty degrees below freezing and I had four layers of gloves on. The problem was the camera; the buttons were too small to operate with all those layers on my fingers. So I gradually took off the layers and exposed my hands to those savage temperatures. I got the sequence in the can and we returned to camp. And that’s where I discovered…first degree frostbite on two of my fingers! In the end I managed to keep the fingers but it was a very close run thing….Everest is a mountain that should be treated with respect!
Matt Dickinson is a climber and writer with a passion for pushing the limits. He has filmed on the summit of Mt Everest and directed films for National Geographic TV and Discovery Channel in many wild corners of the world. His teen series ‘Mortal Chaos’ was warmly received by critics and readers alike and his new teen series ‘The Everest Files’ is published by Vertebrate on the 10th March.