I had been trying extremely hard since leaving Sun Valley and moving to London to try and break into a new career which allowed me to combine my love of travel and sports. I had worked relentlessly on getting an edgy adventure travel TV show going and had just returned from filming a pilot in the Alps where I had climbed,biked,waterskied, done yoga and even paragliding all in 2 days and had returned to London exhausted. I arrived back home to find my mother extremely excited and I thought she had won the latest bridge game or maybe she had finally taught our 7 year old dog to sit or something to that effect. Finally I got out of her that she had met a Chilean banker at a farewell dinner and that she had arranged for me to climb Mount Everest…. I went into shock. Was this some kind of perverse joke or was my 10 year goal plan becoming rapidly more imminent? I was on the phone to Andronico Luksic in Santiago, Chile before his plane had even landed from his London trip. We finally spoke on the phone and discovered that we both shared a mutual goal in wanting to climb the Seven Summits ( the highest peak on each continent) He extended an invitation for me to join them on an initiation ( for me) climb in Ecuador to see how I would fare and for me to meet “the group”. “The Group” consists of some outstanding climbers, luckily I arrived completely ignorant of their achievements or else I might have been too intimidated to show up. Rodrigo Jordan, our expedition leader has climbed Everest via the Kangchung face( Im naming a small fraction of their climbs) a perilously difficult route with only one success prior to him. Misael Alvial is just a legend in my mind and has climbed K2 without oxygen and soloed the South Face of Aconcagua, a treacherous climb. Ernesto Olivares has climbed Makalu without oxygen and is the strongest man I know. Rodrigo, Ernesto and Kiko have spent 3 months in Antarctica traversing the Ellsworth Mountain Range, a sort of horizontal Everest so to speak. That is “the group”.
Ecuador was a tough climb for me as id managed to burn the candle a little on my summer holiday. Late nights and 2 hours of running a day don’t go hand in hand, and after a quick ascent of one of the Tetons shortly after arriving in Jackson Hole, I came down with Bronchitis. I arrived in Quito with a nasty hacking cough which I was desperately trying to conceal from the team. We went straight to Chimborazo which was extremely icy and miraculously I somehow coughed my way to the summit, hiding my antibiotics so that I could get accepted as part of the Everest Team. We then went straight to Cotopaxi which we all managed fairly easily. Cotopaxi is an active volcano, which according to its eruption history is due to erupt again sometime soon. Upon viewing the ominous vapors rising out of its crater on the summit, I wanted the most rapid decent possible and could have broken records for my time back to the car park!
We were all re united again back in Chile in November to climb the North and South Peak of El Morado. There had been a freak snowstorm in the Cordillera and our truck could only make a fraction of its intended route to our drop off point. We dialed our expedition leader Rodrigo Jordan ( he was finishing work on his book on the Antarctica trip) as we had universally taken the decision that the climb would be impossible due to the huge snowfall and we had planned to go and climb a much easier 6,000m peak in the north of Chile instead. Rodrigo axed our plan within seconds of our call. ” Were we planning to climb Everest?” “Get out of the truck and walk in” was all he said before hanging up. We then walked begrudgingly for 5 hours, knee deep in snow laden down with our packs until we reached our base camp. It was a long arduous climb to the summit due to the heavy snowfall but eventually we all made it and returned exhausted to base camp to find it had disappeared. On our one night on the mountain, to which we were blissfully oblivious, our base camp mess tent and tents had been blown over a km away in high winds and all that was left of our base camp was a tiny generator whirring uselessly away. Tired hysteria kicked in and I laughed until tears poured down my face much to the astonishment of the boys. Amazingly enough I stayed on the team.
We met again in January back in Chile to climb a new route on San Jose. Apart from nearly collapsing under the weight of my pack (I’ve subsequently learned to scale back on clothes and to stop sneaking in my moisturizers) the climb was successful. Andronico is placing a Banco de Chile box on all the 6,000m peaks that he climbs in Chile and in high winds we all signed an inscription to leave in the San Jose Summit box. Our new route, in my mind, is called the Annabelle Bond route. A sort of equivalent to the Ferrari route on the towers of Torres Del Paine!!
February “the group” met again to climb Marmelecho, the most southern 6,000m peak in the world. Due to some logistical confusion with the Muleteers our bags got dumped some 3 hours walk away from the intended base camp. The good news was that it was a short walk-in, the bad news was that this was now our base camp and we had a long day ahead with extremely heavy packs.
For me, this climb was really tough. According to “the group” we had some pretty high winds, according to me it felt like hurricane conditions. Thank goodness I had brought along my bank robber mask to protect my face from the constant icy blasts but the pain in my hands from constantly removing and putting on my crampons in these frigid temperatures was excruciating. A few times the wind would physically throw me to the ground. As I approached the summit ridge the wind was so strong that I remained clutched to a rock for dear life for fear of being blown to Santiago. I stayed there terrified until Ernesto came to walk alongside me to the actual summit. The boys stayed on the summit to place the Banco de Chile box securely and I was on the summit less than 5 minutes, I was cold, exhausted and my hands were in agony from the cold. Marmelecho in these conditions was a good indicator of what one could expect on Everest and despite still not being able to feel the ends of my fingers 10 days later I was glad to have had that experience.
That brings me to date on my training climbs since August 2003. Im writing this on the plane as I head back to London for 5 days before heading out to Katmandu. Im filled with a multitude of emotions, anxiety, concern about leaving my family, excitement and a steely determination to perform to the best of my capability and to try and maintain a level head and hopefully make the right decisions when it counts.
I know my 96 year old grandmother, one of the first western women at altitude circa 1928 in Nepal, will be with me in spirit and she will anxiously await news of my progress back in England. This climb is for my parents, the best parents anyone could wish for and who have supported me selflessly, and encouraged me to live life to the full. I am indebted to you both. Also to my sister Lucy, an avid armchair mountaineer and my brother Jonathan, who has no interest in climbing at all, ill be thinking of you both all the way.