A Day to Die For: 1996: Everest's Worst Disaster - One Survivor's Personal Journey to Uncover the Truth by Graham Ratcliffe

A Day to Die For: 1996: Everest's Worst Disaster - One Survivor's Personal Journey to Uncover the Truth by Graham Ratcliffe

Author:Graham Ratcliffe [Ratcliffe, Graham]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Tags: General, Biographies & Memoirs, Memoirs, Specific Groups, Biographies, Travel, Nepal, Adventurers & Explorers, Asia, Mountaineering, Education & Reference, Mountain Climbing, Sports & Outdoors
ISBN: 9781845966386
Amazon: 1845966384
Publisher: Mainstream Publishing
Published: 2012-09-02T14:00:00+00:00

An Escape into History

No sooner had I arrived home than I was out on location filming a BBC documentary called Mountain High: Twice To the Summit of Everest. Keith Partridge, who had taught me how to film, was on this occasion behind the camera and Alastair Leithead was interviewing me about my Everest expeditions as we strolled on the rather less challenging but equally beautiful slopes of the English Lake District. The scenes we shot in the Lakeland fells were mixed with the footage I’d taken in Nepal during 1998 and 1999. This encompassing documentary, produced by Mark Batey, with Olwyn Hocking as executive producer, seemed to complete my Everest journey. Articles appeared in both the local and national press. It was a story that was topical for a few weeks, and then it was old news.

However, my return from Everest was to produce ripples, with a most unexpected result. The boarding school I had attended between the ages of 11 and 18, Barnard Castle School, created a display of recent newspaper clippings about my second ascent of Everest. This was prepared for the summer gathering in north-east England of the former pupils’ association, the Old Barnardians’ Club. My two ascents were seen as a continuation of the school’s historical links with Everest, which dated back to the 1924 expedition.

A member of that team was Bentley Beetham, a former pupil and subsequently natural history master at the North Eastern County School, later renamed Barnard Castle School. Organised by the Mount Everest Committee, chaired by Sir Francis Younghusband, this expedition was a joint undertaking of the Royal Geographical Society and the Alpine Club. On this ill-fated trip, George Mallory and Sandy Irvine were last seen high on Everest as they disappeared into the clouds, still going strong for the top.

It was a warm summer’s morning when I set out from our apartment in Tynemouth to make the 50-mile journey back to my old school. The date was Sunday, 27 June 1999, six weeks after my return from Everest. I bore the physical scars of my recent adventure. The tips of my fingers on my left hand were hard and black with a thick layer of dead skin. I was wearing sandals. Frostbite had caused the outer flesh surrounding the big toe on my right foot to decay and the toenail to drop off. With bandage wrappings to stave off infection, the return to normal shoes was still several months away.

I parked the car to the side of the school’s imposing Victorian stone edifice and made my way around to the rear of the building. The sound of a willow bat striking a hard leather ball echoed across the tarmac road, which passed between a towering gable end and the eight-foot-high perimeter wall that separated the school’s grounds from those of the Bowes Museum. In progress was the annual cricket match between the Old Barnardians’ Club and the school’s current First Eleven. I was greeted by the sight of the club’s aged batsmen running between the wickets in an attempt to replicate their more youthful days.


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