Conquer Your Own Everest
Greg Mortimer, OAM is an Australian mountaineer, most well known as one of the first two Australians (with Tim Macartney-Snape) to successfully climb Mount Everest without oxygen in 1984. Their ascent was the first via the North face and Great Couloir and is now one of the established routes used to climb the mountain.
He was also the first Australian to climb K2 (1990), the first to climb Annapurna II by its south face (1983), the first Australian to climb Antarctica’s highest peak, Vinson Massif (1988) and the first to climb Mount Minto in the Admiralty Mountains of Antarctica (1988).
Here, Greg shares his experience and reveals some of the tactics he relied on to scale the world’s highest mountain.
What motivated you to climb Everest?
We wanted to climb the mountain by a new route, the North Face, that had never been climbed before. Also, we planned to do it without Oxygen. We had a group of friends that shared climbing as an interest and we thought climbing Everest would be fun. We were quite naive, but never went obsessed with the notion that we had to get to the top. We were more patient and when the opportunity presented we took it. We were very lucky. It was the 3rd of October 1984 and I was 30 years old.
Tell us a little known fact about climbing Everest.
Although it’s a very heavy physical activity and it’s quite dangerous climbing over 8,000 metres, it’s really 90 percent head to 10 percent physical.
How long did your overall expedition take to plan and then undertake?
Two years in the planning, three months to undertake for 20 minutes on the summit.
What is it like on the summit?
I was surprised with how small the summit actually is.
Can anyone climb Everest?
Yes, I believe anyone can do it. Blind people, people with no legs and all types of disabilities have climbed Everest. It’s really down to how much you want to do it.
What’s the difference between a Devil may care attitude and calculated risk taking?
That’s a bad term, but I suppose when do you decide, according to risk, to be brave or to not be brave? Writing this I sense it’s not about being brave, maybe it’s more about pushing yourself? I have a couple of those situations burnt into my brain. I think you are right that it is not so much a matter of bravery but more that, having assessed the situation and realising that you don’t know the outcome or answer, you take a step into the unknown, knowingly.
I think the secret of survival is that you take that step knowingly, wittingly. There is enormous power in doing so and it is fun!
On the subject of risk: climbing big mountains means I am not risk averse. But I have certainly learnt that assessing risk is critical to survival. The conscious process of thinking through the elements of risk is a great skill that comes out of mountaineering and is useful in day to day life.
But detailed assessment of risk when it comes to money markets and financials matters, well I am not an expert. So I rely on the expertise within Fitzpatricks. In the same way, I guess the financial boffins at Fitzpatricks might not know about the risk of massive avalanche in big mountains.
What do you like about dealing with Fitzpatricks?
I’m very pleased with the service and advice I get from the team at Fitzpatricks. I like the close personal service, the nimbleness of their model to adapt to changing circumstances and there’s an overall good vibe within the business.
You’ve lived a pretty exciting and different life to many of us, tell us about some of your other experiences.
I lived and worked in Antarctica for a while, working as a Geologist. Antarctica is amazing. Your senses are heightened in places like that – your ability to smell, touch, taste and hear are accentuated. It was during this time that we started our Polar Travel business taking expeditions to Antarctica. My daughter and her husband now own and run Adventure Associates which specialises in all types of adventure travel. http://www.adventureassociates.com
You’ve had many amazing experiences, it doesn’t sound like you need any additional stimulation!
I keep myself too busy to need any of those things like alcohol or other substances. There’s enough excitement in life!
You’ve achieved things that many of us can only dream about, what has been your greatest achievement?
Of course it’s my family and raising my four children. I was climbing in a remote location in Greenland a number of years ago and had an accident. My son Oliver saved my life, which I’m obviously very grateful for.
What’s a simple piece of advice you can offer for our readers?
Stay humble, take good advice and be persistent. Do your research and manage your own Everest. Remember it took me two years to achieve 20 minutes on the summit.
What’s next on the list?
I’m an avid pilot and also have an interest in ancient art. I’m planning to fly through the Kimberleys and visit some of the caves and locations that feature Aboriginal art.