I’m currently reading ‘A Day to Die for’ by Graham Ratcliffe, the story of a May night in 1996 when eight climbers died on Mount Everest.
It was my privilege to meet Graham when I worked as a journalist. Breaking the news that he’d succeeded in becoming the first British climber to reach the summit of Everest twice was the proudest moment in my journalism career.
This story about a previous summit attempt is absolutely gripping. I started reading it as I was waiting for an appointment and I was really sorry when I had to put it down. I’ve been devouring chapters during my lunch break and cannot wait to get back to it.
It is a hard story for Graham to tell. He was on the mountain that night, preparing for his own summit attempt and feels that with a little more knowledge of what was happening, he and his team mates could have saved some lives.
I’m only part way through, but I know that the events of that night, the worst disaster of Everest’s history, raised a lot of questions and it’s taken a long time for the facts to be made public. Questions around the commercial aspect of Everest expeditions; about decisions taken by the other team leaders and what was known about the storm that cost so many lives.
Knowing one of the people who was there does give me a real interest in the story, but I think it goes far beyond that. It’s certainly well written and takes you right into the heart of this amazing, beautiful and treacherous place. I don’t pretend to understand the world of extreme climbing, although I’ve been known to shimmy up a climbing wall or two. But I do begin to have a feeling for the drive and commitment that such a challenge involves.
I liked Graham instantly I met him. And I found him very inspirational. Climbing Everest requires the same dogged focus and dedication that he’s applied to tracking down the facts about that tragic night. I was a very minor part in his story, but I’ve often thought about his calm determination and drive as I’ve taken on my own physical challenges. It’s good to know he’s still out there, dreaming of mountains.
The news story I wrote and the award winning website I worked on at the time have long since disappeared into the ether. Other people I also had the pleasure of working with, including Alastair Leithead and Olwyn Hocking played a far greater part in spreading the news of his successful expedition. But here’s what the good old internet looked like in 1999 when he finally succeeded in his amazing quest.