A few years ago someone I was then related to asked me if I’d like to take the trip to Mount Everest Base Camp with her. She’d done it a couple of times previously and wanted to show me the experience first hand. I looked in my diary and noticed I was busy for the foreseeable future so had to turn her down. I’m not sure if she believed me. You will be well aware of my sporting prowess and my enthusiasm for breaking sweat over anything more vigorous than opening a bottle of port, so climbing up a mountain, albeit a little bit of one, didn’t seem like fun to me. But at one stage in my life I would have actually considered such a trip.
You see I always imagined Base Camp to do exactly what it says on the tin: it would be at the base— at the foot of the mountain, somewhere you could get a cab or a bus to. How glad I am that I’d learned my mistake before I took up the invitation: Base Camp is at an altitude of 17,600 ft. When I’m at that height I traditionally expect to be tucking onto my fourth scotch and settling down to a movie. 17,600 ft, as far as I’m concerned is for the birds and crimpelene-clad stewardesses. She said that to reach Base Camp you set off and ascend 3,000 ft but then descend 1,000 to avoid altitude sickness, go to sleep, then wake up and do it all again—up 3,000, down 1,000. Yeah right, I’m gonna do that. I tell you what, I’ll go down the pub and pour away a third of each pint I buy to avoid getting drunk.
No, I shall leave all that and much, much more to stone-cold, certified nutcases such as Ranulph Fiennes who, at the age of 65, has become the oldest Briton to conquer Everest. That’d be the whole mountain—not just Base Camp. You really do have to raise a glass to him (just don’t pour any away). One of the last great Brit eccentrics and one of the last true loonies in the world, Fiennes is a Boy’s Own Hero, complete with the SAS training, but not with a full compliment of toes, thanks to frost-bite. Makes me whingeing about bowling two overs of dross on Saturday seem a little silly. (Read any of Fiennes’ books— they’re just sensational).
A severe bout of frost-bite seemed to be running rampant through the West Indies Cricket team last week as the cold, geordie winds nibbled about their vitals as they succumbed to a drubbing by an England XI. The poor sods, resplendent in seven jumpers each, must have thought Montego Bay was a very long way away (it is). They looked as happy to be in Durham I would in a tent half-way up a mountain. Each to their own, I say. Caribbean Cricketers are at home in the heat of Antigua or Barbados, no the sub-zero temperatures of Northern England, any more than the Poms can stand the heat of the tropics of Port of Spain, or Columbo, Malaya or Bombay (yes, I know, stop it).
I wonder if anyone will feel out of place at that Buckingham Place Garden Party? Reports suggest the guest-list will include a couple of kamerads from the BNP. It’ll be nice for Phil the Greek to have someone who he can speak to on his own terms, and I’m sure there will be lots of tutonic twittering about the Fatherland between Nick Griffin and Der Saxe-Coburg-Gothas. Oh what fun it will be. I wonder what Harry will wear?
Anyway, I need to get into the garden and clean the duck-house. Lend us a fiver, would you?
Ranulph Fiennes came to Oman a few years ago as the speaker for a meeting I was at; very impressive and the determination was tangible – congratulations to him and to her at the top of the page !