Chapter 1

A man and a mountain

I agonised for over a week over the writing of my motivation. It seemed incredibly difficult to express all of myself in a few pages of black-and-white text. I started off with a dry and business-like summary of my climbing experience. I discarded it as lifeless. I wrote a passionate, romantic account of my love for mountains. I discarded that as mushy slop. Then I painstakingly wove the two together. 

‘Eight years ago, I read my first book about mountaineering. It was called Annapurna: a woman’s place. It was the story of the first all-woman expedition to this peak. Their motto was, “A woman’s place is on top”. That inspired me.’

I went on to say that I had done ‘enough 18-hour days to have a reasonable idea of just how cold, uncomfortable, and exhausting mountaineering could be’, but that, ‘I climb for the challenge of the route, for the satisfaction of the summit, for the pleasure of the surroundings and for the love of mountains.’

Finally I could stand it no more. I put the motivation in an envelope, posted it and tried to focus once more on my thesis. However, I also immediately began a training programme to increase my fitness. If I did make the Kilimanjaro selection, I intended to do as well as I possibly could. 

Over 200 women had applied for the team. It was three long weeks before Ian phoned to tell me I was on the short-list. I was to meet him and the five other women in Johannesburg a few days before New Year. I had just turned 27. It was the birthday present of a lifetime. I spent a restless Christmas at the coast with my parents, wondering what on earth I was getting myself into. My parents were totally supportive. Ever since I had come home from university and told them that I had joined the rock-climbing club they had gradually been getting used to my odd interests. 

I had been their unplanned after-thought, the menopause that turned out to be pregnancy. My two brothers were much older than I was and for most of my childhood I grew up alone. I did not live near the school I attended and had few local friends. However, my parents had a huge garden, tidy in the middle but bordered by exciting tangles of shrubbery. I disappeared into the bushes each afternoon and constructed elaborate adventure fantasies, casting myself as heroine. In time, books became another source of adventure. 

I was a quiet, obedient girl, academically talented but useless at sport. I hated the ‘rah-rah’ of school teams, the ‘I win, you lose’ basis of competitive sport. Besides, I couldn’t hit a ball straight to save my life. I remember the ignominy of being the only girl in my year to fail junior life-saving. It had taken enormous effort to overcome my fear of heights and do the required jump off the high diving board, but despite that effort I still couldn’t swim the required distance.

I lacked confidence but had considerable discipline and determination. I also had a sense of myself as different, although I couldn’t have explained why. I preferred to be alone rather than to try and conform to the interests of my fellow pupils. I had little interest in make-up, in night-clubs, in boys, in alcohol. 

At university in Johannesburg I was painfully shy, a quiet shadow hanging out in the background. Rock-climbing provided an escape from the city over weekends, a way into the wilderness that I loved. It provided the first physical activity I had ever been any good at. It provided a challenge that was totally personal, your skill and courage matched against a rock wall. It also provided a new group of friends.

I still did not know what I wanted to do with my life, only that I did not fancy the conventional choices my school proposed for middle-class girls. I took refuge in prolonged university studies and found myself drifting towards a career in academia. My mother was a housewife, my father a prominent businessman. I was frustrated by my mother’s extensive talents, which seemed to me to have been rather wasted in running a household. I was intimidated by my father’s immense intellectual ability and his unapproachable demeanour. All my life I had been asked if I was related to the well-known Michael O’Dowd. Now I told him that if I made the Everest team, people would be asking him if he was the father of Cathy O’Dowd. Neither of us knew then how right I was to be.

On 28 December I met the expedition leader Ian Woodall for the first time. He was a small, fair-skinned man, looking as if he had had too little sleep for quite some time. He was talkative, but in a factual way. I sensed a closed individual, intensely private. He had been an officer in the British Army for a number of years, and it showed. I had spent too much time at university with male friends trying to dodge conscription and military service in the name of the apartheid government to like men who liked armies. I watched him carefully. As much as he might be selecting me, I had to decide whether I wanted to risk tackling something as committing as Everest under the leadership of this man. I could always step down. 

I also met the five other women whom I would be sharing the next two weeks with. Nandi Scorer, an advertising executive, was bubbly, outgoing, down-to-earth, intelligent. I liked her immediately. Cynthia Anthony-Maistry was a quiet, determined woman who worked in banking. She was a tiny thing, who looked as if she would snap in a strong wind. Deshun Deysel was a schoolteacher from a coloured township. She seemed friendly but nervous. Anneli Norval was a thin blonde, a farmer’s wife from the Eastern Cape. She talked far too much for my liking, always dominating the conversation. Jackie Stein was a young adventurer, recently returned from the United States. She had a pseudo-American attitude that riled me immediately. She was cocky, domineering, keen to impress on us her wealth of experience. 

A lovely film crew from the SABC joined us. The cameraman, Ivan Oberholzer, and the producer, Jan Horn, were both older men of immense experience and great empathy. All of us women found in them a neutral haven, someone to talk to about the strains of the trip, occasionally a shoulder to cry on. 

What they all made of me I have no idea. Although less shy than I used to be, I was still an introverted person, speaking little, taking a long time to be comfortable with new people. They probably found me as difficult to assess as we all found Ian to be. Ian described me to a journalist as ‘difficult to crack through’. 

It was an impressive group. Despite the many differences, I could see a common trait in all of us – a determination and focus that we applied to whatever dominated our lives. Where a similar group of men might have been more inclined to posture, to try and top each other with stories of how far they’d run, how high they’d climbed, we pulled together as a group. There was a lot of mutual support. However, under all that lay an intensely competitive spirit. For Ian this might be a selection, but for us it was competition. All six of us desperately wanted to go. 

The challenge was that we did not know what Ian was looking for. He was not simply after the most experienced person. In that case it would be a straight race between Jackie and myself. Ian briefed us as to what he was after on the second night. His main point was compatibility. He got Jackie’s back up by saying that he didn’t need any of us on his team and that he wouldn’t climb with someone he considered a fool, whatever their potential. She thought that was unfair. However, the months ahead were to prove that personality conflict was virtually the most damaging thing that could happen to an expedition. 

He then went on to stress more abstract qualities like mental strength and determination. The main point was that we were just to be ourselves. There was nothing extra we could do to improve our chances. That left me with a horrible thought: what if just being myself was simply not good enough? 

In fact Ian envisaged the woman’s place on the Everest team as a chance for someone to be part of a life-changing experience, rather than as an attempt to find a sixth Everest climber with summit aspirations. The woman was being invited to do something radically different with her life for a few months. She was not going to be dragged to the top and planted there like a flag. The media missed the point completely and called it a search for a woman with ‘the balls’ for the summit. The public, not surprisingly, became somewhat confused.

We flew up to Tanzania and began the expedition with an ascent of Mount Meru. The mountain was in a setting out of a movie. It looked more like Hollywood Africa than real Africa. Green grassland spread out to every horizon, dotted with small trees and grazing giraffes. Meru lay to the west, rising out of deep green tropical forest. Two magnificent rock ridges formed a horseshoe of huge cliffs, encircling what remained of an ancient volcanic crater. Kilimanjaro lay on the horizon to the east, a great swelling rising out of the plateau. Across its broad summit lay a mantle of snow and glacier. At times it seemed to float above the heat haze of the plain, an incredibly unlikely vision rising above tropical Africa. At dawn Kilimanjaro was hovering in front of a curtain of pink cloud, while honey-coloured light was sliding down the cliffs of Meru. I could imagine no better place to be on New Year’s Day, 1996. 

The organisation of the expedition was immaculate, and I was impressed by Ian’s ability. Talking to him gave me some idea of the far greater challenge of organising Everest. The South African Everest idea had been Ian’s. Only once he knew it could be done, that he could get a permit and could raise the considerable amount of finance needed, had he invited the other team members. The result was that the full burden of organisation fell on him. But, as I was to learn, he loved a logistical challenge, the planning and listing and arranging. 

However, I was making no progress in getting to know him better. He kept himself to himself. Perhaps he felt that too much friendliness would interfere with his role as leader and selector. Perhaps he was just shy. There were glimpses of a nice person in there somewhere, but just glimpses. 

Once we had left the grass plains filled with buffalo and warthog, we entered the forests. Huge trees created a giant green canopy over our heads. Creeper wove from branch to branch, creating an almost impenetrable cover. We walked through great vaults of cool still air. On the second day we left the forest to enter a land of tall heather. The mud path had worn a gorge between the heather plants and it was almost like walking inside the hillside.  On the third day we woke up at 3 a.m. and walked on through the heather by the light of head torches. It was bitterly cold and there was little conversation. Dawn came, with Kilimanjaro on the horizon, silhouetted against a pale pink sky. That was where our next challenge lay. We moved on to steep gravel slopes, traversing along the edge of the ancient crater. It was like climbing a cinder dune, very loose in places. The path undulated upward, revealing summit after summit. Anneli kept our minds off the slog with a detailed and very funny description of stud breeding horses. We reached the summit together, all light-headed and giggly with the altitude. We stood on the highest point, watching mist come washing up the crater below us. 

As we all became more used to the expedition conditions, the group became less cohesive. Ian made it clear that any of us could withdraw from selection at any time, in complete confidentiality. Indeed he expected that some of us would. He emphasised the difficulties of the Everest challenge, from extreme weather to rough living conditions. We would be away for over two months, away from hot showers, flush toilets, beds, choice of food. It was all good and fun for a week, but did we really want two months of this?

Jackie was constantly needling the rest of us, going on about the selection, speculating about Ian. She walked behind me for some time, expounding on how being quiet was a sign of insecurity. I ignored her. When not talking selection, she was mostly rabbiting on about sex. All the quiet ones – Cynthia, Deshun and myself - were repressed. What we needed was ‘a good screw’. It was funny listening to her for a while but Jackie hammered on endlessly. Increasingly we split into pairs, myself and Nandi, Cynthia and Deshun, Jackie and Anneli. 

We spent two nights at a hotel before driving out to the foot of Kilimanjaro. As we bumped along the dirt road in the early hours of the morning, the media crew announced us to be ‘contemplative of the challenge ahead’. I think we were all just still asleep. We walked up a dirt road between giant banana palms and tiny houses, getting sprayed with dust by each passing vehicle. Then we plunged into lush forest, very green and very wet. The path was an on-going mud pool, the damp heat baked down on us. It was a relief to emerge from the forest into the heather belt and to find our camp nestled among the giant plants. We had gained 1,200 metres in five hours, and were all exhausted. I shared a tent with Jackie. We had a friendly evening, my irritation with her beginning to diminish. 

The next day Ian, Cynthia, Nandi and I pulled away from the main group. It was great to be moving as a small group, rather than as part of a huge party. Although the big mix of people could be fun, on the whole I preferred the cohesion and flexibility of smaller groups. We were climbing through a landscape of scattered heather among rock and moss slopes. Mist swirled in the distance, obscuring the main bulk of the mountain. As we neared the top of the slope, the rain came down in earnest. Cynthia and I raced for the camp through the icy deluge, dived for the nearest tent, and stripped down to change into dry clothes. As the mist lifted beautiful views were briefly visible between banks of cloud, with rock peaks hovering above us. By nightfall it was completely clear. We sat round a campfire, huddled together against the intense cold, and told jokes. A vast black sky studded with stars arched over us. 

The next day was to be something of a triumph in my quest for a conversation with Ian. We were traversing around the side of the mountain, on top of the plateau from which the central cone of Kilimanjaro rose. We were in a brown, semi-desert country of rock and shale. Since Meru I had begun a deliberate campaign to extract information from Ian. He always walked at the back, and I would drop back and walk with him. Asking questions was about the easiest way to get him talking, and there was so much I was curious about, about Everest, about the Himalaya. 

One of his questions to me concerned what I planned to do after university. Would I move into mountaineering more seriously? That led into a discussion of the kind of trip I could put together if I wasn’t selected for Everest. We approached the top of a pass in the middle of a shower of frozen rain. Looking down the other side, we could see a greener, more welcoming countryside below us. 

‘Just because I’ll get myself to the Himalaya anyway is no reason not to select me,’ I told Ian. He just grinned at me.

Descending into the valley, I felt immensely light of heart. We were camped in a lovely valley by a river. Just beyond it, the river plunged into a rock canyon, cascading down a series of falls. Glimpses of ice-white glaciers were visible through the mist far above us. The setting sun filled the valley with liquid gold light. It was all worth it just to be there to see that. 

The next afternoon we had a long talk about the risks of climbing Everest, the fact that one in three climbers who go above 8,000 metres become casualties in some way. This was most poignant to those with partners and children. Did they have the right to risk their lives in such a personal quest? Not having husband or children myself, I had yet, indeed have yet to be faced with answering that question. 

Much later I read the remainder of the 200 applications. Most were not from young adventurers but from women in early middle age. A common thread ran through many of them. The women filled their roles in life well. They were good wives, mothers, employees. Many were clearly outstanding at what they did. However, they felt a need for something more, a need to do something just for themselves, just about themselves. There was an unspoken question in their applications: was this all there was to life? Everest seemed to be a symbol of challenge, of adventure, a dream of achievement. 

As I was to discover over the next few years, some of the climbers who reach the foot of Everest come to grief finding that the reality does not match the dream. Everest does not provide answers to life’s problems. It is just a very high lump of rock. Our answers have to come from within us. 

Of our group, Anneli and Jackie seemed to me best to fit into this category. Jackie, young, restless, foot-loose, had little idea what she wanted to do with her life. Being the woman to go to Everest seemed to provide a short-term solution, and a justification of her worth. Anneli, having long ago made a life commitment to being a farm wife and a mother, felt her potential leaking away, unused. She was looking for a dramatic way out, if only for a little while.

The debate continued around the issue of risk. I had learnt much of my mountaineering from Stephen Kelsey. We had climbed together in Africa, Bolivia and Europe. While living in London I had shared a flat with him and another friend, a climbing partner of his, Graham Wittaker. Stephen and Graham had died falling off the west face of Salcante in Peru in 1992. 

I had considered giving up the riskier aspects of climbing then. There seemed no way to justify senseless waste of life. But gradually I had come to feel that it wasn’t senseless. Stephen and Graham were so attractive because of their love of life, their readiness for challenge. That was what had led them to mountaineering. You couldn’t have the one without the other. I didn’t want them to be different, so I couldn’t ask for their lives to have ended differently. I believed we take the span allotted to us, and make the most of it. 

Ian asked what we would do if a team-mate died. Would we climb on or give up? Jackie took the hard line. You left him in a tent and forged ahead. Ian challenged her on that and she, feeling mocked by him, attacked him. Ian constantly pushed all of us, looking for prejudices, weaknesses that might flare up on the mountain. 

On a mountain there is nowhere to go when tempers get raw. You cannot escape your team-mates. You are trapped with them, 24 hours a day, week after week, often in tents smaller than a double bed. Conditions are harsh, at times dangerous. Small issues can flare up to major controversies in the time it takes to make a cup of coffee. You need compatibility and you need tolerance. There are times when you need the discipline to bite your lip and just keep quiet. The long-term goal is worth the immediate inconvenience. 

Ian set Jackie off like a match put to fire crackers. Everything he said she had to challenge. Ian had a certain way of stating his opinion as if it was a fundamental planetary law. He could be very blunt, not wrapping his opinions up in rose petals. As long as he talked sense, which he did, the lack of accompanying pleasantries did not worry me. Jackie couldn’t take it.  She was desperate to be chosen and even as she was talking, she knew she was diminishing her chances of selection. However, she simply could not keep her mouth shut.

I spent much of my time with Nandi. She was beginning to have second thoughts about the enterprise. She was a 25-hours-a-day woman, always on the go. She loved the frenetic atmosphere of advertising, the short deadlines, the constant pressure. She loved her running, with its immediate, continuous physical demand. 

Mountaineering requires a strange combination of drive and patience and she was short on the patience. She was more concerned about the boredom of being tent-bound through a storm than about the risks of the climbing. 

I was most concerned about the hardship and the discomfort. On our summit day for Kilimanjaro we left camp at about 1 a.m. The climb started out as unpleasant and got steadily worse. The long, dark hours of early morning are the worst of the day. I felt stiff and uncoordinated, stumbling on the loose scree slopes. It soon became a relentlessly steep slog. I was sliding with each step on the broken rock. I avoided looking at my watch, not wanting to know how slowly time was passing. It was getting steadily colder and I was falling back in the queue. I plodded on, exhausted, icy cold, demoralised. Jackie and Nandi were up in front and seemed to be moving so effortlessly. 

I was desperate to stop for a rest and huddled down behind a rock to seek protection from the wind. I rapidly realised that the only way to keep warm was to keep moving. It was a devil’s bargain, with rest and warmth incompatible. Somewhere in those long hours, when it seemed as if the sun would never rise again, I decided to withdraw from selection for the Everest team. If Kilimanjaro could be this unpleasant, Everest had to be worse. Without enjoyment, I couldn’t see the point of it all. 

Then the first glimmer of dawn appeared, a slim line of red on the horizon. I immediately felt better and stronger. All thoughts of giving up dissipated with the darkness. As others moved ever more slowly I began to pass them, working my way towards the front. I found Jackie huddled down, looking awful. She was nauseous with altitude.

‘Bitch,’ she whispered, as I passed her.

Nandi and I reached the crater edge together. I hugged our guide, Joachim, and then turned left. We worked our way around the crater rim, towards the highest point. On our left were great slabs of glacier, lying on the rock like massive chunks of wedding cake. I pulled my down jacket around me, but the wind howled on. There was no escape from the cold.

We reached the top of the dome at 5.17 a.m. As I was taking pictures of the summit, Ian arrived, grabbed me and stared deep into my eyes. He asked if I was okay. I was a bit taken aback but then realised he was checking for signs of acute mountain sickness, brought on by the lack of oxygen at over 5,800 metres. He shook my hand and moved off. 

As soon as the summit footage was shot, we started back down. Both Jackie and Deshun were feeling sick. I walked down on my own, enjoying setting my own pace, not being part of the crocodile for a while. The summit had been something of an anticlimax. However, it often is on mountains. For climbing mountains to make any sense at all, it has to be about appreciating the journey, rather than investing all your hopes in the summit.

Back in the hotel, we all met in the garden to find out what would happen next. Up until this point I had felt fairly calm about the selection. I had felt I would be happy for whoever was chosen. I thought I was the best choice and that I had a good chance. However, I didn’t want to be too confident for fear of being wrong. Now the tension started to mount. I realised that I desperately wanted to be selected. 

By and large the six of us got on well. There was a kind of tense camaraderie among us as we waited. Jackie joked that if I was chosen, she would kill me. If anyone else was chosen, we would kill her together. The whole proceeding was drawn out to provide drama for the television cameras. Ian called us together. We stood in a semi-circle. Jackie was standing on my right, her breathing ragged and shallow. Ian announced he would be inviting two women to come to Nepal on the three week trek to base camp. Only at base camp would one of the two be selected to go onto the climbing permit. Jackie and I immediately stared at each other. I was horrified. I could imagine nothing worse than our rivalry continuing for another month through Nepal. 

Ian went off to ponder life. We speculated about this new turn of events. We were standing near a slide. A small blonde girl of about three was perched on top of it, with her nanny behind her. Jackie turned on her.

‘Don’t ever try to do anything with your life,’ Jackie said to the little girl. ‘Don’t ever try to climb mountains. Just grow up nice and pretty and pleasing to men.’

The little girl stared at her with huge, round eyes. She slowly climbed back down the slide’s stairs and into her nanny’s arms, where she burst into tears. 

Ian finally informed us one by one of his choice. All the while we were being filmed. By now I felt like a piece of putty that had been stretched out way too thin. He rambled on about how difficult the selection had been, and how sorry he was he could not take everyone. My heart sank. Then he invited me to join the team to Nepal. Initially I just felt overwhelming relief. Then the excitement welled up. 

The other selection was Deshun. That came as something of a surprise on the face of it, but made sense on reflection. Jackie was simply incompatible with Ian. Anneli wanted Everest for the wrong reasons. Nandi’s heart was not in it. Cynthia, although determined and game, was physically tiny. Ian did not think she had the bodily strength. That left Deshun and me. 

I had found Deshun quiet, friendly, efficient, determined. I thought we would get on well. Ian’s rationale for taking two women was that the woman on the team would be under intense media scrutiny. He wanted a back up. He felt that, in exchange for three months of free travel in Nepal, we could put up with some tensions of being still ‘on selection’. 

We returned to South Africa and went our separate ways. I would only be needed back in Johannesburg at the end of February. There would be six long weeks of waiting. I was trying my best to finish my thesis before I left. However, the topic of ‘the selection and presentation of photographs of political violence in South African newspapers’ was difficult to get excited about when Everest was looming so large on my horizon. 

Sitting in front of my computer in my Grahamstown flat, the whole Everest application experience seemed unreal. It was almost impossible for me to grasp the reality of it all. In a few weeks I would be on my way to the Himalaya, to the slopes of the highest mountain in the world. I was revelling in the anticipation of it all. 

However, disturbing rumours were reaching me about the other members of the team. I heard through the grapevine of the climbing community that one of the others, Ed February, was commenting that they, the other members, would ‘throw the baggage off the mountain’. Deshun and I were the ‘baggage’.

Besides Ian and us, there were four other climbing members. Ian had invited Bruce Herrod, a British mountain photographer. Bruce was a close friend, and would fulfil the photographic commitments to the 31 expedition sponsors. Bruce was a massive man, over six feet high and broadly built. He was highly intelligent, with a doctorate in geophysics, and had spent several seasons working in Antarctica. He loved the Himalaya and had an enormous empathy for the people of the region. Even-tempered, friendly, with a laid-back attitude to life, he was easy to like.

The three other men all originated from Cape Town. Ian had grown up around Cape Town, and his first choice after Bruce was an old acquaintance, Ed February. Ed was in his early forties, an academic and a talented rock-climber. Ed had a big mouth and a lot of attitude. He could be immensely funny. He could also be very nasty. 

Ed then suggested his close friend, Andy de Klerk. Andy had been something of a teenage climbing prodigy, and had gone on to become a talented alpinist. He had left South Africa to settle in Seattle. He was quiet, mellow, a bit ‘spaced out’ in his thinking.

The final climbing member was Andy Hackland, called ‘Hack’ to prevent a confusion of the Andys. He had been asked mostly because other potential members were not available or not liked by those already on board. He had something of the charm of a puppy. However, although in his late twenties, he had all the self-centredness and ego, and all the insecurities, of a teenage boy. He was in awe of Andy and walked in his shadow.

With the entire organisation being done by Ian, and to some extent by Bruce, these three had been offered a free ride. That turned out to be a mistake. They had watched the television programme that was shown about the Kilimanjaro selection. Before leaving Cape Town to meet up with the rest of the team, they were already antagonistic towards Ian’s style, and the women he had chosen. I knew all three of these men vaguely, from my years climbing in the same country. The rumours were unsettling, but nothing could take the edge off my excitement. 

At least, until we all got together for the first time and then the tension began to rise. We met up in Johannesburg, at the house of Ian’s parents. Ian was stretched to the limit with the last-minute organisation and fund-raising. He had little time to be patient with the queries of the rest of us. The three men, perhaps feeling left out of things, took to criticising the organisation. I had seen more of Ian’s organisational ability than they had and felt that their criticisms were mostly superficial, and unhelpful in the circumstances. Hack got particularly indignant because stuff sacs for the sleeping bags were not on the equipment list. None of the men took well to Ian’s blunt style. Their egos demanded more delicate handling, and Ian had neither the time nor the temperament to give it to them.

They did not take well to the sponsorship requirements. The need to undertake endless photo shoots was complied with ungraciously, to the point that Ian had to apologise to certain of the sponsors. Although the Sunday Times newspaper hyped this expedition as a ‘national’ event, and although President Nelson Mandela was the expedition patron, it was not national in one important way. There was no government funding or support. All the very large amount of funding needed had been scraped together by Ian from corporate sponsors. For the rest of us, it was as if money and equipment just fell out of the sky. Ian was desperately aware of where each penny was spent, and where it had come from.

Deshun and I lurked in the background, keeping our mouths shut. Only Bruce really made us feel welcome. Even Bruce’s life was being made difficult by the presence of his girlfriend, Sue Thompson. She had come out from England to see him off. Bruce had a tendency to avoid confrontation with those he loved. This was to cause us considerable trouble much later in the trip. Sue did not want him to climb Everest. She hated the whole idea but avoided an ultimatum. Bruce knew how she felt, but was determined to go. Rather than talk it through, they avoided the issue. She didn’t approve of Bruce’s friendship with Ian. I think she feared Ian would lead Bruce into activities, like mountaineering, which she could not share. She and Bruce had done a lot of trekking together, with him taking photographs and her writing articles. It was a nice partnership for her. Now Bruce was developing interests that shut her out. She did not take it graciously, and sat sulking in the background.

The one positive addition to the team was the base camp manager and technician, Ian’s older brother, Philip. Philip was easy-going, friendly, sensible. In Ian’s absence he was to become Bruce’s confidant in the troubles that followed. 

It was not a well-adjusted team that assembled at Johannesburg airport to fly out to Kathmandu, capital of Nepal. However, for the moment, the excitement of leaving and the constant need to display camaraderie for the media smoothed over the problems. 

The expedition was on its way. I was off to the Himalaya. Nothing could destroy the excitement of that.


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