LFTO interviews Kenton Cool - the man who helped Ranulph Fiennes climb Everest
LFTO Features Team
29 May 2009 14:21
Kenton Cool is no ordinary climber. The 35-year-old has summited Everest seven times - more times than any other Briton.
And last week he helped Sir Ranulph Fiennes become the oldest Briton to reach the world's highest peak.
Here, from the slightly less hostile surroundings of Cheltenham High Street, he tells us of Ranulph's decision to attempt Everest after his first two attempts were cut short due to a heart attack and exhaustion.
Kenton also tells us about the climb itself, his future and what he believes Ranulph may do next...
Hi Kenton – how are you feeling?
I’m feeling pretty good – I’ve got a slight cough, which is partly due to the dry air up there, and I’ve lost 12kg, but otherwise I’m fine.
How was the trip?
The trip was amazing – it went like clockwork. The team got on very well, there were no harsh words, everyone was fit, no-one got frost bite and the conditions were really good – there’s no way I could have scripted it as well as that.
Nearly a year ago Ranulph told Trail Magazine he’d had enough of mountains. When did you discover he was going to have another go?
After the attempt last year Ran also told me he’d not attempt it again. The first indication I had that he may have another go was when I read in Saga Magazine that he ‘wouldn’t not consider doing it again’. I later heard a rumour that he was off to the Himalayas. It wasn’t until Christmas time when I heard about it and by then his plans were already in place. He wanted it to be just him, not a guided climb, but his sponsors thought it would be good to have a western guide. The idea was that I’d be there, but the phrase we used to describe my role was as a 'guardian angel'.
Did his decision surprise you?
I wasn’t in the least bit surprised to hear of his plans. Nothing defeats him and he came so close last time – he’s a very proud man. He certainly knew Everest was within his grasp. I was really keen to go with him – not to look after him but I felt morally obliged to be there in case the sh*t hit the fan. I’m really please I was.
How did everyone keep the expedition so quiet?
It was amazing how quiet they kept it. The story at base camp was that Ran was there to interview people for the BBC about why they wish to climb Everest. If he didn’t make it the BBC agreed to keep it quiet so it was quite a risk for them. At base camp he would stay in his tent most of the day keeping himself to himself – so there wasn’t much chance of people spotting him.
Describe summit day…
Ran left Camp Four at around eight in the evening. The rest of us left at about 9.15pm and I couldn’t catch him he was so quick. You have to go at your own rate on summit day, otherwise it gets very tiring. My role on this trip was not as a guide, but more of a sweeper at the back in case, heaven forbid, anything went wrong. Ran didn’t need a guide because he knows what climbing Everest is all about – he had his own agenda. He should have summited last year and I think that was why he chose to keep it quiet this time round – he was affected by failure in the eyes of the public. I couldn’t catch him before he reached the summit but I saw him 10 minutes later on his way down. I could see he was very pleased and gave him a huge powerful hug. He was clearly happy with his achievement but in the understated way he always is.
How did it feel to be a part of the success?
The fame and glory for his support must go to Tindu the Sherpa, who carried his things and was with him all the way. But it was great for me to be a part of it. He’s a childhood hero of mine and it’s the perfect conclusion to five years of climbing together.
What do you reckon Ran will do next?
I believe that in Ran’s mind climbing is complete and he’s achieved all he wants to with it. It’s my guess he’ll return to the Polar Regions. If I was him at his age I would build a nice roaring fire and relax but I’m not Ran – he’ll do something – he’s still very fit and incredibly driven.
How do the next 12 months look for you?
I’ve got a very exciting year coming up. I’m off to China with the BBC taking school kids up 6,500m peaks. I’ve also got 100 days of continuous ski touring in The Alps before I start to think about Everest again. I also want to get my rock climbing up to speed and would like to do that at some point this year.
Kenton Cool works for Dream Guides. The recent Everest expedition was in aid of Marie Curie Cancer Care - Click here to find out more.