Photo: (c) Rob Casserley. Rob and Bonita on the summit!
OK, so here it goes- been meaning to write this all down for ages but the sheer amount of stuff to catch up on has proven a little daunting! I’ll do my best...
So, after only something like 20 days on the hill, i was standing on the summit of the 8th highest mountain in the world as the youngest female and only the 4th British woman to have climbed Manaslu, or ‘Mountain of the Spirit’ as it translates.
Standing on the summit wasn’t how i imagined (or hoped) it would be at all- no crescendo of music as i took those last few steps, no punching the air in jubilation- i could barely sum up the will to take a picture.
As i stood there, oxygen mask whooshing in my ears, steamed goggles clouding my vision all i could think was: ‘f*** i’ve got to get down, now!’.
Behind the mask, all those tubes, your goggles and everything else you’re wearing to cover every inch of skin on your body, you feel completely disjointed from what’s happening around you- it’s like a surreal dream- i was scared, exhausted and slightly mad from living so long in a tent- i could barely take in the sights around me, i look back now and think: ‘why didn’t you savour that view?’. To be honest- i couldn’t have given a s*** about the view, i felt nothing- numb. I wanted to get my sponsorship photos done and go home- home to mum’s cooking, my bed and The X factor.
But one last thing- i had to give Dad a ring. I’d promised I’d call, even though it was about 4 o’clock in the morning UK time, i promised I’d call- i had to persuade myself it was worth the effort of taking off my oxygen mask and breathing this dam air with no oxygen in it!
That was it- i crouched down to hear the satellite connection properly, and as soon as i heard my dad’s voice and simply said: ‘Dad... I’m on the top’ the flood gates opened. I cried my eyes out!
Suddenly i noticed how high we actually were- all those other huge mountains hundreds of metres below, the clouds a white carpet separating the atmosphere- the curvature of the earth just visible on the endless horizon- nothing but deep blue sky in every direction. We really were on top of the world.
In fact, chances are we would have been the highest people on earth as we stood on that summit. It was a bizarre feeling to talk to my Dad over 5 vertical miles below. I breathed in the mountain fresh air as i tried to speak- wow, breathing air that is usually home to jet streams, jumbo jets, and now- little old me!
I then couldn’t stop crying, which is not good at 8000m- my goggles had steamed to the point where i was blinded. I was snotty, sobbing and trying to breathe through an oxygen mask, which is incredibly claustrophobic at the best of times let alone when it’s filled with tears and snot!
‘Love you, Dad. I’ll get down safe, i promise.’ Suddenly, all too soon, i was being faced with a long descent back to camp 2, some 1700m below. We had stood on the summit for 15 minutes.
Still crying a little, Sherpa Namgel handed me the fixed line and as i looked over the edge i can remember thinking: ‘never in a million years!’ It looked terrifyingly steep- vertical even! ‘I can’t do this’ i thought, but yet i was being herded along the rope- no choice, man up!
I took one last look at the summit, it was a beautiful clear morning up there, i knew I’d never go back ever again. Then that was it, i turned my back, wrapped the rope around my arm and clambered off the top with tear stained cheeks. I couldn’t force a smile, it was too much of a struggle to feel happy- all i could think was: ‘i’ve got to get down alive. I promised’.