Allan Meek

Allan Meek Interview 2018

Welshman Allan Meek reached the summit of Mount Everest via the South Col route on the 16th May 2017.

When and how did you get into mountain climbing?

I grew up in the city and didn’t start climbing until very late when a colleague floated the idea of getting an all welsh team to the summit of Everest and planted a seed in 2009. Later that year I went on a trek to Everest Base Camp where I met Cian O’Brolchain an Irish climber and we climbed Labuche together and discussed Everest in detail. Cian summited in 2013 and was with me on my Everest expedition when he climbed Lhotse.

What was your first big climb?

As mentioned above Labuche was the first sizeable mountain I climbed and it was a pretty hairy experience as we had a very tired Australian girl in our team of 4 and it took much longer than it should have. We descended very late in soft snow and had a few tense moments.

How do you rate your Mount Everest climb…..As I thought it would be, easier than I thought it would be or harder than I thought it would be?

It was very different to what I expected and easier in some ways and harder in others. The length of the trip was tough and the long days without much sleep take their toll but I was expecting it to more demanding technically.

If you could change one thing to do with climbing on Mount Everest what would it be?

I was fascinated to read about Kilian Jornet’s approach to climbing Everest and wonder if we will see a move towards faster ascents as standard. Given that it is hard to get any meaningful rest at those altitudes I think it may be viable to drop a day off the summit push.

Did you have to wait very long in a queue to climb the Hillary Step?

As has been reported extensively we did not climb the Hillary Step. Our lead Sherpa Pasang, maintains that it is still there but the route has been altered to avoid climbing it but I can’t confirm either way. I did not see it but was probably not at my most attentive at that point. We were fortunate on our summit day that weren’t many climbers on the mountain so queues weren’t a problem for us. The British Army Ghurka team had spotted an early weather window and undertook fixing the ropes to the summit and we followed them up before the masses.

Do you have a favourite mountaineering book?

Definitely Annapurna The First Conquest of an 8,000m Peak. I reread it during the expedition and what Herzog and his team endured is incomparable to what a modern day mountaineer has to contend with and it helped put the climb in context and somehow gave me confidence that I could make it.

I have seen the video where you fall off a ladder (clipped on) in the Khumbu Icefall. How frightened were you hanging upside down from a ladder?

I wasn’t frightened at all as I was clipped on, I just felt a bit silly. I’m not really sure how it happened but I somehow lost my grip on one of the guide ropes it made me lose my balance. The sherpas were just brilliant in getting me out. People have commented on youtube as to why I didn’t just pull myself out and in truth if the Sherpas hadn’t been giving me instructions I’m sure I would have been able to.

Being a Cardiff City football fan, once you reached the summit you did the ‘Ayatollah’. Can you explain to us what that is?

It’s a football chant that my team Cardiff City do at games. It evolved in the 80’s at the time of the revolution in Iran and it mirrors the actions of the crowds watching Ayatollah Khomeni speeches. I’ve done it at the summit of every mountain and was delighted that the Shepras and other climbers joined in. It was picked uo back home and featured on the local TV news.

Do you think that the Sherpa’s are paid and treated fairly?

In my experience I don’t think they are paid enough for what they do. The porters for example carry double loads to make sufficient money and as a fraction of the overall expedition cost the Sherpas pay is probably not great and could be improved.

At the high camp, did you get the chance to eat and sleep before leaving for the summit?

We arrived at Camp 4 at about 4.30 and left at about 9.30 so we didn’t manage to sleep but did eat something. I carried a bottle of Coke from Base Camp and it was the best drink I’ve ever had!

While on the summit of Everest did you take your oxygen mask off, if so, did this have any effect on you?

Yes I did and as long as I didn’t move about it was fine. Some of our team smoked cigarettes on the summit which I thought was taking it a bit far!

Do you think that George Mallory and Andrew Irvine climbed the Second Step?

Being a romantic I’d like to think so but I guess we’ll never know.

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