Becky Bellworthy

Becky Bellworthy Interview taken in 2015

On the 19th May 2012 Becky became one of the youngest British climbers to summit Mount Everest via the South Col at the age of 20.

Mountaineering is dominated by males, what got you into this sport at such a young age?

I was always into the outdoors; I’d say my parents always encouraged my sister and I do be adventurous and try new things, we were always playing outside, climbing trees etc. My sister was probably the real tomboy but being younger, I just followed in her footsteps and wanted to be like her I guess! At school I got into the Duke of Edinburgh scheme and my gold award expedition took me to Nepal. Despite having never climbed, when I saw Everest I knew I would like to stand on top of it one day.

Did you take any girly things on Mount Everest, if so what?

I’d say I have a girly persona and a tomboy one, and I kind of switch between the two modes, there isn’t a lot of cross over. So for Everest I went into tomboy mode, and left all the girly bits and bobs behind!

What day was your worst on the mountain and why?
(This question was asked by Linda Wales www.living-above-the-clouds.com)

Naturally there were many times that I really missed family and friends, but the only time I got really upset was when we got caught in an avalanche. Seeing the enormous snow cloud come towards us then cowering as it blocked out the light was frightening, but we were lucky to get away with a dusting. Nevertheless the adrenaline got pumping as we made haste back to the safety of base camp. Once I got back to the tent and couldn’t stop the tears as the adrenaline wore off. I think it was just the fear of what might of been, and the sadness I felt to know people not far from us had been seriously injured and were suffering. For whatever reason, we got lucky on that day.

What did you tell yourself to help you get through the dark moments?
(This question was asked by Linda Wales www.living-above-the-clouds.com)

I made a little pact myself that whenever it got tough and I started to curse the moment, I’d stop for a moment and look around. In that setting it doesn’t take long to feel calm again once you take in your surroundings and remember how hard you worked to get there.

Were there any physical problems that you encountered that nearly stopped you?
(This question was asked by Linda Wales www.living-above-the-clouds.com)

The first time I attempted Everest I got ill at camp 2 and had to be evacuated by helicopter to a Kathmandu hospital. The most terrifying thing was thinking that that might be the end of my Everest ambitions for good. I struggled to find anyone with enough expertise to be able to say it was safe for me to go back. My sponsors even dropped out because they didn’t want to be associated with me in the event I got ill (or worse) again. Eventually I managed to get an appointment with a top-notch expert and he gave me the go ahead to try again.

Did you at any time seriously worry for your own safety?
(This question was asked by Linda Wales www.living-above-the-clouds.com)

I think you’d be foolish not to have some degree of worry a lot of the time. You’ve got to have a huge amount of respect for the mountain and the power or nature because you really are at its mercy in an environment like that. There were a couple of avalanches which really gave me a fright, even dropping my bag and running on one occasion (not easy and 6500m!). The only occasion where I really thought I might die imminently was when my oxygen system broke on the way down, about half an hour after leaving the summit. I was feeling very tired but thought that was just natural, then suddenly got very dizzy and collapsed. I actually felt quite happy and dream like as I sat down and told Lhakpa my sherpa to go on. Luckily he was an absolute hero as always and realised very quickly it was probably an issue with the oxygen system and managed to fix it for me. I became completely helpless almost instantly, so in hindsight it frightens me to think what would have happened if he hadn’t been so quick thinking.

Apart from the summit, what was the biggest high point?
(This question was asked by Linda Wales www.living-above-the-clouds.com)

Getting back to base camp after the summit! We came down from camp 4 to base camp in one day and in a lot of ways it felt harder than summit day itself.  I got some minor frostbite on 9 toes and had some huge blisters so my feet were agony. By the time we got to the icefall it was late afternoon in late May and it was melting around us, making it even more dangerous than usual. I was exhausted and knew I couldn’t stop as I’d never get up again so I just kept plodding on the whole day, so I ended up being first from our group to get back. All the base camp staff and the second summit team were standing outside and cheered me back in. I particularly remember Bonita, a good friend of mine bursting into tears and running up to me. She had been a big support for me ever since I first decided I wanted to climb Everest, and hearing her say “I always knew you’d do it!” made me burst into (happy!) tears too. (On a less emotional note, sitting down and being brought a hot cup of tea was pretty amazing too!)

Knowing what you know now would you climb again at that age?
(This question was asked by Linda Wales www.living-above-the-clouds.com)

Yes. I don’t think age is the important factor, more maturity and preparedness. Aside from the physical challenge, I personally found it’s very tough mentally and you need the resilience to deal with that.

You were the youngest British female to summit Everest just for one day then Leanna Shuttleworth aged 19 took the title from you. Did that bother you at all?

Not at all, getting the record was never a priority for me, let alone holding it. In fact, I told most of the media that I hadn’t got the record but my friend and tent partner Mollie had (even though she was slightly older than me) because I didn’t want the media attention. I had great fun winding her up and giving the press her number to ring instead when they were bothering me!

Do you think that the Sherpa’s get a fair deal for the job they do?

A huge issue that I could write an essay on, but ultimately yes I do. I think of many Sherpa people as my friends now and it is something I have discussed with them. Having said that, it wouldn’t hurt them to be a bit more ballsy and stand up to anyone who tries to take advantage of them, but generally I don’t think they are hard done by.

Have you any other adventures coming up in the near future?

My current big adventure is medical school! I don’t have any upcoming expeditions as I don’t have any time in the near future, but I do have some many more things (that could be considered adventures!) which I aspire to do.

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

I sway to the side of yes currently, but I have changed my mind a few times. I do often say it doesn’t make a huge amount of difference either way as if you don’t get down again safely you haven’t completed the objective, but actually that’s a mighty feat considering the provisions they had.

You can contact Becky at becky@beckybellworthy.com if you have any questions for her.