Ben Fogle Mount Everest Interview by Sport360
There are not many people out there who can claim to have rowed across the Atlantic Ocean, traversed Antarctica on foot, run across the Sahara, travelled the Empty Quarter on camel and cycled a rickshaw 423 miles non-stop from Edinburgh to London. Not unless you’re Ben Fogle.
The 44-year-old might be well known in the UK as a TV presenter and author but the Brit isn’t fazed by challenge when he sees one – no matter how gruelling it may be.
Fogle was back on the television screens and in the newspapers in May, not because of his day-to-day job as a broadcaster or author, but his latest trial – conquering Mount Everest.
Photo (C) Ben Fogle
A month after starting the mission and defying doctors’ orders to cut the trip due to his struggles with oxygen deficiency, Fogle finally made the 8,848m ascent of Earth’s highest mountain above sea level.
While he had the support of world-renowned mountaineer Kenton Cool, who amazingly was making his 13th ascent of Everest, Fogle completed it without one of his team members, who was with him at the start. That was former British cyclist and Olympic gold medallist Victoria Pendleton, who had to abandon the attempt due to effects of oxygen deprivation.
Two months on from that mission, Fogle shared his experience on tackling one of the greatest challenges of his life with Sport360.
It’s been almost two months since you completed the Mount Everest climb. How do you look back at the achievement and has it sunk in yet?
It’s undoubtedly the achievement that I’m most proud of. I think the mental and physical toll of the climb, along with the training over the last two years with Victoria Pendleton, has made this a different and almost otherworldly experience.
What was the most challenging part and how did you deal with it?
One of the reasons I wanted to do it was to confront my own fears, one of which is being afraid of heights. Ever since being back at home, I’ve been gradually adjusting back into normal life and work, but I lost 10kg from the mountain and the impact of the altitude cannot be understated.
If you analysed my brain upon my return, it would be 30 per cent less (functional) than it normally is. Although it will regenerate in time, ever since then, I’ve been operating in this dreamlike state – which has been challenging at times.
When you reached the summit, what were your emotions?
It’s hard to put into words. Reaching the summit wasn’t just the realisation of a childhood dream, but the challenges we faced so close to the summit with extreme storms and our oxygen ventilators exploding made it feel like an even more monumental achievement.
Many people have attempted to try and fail in their bid of climbing Everest. Can you explain the importance of physical, logistical and psychological elements that you went through?
We had trained for two years alongside world-renowned mountaineer Kenton Cool, who accompanied us up the mountain. Ahead of the expedition, we did several altitude tests which you will be able to see in the CNN documentary, alongside some practice treks in Bolivia and the French Alps.
With the whole process of acclimatisation and treks to the different camps, we were out in Nepal for nearly two months. We wanted to treat Everest with the respect it deserved and without ego, so going in with the right mentality is just as important.
Victoria Pendleton had to pull out midway through due to oxygen deficiency. How big of a blow was that and did make you more determined to complete the climb?
We were heartbroken to lose Vic. Having trained and prepared for the climb for such a long period of time, her suddenly not being there was quite surreal. However, she made me promise that I would reach the summit and the attitude of a two-time Olympic gold medallist stayed with us during the most challenging parts of the expedition.
What would your advice be for someone who is interested in climbing Everest?
Treat it with the respect it deserves. I’ve never travelled to such a beautiful and terrifying environment, but preserving an understanding of that environment is equally important.
Personally, I would never say I ‘conquered’ Everest, I’ve seen it as agreeing on a deal of respect and she allowed me to climb her.
Are there any plans to carry out more expeditions?
In the aftermath of Everest, I have to say not as it stands – but you can never say never.
In terms of the other adventures you’ve had, did those experiences help you for this expedition and how?
Climbing Everest is such a unique challenge and out of all my experiences it’s by far the hardest one. I think the lesson I’ve learnt from all of my trips, having the right level of grit and determination can make anything possible. If you put your mind to it, you never know what you can accomplish.
What did you learn about the whole expedition from planning right through to when you reached the top?
If there was one thing I’ve learnt, it’s to live your life brightly and without regret. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can or can’t do – if you live bravely, you’ll never know where it may take you.