Jo Bradshaw Interview taken in 2016
British climber Jo Bradshaw has climbed Kilimanjaro 20+ times, Mera Peak, Aconcagua and Manaslu the world’s 8th highest mountain. Jo was at Camp 1 on Mount Everest in 2015 when the earthquake struck. She reached the summit of Mount Everest on the 19th May 2016.
How did you become interested in mountaineering?
I’d always preferred cycling to trekking until I was moved from leading a bike trip in Vietnam to leading a Great Wall trek in China back in 2007 which ignited my love of 2 boots. I then gradually worked my way up the altitudes and climbed my first 6000m mountain, Mera Peak, in 2011, never even then dreaming of climbing Everest. My Everest guide and friend, Rolfe, believed that I had what it takes to go higher and encouraged me to keep at it. I have now climbed 2 8000m peaks, numerous 6000m peaks and many routes in the Alps and Pyrenees and absolutely love it.
You were at Camp 1 on Mount Everest in 2015 when the terrible earthquake struck. Was it a hard decision to make to go back this year to have another go?
Strangely no! When we were rescued from C1 and landed back at EBC we dug for our kit for 2 days. Amazingly I found my mobile phone and was given the opportunity to go back in 2016 by my sponsor who was just very glad I was still alive! When someone gives you a second chance, you go for it.
You have been on the South side of Everest twice, had you considered the North side at all?
When we decided to climb we were hoping to do the North/South traverse but could not get the permits so yes, it had been considered but we decided to climb from the south side in 2015 because we wanted to climb in Nepal and experience the Khumbu Icefall. We also wanted to be safe in the knowledge that once we had purchased our permits that nothing was going to stop us.
Were you more nervous this year (2016) about going through the Khumbu Ice fall than last year?
We had a great climb up through the icefall in 2015 which gave me positive memories of this dangerous place (despite what happened afterwards). Our first out of 3 trips up through the icefall was another good experience. There were many less ladders this year so less bottlenecks and we managed to go through each time with only a few people around us, or non at all. I actually enjoyed the experiences, despite it being scary, it focusses your mind somewhat!
This years (2016) goal was to reach the summit of Mount Everest, rest up and then go for the summit of Lhotse. Why did you change your mind about Lhotse?
We were really up for the challenge of doing the traverse and I felt really strong back at the South Col once we had made the summit of Everest. About 10 minutes after we arrived back at our tent we heard on the radio that Aang Phurba Sherpa had lost his life when he slipped and fell whilst fixing the line near the summit of Lhotse so we knew that the traverse was out of the question. Once we reached C2, I decided not to go back up. I felt that the conditions in the Lhotse couloir were not safe enough, the risk just too great. The next day we heard that no one was going for summit on Lhotse due to the conditions so for me it was a good decision, instinct is everything.
Did you take any girly things to Everest with you?
Good question! I actually took a few small perfume samples with me so that I could try and smell nice even if I hadn’t been able to wash for a while!
Were you treated any different by the Sherpas for being a woman?
I have in the past, it happens in so many countries due to cultural differences. Our Sherpa team on Everest treated me with great respect and it was hugely reciprocated. I work in Nepal a great deal so being a guide helped me to understand things from behind the scenes. We were one team, rather than ‘staff’ and ‘members’ which is the only way it should me in my eyes.
Out of the whole climb on Everest which part did you find the most psychically demanding?
The heat oddly enough! We had a very hot day on our 2nd trip up to C3 which completely floored me and all of those around me. Climbing in a -55c rated down suit on a hot day on a glacier is debilitating.
What was it like on the summit and did you take off your oxygen mask?
Crowded! We made the summit on the busiest day of the season so had the summit experience with over 30 already up there and many more coming up. We only stayed for 15 minutes because we were aware that it would take a long time to get along the summit ridge due to the number of climbers still coming up. No, I didn’t take off my mask but I also didn’t take off my goggles or gloves, it was about -35c and 50kmh winds so rather chilly!
Descending from the summit can be where accidents happen due to tiredness etc. Did you have any scary moments during your descent?
I do admit that my knees were knocking on the way down to the South Summit. The ridge is very narrow in places and at one point the rope continues straight over a huge drop and the ridge curves so being unroped was an experience that got my heart going a little more. Passing climbers coming up got the adrenalin going as again, there is not much room and we were stood on top of the snow covered Hillary Step for about 15 minutes waiting for a gap to appear for a safe climb down. Once we were at the South Summit it was all a lot simpler and from summit to C4 only took 3 hours.
The Hillary Step was said to have been slightly easier due to the amount of snow on it. How did you find ascending and descending it?
It was a blessing that the Hillary Step was snow covered which made it’s ascent and descent infinitely easier. I’ve heard that about 200 climbers were on the summit push on 18/19 May, including our little party. It was a snow slope, all be it a very steep one, but nothing to hold anyone up as it would have done had it been in it’s usual state.
Do you think that George Mallory and Andrew Irvine climbed the second Step?
I can’t really comment on that as I haven’t been on the North Side so haven’t experienced it in the flesh. It’s worth listening to Conrad Anker and Leo Holding on that subject!
If you would like to find out more about Jo Bradshaw then head over to her website at www.29029feet.co.uk