Neil Laughton Interview taken in 2015
British mountaineer and adventurer Neil Laughton has climbed the Seven Summits and reached the summit of Mount Everest in 1998.
When did you first start climbing?
I started cliff climbing as a 19 year old Royal Marine Commando back in the mid 1980’s.
What made you want to climb the Seven Summits?
I read the Dick Bass book in 1991 and thought it would be great long term challenge.
Out of the Seven Summits which was your favourite and least favourite to climb and why?
My favourite was Mt Vinson in Antarctica – such a special, remote and beautiful environment. My least favourite was Mt Kilimanjaro – too many people and more a long trek than a mountain climb.
You have been on Mount Everest a few times helping others reach their goals. You reached the summit in 1998 via the South Col route, do you still remember your summit day?
Of course! It was a very special day personally – the realisation of a long held dream and ambition, one that had taken much toil & trouble including the traumatic events of May 1996 (“the worst storm in 100 years”). My summit partner was a young 23 year old Bear Grylls but we had to wait a few hours for our Sherpa team at the Balcony (we were keen!) and I sustained some frostbite to my toes. When they arrived, we resupplied with rope and oxygen and carried on up the SE Ridge to the South Summit, then on towards and up the Hillary Step and finally we summited at 0730 hrs on 26th May. The view was incredible and I felt so happy and proud to have made it!
If Mount Everest was 20,000 feet lower, would it be a ‘walk in the park’ to reach its summit?
That would make it 9,000 ft high, only twice the height of Ben Nevis. I guess it could therefore be classed as a “bimble in the playground”?!
Currently (August 2015) there is an American boy aged 11 who is training to climb Mount Everest in 2016 when he will be 12 years old. Do you think this is a good idea or not?
Typically American! I’m sorry but this is not a good idea. The high slopes of Mt Everest is no place for a young boy however talented. It can be a brutal place up there and even if you have the best guide in the world, there’s no guarantee of safety. Ask the widow of New Zealand climbing legend and Everest mountain guide Rob Hall. My view is the age limit should be 16.
What is your favourite mountaineering book you have read?
Touching the Void by Joe Simpson
During your different times on Mount Everest did you ever fear for your life?
Maybe fleeting thoughts a few times particularly during the storm in 1996 whilst I was at the South Col but otherwise not really – too busy enjoying myself!
How did you find the Hillary Step? Which was worse, ascending or descending it?
Not as difficult as I had been led to believe but you have a lot of adrenalin flowing at that point. Ascending is physically more draining, descending is easier but more dangerous with tired limbs.
You travel all over the world doing different adventures, what does your family think of it?
They grin and bear it and thankfully do not put too much pressure on me to stop doing what I love.
Tell us a bit about your company ‘Laughton & Co’?
I design and deliver bespoke training programmes for businesses wanting to improve staff leadership, communication and teamwork.
Is there any mountain that you have not yet climbed but would love too one day?
Angel Peak, Pakistan
How do you see Mount Everest in say 20 years time? More/less expeditions? More restrictions of some sort?
More red tape, more people climbing and more bizarre record attempts.
Do you think that George Mallory and Andrew Irvine climbed the Second Step?
No-one knows for sure. Romantically, I like to think they may have done but until Sandy Irvin’s body is found with a camera in his pocket, we shall have to wait and see…
If you would like to find out more about Neil Laughton then head over to his website at http://laughton.co