Noel Hanna Interview taken in 2013
British mountaineering guide Noel Hanna has reached the summit of Mount Everest six times. Noel has also competed in many of the world’s most gruelling endurance races such as The Marathon Des Sables, Death Valley 135, Discovery Eco-challenges and Himalayan 100 miler to name just a few.
How did you get into mountaineering?
While running in the Himalayan 100 mile stage race, I could see 3-4 off the world’s tallest mountains and said to myself one day I will climb some of them.
Also while taking part in the famous Eco Challenge adventure race we had to climb to the summit of Mount Tronador in Patagonia and this was the start of me climbing more mountains.
Was your sixth Everest summit as exciting as your first?
Yes, because I was in charge of getting a Red Bull film crew in place to film Valery Rozov (Russian base jumper) to achieve the world’s highest base jump off Chantze.
After they left the mountain I then took 3 Russians to Everest summit. For me it is seeing the joy in there faces when they reach the summit and then back down at advance base camp the same day.
You’ve expressed a preference for the Tibetan side of Everest, could you describe just how difficult it is along the North East Ridge in terms of difficult terrain?
There are the 1st/2nd + 3rd steps. They are fairly straight forward then you have a steep snow slope (snow triangle) closer to the top. From high camp 8300mts to the summit 75% is on rocks. People find it harder coming down the 3 steps than going up them.
Staying on the North side, were you aware of the early history of the route and if so, did you consider any of the potentials or issues that deal with the Mallory and Irvine story?
The CTMA put in ropes and a ladder on the 2nd step. If you have experience you could do this route without same.
Noel, you’ve made some cogent statements on the importance of nutrition and hydration as well as clothing. Again, from your experience up the ‘Mallory’ route, do you have any insights on these matters in relation to Mallory and Irvine?
A lot of people at altitude loss there appetite and do not fuel their body before attempting summit. You really have to force them to eat to have the energy for a long summit day also keep drinking – again difficult when you have an O2 mask on.
In 2009 your wife Lynne reached the summit of Everest with you, what was that like having Lynne there with you?
Yes in 2009 I had Lynne and very good friend Pat from Canada climbing with me. Lynne and I were first on the summit the day we went (can’t even remember what date). On our way back down I met Pat on his way up — about 10-15 mins from summit. Pat told me he was having problems with his eye sight. I told Lynne to continue on her way down and I went back to the summit with Pat. I wasn’t until 16 hrs later that I saw Lynne back at 6400mts camp.
Does it concern you that places like Everest are becoming a ‘circus’ these days, for the foolish, the egotist and the bizarre?
I think the authorities should make it more difficult to get the climbing permits demanding more previous experience i.e.. Cho Oyu 8000mts+ peak.
Is there a mountain that one day you would like to climb?
Yes, would like to do the 14 8000 ers.
In terms of guiding in dangerous places like Everest, just what won’t you do for the underprepared and the foolish?
I think a lot of people have the dream to climb Everest and now it has become a bucket list for some people.
At advance base camp we set up an exercise on the ice and they have to prove that they are able to jumar up a steep ice face and be able to come down same. Also that they can pass anchors with safety in mind.
Everyone is told that if we think you are struggling and having problems you will be told to turn around and go back down. I turned a Russian client around this year at the top of the 1st step as he was struggling and climbing to slow to make summit and back down within the given time.
Do you think that George Mallory and Andrew Irvine climbed the Second Step?
If you would like to find out more about Noel Hanna then take a look at his website at www.noelhanna.com