Roland Hunter

Roland Hunter Interview taken in 2010

Roland Hunter owns and runs The Mountain Company here in the UK. He has taken his company all over the world doing treks and expeditions. In 2009 Roland reached the summit of Mount Makalu using no bottled oxygen or Sherpa support. Back in 2001 he stood on the summit of Mount Everest via the North East Ridge from Tibet.

You climbed Mount Everest via the North East Ridge back in 2001. Did you have any problems ascending or descending the Second Step?

My ascent of the Second Step went fine with no problems however I had to wait a while at the base for people in front of me to finish climbing this section. On the descent my oxygen tube from my regulator got caught up in my abseil device, for the rest of the descent I had a leaky tube so had very little oxygen coming through the mask and in the end decided to take it off completely.

Can you remember how long it took you to climb from the base to the top of the Second Step?

I cannot remember exactly how long it took however I think moved quite fast as feeling strong at the time.

You reached the summit of Mount Everest with Mark McDermott, who used no supplemental oxygen. Did you ever consider this option?

I decided to use oxygen on Everest as this was my first 8,000m expedition however we only had a limited supply of oxygen as we used no Sherpa support above the North Col. I climbed most of the way to the summit on a low flow rate of 0.5 litre per minute.I increased the flow rate to 2 litres per minute for ascending the Second Step to give me a boost. Mark was incredibly strong on our Everest summit day using no supplement oxygen, he even arrived to the summit half an hour or so before I did! An ambition of mine has always been to climb to the summit of an 8,000m peak without supplemental oxygen. I tried on Kanchenjunga in 2003 and then on Broad Peak in 2004 and finally summited Makalu in Spring 2009!

For the story of our Makalu summit day please take a look at my blog at:
http://themountaincompany.blogspot.com/2009/06/our-summit-day-on-makalu.html

How long did you stay on the summit for and were you fearful of the descent to come?

I spent half an hour on the summit while enjoying the amazing view, I remember thinking at the time that Makalu in the next valley would be good mountain to climb one day. I felt fine on the descent and made good progress down to Camp 3 then carried on to Camp 2 to spend the night. I was not fearful about the descent although made sure I kept focused as was well aware most accidents happen on the way down.

Looking at Everest expeditions of today is there anything they have that would have made your life easier back in 2001?

The equipment available these days is lighter weight, this makes a big difference especially if you are not relying on Sherpa’s to carry your gear on the mountain. On Makalu our tent for high camp only weighed one kilogram (Black Diamond Firstlight). Our Jet Boil stoves also saved us a lot of weight. Using this new lightweight gear made it possible for Mick and myself to carry all of our gear by ourselves up to Camp 3 on the way to Makalu summit while using no supplemental oxygen.

Given the chance would you climb Mount Everest again?

I think it is unlikely I would return to Everest as prefer the quieter 8,000m peaks such as Makalu. I would definitely like to go back to Kanchenjunga in the next two or three years. However a less traveled route on Everest such as the West Ridge would be an interesting objective.

There are talks about an expedition looking for the camera that Irvine had on him. If found it might revel if the summit was reached in 1924. Are you all for this or would you prefer it to be left as a mystery?

I think it is inevitable that people will keep looking for the camera and I guess quite likely it will be found at some point. Personally I think it would be fascinating to see the photos to prove whether they did indeed summit Mount Everest.

Dead or alive which climber do you most admire and why?

There are too many climbers to name if pushed I would have to say Shipton and Tilman, of course this is in fact two climbers however one cannot name one without the other! Their lightweight exploratory climbs and treks throughout Himalaya and Karakoram are an inspiration and far ahead of their time.

You own and run The Mountain Company, how popular is your Everest Base Camp trek?

I set up The Mountain Company in 2004, we organize treks and expeditions to Nepal, Pakistan, Bhutan, India, Tibet and also on Kilimanjaro. Our Everest Base Camp trek is always popular we run six fixed date departures each year. Of course many people on their first visit to Nepal like to see Mount Everest and to visit the Khumbu region home of the famous Sherpa’s. Many of our clients then come back again to visit more remote areas such as Dhaulagiri, Kanchenjunga, Makalu and Upper Dolpo.

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

I am not really sure as have not read in detail all of the material on the subject, however I think it would be great if they did make it to the summit.

If you would like to find out more about Roland and The Mountain Company then please pay a visit to his website at www.themountaincompany.co.uk