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Everest 2003: Ellis Stewart "LIVING THE DREAM 2003"

From Dreams to Reality

EverestNews.com- Dispatch One

Over a week ago we has an extreme cold spell in the UK and a huge drop of snow. I took advantage of this freeze, by zooming up to Scotland from my home in the North East of England. A lot of winter routes were in immaculate condition and I spent a week tramping round Glencoe soloing some sustained gully routes, while bearing out the freeze in my Mountain Hardwear Trango 2 tent at night.

I came home feeling rejuvenated and replenished after the excesses of the Christmas Holiday period. It was also at this point that I resigned from my job in order to commit full time to fundraising in the final run up to departure for Everest. Trying to secure any kind of funding for this trip has been extremely difficult and even now there is so much uncertainty over the next few weeks. These next few weeks are my crunch time and I know that I will have to face up to the reality of missing out on Everest this time if I do not receive any financial help.

I am very much a realist and I knew that I am not going to attract a major corporate sponsor. That wasn’t and hasn’t been my aim. What I have been doing though is promoting this climb through my local community. I am using my expedition to Everest to raise money for a Hospice in my town, which looks after the sick and terminally ill. In the part of England where I live, Cancers and Cancer related deaths are at the highest rate in the whole country. There is not one person in my town that has not been touched or affected by the death of a close friend or relative through Cancer or Heart Disease. Most of these people end up in the Hospice being cared for during their final days. The aim of the funding is to increase the quality of life remaining for the patients.

With my expedition to the North Side of Everest I will climb with the Hospice patients in my mind. They will not be so lucky to experience life on such a scale as an Everest expedition, but I know that they will feel part of my dream, and together we can share the experience. I am half way towards meeting my costs for the trip now. In the nest few weeks I should hopefully secure the rest. I have put every spare penny I have into this venture.

I am not a full time climber, I am not rich and things don’t just happen for me, I have to work hard for everything I get in my life. I come from a very working class lifestyle and I am attempting to break the mould by achieving something quite extraordinary. There are lots of things in life I do not have, such as the window of opportunity. But the one thing I do have is self-belief and an overriding passion to see this through. The great Everest Writer, Walt Unsworth, writes a great description of the characters of the men and woman who pit there all on the mountain. I think it is accurate: "But there are men for whom the unattainable has a special attraction. Usually they are not experts: their ambitions and fantasies are strong enough to brush aside the doubts, which more cautious men might have. Determination and faith are their strongest weapons. At best such men are regarded as eccentric; at worst, mad…three things these men have in common: faith in themselves, great determination and endurance." 

I think that these are the three characteristics which everyone who has ever stepped foot on this mountain possess in abundance.

The past seven years have been a whirl of emotions, from the jubilation at having reached the summit of Aconcagua through to the despair at having to turn back on Cho Oyu. The endless rejection letters, the bills piling up, the constant lack of help in everything I have ever done towards this dream. The skepticism, the criticisms, the why nots and the should nots; this is a dream that has taken me to the very brink of despair and my sanity.  But it is a dream that is also going to take me to the summit of Mount Everest.

The past several years have been a massive journey of self-discovery for me. When everyone else around me told me that this was a dream way beyond my reach, I didn't give in, I didn't listen to anybody. So strong was my belief and desire to achieve this. I started out climbing as a complete novice in the North Yorkshire Hills and quickly learnt the tricks and skills of the trade. Although No comparison to the mighty Himalayas, it was still a very useful stomping ground during my early climbing days and even now there are things that I learnt back then that I still apply to this day.

I have since placed everything in my life on hold. In 2001 I gave up my career in the corporate world in order to commit full time to my dream and begin to work towards making it happen. And so it came to pass that in January of 2001 I took out an extensive bank loan and traveled to Argentina to attempt to climb Aconcagua, the highest summit in the western Hemisphere. I traveled alone and reached the summit with Guy Cotter of Adventure Consultants, New Zealand on February 12th under a clear blue sky after a three-week climb via a variant of the Polish Glacier.

In September of that very same year I again cashed in some stocks and took out a loan and went off on another escapade. This time the goal was Mount Cho Oyu in the Tibet Himalayas, 70km west of Everest. One of the world’s great mountains at 8,201 meters high, this was to prove a formidable challenge as the weather that autumn season put an end to many teams’ aspirations.  I still climbed to well over 7,000 meters before deciding that to continue in the worsening winds and unstable snow would certainly of risked frostbite or exposure.

I returned home to a world of debt and much skepticism from loved ones at why I had wanted to place myself in such a financial mess. Such is the pull of Everest on me that I feel I would never be able to do an explanation any justice.  

I have climbed extensively this winter and I am now feeling primed and ready for the experiences that Everest has to offer. If I reach the roof of the world then great, but if not then that too is also ok, as long as I take the experience that I live on the mountain and allow it always be part of me. I don’t think you can go and climb Everest and not be fundamentally a different person. Everest is a life changing catalyst, and I don’t expect to come back in the same frame of mind. The Mountain will always stay with me, as I’m sure it does for all who have tread her slopes.

Here is to the next few weeks in the final preparation before departure for Everest.

Ellis Stewart Email

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