Thursday, 3 September 2015

Inspired by British mountaineer Kenton Cool

Kenton Cool – yes that’s his real name – leans against the desk in Stanfords bookshop. “I assume you all know who I am,” he suddenly says to the crowd in front of him, interrupting his spiel on his love of books and desire to have a house with a library. “In case you didn’t know, I’ve climbed Everest 11 times.”

Selfie with Kenton Cool, one of Britain's top mountaineers
It’s not the first time the British mountaineer goes off tangent – he even warns us of his tendency (supposedly high altitude affects short-term memory) – as he discusses his various escapades and promotes his first book One Man’s Everest, which he jokes he was “bullied” into writing.

Besides climbing Mt Everest 11 times, the chiselled 42 year old was also the first person to climb the three Everest peaks in one climb and is the only Briton to have skied down two 8000-metre mountains. Cool now works with individuals who are interested in climbing the world’s highest mountain.

Why does he climb mountains? Because he loves it – actually, he corrects himself, he “adores” it. “Mountains give us freedom, a sense of reality, of what is important to us,” he says. It saddens him that climbing Everest is becoming political because it detracts from the beauty of it.

Cool also admits that his climbing has been driven by a competitive and jealous streak. “I’ve always wanted to be the best; to be Britain’s best mountaineer.” He pauses, contemplating. “That’s very vain,” he adds. Then he elaborates, saying his motives for climbing have changed over the years, and now he climbs for more “romantic reasons”. For him, there is nothing better than watching the sun rise from the highest point on earth with people he considers his friends.

But it’s clear there is the nagging issue between following the call of the mountains and being a husband and father. Last year he spent six months away from home – it can be difficult to get the balance right, he says. “Mountaineering is a very selfish thing. I justify it as work.”

Even though Cool has climbed Everest 11 times, he says he doesn’t take the mountain for granted. “There is a real risk you might not come back.” He ponders the question does it get easier? He answers: “I approach it each time as the hardest thing I will ever do.”

One thing is for sure, he isn’t climbing Everest just because it’s there.  

Kenton Cool's new book

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