Attempting the Impossible
'There is always a certain risk in being alive, and if you are more alive there is more risk'
Henrik Ibsen

"Be certain of one thing, climbing six 8000 peaks is no cakewalk". Above 8000 metres, the altitude you would normally see jumbo jets cruising at, the thin air can be a killer. Low air pressure and lack of oxygen can quickly lead to physical problems that can be fatal, and the chances of being rescued are nil as there are no mountain rescue services and helicopters cannot fly above 6000 metres.

It's essentially the spirit of adventure that drives Alan - and other explorers and pioneers - onwards, as he explained himself in a recent interview with Trail magazine "Some may see me as an eccentric madman, but I just want to climb mountains. I know it's a tough challenge to take on".

Alan appreciates that his expedition needs everything to fall in to place smoothly for him to acheive all six 8000 peaks within the climbing season. "But if the worse comes to the worse, and say the weather precluded an attempt on one of the mountains, I'll remember my old maxim that success is returning and the summit is only a bonus - no mountain is worth a life".

Out There

Alan recounts how it felt to be on the summit of K2

"My head ached and my body felt like it was being crushed in a vice. Climbing at extreme altitude is agony. Torture.

Even through this haze of suffering, my oxygen starved brain was aware of the intense seriousness of the situation. No celebration was due yet. I was completely alone on the summit of K2, the worlds second highest and hardest mountain. People die on the descent in good weather, with optimum conditions and in daylight. The light was already fading. I would be descending in the dark. No mountain is worth a life, I had to keep telling myself....I must get down. Returning from an expedition is a success, the summit is only a bonus.

This was the culmination of three year's attempts at the 'Savage mountain'. Now I was there on the summit, and the most pressing thought in my mind was that somehow I had to get down.

It really is out there in the 'Death Zone', at over 8,000 metres there are no rescue teams and the helicopters can't reach you. You are alone. There is more chance of being rescued on the Moon.

As the sun dropped and the temperature plummeted even lower than 40 below, K2 began to cast a huge triangular shadow over the earth. In the bitter cold I realised frostbite was a real danger. I checked my headtorch and, drawing on the experience of many years, started the down climb. Now I had to concentrate on the descent back to my daughter Fiona. Back to the world".