Record-breaking Everest mountaineer Kenton Cool has hinted he may attempt another climb on the world’s highest mountain.
The 38-year-old Gloucestershire climber is back in Nepal’s capital Kathmandu after extending his existing record number of Everest summits for a Briton to 10.
Cool and his cameraman Keith Partridge were having what he termed a ‘lazy’ day after their successful Samsung Olympic Games Pledge which saw them take the late Arthur Wakefield’s Olympic gold medal to the top of the world.
Speaking to grough from Kathmandu, Cool said: “Today is pretty much a day of recovery, and we’re eating a lot.
“We slept late; we had a lazy breakfast, a lazy lunch and hopefully a lazy dinner. We’re just recovering really, letting our bodies get used to the lower altitude and enjoying not having to climb in an upward direction.”
But the climber, the most successful British Everest veteran, admitted he already has his eye on a possible 11th attempt when asked if last Friday’s summit would be the last. “I hate to say never,” he said. “Next year is the 60th anniversary [of Tenzing and Hillary’s Everest expedition] and I know there are one or two celebrations in the pipeline, but I’m not entirely sure yet but I suspect I’ll probably be back again next year.”
Kenton Cool described the ordeal of making the trip to the roof of the world, 8,848m (29,029ft) above sea level.
He said: “Everest is always quite physically demanding on the body. When I came down I had a bit of an eye problem; Keith was really quite tired.
“We were quite lucky because we summited quite early on the 25th. I immediately dropped down to Base Camp that day; Keith came down to Camp Two and we were reunited the following day.
“I think we were both tired from the rigours, but the ascent itself went really smoothly. It’s one of the smoother ascents I’ve had on Everest.”
The events of the previous weekend were foremost for the seasoned climber and his colleagues Partridge and Dorje Gylgen, who made an early start from their camp the evening before the summit.
Four mountaineers died and another is still missing after huge queues built up as more than 150 would-be Everest summiteers waited to get up the Hillary Step, one of the last obstacles on the route to the peak.
“We were probably about 10th or 15th to the top that day,” Cool said. “We overtook a lot of people on the way up. We were concerned about bottlenecks after what happened on 19 May, then we were very conscious that taking the opportunity to overtake people was important.
“And that’s exactly what we did because we spent maybe 40 minutes on the top doing the filming and things like that which is quite a long time and we didn’t want to get stuck behind people.”
How did his 10th successful Everest rate compared with the previous ones? “Climbing Everest, number one is always super special,” he admitted. “I remember phoning my mother from the top and having an amazing telephone call with her, and then last year was really good because there was no-one else around.
“But this year, because of the reason we were doing it, the Samsung Olympic Pledge, and to try and get the gold medal up there, it was very emotional this year.
“There were quite a few people there and it was nice to celebrate doing something special with other people.
“There were other people we had been sharing Base Camp with at the same time and it was just nice to celebrate with those people because they had full knowledge of what we were doing.
“For me this project has been the culmination of over two years’ work and with the final few steps, this amazing project was totally overwhelming. When you get to the top, and the whole of the world is at your feet. I’m trying to put it into words but I can’t really do it.
“It was totally incredible. But what kept my feet on the ground was thinking about those guys in 1922 and the pledge that was made between Coubertin and Lieutenant Colonel Strutt. They were the reason we were there.
“I kind of gave myself a bit of a shake and said: ‘I’m not there for me; I’m there for everybody else in a way’.”
He said it is hard to describe the feelings when standing on the highest point on earth. “To try to put it into words is difficult, but I think the word sensational sums it up very well.”
“This was one of the smoother ascents, of all the ones I’ve done, especially given the weather forecast which wasn’t fantastic and given the fact there were quite a few people there, I think we managed it well.
“We left the South Col quite early and we got to the summit literally at dawn so we were back down at the South Col by 9 o’clock in the morning, so with all of those things that were against us, with the numbers of people, it went incredibly well.
“We executed it perfectly and I think that was because of the fantastic Sherpa team we had around us.”
One disappointment was the failure of the planned live broadcast from the summit to British television.
Cool said: “With all the equipment, I was absolutely heartbroken when it didn’t work. Perhaps we didn’t keep the batteries as warm as we could have done.
“We got really close to doing it; we got a connection and I actually started to ring the BBC and it all looked like it was about to work then all of a sudden pretty much every battery failed. We had four different batteries and they all just started to die in unison, so it was a little bit disappointing but it was only part of the reason we were there.
“The main reason was to take the gold medal to the top and that’s what we achieved, so you need to look at the positives. To go live to the BBC would have been the cherry on top of the cake.”
The medal is now safely back with the team in Nepal. Kenton Cool said: “The medal is locked away at the moment and within the next 10 days or so I plan to fly back and see Charles Wakefield, the grandson of Arthur Wakefield, the 1922 Everest expedition climber and indeed the medal will be returned to the family.”
Mr Wakefield said in a message to the climber: “It is such an honour to have witnessed your extraordinary work over the past several weeks. I am moved on several levels as you can imagine.
“The world would be a better place if we had more people like you.”
Cameraman Partridge came back with lots of footage from the expedition, during which he made his own first ascent of Everest.
Kenton Cool said: “Hopefully, all the footage that was shot – Samsung have some of it already – but hopefully we will tie Keith’s footage in with archive footage which is with the Royal Geographical Society in London and there may be some form of documentary, maybe with the BBC or Channel Four.
“The whole idea is to try and celebrate what the guys in 1922 achieved. I think it really is an amazing achievement that has kind of got under the radar for many people, so if we can make a documentary and cut it in with archive footage, I think we will have a very powerful documentary for somebody.
“Keith is absolutely elated. He’s lost a lot of weight; he’s probably lost in the region of two stones; he’s got a hacking cough, but as a climbing partner, as a friend and a work colleague, he has been absolutely outstanding.”
He praised the climbing cameraman’s tenacity. “He bounced back from a really bad chest infection and cold at the start of the trip and we were all really concerned about him but he’s come back and come back in spades.
“I think he’s on cloud nine. He did a fantastic job of getting to the top and working all the way.”
But for now, Kenton Cool’s thoughts are returning to Britain and the next few weeks.
“I’ve got a big cycle race in August which I like to be competitive in, so I’ll be back on the push bike but I think first and foremost it’s time to re-engage with the family my wife Jazz and daughter Saffron and have time with them.”
His team is also urging supporters to greet the mountaineer’s return when he lands at Heathrow. The London support team said Kenton Cool and Keith had issued an open invitation for people to come to Terminal Three on Wednesday 30 May. The flight is due in at 7.15am.
Cool said: “Come and see us because we want to shake each of you by the hand.”
The London team also reminded members of the public there is a chance for Kenton’s supporters to win tickets to the 2012 Olympics on the Samsung Facebook page.