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24th May 2019 Bea Udeh

Climbing Access Mountain – from base camp to summit the long way round #ADA

The Audience Diversity Academy may seem like a long way to the mountaintop.  In Fellow Emma Oaks’ final blog-telling, the triumphs always outweigh the challenges.

The trip was planned, the teams were briefed, and as long as there was a clear leader everyone seemed keen to find a way to the summit.

However, it soon became apparent that there are several different rival camps on our own little mountainside. Camp A was in the village community, disapproving of the climbing party and of the perceived elitism of where they had come from, scoffing at our team of aging but willing Sherpas and seemingly expensive equipment without realising that it was fraying at the edges. Camp B stayed at basecamp and neither moved up or down the mountain, daunted by the scale of the climb and the potential cost of the attempted journey, after all no-one was making us climb it and we could just move the tent a few feet closer if they did. Camp C could see the summit from where they had pitched their tent and would have loved to see the view, but couldn’t summon the energy to climb, choosing to read the guidebooks instead. Finally there was a quiet little group starting out at the bottom of the hill, faintly exhausted but with a determined stride.

To make things that little bit more interesting, those at Basecamp would never admit to such a thing, preferring to make the journey just a little bit more difficult in the hope of quashing any enthusiasm, metaphorically chucking snow over our tent and telling us there’s an avalanche. Little did they know, we’ve got our crampons on and we’re heading to the summit, no matter how long the climb, reassured in the hope of meeting other climbers along the way.

My first SOS call was in autumn 2018, throwing myself on the mercy of our team of trusty Sherpas. I showed them my map, pointed out the peaks that I hoped to pass and the gullies I was trying to avoid. I wondered if anyone could help me plot an easier route to the summit? or if anyone would like to join me on my epic climb? No offers of help were forthcoming, but a few did point me in the direction of other paths, dozens of paths in fact, all leading in different directions.

A new group of climbers was what we needed, untainted by the memory of failed climbs. For safety we decided to attach a rope between the climbers, to avoid anyone slipping back down the mountain side to basecamp, or worse still falling into one of the numerous time gullies that ran alongside the path. This group would be armed with some previous mountain experience and up-to-date training and would be keen to learn from one another and push ahead with courage and fresh eyes. Together we drew a new map of our route to the summit, planned how we could avoid obstacles along the way, imagined the view from the top and inspired each other to get training in preparation for what was to be a long but rewarding climb.

Together we drew a new map of our route to the summit, planned how we could avoid obstacles along the way, imagined the view from the top and inspired each other to get training in preparation for what was to be a long but rewarding climb.

The training started in earnest in November 2018. And even in training I have lost my footing, plummeting briefly into time gullies that threatened to suck me off the path. I hit severe weather in mid-January that put a halt to any training, and I had no option but to wait patiently for the storm to clear before I could continue.

If training goes to plan, the date for the start of the climb has been set for 16 March 2019.

Climbers roped together = 15

Time gullies = eleventy billion

Severe weather = 1

Avalanches = 0

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