On July 29th, Bear Grylls talked with fans during a live, personal chat via WebEx. This is part of our on-going event series promoting our new beta, WebEx Meet - which you can get and use absolutely free.
The recording from the event is here. Below, you can read part two from the transcript of his talk (get part one here). We have lightly edited it to make it an easy read. You can get part three here tomorrow.
Bear Grylls: The picture you see is Mount Everest.
It's the highest mountain on our planet at 29,035 feet above sea level. It's a mountain that's claimed the lives of over 200 of the world's top mountaineers. It's so high, so big, this mountain. It's always hard to kind of describe when you first see it, but it's actually got enough mass to create gravitational pull. It actually creates its own weather patterns around the mountain.
Yet on the very top - there - what you can see, is just tiny. It's about the size of a small coffee table, really. But for 340 days of the year that summit is just blasted by these hurricane-strength, 150 mile-an-hour, jet-stream winds that pound into the upper slopes and upper faces of the mountain.
It's really this top 5,000 feet of that triangle poking into that band of wind, that makes the mountain so lethal.
From Recovery to Everest
The year we left for Everest, it was 12 months after having been discharged from the hospital. We pulled together a small team of four climbers so we could climb it together. Everest at this stage was still claiming one in six people's lives a day. For those who reached the top, which if you think about that, one in six is a shockingly high statistic actually.
If you consider the advances we see in technology, we just sit and kind of have one-on-one conversations like this all around the world, put someone out in space, but still the mountain is unchanged and its claim is constant: one in six people's lives over the years.
For me as a kid growing up, I'd read the statistics many times. But I don't think I ever really understood it. I think now having come back from the mountain where we did lose four climbers - four who lost their lives up there - I've just come back with a different view on things. Really.
Taking Risks: Is it Worth it?
I think the bottom line for me today, if somebody now asked me to take that level of risk again, I'm just not sure that as a husband and as a dad, whether I'm brave enough. But at the time, I was maybe a bit more naïve and didn't grasp the realities of what can happen; what can go wrong very quickly once you get into these sort of altitudes.
We spent 3½ months on Everest, and the reason we were there so long is because of this process: we would slowly ascend the mountain, building up the route as high as we could, before then having to come all the way down to rest, get more supplies and then go up again just a little bit higher.
And then there's the altitude. It's a very demoralizing public climb maybe rappelling in 3 or 4 hours what's taken you 12 or 13, 14 hours a day and the night before to climb. But it is a key part of it, just the process going up and going down. They actually say you climb Everest seven or eight times over just because of this process of ascending and descending.
Constant Climbing, High Altitude,
Extreme Temperatures and Death
During these months we lived in conditions where the temperatures often in the heat of the day go well into the 80's just because of the way the sun reflects very strongly on the ice in the thinner atmosphere up here, and then in the depths of night it drops very, very fast to about -35, -40 degrees. The day has very extreme temperature changes.
We'd live in these small two-man tents and we'd sometimes climb up to 12 or 13 hours of the day and night just in an effort to try and reach the next level on the mountain before the sun would make a lot of the spaces unstable. You can kind of see from the slides what it's like: the ice begins to shimmer as the sun hits it, and obviously this also weakens a lot of your anchor points that you're depending on so much up there. But during these months we did have four climbers lose their lives, all of them in different accidents.
Two fell; two died of the cold; and all of them in accidents outside of human control.
I think what makes this often hard to deal with– I think mountain disasters just leave you feeling very, very vulnerable. Very powerless. You're just powerless to cope when things begin to go wrong. And what happens at these altitudes and things do go wrong and it's very hard to get in and reverse that process.
Eventually at 6:00 a.m. on the 26th of May, two members from our team of four arrived on what's called the South Summit of Everest. We could see this famous final ridge that I've just seen so many times in photographs and in books stretching away to what they call Hillary's Step, and then eventually on to the summit.
Come back tomorrow for the final installment of the story of his climb.