When I graduated from university with a bachelor's degree in geographical sciences, I had little idea of what to do, but I knew I wanted to climb the mountains of the world.
When I was about 14, I was inspired by a photograph of Mount Everest in one of Sir Chris Bonnington's books. Ten years later, I became a professional mountain guide.
Now, 25 years after that first inspiration, I have 10 Everest summits under my belt, have led Sir Ranulph Fiennes on successful climbs of the Eiger and Everest, and am planning another expedition to coincide with the 60th anniversary of the first successful ascent of Everest next year.
I am equally passionate about inspiring young people to accept the challenges of the great outdoors. My Everest expedition this year was followed by tens of thousands of people worldwide, including many schoolchildren. Using satellite technology we were able to tweet, blog, use Facebook and send videos so that children could follow the expedition all the way.
Schools used it to enable learning about mountains, rocks, glaciers, rivers and indigenous people. But though many of the skills are geography-based, other skills such as leadership and team building can be nurtured to give pupils a headstart when they arrive in the workplace.
In my role as patron of the British Schools Exploring Society, I visit schools where I am amazed by the knowledge young people already have about our world. I have met children as young as 7 or 8 who know about the Sherpa people and that Everest is in the Himalayas in Nepal. These visits are a chance to enthuse pupils about the wilderness and how to tackle challenges.
Children seek role models and, increasingly, it is modern-day adventurers such as Bear Grylls or Ben Fogle who step up. I hope I fit into that same mould - doing aspirational things and encouraging the next generation of adventurers.
After my Everest expedition next year, I plan to climb the world's 11th and 13th highest mountains (in Pakistan) in a single push, and am planning to base an education pack around it. The lessons from expeditions are cross-curricular - and they make learning fun. Learning is much easier if, like me all those years ago, children feel inspired.
For more information, go to www.kentoncool.com. To find out about exploring, visit www.britishexploring.org.