Any regrets? Not a chance

11th February 2005 at 00:00
Last year John Hegarty led an expedition to climb in the Himalayas. The mountain was Stok Kangri in Kashmir, with a peak at 20,000 feet. Two students who travelled with him share their memories.

Luke Dodington 19, from Weymouth

"On the first night, we camped by a nomadic settlement where the herders emerged from their stone shelter to offer us tea and sweet cake. On the second night of the trek up to base camp, I was ill and felt gutted. We'd been told over and over, 'You can't climb if you're ill - it jeopardises the group's safety.'

Finally, we reached base camp. If you'd shown any signs of altitude sickness you were told not to climb. I had proclaimed my fitness but wasn't hopeful. Looking back, I think I may have been a bit arrogant, but I thought I was one of the fittest people there.

Fortunately, in the end I was allowed to climb. We set off from advance camp at two in the morning on a freezing, starlit night, and reached the summit six hours later.

Reaching the top gave me a real buzz. I was literally on top of the world.

It was worth every second of putting on those crampons and harnesses with freezing hands, or being scared of climbing a ridge with India on one side and China on the other. It is an achievement I will never forget."

Carly Swann 18, from Plymouth

"At advance camp it was freezing and the summit looked so close that I felt I could reach out and touch it. Yet the climb would take us at least five hours. On the climb, the altitude was getting to me. I struggled to breathe and felt increasingly light-headed. But having come this far I was determined to reach the top.

The summit was mind-blowing, and my legs felt like jelly as I looked at a panorama of snow-covered peaks that looked like a painting. I could see far into India, Pakistan and China, and many of the highest mountains in the world stretched out before me. Seeing the faces of the people I was with made me proud of them, and of myself."

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