Archive for March 20th, 2014

IPWEAvic Young IPWEAvic Convenor, Kurt Pitts writes:

A successful night was held on 30 January for the Young IPWEA launch event at La Di Da in Melbourne. The event was sponsored by ARRB Group and received positive feedback from all who attended. Steve Bell, an experienced mountaineer and adventurer was the guest speaker for the night. Steve provided a very interesting talk and had the audience captivated while he described stories of his mountaineering adventures. The group enjoyed finger food and a few drinks while Steve shared his experiences.

A summary of his main points are below:

  • Grew up in Devon on the south coast of England where a large amount of outdoor rock climbing exists
  • Started rock climbing at the age of 16
  • Found his true passion in climbing
  • Noted a picture of Mt Arapiles in Victoria and how much he wanted to climb this famous mountain as it was very well known in the rock climbing world.
  • Started climbing many First Ascents on sea cliffs around Devon
  • From here, he asked himself “Where can I get the next thrill?”
  • This is where he “heard the mountains calling” and decided to get into mountaineering
  • He made a few ascents and then teamed up with some fellow mountaineers and climbed the north face of the Matterhorn in the Pennine Alps between Switzerland and Italy while they were still teenagers
  • It was at this time that he had a large fall which resulted in a rethink.
  • He sat back and thought “I’m human, I might be killed” where the fear of death had not previously crossed his mind. Quite a few friends had already been killed.
  • Following this, he “wised up at the ripe old age of 20”
  • Later, he teamed up with a more experienced climber, a 30 year old, to attempt to climb the north face of the Eiger in Switzerland
  • The attempt was made in winter, only the second party to ever attempt the ascent in winter
  • The two spent 7 nights on the face, including one in a snow cave they made. They later found out that their snow cave was constructed in the exact location of a previous death in another snow cave and was dubbed the ‘death cave’
  • The next step up – The Himalayas. He spent two months there and hated it. This was a major turning point. He felt he needed more meaning. “Climbing mountains is great for yourself, but what does it do for others?”
  • He took an opportunity with the British Antarctic Survey and spent 9 months in Antarctica
  • Following this, the British Commandos (Marines) were looking for volunteers to go to Mount Everest, so he had a stint in the military for four years.
  • Part of his military work involved setting up Camp 7 (last camp) on Everest, but he did not get the opportunity to reach the summit.
  • He found the altitude made him very lethargic at 8,000 metres
  • He realised he’d had enough and it was time to get off the mountain when he spilled a fresh one litre bottle of urine (pee bottle) all over the inside of the tent which instantly froze.
  • Following this work, and itching to get to the summit of Everest, he set up the first ever commercial expedition to the summit of Everest in 1993, and so started his company Jagged Globe.
  • Although relatively cheap to join an expedition at the time, the cost is now approximately $50,000 to $60,000 per person
  • Steve described that getting to Base Camp is very easy, but within hours of leaving Base Camp, massive chasms needed to be crossed by carefully placed ladders and the climbing got more difficult
  • “Choose your attitude each morning – it makes a huge difference in what you will achieve”
  • Steve noted that one of the Sherpa’s travelling with the group stayed overnight on top of Everest without oxygen on a previous trip, simply to say he was the first to do so. Sadly he died on another occasion when he went to do number twos during the night and fell down a crevasse.
  • Once atop the south summit, there was a fantastic view of the northern summit ridge, the weather was fantastic. Steve noted that these days, there would be a large queue of people walking up the ridge.
  • It was interesting to note the current age record for climbing Everest is 78 years old
  • Steve also mentioned that more people die coming down the mountain than going up, an approximate death rate of one in ten people.
  • After Everest, Steve decided that it would be nice to climb the highest point on each continent.
  • He started with Carstensz Pyramid (Puncak Jaya) in West Papua and claimed this as the Australia/Pacific’s highest point, as Australia’s Mt Kosciuszko is no real challenge.
  • He followed this by returning to Antarctica to climb Mt Vinson, and completing the other continents, noting his favourite was North America – Mt McKinley in Alaska.
  • He noted there is often no view when climbing mountains, due to regular white-outs. Mountaineers don’t climb for the view, although it is a pleasant reward.
  • Once accomplished, he had a reality check, thinking of his family and his three kids, and the enormous amount of friends and acquaintances who had died mountaineering. He decided to retire from mountaineering and spend time with his family.
  • He emigrated to Australia for a change and lived in Melbourne before moving to Natimuk in Western Victoria, just up the road from Mount Arapiles.
  • He noted he finally got to climb Mount Arapiles, and regularly visited to continue his rock climbing passion.
  • He thought he must have something else to give to the small town.
  • He heard that a local identity had been stirring the town up for some years with vague suggestions of opening a café, so Steve decided to go into partnership with him and make it happen.
  • He successfully opened the café and ran it for a number of years before selling it. It is still a landmark in Natimuk today.
  • He completed a stint working with Bear Grylls on his Man Vs Wild show and had to sign a confidentiality agreement.
  • He participated in a fictional climbing documentary – climbing Mt Olympus on Mars, the fictional highest mountain in the solar system.
  • He then returned to Melbourne, to work on a new project, where he is director of Snowflex, a year round ski field which he is bringing to Melbourne.











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