This interview with David Tait is one of an ongoing series I do each season with Everest climbers. Not the famous, sponsored ones who get plenty of publicity but the regular people, who often have full time jobs, full time families and climb for the love of the climb. I welcome suggestions for anyone climbing in 2013 I should interview. Now here’s David:
David Tait’s very tough beginning in life shaped him in ways he probably never imagined. He was abused as a child, became estranged from his parents, lost his mother to suicide and his father to cancer.
He was stopped from taking his own life by two policemen as he stood at the top of the chalky cliffs of Beachy Head in East Sussex in 1996.
David went on to become a very successful investment banker and focused a large part of his life on National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) as a board member. David used his passion for adventure to raise millions of dollars money for the charity.
His five climbs on Mt. Everest expanded his following. He was a central figure in the Discovery Channel’s Everest Beyond the Limits series and his 2007 attempt at a double traverse of Everest showed his true character.
He is back for 2013 with a secret mission. All he will say at this point is that it involves “stamina”. I interviewed David last week and he talks about something much more important than Everest.
Please meet David Tait:
Q: Climbing Everest is more than a summit for you, it is a tool to get your message out about the NSPCC. Can you tell us how climbing became your vehicle of choice?
It was frankly a default process as I had tried most other “crazy” things to raise money and awareness for the charity. I had been raising money from an early age – I think the first thing was a sponsored abseil …. And then eventually, after motor racing, sky diving etc, I landed in the mountains. It had always held a fascination, but using it as a vehicle was the key.
Q: How have your Everest expeditions made an impact on the NSPCC?
Each of my climbs have raised approximately £250k each. My speeches on behalf of the charity and sexually abused kids have raised a combined $11mio. My speech is a combination of climbing and personal – the personal segment will appear front and centre on my new website in a few days. It will be self-explanatory [and I'm very nervous]
Q: The 2007 north to south traverse was intended to be a round trip but you stopped after the single traverse. Was there a singular lesson from that experience?
It was not fatigue – Yes, be humble as there is always someone better than yourself. I was trying to achieve a first, but to have done so would have been at the expense of the worlds best (Phurba Tashi) whom i would have had to ask/order to follow me – despite being twice as capable. Once I realised this, it was an easy decision to decline. If I had been allowed to climb solo, claiming the title would have been ligitimate, but asking Phurba to follow behind me was not the way to do it.
Q: In 2009 you summited with the Sherpa rope fixing team, a rare experience for a Westerner. How was that?
To date one of my best experiences…..quite an honour, and I was grateful to be asked. Watching them free climb with a rope tucked through their belt is jaw-dropping. it was only upon my return that i realised the extent of my privilege.
Q: In your first Everest attempt in 2004, your body never acclimatized forcing you to abandon that bid. But now you climb incredibly fast and intended to climb without supplemental oxygen in 2010 but changed your mind. How do think your body would react to climbing without the extra O’s?
It wasn’t an inability to acclimatise – it was simply that my mind wasn’t right and i hadn’t understood what was needed. I think (know) I have the fitness – I have zero doubt, but my right hand (not both) suffers from the cold. I don’t want to lose fingers at my age, but if the weather were exceptional I might go for it.
Q: Your dispatches during the climb are quite unique with your candid, sometimes direct comments about the experience. Have you received any feedback from your followers?
Yes, and its quite nice and flattering. I deliberately try to open this alternative world I now love so much. Anyone can describe cold/snow and rock, but I try and make people feel what I’m feeling. its the emotional side of the story i believe people engage with – not facts.
Q: You have now climbed from the North 3 times and the South 2. Do feel one is significantly more difficult than the other?
No, but I much prefer the North. If one could literally walk in to the Tibet side (driving diminishes the experience to me) it would be perfect. It feels more remote on the nth – I suppose that’s why I like it. I remember descending in 2005 and from summit to nth Col i only saw/met one human being – Russ at BC.
Q: You are climbing for the 6th time with Himalayan Experience (Russell Brice). What is about his expeditions that brings you back?
He’s the dad I didn’t have.. I trust him and enjoy his company. He’s proffessional, kind and always tries to improve. I know he looks out for me and I respect him. I think we are loyal to each other. He’s synonymous with my success.
Q: For you personally, can you quantify how much of climbing Everest is physical or mental taking into account the entire expedition.
To me the challenge is mental. I take good care of my fitness. I train to exhaustion and this provides me with the physical and confidence edge i need. However, its the solitude and loneliness that get to me. I crave the sms from home more than i can describe. It is a blessed relief for me to start the hard graft of climbing -my mind is them occupied.
Q: 2013 will be your sixth Everest expedition. Is it fair to say you’ve becomes obsessed?
I actually do admit to loving it – when I’m in London. When i get off the plane/helicopter in Lukla i suddenly remember quite whats in store for me and the romance evaporates instantly. Right now I’m in this delusional phase where i anticipate pleasure……. I’m so so wrong. I’m not obsessed – i am a Trustee of my charity – I’ve uncovered a vehicle that captures imagination and entertains and most crucially liberates cash from wallets. i now do this for the kids – once upon a time it was for me, but no longer. The pain, lost teeth, etc awaits….
Q: Your 2013 effort will require extraordinary stamina. Can you share with us your plan?
Yes, my plan does demand exceptional stamina. i have it physically, but do i have it mentally is the question – i will take it slow, realise that this visit is a gift, and try to extract the most from it. I’m not going to set public targets….. I have one in my head [an extreme one], but we shall have to see.
Q: How are you training for this 2013 expedition?
Brutally – but I’m surprised how far ahead i am of the training i put myself through last time. The body can take endless punishment – its the mind we need to tame. I am training 5x a week with no help whatsoever. if i cant drive myself i don’t stand a chance. Fitness is the only thing I CAN control.
Q: Any other thoughts for us followers this year?
Just one – my expeditions are totally self-financed. This means that ALL the money donated through my site goes to violated, sexually abused children of both sexes. To me there is no greater crime than what these children suffer. When I was 10 years old i suffered at the hands of two male relatives every days for close to a year – no one ever knew. It close to ruined my life and almost destroyed the lives of others.
I ask one thing – consider the child being abused as you read these words. We can make a difference with the right resources. As a Trustee of the NSPCC I ensure the money is used in this endless war on monsters.
Please spread this message.
As always David, climb safe and we will be anxious to hear more details on this year’s plans. David will be climbing the south side with Himalayan Experience. You can follow his climb and support the NSPCC at David’s site.
Memories are Everything