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Climbing the World to End Alzheimer's
Mar 032014
 

Ellis StewartAs Everest 2014 approaches, climbers all around the world are training hard, medicine reviewing gear and enjoying their last weeks sleeping in a real bed.

One climber must be both excited and apprehensive more than most. Ellis Stewart has dreamed of climbing Everest for, well, for a long, long time. I have rarely seen someone so focused on attempting Everest so he was a natural for an in-depth interview looking at his motivation, approach and thoughts.

I first became aware of Ellis, who lives in northeast England, from an email back in 2002:

I am hoping to climb Mount Everest next spring from the North and I am hoping that if you get a chance you will have a look at my web site by following the link below.

He didn’t go in 2003, 2004, or 5 or, well you get the idea. We talked again in 2009, this time via Facebook when he said:

I am hopeful of going to Everest in the next two years. I have started a facebook group for my family and friends to follow my attempt and the run up.

His Everest Dream didn’t materialize over those next couple of years primarily due to lack of funds. However, he was becoming very adapt at talking to potential sponsors. In 2012, Ellis started up a small business and website selling T-Shirts to raise money, his profession today. This 40 year-old was determined if nothing else.

I thought the dream had come to an end when Ellis wrote on his April 28, 2013 blog entitled “A cruel dream and the harsh reality

Then for others dreams remain just that, dreams, no matter how much we long to make them happen. Incidentally I fall into the latter category.

I will never stop believing that this thing is going to happen for me. I might have to sit around for another year watching another climbing season on the mountain. I wish just having the passion, the dedication and the steely determination and focus that I possess was enough. I truly do. If it was I would have achieved my dream a long time ago. But alas sadly, this is not the case.

For now climbing Mount Everest still remains my one true life’s dream and it remains tantalisingly out of reach..

Clearly discouraged, his next few blogs lamented his situation but carried on with an uncommon optimism and belief that something was going to change. Then out of the blue on October 4, 2013 he wrote

the bulk of the money I need to climb this mountain has now suddenly presented itself. Through a combination of s of Everest Dream garments, personal gift donations from some very special people in my life and with what I am able to throw into the pot myself I am now just $10,000USD away from paying outright for the entire climb.

Still £6,000 ($10,000) short, Ellis was on his way. A 20 year dream is about to realized. But I’m sure he would still appreciate a donation or two 🙂

Please meet Ellis Stewart:

Q: Your tenacity to climb Everest is almost unprecedented in my experience. First, let’s talk about your overall drive. Have you ever pursued anything else with such fervor??

Thank you Alan and no I don’t think I have pursued anything in my life with as much passion and dedication and sheer vigor as I have in my goal to reach Everest. I cannot pinpoint any specific episodes, which stoked this love specifically for Everest, but I do recall sitting in on a talk given by the British high altitude climber Alan Hinkes in the early nineties. Ironically his talk wasn’t even about Everest, it was K2 but I do recall that I left the talk feeling like I had just discovered a new purpose in life. This resolve has never left me since, remaining as staunch a purpose now as it was all those years ago.

I am a huge believer that for certain individuals who have this desire and drive to want to climb Everest as I myself do that the call of the mountain is far too strong to ignore. I personally feel that I have been obligated to try to climb this mountain ever since I first laid eyes on the peak. For the vast majority of people the thought of attempting to climb Everest would fill them with dread but for those of us who have this calling, then attempting to climb this mountain is one of the single most defining, life changing and glorious things to do on this earth, and I firmly believe that, which in all probability is why I have been so determined to climb Everest at least once in my lifetime.

Q: When did your Everest dream begin?

I would say I have had an active interest in this mountain for over 20 years now but climbing it probably first crossed my mind 14 years ago when I trekked to the mountains southern base camp through Nepal. This trip lit the fuse paper for what has since become a 14 year long dream to one day return to the mountain and to hopefully go considerably higher than I did on my first visit. That day is now finally just weeks away.

Q: What Everest legends influenced you the most?

Doug Scott undoubtedly due to the fact that he was the first British subject to step foot onto the summit but also because I have been fortunate enough to attend several of his talks and I never fail to be in awe and truly captivated by his mountaineering exploits. He is one of the true pioneers of Himalayan climbing as an elite member of ‘Bonningtons boys of Everest’ and that whole golden era of pushing the limits on the worlds highest mountains will sadly never be repeated in such splendid isolation ever again.

I think what Stephen Venables achieved on the Kangshung face in 1988 was also remarkable and possibly also never to be repeated. In personal conversation with the man himself recently via email I found myself apologizing for having the gall of wanting to climb Everest as part of a commercially guided expedition via the standard route in Nepal. He had this to say in response “Thank you for your kind comments about my Everest Kangshung Face trip. As for todays’ crowds, my friend Victor Saunders still seems to enjoy guiding up there, now in his sixties. I was very envious to see the shot of his arrival on the summit before dawn last May. I am sure you will have a fantastic time when you go”

In more recent times I think it is hard to overlook Kenton Cool and all he has achieved with his eleven summits of the mountain not to mention last years triple crown of Everest, Nuptse and Lhotse in a single push.

Q: Can you simply explain why Everest is so important to you?

For me I think it simply comes down to one thing, and that is the achievement of ones dreams. All those years ago I set myself a goal of one day climbing this beautiful mountain and this dream has gave me a purpose in life so resolute and unwavering that to be true to myself I feel like I have had to work towards the attainment of this goal with every ounce of blood, sweat and tears that I possess, and believe me I have gave all three in equally large measures these past several years.

Q: You have worked diligently over several years to fund your climb. How is it going?

As I write the answer to this question Alan I am now around 90% funded towards my Everest climb this spring. As previously mentioned this ambition of climbing Everest has lingered for over 14 years but in terms of actual attempts to raise the funding needed for the climb I have tried unsuccessfully through several years and campaigns most recently 2012 and again last year. Finally after many attempts it has all come good for 2014.

I mentioned recently on my blog that other than two small local firms who donated a very small proportion of the total fee required, which I am of course extremely grateful, I have not received a single penny of corporate sponsorship. Yet I sit here on the brink of a life’s dream having managed to fund almost all of the money through thinking outside the box and getting pretty creative in the process. With no notable angle with which to entice any potential benefactor from loosening the purse strings other than 20 years of passion (which sadly has never been enough) I knew early on that I was going to have to come up with a strategy or several for how I was going to raise the funds.

Q: You recently took some publicity pictures. How strange was that?

It was strange from the point of view of wearing an extremely warm down suit under the glare of a photographer’s equipment. I think I mentioned at the time that there are only two occasions where I will ever be that togged up in warm gear complete with full harness and hardware, one was that day in the photo studio and the other will be this May when I am setting off from the South Col for my summit bid.

From a publicity standpoint though I think we captured some incredible pictures and I very much hope to use these pictures not only in the forthcoming weeks in the final run in to departure for Everest but also post climb for any future media appearances or charitable events I become involved with.

Q: How does your family feel about your Everest ambitions?

This is an easy one for me to answer Alan, as time and time again it is the question I repeatedly come across whenever anyone enquires about my Everest ambition. The answer I will give might surprise you at first but I am the first to admit that anyone wanting to climb Everest (especially with a young family) is engaging in an inherently selfish pastime, and therefore by virtue of the fact that I am wanting to do this very thing then there is element of self-centeredness at play on my behalf.

However for me personally this is off-set by the fact that my wife and close family members have known for many years that I have had a love affair with Everest. My wife would probably be the first to say that when we met and subsequently married and started a family that she was doing so with Ellis, the guy who wants to climb Everest, not Ellis the IT consultant who occasionally plays squash at weekends. There is a great saying which is relevant here and it is this “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” I leave for the mountain in several weeks time knowing I have the full love and support of my family and that is what matters to me.

Q: Tell us a bit about your training. Anything special?

Training for Everest has been an ongoing project for me for several years. I have remained in reasonable shape throughout what I call my Everest years as I have very much had to. In the years I have attempted to reach Everest I have remained focused and committed on being physically fit just in case the expedition happened for me on that occasion. When it became apparent that 2014 was looking like being the year when this dream was going to happen then I upped the anti with my training considerably.

For the past 12 months I have been training following guidance I was given by two Everest summiteers, Stephen Bock from Australia who successfully climbed the mountain in 2010 and David Tait, a British climber who needs no introduction now due to his 5 summits. This training has been intense and gut wrenching and I know that I will be leaving for the mountain in the shape of my life to date. David Tait once told me that on Everest everything from the waist up is simply luggage along for the ride. It is how strong you are below the waist that counts. I have been acting on this advice, which has formed the basis for my workouts. I have become very well acquainted with the StairMaster and a 40lb pack. Call it a love hate kind of relationship. This has made up the bulk of my strength and cardio plan.

I have also spent a considerable amount of time in the outdoors trail running. I am fortunate to live within half an hour’s drive of a national park, which has afforded me ample opportunity to get out there and test myself on steep ground.

Q: You are going with Tim Mosedale. Why did you select Tim?

Put simply I liked the sound of the mans gab. I first became aware of Tim after he had successfully guided his entire team of members to the top of Everest in 2011 via the South col South East Ridge route. Prior to this Tim had climbed the mountain with some friends from the north several years earlier. With his 2011 climb he became one of only 10 Brits who have summited Everest by both its classic north and southern routes. This gives Tim the distinct advantage of being able to commentate on both sides of the mountain as to which he feels offers the most realistic chance of success for a member. It’s the south by the way.

The one thing I have always said about Tim is that he wears his heart on his sleeve and what you see is most definitely what you get. There can be no higher seal of approval for someone’s credentials than testimonials from others who have been there and done it and Tim’s glowing feedback from former members is testament to how well organized and happy a ship Tim steers when in the mountains. Having spent time with Tim now both in a social capacity as well as out on the hill I am 100% convinced that I have maximized my chance of success by not only choosing him as my Everest dream facilitator but also by being selected by Tim as someone who has the potential to realize this dream.

Q: Given the importance of Everest to you, how are you going to manage “summit fever” if things go horribly wrong?

There are 4 things that will be uppermost in my mind that will help me to manage this so called “Summit Fever.” My wife, my 16-year-old son in Australia and my two young daughters back home. Not returning from this mountain is not even on my radar and is not negotiable.

Although it goes without saying that I am hoping to reach the summit I will be doing so under a well-organized and efficient schedule, which will afford me every opportunity to be successful. Everyone who goes to this mountain knows that there are risks associated with a climb of this nature and I am well versed in everything that can and has gone wrong in the past. Mine and our team’s safety will be paramount and if the worse should happen and my judgment becomes impaired or cloudy then I would hope someone around me is still sound enough to make the right decisions for me. If I have to descend then I will. Hopefully this will not come to pass.

Q: You are raising awareness and funds for the NSPCC. Why did you select this charity?

Although it has been a life goal to climb Everest, I wouldn’t want to take on this challenge without raising money for a charity that is extremely close to my heart. In order to achieve my goals of climbing Everest and helping vulnerable children here in the North East of England, I am aiming to raise as much as I can. All proceeds will go towards the ChildLine Schools Service, which is enabling the NSPCC to reach out to more children than ever before.

On average, at least two children in every classroom of every primary school in England and Wales have been abused or neglected and very few have the knowledge and confidence to the help they need. Research shows these children can be especially vulnerable to abuse because they have less awareness of what it is, and may not know how to help when it happens. As a regular donator to the charity for a number of years it seems only fitting that I try to maximize what I am able to through my climb on top of the world. The current total stands at around £4,5000 raised for the charity and I hopeful of adding to this during my time on the mountain.

Q: Anything else you want to add?

Throughout my dream to climb this mountain I have adopted the mantra of “One Dream One Chance One Life” I guess a lot of people believe in this too as I have stuck it on to the front of a t-shirt and have sold hundreds to people all over the world, which is simply amazing. In regards to Everest I very much follow this in that this has been the one overriding dream that has dominated almost half of my entire life to date. I am only going to get one opportunity on Everest so I need to make sure that I do everything to make my chance of success a very real possibility, and lastly, in life you have to seize every opportunity like this that comes your way as we only get to go round this merry-go-round of life the once.

The American poet and novelist Shel Silverstein penned a great poem which is one of my all-time favorites and I have repeatedly quoted it in my blog during my whole Everest goal. I will finish my time with you Alan by reproducing it below:

Listen to Mustn’ts, child, listen to the Don’ts.?Listen to the Shouldn’ts, the Impossibles, the Won’ts.?Listen to the Never Haves, then listen close to me.? Anything can happen, child, Anything can be.

Thank you Alan, my family and friends will be glued to your website through the whole Everest season. Keep up the sterling work with what is a fantastic resource for an extremely worthy cause.

Well, of luck Ellis. You have worked hard to get this opportunity and I know you will savor each and every moment. We are all pulling for you. Ellis is climbing on the south (Nepal) with Tim Mosedale. You can follow his progress on his website and his Facebook page.

Climb On!
Memories are Everything
Alan

Comments on/from Facebook

  9 Responses to “Everest 2014: Ellis Stewart – Never Giving Up”

  1.  

    Thank you for the kind comments everybody and thank you for the interview Alan. I enjoyed answering the questions as sincerely as I could. I am looking forward to getting the show on the go now.

  2.  

    Hi Alan

    I am not a part of the mountain climbing fraternity but have known Ellis for about twenty years, first as a friend of my brother and subsequently as a team mate in a Dragonboat crew. When, many years ago, I first became aware of his passion to climb Everest, I was surprised.
    There are no mountains in this part of England; the nearest climbing is in the Lake District to the west of us so it is unusual for someone from this area to be so commited to it. I will be honest, when Ellis first Facebooked his intentions to raise the funds I thought he had given himself a bigger mountain to climb, and so he did, however I did not reckon with the tenacity he would tackle the project with. It has been very pleasing to read how he has progressed over the recent months, although as he himself has stated he has not reached his target yet. He is going against the odds all of the way, and by sheer determination, overcoming them.

    With your kind permission I would like to copy your article to bring Ellis’s quest to the attention of potential sponsors, who, even at this late stage may contribute to this worthy cause.

    Best Regards
    Kevan Arnell

  3.  

    Thank you Alan for taking such an interest in Ellis’s story and for producing it on a world wide stage. I have followed Ellis personally and daily during the last couple of years. I have been behind him on the ups and certainly on the downs. I admire his determination and the way he has coped with the knock-backs, of which he has had many. He has listened and taken advice from many climbers around the world and has been willing to try most suggestions made. He has worked and trained hard but at the same time made himself free to go into schools and meetings to promote his children’s charity the NSPCC. Whilst all this has been going on he has never forgotten his family. His dream is to climb Everest but his family come first and foremost and as a self employed man it is difficult to take time out from his business which is his livelihood. After reading your post Alan I am sure many like minded climbers may like to help Ellis achieve his dream. The one way we can all help in a small way would be to dig deep and help Ellis financially. We can do this in two ways. Firstly we can some of Ellis’s attractive and beautifully designed Everest clothing from his business Planet Adventure or simply by helping to fund his climb during which he intends to promote his charity for children.Doing our little bit would help to take the financial burden he carries a little bit lighter. The days of Corporate Funding have gone,unless you have a gimmick to help, but the dream of climbing Everest is still very much alive and there are many guys out there who know exactly what I mean. Thanks again for all your wonderful articles Alan,I really enjoy your postings and look forward to reading them all. I especially look forward to the Everest Season and the up to date information you provide we armchair followers.Cheers Kate

  4.  

    Great story Alan. Ellis is very inspiring. My dream is much more modest. I’ve gone to Mt. Rainier twice and have not summited and I can’t get that mountain out of my head. If the knees will hold up this year, I’ll go back. The dream is alive, so I know just a little bit how Ellis feels. I love your interviews, but hope you also write about the women climbing Everest this year. Of course Melissa Arnot is incredible, but there must be others too. Thanks.
    Mike

    •  

      Thanks for the comment Mike. I have several interviews with women climbers. Just look through this list. A couple of weeks ago, I posted a great one with Ellen Gallant who is climbing this year. Of note out of the 6871 people who have made the summit, 410 were women, about 6%.

  5.  

    Love this guy. He reminds us all that there is no time limit on accomplishing our dreams. Thank you Alan for sharing his story of courage and determination.

  6.  

    As you say, for some the call of this mountain is way deeper and hard to ignore. I think for all us dreamers out there, It is great to see one dream eventually come true, I am sure it will be worth every bit of work and effort that you have put in over the years.

    “One Dream, One Chance, One Life”

    Good Luck and Godspeed.

  7.  

    This was a truly uplifting story. Everybody up there has a variation of this same story but this one is particularly touching. Good luck to Ellis in his dream.

  8.  

    Alan, thanks so much for this great article and for promoting Ellis ! I am sure you will follow him closely in your Everest updates. I know him personally and have contributed to the cause and wish him every success. Thanks. Graham.