Alistair Sutcliffe – The Hardest Climb
“My association with Rohan has been long-standing, kitting my expeditions out from the Rohan Shop in York with the assistance of Gary, the manager. I have tested their kit to the extreme from the top of Mount Everest to the South Pole, and it is unbelievable equipment. It has never, yes never, let me down, broken, ripped or snagged. I’ve relied on it at the bottom of crevasses, in avalanches, in ice-falls, trekking in to base camps, and in all aspects of adventure life. The materials used, the attention to details and the comfort when wearing the gear is, quite simply, the best on the market and I’ve tried them all.”
My name is Alistair Sutcliffe. I work as a partner in a busy General Practice in Whitby, North Yorkshire, where I’ve been for 14 years, having qualified in medicine at Aberdeen University.
My interest in mountaineering is longstanding, having begun by a chance meeting with Sir Chris Bonington in 1975. His book, Everest The Hard Way, was being edited by my best friend’s father. I stood in the hallway, football under my arm, and began talking to Sir Chris- I was hooked. What would the world really look like that high up?
I was a member of the Aberdeen Mountaineering Society for my duration in Aberdeen, and started serious high altitude climbing in 2003, when I summitted Aconcagua. At 22,835feet, it is the highest mountain in the world outside of the Himalaya, and the highest one in South America. I loved it.
By November 2007, I had summitted all of the highest mountains on each of the seven continents, the so-called and coveted Seven Summits- summitting Vinson, the highest mountain in Antarctica, Denali, the highest in North America, Elbrus, the highest in Europe, Kilimanjaro the highest in Africa, Carstensz Pyramid, the highest in Indonesia, and Everest, the highest in Australasia.
These were all summitted at the first attempt, which Everest News has confirmed as a record though that was never the intention.
On my return from Carstensz, my wife remarked that I spent so much time away from home, she didn’t know why I didn’t “bugger off to Timbuktu”….so out the maps came, and off I went. I month was all of the time that I could afford, and left via a motorcycle from Whitby, through Europe, Africa and into Timbuktu across the Sahara, and back 12600 miles in 25 days, and a sore bottom to prove it.
Unfortunately, on February 1st 2010, I suffered a massive, near-fatal brain haemorrhage. I should have died, and the consultants at Hull informed my wife that she should expect the worst. Amazingly, I survived the reason the surgeons discovered an accessory circulation in my brain, a remnant of the foetal circulation, which pumped blood around my brain when the primary circulation had exploded. This saved my life and had almost certainly opened up in my head from the stress of being at high altitude. The low oxygen levels had opened up this accessory circulation, explaining why I always felt OK at high altitude. Without this accessory circulation, I would be dead. It is rare, very rare, in fact it has only been seen once before, but I am very grateful for it. It was during my recovery that I wrote my autobiography, The Hardest Climb – published by Bluemoose Books Limited. Following television and radio appearances and interviews, the book reached 37th in the UK best sellers charts which is very humbling.
Over the years, I have raised tens of thousands of pounds for St Catherine’s Hospice in Scarborough, which specialises in looking after those with terminal illness through running (I’ve completed 52 full marathons and 252 half marathons), and climbing. I have decided to pledge all of my royalties from the book to St Catherine’s Hospice, who also receive all of the fees from the talks that I give all over the world. I am now well on the way to recovery, back running marathons, climbing mountains and working as a General Practitioner.
I had the honour to be invited to an evening reception held by The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at Buckingham Palace, to “honour those with exceptional achievement in exploration and adventure”, and thoroughly enjoyed my time talking with The Queen- a true honour indeed.
It’s a great read and a fantastic story and the book is exactly that. I have just read The Hardest Climb. I have a great liking for what I call people books. This is a real people book in every sense. Inspirational and puts life’s more mundane happens into perspective. I recommend it especially on days when the small things seem huge.