Forget the overwhelming desire to get to the top. Forget the months of training, the weeks spent on the mountain, the blood, the relief and the joy at actually making it to the summit of the highest mountain on the planet.
Having unfurled my special South African flag and snapped a few quick photographs, all I could think about was getting off the summit of Mount Everest. I didn’t want to be there a minute longer; I ‘just’ wanted to be in the Death Zone, the aptly named altitude above which there isn’t enough oxygen for humans to live, and where those who don’t survive Everest tend to die.
In particular, I wanted to get back to Camp IV, roughly where the Death Zone begins. At 8,000 metres, the height at which many airliners cruise, it’s about the least comfortable place to spend the night sleeping with an oxygen mask on – but in that moment it sounded like paradise to me.
What lay ahead, the descent from the summit of Mount Everest, is without a doubt the hardest thing I have ever had to do in my life.