Well, this is something I have been wondering since I have been interviewing expeditions for the Himalayan Database, but considering what I have seen and heard over the past five years, I would say: “Yes, Everest changes people!”
The most striking transformation I notice is obviously when the mountaineers come back from their respective expeditions. I talk to a lot of Everest aspirants on their way to the top of the world and the change in their physical appearance on their return is absolutely striking. Their clothes hang limply off their emaciated bodies and their faces are sunburnt and rugged. Those fine-looking portfolio managers often become tough-looking mountaineers and many of them have left most of their body fat somewhere between base camp and the top of the world. But this is only the immediate change. What about their lives? Are they going back to their old existences, or are they embarking on a new journey? This is a question I have often asked myself and by talking to mountaineers, who return to Nepal to conquer another peak, I often find that a lot of them have moved onto a different path. Some people went up as postmen, teachers, plumbers or accountants and came back as mountain guides, motivational speakers or book authors. So what has Everest done to them?
This thought planted a seed in my head, and when I discussed this notion with Alex, a good friend and an amazing photographer, he was very enthusiastic about producing a “Before and After” coffee-table book. So, a new idea was born and even though I have had many “brainwaves” in my life, I feel very strongly about this. We don’t want to produce yet another book about climbing Mount Everest, about how tough and demanding it is, about the mountain’s winners and losers, about the amazing food, the politics at base camp etc. etc. We want to talk about people and their lives and have an in-depth look at how they change. We also want to focus on the Sherpas and find out what Everest means to them. Is climbing the world’s highest peak still a purely bread-winning activity for them or are they aspiring to live up to their western fellow climbers, some of which aim to set records and want to be the first of…?
All these and other stories could offer compelling reading and even though we (Alex Treadway, photographer, Richard Bull, project manager, and I) have not yet found a publisher or an agent, we still feel that this book could have a lot of potential, and actually be a winner. I had very good feedback from expedition leaders, who have spent a lot of time on the hill, and one of them actually told me that he has had a similar idea for a long time but has never realised it.
Anyway, I would like to hear your thoughts about this and if you are interested in our book proposal, you can download it on www.everestchangespeople.com.