Adventurer of the Year Awardee: Andrew Lock

By Bridget Brennan 6 October 2009
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After his spectacular ascent of Mt Shishapangma, and just announced AG Adventurer of the Year awardee, mountaineer Andrew Lock spoke with Australian Geographic from base camp.

AG Society-sponsored adventurer, Andrew Lock, has become the first Australian to summit all 14 of the world’s highest peaks after ascending Mt Shishapangma in Tibet on 2 October.

It’s taken Andrew 16 years to complete his quest to climb the world’s 8000 m-plus mountains, a feat that only 17 other people have completed before him. All of the mountains are located in the Himalayan and Karakoram ranges in Asia.

As a severe storm swept over the mountain Andrew, and his climbing partner Neil Ward, reached the true summit of Mt Shishapangma late in the afternoon and barely had time to shake hands before beginning their descent.

“We were very cold, but we had the very best equipment and we didn’t suffer any injuries at all,” Andrew said.

Andrew said standing on the summit was a “massive relief”, before he and Neil quickly began to down-climb as the wind picked up and snowfall became heavier.

“We realised we were stuck in a pretty serious situation. The cloud came in and we lost the moonlight. We simply couldn’t find our way back down. Our tracks were covered [by the snow].”

The pair decided to bivouac (make temporary camp) for the night at 7600 m and feared they may die on the mountain. They were without a tent or stove and huddled together on an ice ledge for the night.

“We were very cold, but we had the very best equipment and we didn’t suffer any injuries at all,” Andrew said.

After more than 10 hours surviving in temperatures below -20ºC, Andrew and Neil were able to resume their descent of Mt Shishapangma – the fourteenth highest mountain in the world – in the morning.

“It took us two days to climb down the mountain and bring all our gear down,” he said, and at base camp they were suffering from “total dehydration and exhaustion”.

A weary and elated Andrew told us it would take a little while for the enormity of his achievement to sink in.

He is now resting at home in Canberra, and Andrew also said his adventures have been made possible by the encouragement of family and friends.

“Without [the support] you feel very, very alone. I’ve been lucky enough to have that support and I’m very grateful for it,” he said.

Having cemented his place among Australia’s greatest mountaineers, the 47-year-old will cap off his adventures by climbing Mt Everest for the third time. Andrew will climb solo and without oxygen.

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