Aussie Mountaineer retires after Everest attempt

By Terri Russell 8 June 2012
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Andrew Lock has narrowly missed making the summit of Mt Everest again, and has decided to retire.

AUSTRALIA’S MOST SUCCESSFUL MOUNTAINEER  Andrew Lock  says he is retiring, just days after illness robbed him of summiting Mt Everest without supplemental oxygen.

Andrew is the first Australian to summit all 14 of the world’s 8000m peaks, and Mt Everest was to be the last one he completed without the aid of bottled oxygen.

“As of now, I’m retired from the death zone,” said Andrew on his website, from Nepal.

Andrew has completed 25 mountaineering expeditions over the past four years.

The Everest summit that wasn’t

The climb was going smoothly for Andrew as he embarked on Mt Everest’s second camp, located at 7700m. However, by the time he reached Camp 3 at 8300m, the effects of the high altitude started to kick in and he began to recognise the symptoms of High Altitude Cerebral Oedema (HACE).

“I just couldn’t get enough oxygen into the system to make my legs perform at any speed,” he wrote.

When he developed shortness of breath and extreme fatigue, he knew something was wrong. But it was when he started hallucinating about giant bats just 300 vertical metres from the top, that he knew it was game over – if he continued, it would be certain death.

Hallucinations mark the near final tug of HACE; they come after waves of vomiting, double vision and micro-sleeps while climbing.

“My body has been saying ‘enough’ for several years now and my head has finally heard the message,” Andrew wrote.

He says there is something positive about knowing that certain personal challenges aren’t easily achieved.

“It’s actually kind of nice to have one goal not quite ticked – it keeps me grounded, he said.”

The mountaineering legend lives on

In 2010 Andrew received the Australian Geographic Society Adventurer of the Year award, for being the first Australian to climb all 14 peaks over 8000m.

His retirement on his terms, while he is healthy, is a rare thing in a pursuit in which death is frequently nearby and frostbite claims the fingers and toes of many.

This is not the last we will hear from Andrew, who says he already has other adventures in the pipeline.

One project includes a book about his exploits, which is expected to reach shelves at the end of 2013.