Unite member Steven Madigan on Everest with his union T-shirt. It was too cold to wear it. Steven Madigan is an underwriter at the Royal Bank of Scotland mortgage centre in Greenock, Scotland, and a member of the union Unite. He has just come back from …

Walton Pantland Europe, UK, Unite,
Unite member Steven Madigan at Everest with his union T-shirt. It was too cold to wear it.

Unite member Steven Madigan on Everest with his union T-shirt. It was too cold to wear it.

Steven Madigan is an underwriter at the Royal Bank of Scotland mortgage centre in Greenock, Scotland, and a member of the union Unite. He has just come back from the trip of a lifetime – he trekked to Everest base camp and climbed Kala Pather – during the avalanche and the Sherpas’ dispute. He shares his story with union rep Sonya Cassidy.

– By Steven Madigan

The Nepali people are brilliant, and although their culture is vastly different from ours I felt welcome and well looked after all times.

The avalanche was a horrific incident on Everest which led to the closure of the South side of the mountain. Dorje Khatri, leader of the Sherpas union, was reported killed in the avalanche

I have friends who are climbing Sherpas and thank God that they were OK. We reached base camp two days after the avalanche fell and the devastation was obvious and something I wish never to witness again in my life. In the mountains these things can and do happen and we saw or heard avalanches every day when we were up high.

As I am a trekker and not a climber, I cannot comment on the conditions that the Sherpas work in. What I can say is that without the Sherpas there would be no mountain to climb: they fix the ropes and mark the route for the climbers to follow and when you get into trouble it is the Sherpas who will come and rescue you.

With regards to the trekking guides and porters, we had a porter who helped carry our large kit bags all through our trek. In Dingboche you start to feel the cold from the late afternoon on. He was wearing a T-shirt and light hoodie and was obviously freezing, so as a team we bought him a down jacket to keep him warm.

Preparing for the trek was an event in itself. It took two years of training which involved meta fit, body pump, running, hill walking and wearing a rucksack on the gym treadmill with 25kg and setting the treadmill as high and fast as you can go for 45 minutes. Mentally preparing for me was the easy part, I was so focused on what I wanted to achieve nothing got in the way and for me that was the best way. 100% focused with no interruptions financially was also rather easy as my lovely wife Louise funded the trip as a gift for my 40th birthday, so all I had to do was do the training and research the trek.

However you will find that at altitude you cannot tell if your body will cope. Acclimatising is absolutely vital and how you do this is extremely important. Our guide Apar could always be heard shouting “Pistari, Pistari” with in Nepali means “slowly, slowly” and how right he was – but you get that experience when you have done it 43 times before.

The weather in the mountains for us was pretty much the same each day. Really hot during the day but as we got higher the colder it would get at night. Good sleeping bags are a must and for Kala Pather down jackets and gloves are also a must along with heavy windproof trousers.

Apart from putting in the training hours and dealing with the altitude, the hardest part is staying healthy. Of my whole team I was the one that got away with no illness: some of the team got the most horrendous sickness and diarrhoea when left them bed ridden. Altitude sickness played its part – it is called acute mountain sickness, this can take hold of you in several ways from feeling dizzy, head aches and right up to HAPE or HACE which are life threatening conditions.

One member was warned to turnaround after leaving our lunch stop at Dingboche as her health unfortunately would not let her continue.

On reaching my destination, I felt absolute jubilation and just the best scene of achievement – to have trained so hard and for so long to achieve your goal was the best feeling in the world (apart from getting married and having my children!).

To anyone wanting to take on a personal challenge, I’d say go for it! I learned many things from this experience but the main two were these: never, ever say “never” because you just don’t know what is round the corner. Who would have thought that I would have got to go to and excel In the Everest region? Secondly if you want something badly enough and you are willing to work for it, then chances are you will get it.

Do not ever give up on your dreams!

– RBS  Inverclyde Unite Branch agreed to sponsor Steven and donate a sum of £125 to his selected charity  – Accord Hospice Paisley

 

 


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Walton Pantland

South African trade unionist living in Glasgow. Loves whisky, wine, running and the great outdoors. Walton did an MA in Industrial Relations at Ruskin, Oxford, and is interested in how trade unions use new technology to organise.

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