As well as being part of the Rock The Cotswolds team, I’m a professional writer in journalism, copywriting and public relations. So I spend my time touching greatness in the people I meet and interview. I’m hoping one day I might look back at what I’ve done and see that, rather than being a permanent spectator, a tiny bit of that greatness has rubbed off on me.
While I’m waiting for nirvana, I’m still going to rock up and listen. As I did this week when the amazing 11-times successful Everest climber and Rock the Cotswolds Rocker Kenton Cool (who has the MOST chiselled cheekbones I’ve ever seen outside of Johnny Depp), came and spoke at his local gym, CrossFit Cirencester (When he’s not thousands of metres up a sheer mountain rock face, he works out here. I also attend regularly… yes, I really am trying to achieve greatness).
See what I mean about chiselled? Eat your heart out Johnny-boy. On a cold November night, in aid of Alzheimer’s Research UK, he talked through his amazing career to a gym packed so full with audience that with every chair taken, we were happy to perch on gym equipment to hear him. Here’s Kenton with Andy Kewley who was representing Alzheimer’s Research UK, and CrossFit Cirencester owner David Long, just before the fun began.
Kenton (who lives near Fairford and is named after a fiction character in the BBC soap, The Archers – hmm that bit’s not so cool), developed an obsession with rock climbing at university, but in 1996 he fell hard from a rock face and shattered both heel bones. He ignored one doctor who told him he would never climb again and went to a surgeon, who told him what he really wanted to hear… that the surgeon would reconstruct his heels, and the rest was up to Kenton.
A year of surgery, determination and therapy achieved what the first doctor has thought impossible. He was climbing again. He joined the British Mountain Guides scheme and has since climbed all over the world. He is also known as the celebrities’ mountain guide of choice. He’s led Sir Richard Branson and his son Sam, Princess Beatrice and many others, including Sir Ranulph Fiennes who he guided up the North Face of the Eiger and to the summit of Everest in 2009. Quite an achievement when you consider that this amazing septuagenarian adventurer hadn’t got all his fingers, due to carelessly losing them to frostbite commuting between North and South Poles. The Everest achievement clocked up over £2 million for the Marie Curie cancer charity. When not leading celebs, Kenton has established new routes and first ascents in Alaska, France and India.
He’s also achieved the superhero version of the British Three Peaks’ challenge: The Everest Triple Crown. Nuptse (7,861m), Everest (8,848m) and Lhotse (8,516m) in one single push. Everest and Nuptse had been climbed before. No-one had ever, ever attempted the triple in just 24 hours. Cool did, with his climbing partner Dorge Gylgen. (They probably do the Three Peaks’ challenge as a warm up before breakfast).
Kenton is a cool customer in the gym. And I’m so in awe, I don’t like to gallop up to him and gush about how amazing I think he is (and as most of us pong a bit after a hard workout, close contact is not always pleasant). So to watch him come alight and alive when he’s talking about his real passion is a revelation. He’s clearly rather shy, and would rather tackle altitude sickness, avalanches, the risk of falling to death down a bottomless col or peeing in below zero temperatures, than the mundane.
Don’t we all wish for life less ordinary, but few of us really have the depth of resolve, commitment, attention to detail, or (let’s face it), really enjoy camping so much that we’re happy to kip thousands of metres up a sheer rock face on a ledge 18 inches wide (which he’s done), just because there’s a nice view when we get to the top.
It was a truly amazing evening. I bought his new book, One Man’s Everest, as a gift. And I’m going to buy another to read myself, because, for me his talk was a gift. I can categorically say that I will never climb Everest. Climbing Scafell Pike was enough for me, and even the Cotswold Hills seem like a bit of a challenge after Sunday lunch, but his talk galvanized me again in to doing what I am doing, but better. If you get the opportunity to hear him talk, grab it with both hands, seize it by the scruff of the neck, If not, buy his book. Actually, buy his book anyway.
Kenton joins my roster of amazing adventurer speakers I’ve been lucky enough to meet this year. These include the American coast-to-coast runner Jamie McDonald and Atlantic swimmer Ben Hooper who both spoke at Rock the Cotswolds inspiring “Evening with Adventurers” earlier this year.
These men have three things in common (that I know about anyway): Each overcame a life-threatened incident (Kenton’s broken heels, Jamie spent the first nine years of his life in and out of hospital with a rare spinal condition.
Watch Jamie McDonald’s inspiring talk at Rock the Cotswolds Evening with Adventurers.
And Ben survived a collapsed lung soon after birth, then a drowning incident at five years’ old), they all live in the Cotswolds … and they’re truly representative of the amazing people who call The Cotswolds home.
Here is Ben Hooper’s interview with Alexander Armstrong.
We pay tribute to our adventuring, Rock the Cotswolds Rockers! And the Evening with Kenton Cool raised close to £1000 for Alzheimers Research UK too!
By Nicky Godding