I’ll climb Everest for charity or die in the attempt, says Iceland chief Malcolm Walker
I’m not much of an adventurer, unless you count my adventures in business. I enjoyed Scout camps as a boy but these days I prefer five star accommodation.
OK, I went to the North Pole with Lord Kirkham and that always impresses people until I confess it was in a helicopter - though we did spend a night in a tent on the ice at -30C.
I’ve sailed the Atlantic twice, both times in November. People imagine that might involve rough seas and howling gales, but the reality was smooth crossings at a warm latitude with crew. I was a tourist really.
But three weeks ago I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. “A charity walk,” said my brother (from his armchair). It was physically tough. About 50% of people who try it fail due to altitude sickness. The real problem was the squalor of the campsites along the way.
Our tour leader for the North Pole was David Hempleman-Adams, the explorer. We got talking about his exploits and in particular about when he climbed Everest 20 years ago. It’s probably the toughest challenge on earth. Many people die trying.
I’m writing this on my birthday and am in denial about my age, so I’ve decided to climb Everest myself in order to prove I’m still young. Well, not to the top, exactly. It’s 29,000ft and, considering my age and experience, that would be suicidal.
Others will reach the top but I want to get to a point called the North Col, at 23,000ft. My son asked to come, which I’m not happy about, given the risks, but I’ll be glad to have him with me.
I have no doubt this is the biggest challenge of my life. It has turned into the Iceland Everest Expedition 2011. We have eight experienced climbers with us, led by Hempleman-Adams, and our intention is to plant an Iceland Foods flag on the summit of Everest.
The reasons for failure of such expeditions are usually bad weather, altitude sickness, or a bad stomach, which can be life-threatening at 25,000ft. That’s why we are taking a 60-day supply of hygienically prepared, high-calorie Iceland food.
Iceland has a proud record of raising serious money for charity. We help less fashionable, poorly funded charities, where we can make a real difference.
Alzheimer’s will soon affect a million people in the UK and almost every family is touched by it. The tragedy is that it’s not just old people who are affected. Early-onset Alzheimer’s ruins the lives of people in their 40s and 50s. There is no cure and little research is carried out into the disease. I want to raise at least £1m - hopefully much more - to sponsor research by internationally renowned neurologist Professor Nick Fox.
Please visit Icelandeverest.org.uk, our website, to find out more and donate. I leave at the end of March and will be writing a blog. Sir Philip Green blagged £25k out of me at a Retail Trust dinner but he’s already promised to sponsor me. I just hope it’s pro rata.
So come on Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons - please help us with a big donation. After all, a quarter of the people over 60 who climb Everest die in the attempt, so there’s a powerful incentive for you to help me on my way.
Malcolm Walker is the founder and chief executive of Iceland