At 6:30AM on 26 May 2011, second year Theology and History student Geordie Stewart took the University motto ‘Ever to Excel’ to new heights as he stood on the mountain’s summit.
Everest represented the end of Stewart’s four year quest to complete the Seven Summits challenge, a dream that took him all around the world.
The Seven Summits challenge was first proposed in 1986 by Richard Bass, and involves climbing the tallest peak on each of the seven continents.
An early interest in mountaineering, coupled with inspiration from Bear Grylls’ book, Facing Up, gave Stewart the dream of conquering them, and so in 2008, he took his first steps.
Entirely self-funded at this stage, during his gap year, Stewart climbed: Aconcagua in South America (Feb 08); Kilimanjaro in Africa (May 08); and Elbrus in Europe (August 08).
In July 2009, during his first year, and now with University sponsorship, he reached the summit of Mt McKinley in North America.
After that he took a two year break from University and March 2010 saw Stewart make his first attempt on Everest.
Despite a throat infection that made breathing difficult, he soldiered on to within 120m of the summit, before taking the decision to turn back to help an hallucinating team-mate and a blinded sherpa, both suffering from extreme altitude sickness.
Stewart recalls: “I knew I had made the right decisions up there, it would have been inhumane not to, human life is more important than the summit of any mountain.”
Despite the setback, Stewart travelled to Antarctica to climb Vinson Massif in December 2010 and then the Cartensz Pyramid in Indonesia in March 2011.
Stewart’s second Everest attempt began in April and saw him finally succeed in reaching the summit of the highest mountain in the world.
For Stewart, “without a shadow of a doubt, standing on top of the world, higher than any other human being for over an hour,” was the best moment of his life. Stewart’s Everest climb was sponsored in aid of the RNLI.