Hit the heights of Everest – in England

Climbing the roof of the world is beyond most of us, so one man set out to scale his own personal Everest at home, breaking down 8,848 metres into 12 stages, starting on a Cornish hill and peaking on Scafell Pike

Before any mountaineers leave Everest base camp to climb to the summit, a Buddhist priest arrives to conduct the puja ceremony, praying for a safe expedition. The lama pays homage to the mountain deity, spreads tsampa flour on the faces of the climbers and sherpas, and throws the rest in the air for good luck. The climbers lay their boots and crampons, some beer and some Marmite on a stone altar of prayer flags at 5,364 metres. Another 3,484 metres above them is the highest point on the planet.

Mountains have always been sacred places – the summits are where heaven meets Earth and the gods meet humanity. Tradition states that if you are foolish enough to heed the call of the sage, the priest, the poet, this is where you begin. Four nights up on a summit and you return either mad or as a poet. Graham Hoyland, who has successfully climbed Everest twice, told me that on both occasions he came down a different man from the one who went up; the endeavour changed him.

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