264: Tom French Podcast

November 25, 2022

Tom French: Tom French is an American mountaineer who I have climbed with on Mt Vinson in Antarctica, Cotopaxi in Ecuador and Mt EVEREST in 2021. Unfortunately, Tom didn’t make it to the top in 2021 due to a cyclone storm but reset his mind and came back strong in 2022 and got it done. Tom talks about his fascinating tale of how he was able to pull it off.
Listen to “Tom French: 1st Attempt of EVEREST failed. 2nd time was a charm.” on Spreaker.

Show Transcript

Hey, everybody, it’s Mark Pattison, back with another great episode of Finding Your Summit, all about people overcoming adversity and finding their way. And before we get into today’s amazing guest—can’t wait to have him on—I want to direct your attention to my website. I do this every time I have a pod that comes out because it’s so important. Repetition is everything. First of all, there’s over 270 episodes that are out there. I would appreciate a ratings and review through Apple. It helps elevate the popularity of the show and we all need inspiration, even myself, and so if you go there and do that, I would greatly appreciate it. Number two is that I continue to raise money for Emilia’s Everest. It directly goes to Higher Ground, a nonprofit here in Sun Valley, Los Angeles and New York. It’s all about empowering other people. Many of these people out there, UM are military folks who need our help. My daughter also his epilepsy. So at the end of the day, it’s all about impowerment and helping. So if you want to go there, check it out. And finally, UM, the NFL did an amazing movie actually one Best Picture an Emmy for that documentary they did on my two um journey up and down Mount Everest, and so if you want to check it out there you can do. So there’s links that t qu right to that wonderful film, So go check it out.

Collage image with mountainous background displaying Finding Your Summit logo, episode number and photos of both Mark Pattison and Tom FrenchOkay. On that note, and on the Everest note, I want to bring in my buddy that originally met in Antarctica. I think about that in article who goes to In article we said a bunch of penguins and this guy Tom French. Tom, how you doing. I’m well, thanks smart, good to see you. It’s great to see you. And actually I just saw you last week. We had my world tour on the East Coast and then made my way up to Boston. But let’s let’s start in it. Well, today’s topic really is about your drive and your focus. And after being turned back in one Mountain Everest, we actually passed each other on my way as I was stumbling down the mountain down the loads you face, and you were climbing going up to to climb what I had just come off the top. Ultimately didn’t make it, and then came back this last year. We’re gonna get into that, but I want to start first with you know, your love of climbing, and you’ve you’ve recounted it to me, and you know, it takes you way back to when your twenties, and it is crazy adventures that you had and appallen and climbing all over. But you always kind of had that bug. And and a lot of times what happens to us is where you have that bug and oh, I remember when I used to do that when as a kid. And then life happens, right, these jobs that we have, and you get married and you have kids and everything else, and then you just kind of stop. But I’m interested in in that bug that you got. And then where did that flame kind of get re lit again? Where you and I find each other in Antarctica? Yeah? No, absolutely, um And as I think you and I talked about in tents somewhere, it the climbing bug for me got lit when I was about seven or eight years old. Um, A whole long story, but um, as I’ve told you, I grew up looking at a poster of the west Ridge of Everest on my bedroom wall and one of those climbers will the Unsold, a guy you know, spent a lot of time out in year after the woods um was in front of my father’s and actually taught me how to rock climb when I was eight years old, when I sort of idolized really as a climber and idolized everest climbers, and that got me into climbing and really young age. And and I did a sort of a whole lot of mountaineering and climbing all over the place into my early thirties, as you were alluding to, and then sort of got away from it for a while, which I’ll come back to. And the parallel track is I got big into cross country ski racing and did that pretty seriously up to my my early twenties, and then sort of got away from that, you know, and then kind of really what got me away from both of some coming atution of career and raising a family, all of which was great, but I got out toward the back end of the career and the family and uh, and just realized, really I sort of got back into climbing to some extent. My now adult kids got interested in it and got me back closer to it, and I remembered how much I loved it, which was a ton uh, And started to have some more time on my hand, so I got back into climbing and decided to do more and more and more of it as opposed to less and less, And also got back into master’s cross country ski racing, which is a whole other conversation except the too sort of link because you throw yourself into endurance training and it sort of feeds the ability I go to do a bunch of climbing. So, yes, I did come back to some things I loved growing up, and we’re a huge part of my life growing into my early thirties. And they were never gone in my forties and fifties, but they were toned down a lot, and then came back to them late in my fifties and have been sort of back adam in a big way for call of the last five years or so. Yeah, well again, let’s go back to in Arctica. So you mentioned your kids, right, and and I know I met your your daughter Holly, And when gosh, two thousand nineteen, Um, you and I find ourselves in Antarctica, right, and and so we we start in Chili, Uh, Punta Arenas? Is that how we said that? Yeah? Yeah, so that’s that’s southern Uh, that’s southern Chile, and it’s kind of the launching point. We take this charter and then we enter end up in this crazy airplane which you think at any time is gonna crash. And you know, the one thing I always remember from that is that I’ve never gone through or been in the airport where I’ve got all my like my climbing here on. Our boots are like big window jackets and they’re like, hey, this plane crashes. Man, you’re on your own. You need to be prepared to have that happened. But nonetheless, you’re you’re with your son, You’re with You’re with Will. And I can see at that time that both you and Will, you know, you just had that passion to climb. So I think there’s there’s part of it. Are you good at climbing or not? We both know another guy um uh that was on that expedition that ultimately ended up passing away on on on Mountain Everest, but he didn’t seem like he had a really passion towards that sport. And then do you have good endurance? And so that means that you’re training, you’re getting out, you love the outdoors, and you check all those boxes. But you know, why did you pick in Arctica? Of all places? I can tell you why I picked it. Why did you pick it? Yeah, a combination of UM always wanted to go to Antarctica and never had UM and talk to people who could climb Vincent and been down there climbing and thought that just sounded amazing. And then that was about at the stage that I’d sort of been a year or two back into doing some climbing in a bunch of places, was beginning to think about taking on Everest, and that was just a good logical thing to do on route to Everest. Really, the logic there was, you know, thirty ballsout, forty balls zero. I’ll get used to a sort of thing. But that that was third in the consideration. I really just always wanted to go to Antarctica and thought the idea of getting dropped in the middle of nowhere Antarctica, I think a mountain would be about as cool as that I could imagine. And by the way I thought it was, that’s the way up there in my life experiences that Yeah, yeah, yeah, I actually, um, I brought this rock back and you can see well from the top. Yeah, I actually was Camp three then when we’re up there two or three whatever, the one that we came back down to. But but anyway, so so we make it out that mountain and then and then all of a sudden, now like you and I were talking about, hey, let’s go do ever, right, and of course the world shuts down to the pandemic and there’s nothing any of us could do about it. I mean, not just Nepal, in the world shutting down, I mean your local grocery store, the airlines, I mean, everything that you never thought that could ever be possible was happening. Right. It was just a complete cluster for for for the entire planet in the way we we’re used to doing commerce with each other, in the interaction and everything else. But now we get into and and and we end up in a place in Nepal. You you, you decided to go with a different outfit earth than what I went with. Garrett Madison. We actually had a podcast that we did in our tent um in base camp feet. You you win the record for the highest podcast ever done at at elevation. For sure, you get the blue ribbon. But you know, you decided to go with somebody. And then one thing that was really clear through your experience is that you had the strength, you had the mental fortitude to do everything. At the end of the day, it kind of gets down to luck and choice, and we just happened to choose the right day to go for the top and put ourselves in position, and your expedition leader, not you, your expedition leader, chose a different day and and and the result was that you ran into this cyclone that landed on top of the Mount Everest and certainly uh five dred feet, which prevented you from from going forward that day. And I can’t imagine how disappointed you must have been. I know it hugely was. I will say, you know even that so several things, as you know, is a really tough year uh one on Everest, and you know, not a lot of people got up. You guys were fortunate to, and huge kudos to your whole team were doing it because it was tricky to get near the summit given all the craziness going on Otherwise. I don’t even, and I don’t think. I don’t even. It’s not even like I fault the decision making on the timing. I actually chose to climb with the group I did in part because very explicitly the model was go late in the season, meaning wait for people to kind of get up and get out of the way. It was sort of shooting for climbing the mountain with less people around, and that the goalate strategy often works well and does not when two cyclones in the road slament it Everest later in the season, which is exactly what happened, which caused go late to not work at all. So but that’s why I didn’t never even questioned it. I sort of felt like the decision making was what I bought into going in. To your point, everything except the damn cyclone hitting the mountain when it did, went just how I wanted it to. My my body was kind of delivering the way I wanted it to the team members I was with. I thought we’re doing great. The whole thing was like going fine right until it wasn’t, and wasn’t as you know, was we got up to camp four twenty six feet. We were four hours from leaving for the summit. I mean, I thought we were leaving, but we were ready to go. We thought we were going to sneak it in as you guys did the day before by the way. We thought we had one more shot to sneak it in before the you know, a storm came in and then it just started snowing and just kept snowing, and all of a sudden it went from we’re four hours from leaving for the summit too, we gotta get down fast, you know, or bad stuff is gonna happen. And we came down that mountain in a blizzard, all the way down Maliency facing a snowstorm, and to back to Camp two, and then down ultimately through the ice fall and a complete white out back to base camp, and that was sort of game over. So so yeah, And I mean, so on the one hand, early on, you don’t you don’t have time to be just the point where you’re just trying to get down the mountain a snow storm and you can get back to base camp and then you get back to base camp and you’re safe, and then it hits you and you go, oh man, you know, and it’s a huge gut punch. Um. You know, although I you know, as we talked about, I there was a lot of good in it. I really did feel like I got of what I went to the mountain for, and I did get ninety not a hundred, but ninety. Um, you know, and if I was if the expedition was sixty days long, I was longer than that. But college sixty days and fifty nine of them went exactly the way I wanted him to and one didn’t. And that was the summit. Uh yeah, yeah, and that certain and stunt quite a bit. Yeah, And you know, look I was there, and so as I’m escaping the mountain like a day or two before, you know, you’re just trying to do everything you can to get back. And then I literally was able to escape the country before it shut down due to another gigantic of an outbreak. And then you end up getting stuck there for another two weeks. And so just you know, going that long, sixty days, going after a certain goal, living in this very stressful environment, um, not knowing how it’s all going to play out, some people dying, stepping over dead, bought it, you know, just the whole thing, your diet, everything, and then you come up short. And again not your fault, You’re a strong climber, but choices that your expedition leader and weather and circumstances you just fell into. So so now you and I are having this conversation and and I’m just going I’m so glad to have made it to say I’m never going back in terms of that to Neapal necessarily, but just to climb Mount Everest. Right, it’s a huge undertaking. And remember we both of us have been training since that two dozen nineteen in Arctica expedition thinking that we’re going to go the next year in two dozen twenty, and then we had the purpose. So now it’s it’s for you. It’s not just one year, it’s not two years. But now you’re going three years into this in terms of the time training, right, And that’s hard, that’s hard mental fortitude to keep that thing going. But you you, you ultimately came to the decision if you take a gigantic time out of like and do I want to go back through that hell with no certainty that even though you do all the right things and you put yourself in the best position, that that’s going to result in the touchdown of you touched on the top of the mountains. So you finally decide like, this is this is gonna be ago, You’ve got to it’s a green light. And by the way, I think I would have made the same decision. I don’t think I could live with myself knowing that I was right there in a position I felt great and I didn’t succeed when I know I could have, And you had all those those same boxes checked that I I think my mental process would have went through as well. And so tell me what happens now when you’ve come together with with your wife and your kids and your family, and you’ve made this decision, but now you’re gonna would do it a little bit differently. So tell me what that process was like. Yeah, and the first I mean there was the first, um decided to go back, and then there was a little bit, well how am I going to go back? And you know, I think they designed to go back when I came back. As I alluded to, I wasn’t sure initially I was going back for some of the reasons I said, got nine percent of it, big ask on the family to go again, huge chunk of time, a whole another year, all that. But pretty quickly, um, you know it, it just does come down to some extent dreams or dreams and summits or summits, and you know, we all whether it’s an actual sum of people climb mountains or something about the actual definition of top it’s a little bit symbolic, but it’s it’s what the goal is. And if you’re goal driven or you’ve built your life around goals and that summit’s the goal, there’s a notable difference emotionally between having stood on the summer or not right and that just, you know, it just kind of hit me. And it was more a feeling of, you know, I just the more I thought about it, the more I realized I the and they kept popping into my head was unfinished business. I just felt like I got unfinished business emotionally, not a bad way. It was all positive way. I mean, I had a really good experience, but there was ten percent more and it just meant a ton, you know, in ways you can’t it’s not really rational, but it meant a ton and I just really wanted to give it another go. And the other thing I say, I’m sure for you, and I know for a lot of climbers, you’ve thought about Everest, you’ve read about Everest, you’ve taught, you’ve looked at the picture of Everest, your whole life and being on the mountain actually going over the features that you’ve thought about, the Geneva spur, that yellow band through the combois ball. That to me was really powerful the first year I was on the mountain actually being there. But then I came home and where hadn’t I been. Well, I hadn’t been on the Southeast Summit ridge, I hadn’t been on the balcony, hadn’t been over the South Summit, the Hillary Step, and it was just like, I just felt like a powerful desire to in my life of time if I could to see those things myself, climb over them and get to the top. So that was the unfinished business kind of spiritually or whatever. And you know, it came down to a conversation with my wife Jill, because it really does come down to, you know, a lot of support from the family and bless her. She didn’t love the idea, but she she said, look now I get why you want to do it. She sort of said, you got one more shot, like, not a lot more shots, but okay. So that was you know, that was kind of a decision to go back. And of course I’m really glad I did. I Frankly, I was really glad I did the moment I made it um, and then you were alluding to differences. I did make a you know, I decided to do a few things differently, And really that started from, um, the thought that if I was going to go back in those same sixty days and you know, fifty nine of them were gonna be the same fifty nine days, I’d already done for the one day that was going to be new and different the summit climb. Um, that was cool, but I wouldn’t be neater if I could get some new life experience in the best just while I was doing just I mean, it would be good enough to go repeat the whole thing, but you’re repeating the whole thing and you’re a training in two months. And that’s where, um, you know, a couple were really one thing popped in my mind. It just it occurred to me that I could approach the mountain a different way. And there there’s the traditional track you and I have done, and I had done it years ago as well, from look Law up to the Kumbu Valley to ever Space Camp. I had a thirty years ago heard about a way you can get to the Everest region trekking through the Mahalu Baroon region, which is you know, relatively speaking remote in Nepaul. And once you get up to the base of Ncle of the fifth highest mountain in the world, you can actually if you want to climb over three twenty foot passes and you literally climb up one to repel down the back side onto a glacier, walk across the glasier for a day, you get to the next pass and if you do all that, three weeks in you get to the Everss region. And that was the that was that was a big piece of the newice for me. I kind of figured out I could do that, and that just was a whole new life experience getting to the base of Everest, a totally different way through a totally different landscape and part of Nepal in a partiam of all I always wanted to see and wasn’t sure I every would So that got me even more excited. And it was sort of newness in the mist um. And let me ask you this with this couple a couple of questions. With that, just sticking on this one new route, my understanding is that I mean Nepal just in general is a pretty remote country. Not captman do of course, but these pockets that you were in this one. You were super remote. There was a whole lot of going on. Whenever you’re out in the mountains and you’re in the back country, there’s always at whatever you know level you want to call it, there’s some element of danger. Right, And if I remember right, and when some of the journaling that you were doing, there was some huge boulder or something that came tumbling down the mountain and it was either you or when your partners have got whacked by this rock. And that was not a pleasant experience that you had to deal with on this side. So just talk about that remoteness of the angle that you came in on, and then about that particular incident that happened. Yeah, So the truck was three weeks. And in the three weeks, um we saw one form one you know, of any nationality other than some a few local people. And and that one foreigner was like glimpsed in a hut across the room. We think that somebody is not an appalli. That was it in in three weeks. And in the last week when we were going over these three passes where you’re up high, um, we sell one human being. So I mean it was remote to say the least in that regard me and the hand and by the way the Nepolis, we saw the first broad tract. It was a handful. It was not a lot of people. We went through a few villages down low and then I gotta hire and stop seeing people so remote it was didn’t have the infrastructure that you know the Kumboo has in terms of tracking lodges and all that sort of stuff and ways to get in and out and none of that. Um and so as we were going over these three passes where we were between you know, seventeen and twenty thousand feet for a week. UM, going over the second of those two, you’re right, we’ve had a two Shirpa guides who had been on evers by the way right at the same time you and I were previous year. And um and um, one of our two shirp of guides got hit got hit in the head by a falling rock. And honestly that you know, it was potentially a super bad situation because we were at minimum of three days walked climb from from the nearest village of any sort, and this guy was badly hurt in the head and bleeding badly and um. And then it turned out the stat phone that our lead guy had the battery was dead, so we couldn’t get on the stat phone doing about it. And there’s a whole long story about it, but it’s kind of amazing. We were able to get a helicopter rescue for the guy, and had we not, he would not live. And the good news is he did what we were able to get one. It took hours, but we got a helicopter in there, got him back to Captain Ndilly was in hospital for three weeks but now they’re very happily. He’s fine. But but that really could have gone the other way. And when it was playing out, we were just in the middle of absolutely little high or twenty thousand feet but nothing around for as far as the eye could see. And when when accidents happened in situations like that, um, you know, not too many years ago, there’s no way you could have gotten a message out level on a helicopter NCE And that was just a really good fortune. I would I would assume that you guys were carrying these garments where you can you know, it gives you at least the hail Mary’s chance of trying to connect with the satellite up in the sky and bring in some kind of helicopter to to rescue whatever situation was going on. In fact, what you just held the garment en reaches what I had, and I had it for different purposes, and you know, I was occasionally could get a satellite text out to my family and sitting there on that sort of the knife edge ridge at twenty thousand feet trying to figure out what to do that the shirt was down by the way, about a thousand feet now below us. He’d been down climbing when he was hit. He was down the glacier and I just grabbed the garment and I didn’t even really know who to text, you know, but I had the number of our logistics organizer in Katmandu, and I just fired up a text that said, we need you here with the coordinates and we need alicopter rescue. And it I had. I thought the odds that that got picked up in any way, shape or form were extremely small, and the odds of somebody picked them up and do anything with it were even smaller. And I didn’t even know if that was happening. And lo and behold, we just sat there checking in every hour and after a couple of hours, we got a message back that said message received, We’re going to work on it. It was amazing, but and it was that, yeah, it’s the device, you just it’s the endge So so it actually works, okay, So so okay, So now now you’re in this reason the guy gets whacked and being in a helicopter. You survived that, and you keep going, and now you end up at seventeen five feet where you and I had convened together, although one separate camps in two thousand one. Now it’s two thousand twenty two, and now the real climbing starts, right, So walk me through some of the experiences that that you were talking about the newness of going through the komba, all the same things that you know, I felt as well. But you know, the first time you go through the kumba with that, what’s that like in clymbing nice walls and going across ladders and doing all that and making up to Camp one, Camp two, Camp three, But for you, like what was new in terms of the experience that you felt like you hadn’t got, you know, the year before, when you’ve done pretty much everything there was to do except for Clemon, you know the summit going from toot and back down to the bottom. Yeah. Well, the first thing whether was new more it was a surprise, was actually that the stuff I had already done was super meaningful again. And as I described, I went with the mindset, I’ve sort of done fifteen out of the sixty days, and that’s just going to be a do over for the one new day. I came rolling in a base camp again, um, and I just had this out of nowhere. I don’t know what my expectations were, but it was more like it’s going to be a routine. I’m back at this place I spent weeks last year, and it was it feels great to be back. I mean, as you know, the place is spectacular, beautiful, and there was something about being back, climbing back up through the coming voice, fall, back up to Camp one, back up to Camp two, back up to Camp three. All that was super positive. Not just like check the box so I can get summer. I didn’t get And that was a surprise. And maybe it should be obvious in retrospect, but there’s something about going back to places that are deeply meaningful to you, that are beautiful you know, and then going back sort of knowing what you’re getting into and having a sort of a whole different mindset was sort of like a been here, maybe I could appreciate a different way, I appreciate the beauty in a different way, or just the feeling. It was a really good, calm neat feeling of I’m glad, I’m back, and i’m and I’m glad I’m experiencing even the stuff I’ve already experienced multiple times. So that was a surprise to me anyway versus my expectation in a very positive sense. Um the second one was. I mean, as I said, I felt like the first year it had all gone physically as well as I could hope for, and if anything, it kind of went even better this year. And I think that was a combination of another year’s training, maybe even just on the margin smarter than the previous years. I dialed in a few things. Maybe again this expectation point, I just every you know, it’s like on that you’re you’re doing some challenging stuff, and you’re doing it at strange times the day and night, with a risk all around you. But when you’ve been there and done it before and no you can do it. I just had a different mindset. It was. I was more relaxed about the whole thing. It all came just a little bit easier, and you and I know, nothing’s easy on that mountain, but relatively speaking, and that was a positive surprise to me. It was almost a new experience in a way. Um, I was climbing at a slightly different model. Yeah, we um. You know. One aspect of it was the previous year it would be sort of like five of us on the team and a couple of guys and we’d all sort of line up and we all sort of climbed together, which had its benefits. But this time was way more sort of me and a shirt kind of climbing at our own pace. We had a couple of other team members, but they sort of climb at their pace. And I end up really liking that just because it was this freedom to do exactly what you wanted to do and go faster when you want to go faster, and stop and look around, and you want to stop and look around. And that was sort of a positive surprise, like just how that was additive. It was a really really positive way to interact with the whole mountain. I liked that a lot. Um Uh you know, another new thing. The first year, we climbed the mountain, as did you, as do most teams, you know, in a so called three rotation model. You know, you give about halfway up the mountain up through the voice fall, half up the mounta to Camp two, and then all the way back down and then the rest for a while. Then you climb up through the ice ball all the way up to Camp three and all the way back down. That’s the second rotation, and then you’re acclimatized and ready, and then you go for the summit. And that’s what you did and what we did. And this year I explicitly chose a group that was going to do a two rotation wall, so we only climbed once up the mountain for our summit that and we actually only went up to the base of the Lozy Face, so between Camp two and Camp three came back down, you know. And the concern would be have we spent enough time at altitude to be ready for it, but you know, we kind of felt we had and my body had generally done well at altitude. So that was a new deal, which was after that one rotation. You you know, that recalled it’s like to do a whole another one. It’s another week of climbing. It’s wearing right, And I didn’t have that. I got down from the first rotation, I was like, Okay, now we’re ready to go. Now a few things have to come together to be ready to go, like the worlds have to be in and the weather has to be good. But we were among the first people this year going for the summit, and that was just new and sort of neat. There was an energy level to like, I’m ready to go for it now more than I’d had the previous year. And then that was new, um, you know. And then you know, and then then of course the summit itself, which we can get into if you wanted that. That was all. That was the part I really knew what was going back for. So we got back up to Camp four, you know, and it was time to go for the summit. And a year ago and it be time to go for the summit was a big you turn and back down at a blizzard. At this time I could tell the weather was good, you know, and that was different. And then I got the whole that I got the whole time to the summit and fact that I hadn’t gotten the previous year and that was all note So well, I think the other thing that’s that that was different too from most people’s that just like me, you know, I left around midnight or something, and you know, I wasn’t in great shape, and I’ve documented that plenty of times on on on these different shows. But but for you, you guys had a different strategy, which is basically started at six or seven o’clock at night and knowing that you’re going to climb throughout the night, but but really knowing that you’re gonna be on the summit uh in Pitts Black and most people want to be there like I was at ten thirty or something in the morning so you can take a picture and then you know you can actually see the skuis and overlook the planet. And that wasn’t your strategy. But on the flip side of that whole thing, there was nobody that you ran into going up there and coming back down. Yeah, it was so the like you probably the the the boyhood dream and the vision of what it was all going to be always involved you know, cressing the summit ridge in daylight sort of thing um, but probably also like you. Even the first year I went to the mountain and then going back, the one thing that really wigged me out was not wanting to bump into other folks on those knife edge ridges up high, because it just slows you down and that’s where things get risk here, and I’ve always felt anything I could do to avoid that possible situation would be better. So there we were at the South Call at twenty six thousand feet and at one is hugely crowded, but there were probably seventy other climbers that would be leaving for the summit that night, all leaving it probably about midnight, and and we could climb with them and that would work. But then you’re gonna sort of move at the pace they move and have potential risks of getting stuck in places, and it’s so hard. Decision, as you alluded to, was lets leave at seven in the evening. Were basically get a five hour head start on everybody. Now if we move quickly, which we did because we didn’t have to wait on anybody. We were on summit in about seven hours, so we didn’t know quite when we get up there, but we got up there at two in the morning. Um, but and I was prepared to do that, like, in my mind, that’s so worth the trade off, just because we’ll have freedom and we’re de risking this whole thing, et cetera. And then a few amazing things happen. I mean one was, Um, we got climbed through some snow initially, and then we got about halfway up up toward the summit, up above the balcony on the southeast bridge, we broke out into complete clear night, and not only clear night, but full moon I e. I mean one percent full moon. And it was magical, magical, magical. I mean you could see all the surrounding peaks of the moonlight, you could see all the original lines of Everest in the moonlight. I would say it was like the most thoroughly beautiful experience I possibly could have had. And by the way, we were alone up there, it was me and for shut was by the way, it was a whole long story, that’s what the whole the whole team could boiled down to. By the end of it. Um, and that was it, you know, and all this never forget it. And yeah, so anyway, so it took not to be not only just sort of middle of the night so we can avoid people. Became a really cool experience in its own right, and became a safer experience in my mind because we didn’t have to deal with what other folks. So yeah, so let’s focus on the top. So, um, you know I’ve said on the show before that when I got to the top, I mean I was just with dread. I can believe I just like, it’s just oh my god, I’ve gotta now I have to go over that. I mean, it wasn’t relation that you think you normally have. And now you and I climbed in two thousand December, this would have been last December. You agree to meet me down in Ecuador so that we could climb Code to POxy together. And of the hundred people that went out, only six people made the top. And you know in our party as you and I and A and a guy, so there was three of the six. And then we get at the top. It’s absolutely bluebird magical day after this driving rainstorm sleep that we had had to encounter and so many others have been turned back by. And we get up there, We’re hogging, I’m doing push ups, you know, and it was a wonderful spirits that would be like, that’s what it should be like for me. That wasn’t the situation for me on Everest because of all the different things I was dealing with. But for you, I think you were in way better shape physically, mentally and everything else. What was that moment like for you when you finally hit that pinnacle. Yeah, I had a bit of a different version of of your experience as well, because, like you, I remember, by the way, our code of Boxy Summit is another cherished life experience, and well, just so amazing to be up there, and you know, as you’re saying, and probably like you, most mountains life climbed, I get to the summit and have this kind of cathartic emotional release and I’m up there and I’m sort of tears of joy and it’s all this magical thing. And I had zero of that feeling on Everest, which, by the way, and I was feeling relatively speaking good. So I climbed the summit with one other shirt, but was just the two of us initially. Then the others of our team caught up to us. Um, you know, I felt physically as fine as you can feel up there, had gotten up a seven hours and knew we had a ton of time to get back down. But it was all It wasn’t like massive emotional release at all. It was all businesses like I had three things I wanted to do, and I want to do them as almost quickly as I could and then get back down. And that’s as you know, well, because particularly however, it’s it’s true of other mountains, but when neverous, you are absolutely only halfway at best on the summit, you know, just because to climb down so many bad things can happen, and often due to people, and just proportionately that accidents happen on the descent, and I was mindful of that. And you know those ridges, as you experienced her, the top ridges, the Hillary Step and right below those traverses are pretty narrow and pretty steep, and you kind of just wanted to get back down and not mess up. And I also was mindful that the rest of those climbers that we had got given ourselves I had start on would be coming up, and I want to get down off of those night edge ridge portions before we bumped into other climbers. So for all those reasons, I was like totally where I was on the summit. Very glad I was on the summit, and I was like, Okay, I’m gonna get that garment that you allude to, and I’m going to send the preprogram text to my family telling him I’m on the summit. Guess what the garden I was frozen solid, so I couldn’t send the message, but I tried. I want to get a photograph and as you know it it’s usually drill at that altitude. But get the camera out and you know, I have the shirt i’m climbing with. Take a picture. That was step two and I think three. I remember I said I wasn’t going to change my oction motle. I want to damn sure. I’ve got a full bottle of oxen going down just in case, and so focused on don’t forget to do that, change the oxygen bottle. And I was at boom boom boom. We were probably on the summit for twenty five minutes, and it was like, I was glad I was there, but I wasn’t like jumping for joy at all. And then I was like, now I just it was all about getting down safe. I was like, I just need to not mess up getting down, and and that was the way it was all the way until I got back to base camp. And then back at base camp boom. Then you you get to feel all though wonderful. Yeah. And I went through that same thing too. I mean as bad as I was feeling up there physically and mentally, you know, I was very consciously a air of of like this is where it all goes down. And unfortunately, I think you stepped over down Cash. I stepped over down Cash. Of course, he’s a guy that had had climbed with this in two thousand and nineteen in article it was my tentmate. And then we later or heat later went to Mount eversin two nineteen, but three or four months later and then ended up dying, got to the top, raised his hand, fell over, and we both stepped over him. And in the story I don’t think I’ve ever told you is since I was I think one of the last guys to to make it to the summit on my expedition. This would have been the twenty three of of of May one. As the hordes of people that were coming down, my back was against one of those razor edges, and for them to get around meant that they had to unclipp I was holding them like bear hugging them so that they could reach around me. If I want to just push them back. They’re going for you know, a seven thousand foot drop into Tibet, you know, which is pretty much what you’re looking at. So you know, not a fine okay, so you make it. You have a joint. Now you get stuck in the pall because the psyclonal weather, and I mean you had COVID, you had every single thing awful happening to you. And I know that when you get down these climbs, all you want to do is skidattle home. And you’ve been out in the wilderness, you’ve been deprived of everything. You want a hot shower, and you gotta stick around now for a couple more weeks, and that’s not a fun thing to do. Yeah, that was absolutely the first year. And I had I had both fans of that spectrum, right because in that’s right the first year. Yeah, you know, that was it. We got down to base campus. Note for five days we couldn’t get out of base camp and you couldn’t even send a message out of base camp. And finally we were able to get out of base camp and get to catt doing as you alluded to cat Mendos in full COVID lockdown all the flights. I think you got one of the last flights out if I’m not wearing recharted to fly out there. So so let’s jump in. So I meant to say, I was, I was just getting my my fact confused. But now we’re two and just the opposite happened. You did come down. Now you’re able to get off, Now you’re able to get a shower, have a real meal, jump on a plane, and now you’re going. And so, by the way, what was your date again that you have made that you that you had actually summoned twelve mate twelve, so you’ve got it almost in twelve. So you’re you’re you didn’t make it the sixty days, which is great for you. Yeah, it was fast. I mean it was a combination of this to rotation, not three model, right, And so we like you cut like at least a week to two weeks out of the middle of the climb because you weren’t going to go go back. We weren’t. You didn’t do a second rotation to climb up to camp three and all the way back down again. We just went up the mountain once back down ready for the summit. So we were ready for the summit like early, you know, still, and then we needed the weather to be good, which it was this year so it didn’t have to be but it was like really good. So there we were ready to go. Our shirt was who were amazing? It really comes down to can they get the camp stocked up high soon enough with oxygen and food, food, fuel and heroes that they were. They did, so we were basically other than the team fixing the ropes to the summit, we were the first people ready to go, you know, and that and then and then you meet everything the crop right, which it did, so we were up and down quickly, like really quickly. It was I think that’s awesome. I think I would have prepared better with that type of model. Then stretching it out as long and just depriving yourself of food and everything else going on. All right, So the grand finale question for you is what is next for Tom French? Yeah, so I’m I’m busy figuring that out. Uh. The easy way to say it is more mountains and more you know this spiritually and soul fulfilling trips and endurance activities are definitely next. Um. That’s going to include more climbing for sure. Um, you know all over the world the places I really want to go. What I don’t think is in the midst for me is more a thousand meter peaks. Um. You and I’ve got lots of us to do those. They’re asking us to do it all the time. You and I both know why that’s rewarding and tempting. But I don’t only feel the need for that, or said another way, I think the costs that come with that are not worth what you what you get out of it, having both of us. Not for me anyway, And you too haven’t gotten up Everest. I have been on the Dark Mountain twice. So I don’t see myself going to k to or not a flu or gosh your brow rod peak. It’s just the costs involved, time, task on family, increased risk. You keep doing these things enough, and I think your number comes up eventually, you know, so it might come up more likely eventually. So for me, it’s not that. But there are a lot of really cool mountains what I know about and talk about a lot that I do want to keep climbing as long as I can keep climbing with friends, with family, and I got I got some adventures cooking already in various parts of the world in the coming years, which I you know, I tend to go do um. So there will be some actual just climbs, and there’s some remote trucking. I gotta tell you, this trek through the Muco of the Rown that you asked me about was in its own right, just an incredible experience, you know. And that was a combination of some some technical climbing to get over some things, but it was mostly just a remote trek, and I’d like to do that in some places. I want to, as I think I’ve told you about, get to the north side of Everest and poke around from the Tibet side into some of those valleys that the Brits back in the thirties were kind of all exploring when they were trying to figure out how to get up Everest. There’s just some very remote stuff to be done in Tibet that I’d like to do on that side of the m l A and range Um and some other things. But it’s that sort of stuff. I think in the very near term. It more falls in the category of doing exactly what you know. My beloved wife Jill would like to do. Was put up with me climbing mountains from much of the last four years, and Everest twice in the last two years. So um, there’ll be a little less um, you know, the big mountain stuff in the very very near term, but um meaning the rest of you for much of most as I say that, until at least the middle of twenty three, and then maybe I started sneaking in some more mountains, hopefully one with you by the way, hopefully. Yeah, yeah, I was gonna don’t forget about your climbing buddy. Mark pattis alright, Tom, listen, where can people find you? Um? And I don’t know if you sell have your blog going on, but very fascinating. You’re very good writer. I’ve mentioned that before. But where can people reach out and find more adventures of telling French? Well? Thanks, yeah, thanks rasking. I am kind of hard to find because I haven’t done either done a good job or been out there with it, and I’ve stopped writing the blog. But if people fired interesting and um, the blog’s name is t d French Gap here dot com. So as in Tom David French t d French gap year dot com. I think you find it there, and there’s a whole raft of writings of really the last two or three years of climbing all over the world and both of the years on ever, so that we just talked about all that sort of stuff. So it’s there. That’s good stuff, good stuff, all right, buddy, listen. I am really excited that you were able to pull that off. You came back to share your story. Um, you’re back in the pod. I’m at six thousand feet, not hundred. You’re in Boston. I’m in some alley, so a few differences there, and most of all, you’re safe. You’re a good guy, and I really enjoyed my time with you last week in the Greater Boston area. So thank you so much for coming on, Thanks for having me, and by the way, thanks for the encouragement all along the way. You’re among the early people firing me up to go back. You knew how much it meant to get to the top because you’ve been there, and you knew how much it meant to me. You were, you know, early on encouraging me and supporting me. I really appreciate it so and the other climbs we’ve done together and high points. So I do look forward to more. Well, there’s gonna be a lot more, all right. Everybody there is the one, the only, Tom French. Thank you.

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