There isn’t much that can trump a successful expedition to the summit of Mount Everest – except perhaps, having completed the Seven Summits. The Seven Summits are the quest of many serious mountaineers who make it their life goal to successfully climb the highest summit of each continent, hence the name.
British mountaineer Jake Meyer broke the world record of being the youngest man to complete the Seven Summits, back when he was 21, and is now on the quest to conquer K2. We caught up with him just after his second attempt at K2, the second-highest mountain in the world and often dubbed the “Savage Mountain” because of its notoriously high fatality rate (83 deaths for 300 summits), to chat about his love of mountaineering and his track record as the longest-serving ambassador to luxury British watch company Bremont.
How did you get into climbing?
When I was 12, a teacher at my school took a few of us away to Swanage in Dorset on Saturdays for a weekend of climbing. And I wasn't really that fast in climbing or knew anything about it at that time. It seemed exciting. It was probably the fact that it was a couple of days off from school that was the main draw towards it. It was my lack of academic aptitude that got me into this rather weird and wonderful, slightly psychological, sport – the whole idea is just to get a little bit higher than you were a moment ago.
Your recent K2 expedition was rough. What went through your head?
It was my second time to K2 this year. It was an incredible adventure and an amazing expedition. On day 45 of the expedition, we were setting off for our final summit attempt. We were only about two days away from the summit, and there was a huge avalanche which destroyed Camp 3 on the mountain. We went back to base camp with a plan to reorganise and head back up the mountain. And when we got down to base camp a day later, our team members –several members of our team – decided that they didn't want to go back up and we didn't have the right number of people to make a safe attempt to return.
What do you look for in a watch when you go climbing?
Often, you’re climbing up narrow gullies, you’ve got your hands up in front of you with your ice axes, your wrists are banging against rocks, and so you don't want anything that's going to break, crack, fall apart, because telling the time up there seems rather simple, but it is actually very important.
I wanted something that was going to be incredibly robust and didn’t have an exhibition back [and chose the MBII-White from Bremont for the recent K2 expedition]. An exhibition back [is] amazing because it allows you to see the internal workings of a watch, but I’m very conscious when I’m climbing that it is a potential point of weakness.
What is one thing you can’t you live without?
I'm not particularly sort of a technophile, but this summer while on K2, I realised that probably one of my most used pieces of kit … was my iPhone. And it sounds bizarre to be using an iPhone in the mountains – there's no Wi-Fi or anything like that. But I took most of my videos and pictures on it. I could link it by Bluetooth to my satellite phone so I could send and receive texts, do my mapping on – it was just brilliant.
If your house was on fire, what would be the three things you’d grab before escaping?
I have a photo of the summit of Mount Everest which was taken by Edmund Hillary in 1953 and signed by about 15 Everest summiteers. So that's amazing, people like Chris Bonington and Doug Scott – an incredible range of climbers. That means a lot to me. I would definitely take a wedding photo. I also have some rocks from very close to the summit of Everest, so I might grab one of those.
Do you take any good luck charms with you when you go on your expeditions?
I try to take on each expedition something that I’ve used or worn on a previous successful trip, like a good luck charm. I always have a St. Christopher [icon, as] St. Christopher is the patron saint of travellers. My mother gave that to me and I always wear it. I’ll [also] always take a Union Jack, because I’m very patriotic, [and] I like to be able to fly the flag, whether at base camp or on the summit.
How do you balance family and work?
Ultimately, the most important thing is your dedication to your family. Expeditions come and go, jobs come and go – but your family are forever. So ensuring that my wife is happy, my daughter is happy and – [soon] my wife is having another baby – our next child is happy is my number one priority. But they also recognise that climbing is my passion and I’m very lucky that they’re incredibly supportive of my quest for adventure, even if it does take me away from home sometimes.
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