Mike Trueman has been to the top of the world, and come down again. The first Hong Kong resident to reach the summit of Mount Everest is also the first to make it back to the safety of Base Camp, and for this ex-soldier that was the hard part. He was involved in perhaps the worst tragedy on the world's highest mountain in 1996 when eight climbers were killed and others left with horrific injuries amid a sudden and terrifying storm. He helped co-ordinate the rescue of people who lost their hands, feet and noses to frostbite, and, a year later when he went back to Nepal, his friend and leader died on the same unforgiving slopes. But the 47-year-old divorced father of three knew he had it in him to climb to 8,848 metres above sea level - roughly the cruising altitude of a jumbo jet - and so he tried a third time earlier this month. Conditions on the mountain, which claims one life for every four it allows to the top, were good and when the sun came up on the morning of May 13, Mr Trueman knew he and climbing partner Pawang Dawa Sherpa would make it to the top. Fifty metres before hitting the highest point on Earth a sense of elation ran through his body. But at 9.26am, when he sat down with the world literally at his feet, his thoughts were not on his achievement. 'You are so focused on staying alive you are aware that a lot of people die on the way down,' he said after returning to Hong Kong and life at sea level. Even with a 360-degree view, Mr Trueman does not remember looking at much apart from seeing how far down he had to go. His mind was more on celebrating with the others who made it through the 'Death Zone' of above 8,000 metres, where humans are not designed to live, to take a few commemorative photos and grab a few rocks as souvenirs. After 20 minutes it was time to do what George Mallory did not, even if he was the first man to summit Everest in 1924, and make it down alive. He was perhaps right to keep that in mind for as he slowly moved down to Base Camp, the weather deteriorated, whipping him with 160km/h winds. He felt 'like a stumbling novice' as he descended the Ice Fall - a flowing river of ice, constantly creaking as it moves, with deadly crevices all around. Though the return to safety brought relief, it did not release memorable sights of the ascent, for there were few. As is customary, the final push to the summit was mostly completed through the night and once it was light, his eyes and concentration were on the final, narrow ridge. Less than a metre wide, one false step on the route could see an unlucky climber hurtling towards Nepal if he falls one way or into Tibet if he slips the other way. 'You climb looking at your feet most of the time,' Mr Trueman said. But along with his rocks he has other souvenirs, including three oxygen bottles from the 1953 Hillary-Tenzing expedition that finally conquered the mountain. But however careful the climber, expeditions on Everest are never far from tragedy, whether they be climbing past frozen bodies of previous victims or hearing someone you met on the way up did not make it down. His own success was tempered by the death of a young Briton, almost the same age as one of his sons, who never returned to the South Col camp after reaching the summit. 'The deaths you can never get used to. You learn to live with it, but these are very close friends and you get upset as much as you would with anyone. We are not hard just because we climb mountains.' Though there are accounts of climbers refusing to come to help others in desperate need, most people on Everest will abandon their cause to help others, as Mr Trueman himself did in 1996. But there may have to come to a point where a climber will leave an injured colleague who cannot be helped to save his own life. Mr Trueman praised the 'amazingly heroic act' of Rob Hall, the leader of one of the ill-fated 1996 expeditions who refused to leave a client on the mountain which led to his own death. Scott Fischer, a leader of another commercial expedition that terrible spring, was well known by Mr Trueman and also died after helping his clients - often people who Mr Trueman does not believe have a place on the mountain. For a while climbing Everest became a rich man's game with operators getting clients with more money than experience to the summit. Although Mr Trueman set up his own trekking company Mountain High Adventure, he insists he will not be party to summit tourists, taking only suitably qualified and experienced climbers. Climbing, for Mr Trueman, is not about pushing himself to his limits. 'If I see the edge coming, I step back from it,' he says. 'I've been around long enough to know if I'm pushing my level of experience and I'm prepared to give up at any time if I'm pushing too far.' Many fathers may blanch at the thought of undergoing an adventure that may rob their children of a parent. But for Mr Trueman, much of his inspiration comes from sons Daniel, 21, and Thomas, 19, and from his 17-year-old daughter Nicole who gave him a card before the ill-fated 1996 Everest trip reminding him that trying to achieve one's goals is a vital part of what makes life worthwhile. He claims to have no death wish but a 'life wish' which is also the working title of a book he is writing about his three Everest missions. Becoming an author will be a new challenge for a man who has often excelled. He was awarded the coveted Sword of Honour at Britain's Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst and commissioned into the elite Brigade of Gurkhas where he became fluent in the Nepali language he now finds so useful. He rose to major in his 24 years in the British Army, where he learned many of his climbing skills. While posted in Hong Kong he became the first non-Gurkha national to break the 17-, 16- and then 15-hour records for the 100-kilometre MacLehose Trailwalker event. He left the army and worked in war-torn Yugoslavia for 18 months before returning to Hong Kong to work for container shippers Modern Terminals Limited in Kwai Chung.