“We might not have got back” - Norfolk men describe horror in the Himalayas for trekking team

Ashley Hale and Toby Batch from Norfolk leave the beaten trail to head for the remote Mukot Peak.

Ashley Hale and Toby Batch from Norfolk leave the beaten trail to head for the remote Mukot Peak. - Credit: Archant

It is a remarkable story of adventure, tragedy and, ultimately, courage - at the very top of the world.

Ashley Hale at summit camp the night before the snow storm hit. Mukot Peak is the backdrop.

Ashley Hale at summit camp the night before the snow storm hit. Mukot Peak is the backdrop. - Credit: Archant

Two climbers from Norfolk today tell their incredible tale after returning from a dramatic expedition to climb one of the world's last remaining unconquered mountains.

Ashley Hale, from Trunch and Toby Batch, from Norwich, got to within a tantalising 800 metres of the peak of Mukot when a series snowstorms and devastating avalanches left them in danger of being entirely cut off, and forced them to swiftly turn back to safety, leaving much of their kit behind on the mountainside.

The pair had been engaged in a struggle with other teams to be the first to reach to top, but one of their rivals had to pull out and be taken off the mountain by helicopter, after one of their members fell to their deaths.

Yet despite their dramatic escape from danger, they are already planning their next expedition.

Ashley Hale on one of the mountain tracks.

Ashley Hale on one of the mountain tracks. - Credit: Archant

The pair were part of a larger, nine-strong, team, Fire and Ice Expeditions - which raises money for various charities by completing endurance challenges.

Their ascent was expected to last 14 days, but on the 11th day, when they were within 2,625ft of the 19,970ft summit, the team was forced back. They had just reached the last camp before the summit, and could hear the avalanches falling all around. With their escape routes swiftly becoming blocked, they decided to head back down.

Most Read

Mr Hale, 53, a teaching assistant at Sidestrand Hall School, said: 'It turned into an epic adventure really. The summit would have been the icing on the cake, however the chance we would have been taking in going to the summit was not worth the risk as we might not have got back.'

Mr Batch added: 'The only option was to leave our ropes on the mountain, a lot of our food and equipment, and literally evacuate back down to Mukot village, where the team enjoyed wonderful hospitality in the most spartan of conditions. It has been a humbling experience for all involved.'

Toby Batch entertains the local Nepalese children with slight of hand tricks.

Toby Batch entertains the local Nepalese children with slight of hand tricks. - Credit: Archant

The Nepalese government had only just licensed the climbing of Mukot and the Fire and Ice team, were up against two other groups to be the first to the summit.

A member of a team from Switzerland was killed when a path collapsed beneath him. The other team had managed to reach the top before the weather closed in.

The Fire and Ice team arrived back in the UK last month, and Mr Hale said they were already planning their next trip.

'Kamchatka in Russia still has many unclimbed peaks and I would like to go to climb Mt Vinson in Antarctica,' he said.

https://infogr.am/nepal-10651287886

Fire and Ice raised £8,000 this year, which was split between Community Action Nepal and Light Education Development in Nepal.