Preet Chandi is a trailblazer – exploration is no longer just for the Old Etonian elite
Travel 700 miles in 40 days, battling -50C temperatures, winds up to 60mph, while pulling a 90kg sled. The obvious question is: why?
After reaching the South Pole on foot, British Army Officer Preet Chandi – considered the first woman of color to complete such a mission – has an answer. “I’ve been told ‘no’ and ‘just do the normal thing’ over and over again, but we create our own normalcy,” she says. “You are capable of anything you want. It doesn’t matter where you come from or where your starting line is, everyone starts somewhere. I don’t want to just shatter the glass ceiling; I want to smash it into a million pieces.
It was a little more expansive than George Mallory’s answer to the question why he wanted to climb Everest: “Because it’s there.”
Some explorers of the last days were energized by his diabolical adventurism. For others, these three famous words evoke the arrogance of a sport rooted in imperialist ambition.
Chandi, however, is part of a new generation of adventurers who offer new inspiration. In May, a team of nine black climbers will attempt to reach the summit of Everest. Full Circle Everest Expedition member Rosemary Saal points out that when Edmund Hillary first peaked at the world’s highest peak almost 70 years ago, black people couldn’t even vote in America. Scaling Everest would be a powerful image of social change.
Class barriers are also dismantled. Pete Casey is several year in an insane plan to travel the 4,300 miles of the Amazon, from the sea to the source. This week he said The temperature that risking drowning and enduring “thousands and thousands of mosquito bites” was only half the battle. Raising sponsorship funds was nearly impossible, he reflected. “Explorers tend to be from the upper class. I grew up in a communal city, ”he said. “It’s a really tough industry to make contacts. “
But it’s high time that exploration opened up far beyond Old Etonians like Sir Ranulph Fiennes and Bear Grylls. It cannot be true that climbing Everest is just another checkbox on a corporate-sponsored bucket list, to the detriment of the environment (littered with abandoned tents, gas canisters and human excrement) and the local population, with the Sherpas carrying heavy gear that their inexperienced customers cannot handle.
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And while former Royal Navy Matthew Disney may have had a noble cause in mind – raising money for veterans – carrying heavy gym equipment up Mont Blanc, he infuriated the French when he left a rower near the top as the weather closed. .
Don’t get me wrong: I’m in awe of all these guys’ derring-do, just like I did Maurice Wilson’s eccentric expedition – brilliantly recounted in Ed Caesar’s The butterfly and the mountain – reach the top of Everest by flying there in Gypsy Moth.
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But it’s time to open the exclusive club for little adventurers and put some distance between mountaineering and its imperial past. We are no longer living in the 1950s, when climbing the peaks was a blow to national pride.
The Full Circle Everest team has launched a GoFundMe page to raise funds, noting that “in 2020 there were more than 10,000 mountain peaks. To our knowledge, only 10 black climbers have stood on top of Everest. This expedition will definitely change the future of mountaineering on a global scale ”.
So yes, “because it’s there”, but it’s there for all of us. And above all, it is there for future generations. They should be able to be proud of a sport which no longer excludes people and which also brings its waste home.
Cathy Newman presents Channel 4 News, weekdays at 7 p.m.