Road trip adventure to top of the world

EVERESMI'''Everest the Old Way
EVERESMI'''Everest the Old Way
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IN November 1967 five Sheffield students left the city on the adventure of a lifetime – an epic overland trek that would take them from South Yorkshire to the foot of Mount Everest.

Now two of the friends have returned to the Himalayas 44 years on to relive the expedition and discover how much the region has changed.

The result is a book telling the whole story, Everest The Old Way – A Bright Remembering, which is to be launched at Sheffield’s Central Library on February 8.

John Driskell, David Beckett, Les Simms, John Rudd and Pam Archer met while studying at Sheffield Teacher Training College, now part of Sheffield Hallam University.

Inspired by the spirit of the age, they saved £10 a month for the journey, a quarter of their income, eventually raising £300 each.

The cash was enough to buy a Land Rover and cover the cost of petrol and food for their eight month odyssey.

The five friends were heading largely into the unknown – expeditions to Everest were then rare and the Chinese government kept the mountain closed to climbers until 1969.

“I think we were probably among the first people to take a gap year,” said John.

“The world was opening up. It was very different to what it is today.”

David said: “Suddenly there was a chance to do things and see places that previous generations weren’t able to.

“Now, you just pick up the phone and you can arrange trips to the most remote places but you couldn’t do that then.”

The friends crossed the Channel then made their way across Europe, travelling through Yugoslavia and Bulgaria and then across to Istanbul and into Asia.

From there they crossed Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, finally arriving in Nepal. They then trekked on foot from Kathmandu to Kala Pattar, close to Everest at an altitude of 18,200 feet.

John said: “When we reached Kala Pattar there wasn’t a sign of human beings having been there. But my son went there last year and said it had become a trail with hotels where you can get a bed and en-suite and a hot shower, nothing like when we were there.”

The five finally arrived home in June, 1968, their lives having been changed forever by their experiences.

John went on to become a headteacher in Sheffield schools for 23 years, including Hazlebarrow Primary at Batemoor.

“It’s sad, but you couldn’t do that trip today. You couldn’t drive freely through Iran like we did and Pakistan and Afghanistan are too dangerous in the current climate,” said David.

The book tells how John and David returned to the area last year to find a changed world.

John said: “I have never complained about my lot because I’ve seen people in the world who have nothing. We all have mad ideas in life but to find five people who would undertake such a journey and to actually have been part of it was a great privilege.”

n Everest The Old way is published by Bannerdale Publications Ltd, price £25.