Professional mountaineer, acclaimed author and photographer, Cardiff born Alun Richardson celebrates his 60th birthday with a commission of a lifetime - an adventure and an honour that is testament to a lifetime of honed skills and expertise.
Appointed as the official expedition photographer for the 2017 Gurkha Everest Expedition, Alun, who now lives near Tenby, will join the Royal Gurkha Regiment on their quest to put at least one serving Gurkha soldier to summit the mighty ‘Sagarmatha’.
Alun’s association with the Royal Gurkha Regiment began when he volunteered his services as photographer to the Mountain Trust Charity to raise funds towards their work in providing schooling for the children of Nepal. The chosen expedition, supported by Loomes the watchmakers, followed the Gurkhas 2015 attempt to summit Everest and Alun’s job was to create a photo-journal of Loomes watches on their journey with the Gurkhas to the highest possible point.
“Nepal has given me many great mountaineering experiences and photography opportunities as a result of which I have established many friendships. I am now at a stage in my life where I can afford to give something back to this amazing country and to highlight the plight of people in poorer countries,” explained Alun.
Sadly, the fateful earthquake in Nepal struck whilst many of the Gurkha team were at Everest Base Camp; however, although some of the Gurkhas were injured, no one was lost. Whilst their expedition was compromised, the team nevertheless facilitated the evacuation of 116 climbers by helicopter and were awarded nine commendations for their bravery, with Major Todd being awarded Sun Soldier* of the Year.
The ‘G200’ Everest Team, named in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Gurkha service to the Crown, were the only team on Mount Everest not to lose any members that fateful day - something for which they will be eternally humbled by. However, unfinished business remained, and as a result, the same team, with one or two new additions, will now attempt to put the first serving Gurkha on the summit of Everest this year and to raise money for the Gurkha Welfare Trust.
Following a meeting of the 2017 Gurkha Everest Expedition committee last spring, Alun agreed to support a number of the expedition’s key training events in the Alps, North Wales and Scotland. Three months later he received the news that he had been selected to be the official expedition photographer on the basis of the quality of the photographs he produced for the Expedition in 2015.
Those photographs were published widely and five were used to brief the Queen when some of the expedition members had a private audience with her in the following July.
The 2017 expedition is already set to enjoy a similar high profile with The Prince of Wales as expedition patron, and the BBC as broadcast partner.
The summit window, once the team is settled and acclimatised at Everest Base Camp, will be in May.
Alun has summited many of the world’s greatest peaks, including the first British ascent of Pik Korshenyevskya (7150m) in the Pamirs, Aconcagua (6962m) in Argentina, Huascaran (6768m) in Peru and Ama Dablam (6900m) in Nepal.
“I have never had a strong desire to stand on top of Everest because the thought of sitting in Base Camp for six to eight weeks acclimatising was not appealing! However, the Gurkhas are the nicest, most lighthearted, humble group of people and made me feel completely welcome. It will be a privilege to spend six weeks in Base Camp and then climb the highest mountain in the world with them.
“My own unfinished business is to have a complete portfolio of the Gurkhas getting to the top,” he added.
Chest infections and illness can affect lots of mountaineers at this altitude, so Alun will need to keep in good physical shape whilst he is at Base Camp.
“The question faced by many mountaineers is - will I have the willpower, strength of mind and the drive for the final push on summit day, which can be anything from 12 to 17 hours long… The biggest challenge for this trip, however, will be combining my physical and mental attitude in order to sustain my own personal safety and ability to make decisions and think clearly, with the drive to keep on bringing out my camera and taking the best shots.”
Following a medal presentation for The Royal Gurkha Rifles at Buckingham Palace last week, Alun and the team flew to Kathmandhu this week. For more information on the progress of the expedition and to keep up with blogs from Basecamp, visit http://www.gurkhaeverest2017.co.uk