Everest Tragedy Turned Snowdon Triumph

We all had wild dreams as a kid. I wanted to be an astronaut, a cowboy and to live in a castle but very few people actually follow through with their dreams. Especially at a young age. Alex Staniforth as a teenager in Cheshire had a vision to climb the highest mountain in the world. However, Alex was diagnosed with epilepsy when he was 9 and in a very British way he described it as a “pretty unsettling experience”. He was relentlessly bullied as a child and along with the epilepsy this caused anxiety, panic attacks and low self-esteem.

Alex didn’t want to let those issues hold him back and decided to follow through with his dream to climb the highest mountain in the world, Mt Everest. Alex, now 20, has attempted Everest twice.

“I think the early adversity was a key driver – the outdoors was just the first thing that came to me that truly gave me the confidence and drive to achieve and overcome things, to do things I never knew I previously could. I guess the discovery of this and the buzz of overcoming limitations was what made me keep going. There was no other route to express myself at the time that appealed as much.”

During his second expedition to Everest he was caught up in the 2015 earthquakes in which 2 of Alex’s team were killed at basecamp. Being so intertwined with those events Alex along with PHASE Worldwide charity organised a charity walk up Snowdon in Spring this year. Alan Hinkes, the first and only Briton to climb all of the 14 highest peaks in the world was also involved with the event.

Below – Alex at Everest Base Camp

“It was a mass walk up Snowdon via the Miners Track and Llanberis tracks, with over 120 people taking part to raise over £20,000. I wanted to do it to mark the one year anniversary of the earthquake, it seemed fitting to mark the occasion, and the support was immense. Snowdon was an easy and accessible place to do it.  I love the character of Snowdonia, it’s my nearest mountain training ground and spend a lot of time there. Snowdon is busy but holds a lot of memories. I worked in partnership with a charity called PHASE Worldwide who did a lot of the ground work but I’d originally taken the idea to them, they were fantastic to work with.”

“The hardest part I think was getting everyone co-ordinated on the day, like herding cats”

Organising such a big event up a mountain is no easy feat and it comes with its own set of challenges. Alex talks about how the event went, “I think with so many people there’s a worry of what will or could go wrong and the potential fallout and responsibility directed at me as the organiser. To be honest it went incredibly smoothly. The event was supported by volunteer Mountain Leaders and all the bases were covered so I could just trust them to do their stuff, they were superb. The hardest part I think was getting everyone co-ordinated on the day, like herding cats.

Alex is trying to establish himself as a high altitude a climber and there is no one better to learn from than Alan Hinkes OBE, the only Briton to have summited all the 8000ers. He got involved with the charity event up Snowdon.

“Alan was great. I’m an ambassador for YHA like Alan, so I made the connection that way. He’s a charismatic, friendly and amazingly modest guy considering what he’s achieved – extremely laidback too. I was keen to learn from his expertise, picked up a few things on mindset and his opinion on Cho Oyu (my next objective) and Everest north vs south side. He came in sandals just to prove he still had all his toes!”

Even though Alex has his sights on the Himalayas he still loves what the UK has to offer. They may not be as extreme and remote as the Himalayas but he feels they are still worth visiting. “I do love the UK mountains and they are definitely worth visiting. They’re on our doorstep and we can get there all the time unlike the Himalayas. You can’t compare them to the Himalayas because it’s a very different experience, there is an entirely different set of challenges and risks in the Himalayas. But the mountains and the countryside in the UK still give us freedom, challenge and fresh air in their own right.

Alex has recently written a book, you can check that out here.

You can also follow Alex here on Twitter and Facebook

Edit – At time of reporting the event had raised over £20,000, correction added to article.