Into the Story
The #1 podcast to learn English with true stories
Episode 42: Climbing Mount Everest - Part 2
Level: upper-intermediate to advanced
Accent: North American
In Part 2 of the episode “Climbing Mount Everest”, you’ll listen to the story of Laurie and a team of climbers, face difficult conditions as they attempt to reach the summit. They face challenges like broken ribs and frostbite —will they make it?
Havent’ listened to Part 1 of this episode? It’s essential to follow part 2. Click here to go to Part 1.
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[00:00:00] Bree: This is into the story, the podcast where you learn English with true stories from all over the world. Stories that connect us and inspire you to get [00:00:15] where you want to go.
[00:00:22] Hello there. It’s your host, Bree here, and today we will hear part two of Laurie Skreslet’ story on [00:00:30] trying to reach the top of Mount Everest. And if you haven’t listened to part one, then I recommend that you go do that right now. It’s available for free in your podcast app. Okay. I want to tell you another little story, another story [00:00:45] about Laurie, but this one was a long, long time before he was a famous climber.
[00:00:51] When he was just nine years old, him and a friend decided that they were going to race up the cable on [00:01:00] a suspension bridge. So a suspension bridge is a bridge that is literally suspended in the air with cables. Imagine the famous Brooklyn Bridge or Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. So he starts climbing the [00:01:15] cable.
[00:01:15] It’s really difficult, and it’s quite scary. He’s not sure if he’s going to fall. He looks down, he looks up, he sees that he’s almost halfway, so he continues climbing, keeps going. Then he hears a [00:01:30] man from down below,
[00:01:32] Laurie: Hey, what’s going on over here? And then I heard somebody say, it’s some stupid kid trying to climb to the top, and someone else says, I hope he falls and kills himself.
[00:01:42] And when I heard that, that was a big shift [00:01:45] in my consciousness in looking at what life’s about. And so I pulled every ounce of strength I had left in me to make it to the top. I saw this person turn around and disgust and walk away.
[00:01:57] Bree: In today’s story, you’re going to hear [00:02:00] how he looks back at this experience, and he uses it as a kind of fuel, as a way of giving himself energy to achieve great things.
[00:02:11] If you like this episode, will you do me a favor and follow into [00:02:15] the story in your podcast app? It’s free, and it means you’ll never miss an episode. And thanks.
[00:02:24] It’s time to look at five words and expressions that Laurie uses in his story. [00:02:30]
[00:02:32] To brace yourself. To brace yourself means you prepare for something that might be difficult or unpleasant. Okay, imagine [00:02:45] that I decide to go skydiving. I’m going to jump out of a plane with a parachute. For me, this would be very unpleasant. Now I would be in the airplane. They would open the doors. It would be loud. I would see the earth [00:03:00] very, very far below, and I would brace myself. I would take a deep breath. I would be holding the side of the plane. This is to brace yourself.
[00:03:12] The next is two [00:03:15] expressions to keep pace with, versus to fall behind. To keep pace with or to keep up with someone means to stay at the same level or [00:03:30] speed as them. For example, if you’re running a race, you will want to keep pace with or keep up with the person in front of you, you will need to run as fast as they are. Now, to fall [00:03:45] behind is the opposite. To fall behind means to not keep pace with others. For example, if you’re walking with a group and you start to get tired, you might fall behind and not be able to keep up with the rest of the [00:04:00] group.
[00:04:00] Okay, next, get down to business. So this is something people would say when they want to talk about starting to focus on an important task or activity and to stop [00:04:15] wasting time. For example, if you’re in a meeting and people are chatting about unrelated topics, the weather, the weekend, someone might say, Hey, let’s get down to business to encourage everybody to start discussing the [00:04:30] main reason for the meeting to get down to business.
[00:04:36] To be touched by something. This means to be emotionally moved or affected by something. [00:04:45] For example, if you read a sad story and it made you cry, you could say it was, I was really touched by the story to be touched by something.
[00:04:56] And lastly, To sink in the phrasal verb, to sink in means to start to understand or realize the truth of something. For example, if you hear some bad news and it takes a few minutes for you [00:05:15] to process it, you might say it’s just starting to sink in. Or, at first, I didn’t believe that my favorite store had closed down, but as I walk past the empty store, the reality [00:05:30] began to sink in to sink in.
[00:05:33] Now remember, don’t worry about understanding every single word in this story. Don’t try too hard. Just focus on the story as a whole and enjoy. Okay, let’s get into the story.[00:05:45]
[00:05:48] Laurie is lying on the ice, looking up. The colors around him look bright, and the world feels like magic. Before jumping, he thought he had to give [00:06:00] up on his goal, but now things are different. Now he’s in a reality where he just might reach the top.
[00:06:08] Laurie: And so I pulled myself together, pulled my pack over from the other side, put my pack back on and [00:06:15] started climbing up till I reached camp one where I joined two Canadians and a handful of Sherpas, and our job was dismantling the bridges from behind us to send them up higher up on the mountain.
[00:06:25] Bree: They’re getting closer to camp two, and Laurie is feeling nervous. [00:06:30] He ignored the expedition leader’s orders to stay behind at base camp and he’s afraid of what his reaction might be.
[00:06:39] Laurie: I saw the expedition leader come out of the tent, and I was bracing myself [00:06:45] for a lot of abuse because I disobeyed him, and he threw his arms around me and said, am I ever glad to see you Laurie. And I pulled back and said, really? I thought you didn’t want me up here. You gave the order not to come up. And he pulled me aside, and he said, you have to understand that. [00:07:00] For the rest of my life, I have on my conscience the death of the four men who died up to now because they were following my orders. And although I needed you up here, if I’d asked you to come and anything happened to you, he said, that [00:07:15] would’ve been the straw that broke my back. So I had to tell you no. I had to say no one coming through. And then he whispered to me, and he said, but knowing you like I do, because he knew me pretty well, he said, I knew nothing was gonna keep you in base camp. So, I’m [00:07:30] glad you’re here. Now, let’s get down to the business of putting a Canadian on the summit.
[00:07:35] Bree: And so the climbers get to work. The plan is to leave camp two, pass through camp three and arrive at Camp four, where they will set up [00:07:45] tents so that the climbers can spend the night in the freezing cold temperatures.
[00:07:50] Laurie: Two Canadians, seven Sherpas, and myself left at 4:00 AM from camp two. We would pass through camp three and then carry enough equipment and stuff up to establish camp four. [00:08:00] So on that route, I kept pace with the Sherpa’s and the two of the Canadians fell behind. I arrived at 26,000 feet at 2 in the afternoon, 1:30, and with the help of the other Sherpas set up two tents then kept two men [00:08:15] with me and then sent the others down, and we crawled into a tent, the three of us, and melted snow and ice, awaiting the arrival of the other two Canadians. Because the plan was for us to make an attempt if we could, but the other Canadians didn’t arrive and by darkness we [00:08:30] radioed down going, what’s happening? Where are they? They had not returned, so we had to put all our gear on and head out, and look for them at night. And it was 44 degrees below zero Celsius, horribly cold. And we located both guys. One was trapped at [00:08:45] camp three. We got him by radio, but he couldn’t go any higher. His oxygen system had failed. The other guy we found, he ran out of oxygen, we put him on o2 (oxygen) and got him in a sleeping bag, got hot liquid in him. More oxygen, he recuperated. But by midnight, there was only enough [00:09:00] oxygen left for three of us to attempt to summit the next day. So it would either be the two Canadians, Dave Read, and myself, plus one Sherpa, or two Sherpas and one of us.
[00:09:10] And Dave Read kindly suggested that it should be the [00:09:15] two Sherpas and I that tried for the summit because he said, even with your broken ribs, you’re moving faster than me. And maybe this is the only chance the expedition will have to put someone on the summit.
[00:09:26] Bree: Laurie, Sungdare sherpa, and Lhakpa Dorje sherpa [00:09:30] will attempt to reach the summit the next day. They spend the night at camp four, where there’s very little oxygen, and this lack of oxygen makes it very difficult to think clearly. Even simple tasks like putting on [00:09:45] equipment took an hour instead of the normal five minutes. Climbers get nose bleeds. They have sunburns and frostbite, which is a painful condition where skin freezes and damages the affected area. And Laurie [00:10:00] also has those broken ribs.
[00:10:02] Laurie: So we got a couple hours of sleep. Up at 2:00 AM It took two hours and 15 minutes to melt enough snow and ice to get a hot drink in us. And then we made tea with our thermos. And [00:10:15] by 4:15 AM we were out of the tent, the two Sherpas and I, and off we started. So we climbed about two hours in darkness and just at dawn, We came across the first body because there’s dead bodies all over the mountain. [00:10:30] And it was a woman that had been with Sungdare sherpa two years before and the two people he had summited with. They both died on the descent. They ran out of strength and energy and died of hypothermia. He stayed with a woman until she died [00:10:45] and then he continued down, losing portions of his fingers and his toes to frostbite.
[00:10:49] So this is the first time he was back up high again in the two years it took to recuperate. And the woman wasn’t deteriorated. She was covered in snow. The [00:11:00] snow had blown off. She looked like she just fell down just before we got there. While we couldn’t do anything, we kept moving. We stopped halfway up because I couldn’t feel my toes.
[00:11:10] I was getting frostbite, so I gave the Sherps as my tea while I [00:11:15] sat down, took my boots off one at a time and warmed my toes with my bare hands, and then got my boots back on and removed one pair of socks. So I had less socks on, there was more room for my feet to expand for the blood to circulate, and then we stepped, kept [00:11:30] moving. Now we moved extremely fast because the weather was holding.
[00:11:34] Bree: This section of the mountain, called the death zone, is exceptionally difficult because it’s very cold and there isn’t enough oxygen. As Laurie and the Sherpas [00:11:45] climb, they see the bodies of climbers who didn’t make it home safely, and they’re reminded that they have to move quickly. The three men are quiet as they climb. Sungdare looks at Laurie and then he [00:12:00] points to the sky. He says one word. Lucky the weather on Everest can change in an instant, but for now it was sunny. They were very lucky. Indeed.
[00:12:13] Laurie: About [00:12:15] 45 minutes from the summit, I started to realize we’re actually going to make this. And I had the sense that even if I fell flat on my face, I would still make it to the top just from the energy of all the [00:12:30] Canadians that were praying for us. Because I knew this was a big deal back in Canada. It was a national expedition and I could feel the prayers of so many people lifting us up the mountain and we summited at 9:30 AM I think Sungdare made it up [00:12:45] first, then Lhakpa Dorje, and I came up last. And I remember I tried to step up a couple times, but the snow broke until I finally got on the top.
[00:12:55] The top was about the size of a very small kitchen table. Just enough room for [00:13:00] three men to be standing on the top. I did think of that fellow though when I climbed that suspension bridge that had said, I hope he falls and kills himself. And I remember symbolically putting my finger up in the air that I’m never gonna [00:13:15] let somebody’s need to see me fail, affect my commitment. I’ll never let someone else limit me to what they think. I should never go beyond.
[00:13:25] Bree: On October 5th, 1982 at 9:30 in the [00:13:30] morning, Laurie Skreslet became the first Canadian to reach the top of Everest.
[00:13:36] Laurie: And it was a crystal clear day. 9:30 AM. And it was 33 below zero on the summit. I was feeling just like I was [00:13:45] climbing in the Canadian Rockies, that that’s no reflection on my strength or ability. It’s just that everything was working. It was the only time I used oxygen. My o2 (oxygen) was working fine. I turned it off on the summit. I didn’t need oxygen on the top. Sungdare lit a cigarette [00:14:00] on the summit, sat there having a cigarette while I took pictures. And the realist in me said, this is meaningless unless you all get off alive. So this isn’t the time to celebrate. You celebrate when everyone is off the [00:14:15] mountain because up to that point 4 people had died.
[00:14:18] Bree: To get down the mountain, the men must move quickly before the weather and their oxygen supplies run out. Lhakpa Dorje sherpa collapses from a lack of [00:14:30] oxygen. And later they fall into a crevasse. However, the three climbers work together and eventually reach camp four at about 12 o’clock in the afternoon. After some warm tea, they radio down to [00:14:45] base camp, and Laurie proudly announces, we did it.
[00:14:49] Laurie: I don’t think the realization of what was going on, it didn’t sink in until we landed back in Calgary. I mean, you’d think you’d get it in the [00:15:00] interim, but nah, it didn’t get to me. Not until we landed in Calgary and were walking to the press conference that we had, and they said, now don’t stop for anything because we’ve got to go past the public area. And when we went through the public area, there was hundreds of Calgarians out there with signs, [00:15:15] you know, welcoming us back and telling us you’re proud to be Canadian. And I couldn’t believe it that it had affected people in my country to that degree. It was a big deal.
[00:15:27] Bree: It’s been 40 years since Laurie first [00:15:30] reached the top of Mount Everest, and he’s done many amazing things since, including returning to the mountain. Today, he regularly climbs and leads expeditions. So I asked him, after reaching the [00:15:45] top of the world, after being the first Canadian to get there, how does he think about future adventures and goals?
[00:15:53] Laurie: One of the photographs I’ve taken that touches me deeply is from the summit of [00:16:00] Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Western hemisphere. It’s down in Argentina and I’ve been there 36 times. And one photograph I took shows these multiple horizons. Like there’s one, and then beyond it there’s another one, and beyond that, [00:16:15] there’s another one after that. And I love the photograph because that symbolizes what I find hard to verbalize That, that to me is what life looks like to me beyond Everest. Of course, there’s [00:16:30] another one, another goal, another horizon. And beyond that, there’s another one too. But to get to them, you have to get through the one that you’re involved in right now. My potential only increases as I age. [00:16:45] As I go through life, anything becomes possible if you’re willing to try.
[00:16:50] Bree: Laurie continues inspiring people all over the world with what he’s learned climbing in the mountains. If you want to see some [00:17:00] amazing photos taken in the 80s of Laurie and the team, or you want to know more about his expeditions and talks, visit laurieskreslet.ca. You’ll find a link in the show notes.[00:17:15]
[00:17:16] I really hope that you enjoyed this story as much as I did, and if you want to show your love, then please share this podcast with your English-learning friends. You just press the share button, it’s usually at the top of your [00:17:30] app, and send it on over. And thanks. Okay, and until next time, we hope you have a good time or at least a good story to share.
Quote of the episode
“My potential only increases as I age. As I go through life, anything becomes possible if you’re willing to try.”
– Laurie Skreslet
Words & expressions mentioned
TO BRACE YOURSELF
To brace yourself means to prepare yourself for something that might be difficult or unpleasant. Ok imagine you’re about to go skydiving — you’re going to jump out of a plane with a parachute. Before you jump, you would brace yourself by taking a deep breath and holding onto the side of the door. Another example: if you’re about to have a difficult conversation with someone, you might brace yourself by taking a deep breath and thinking about what you want to say. To brace yourself.
GET DOWN TO BUSINESS
To start focusing on an important task or activity, and stop wasting time. For example, if you’re in a meeting and people are chatting about unrelated topics, someone might say “let’s get down to business” to encourage everyone to start discussing the main topic.
TO BE TOUCH BY SOMETHING
This means to be emotionally moved or affected by something. For example, if you read a sad story and it made you cry, you could say “I was really touched by the story”
TO SINK IN
To sink in means to start to understand or realize the truth of something. For example, if you hear some bad news, and it takes a few minutes for you to process it, you might say “it’s just starting to sink in now.” Or “At first, I didn’t believe that my favorite store had closed down, but as I walked past the empty store, the reality began to sink in.” To sink in.
Other wonderful words & expressions in the episode
(appear in chronological order in the episode)
On my conscience: Feeling guilty about something you did or didn’t do. Example: “I can’t lie to my friend, it would weigh heavily on my conscience.” On my conscience: This means to feel guilty about something. For example, if you forgot to do your homework and got a bad grade, you might say “it’s on my conscience” because you feel bad about it.
The straw that broke my back or “the straw that broke the camel’s back”: Refers to a small, seemingly minor thing that causes a big problem or has a significant impact. Example: “I can handle a heavy workload, but this last project was the straw that broke my back.” The straw that broke my back: This is an expression that means a small thing that caused a big problem. For example, if you’re already stressed out and someone asks you to do one more thing, that could be “the straw that broke your back” and make you feel overwhelmed.
Dusk / Dawn: Dusk is the time of day just before it gets dark, when the sun is setting —when the sun goes down for the night. Dawn is the time of day just before the sun rises, when it starts to get light outside. Example: “I like to go for a run in the morning at dawn when the air is cool and fresh.”
The Canadian Rockies: The Canadian Rockies are a mountain range in western Canada that is known for its beautiful scenery and outdoor activities like hiking and skiing. Example: “The Canadian Rockies are a popular tourist destination for people who love nature and outdoor activities.”
A fellow: A fellow is another way of saying a man or a guy. For example, “I saw a fellow walking his dog in the park this morning.”
To walk off (the expedition): To leave a long and difficult journey on foot before completing it. Example: “He had to walk off the expedition early because he injured his ankle.”
It didn’t get to me: This means that something didn’t affect you emotionally or mentally. For example, if someone made a mean comment about your appearance, but you didn’t feel upset by it, you could say “it didn’t get to me.” or “I received some negative feedback at work, but it didn’t get to me because I knew I was doing my best.”
Calgary / Calgarians: Calgary is a city in western Canada. Calgarians are people who live in Calgary.
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Everest route to summit expedition 1982.
Sherpas Sundare and Dorje in the summit of Mount Everest
About the storyteller
Laurie Skreslet in the Mount Everest expedition 1982.
Laurie Skreslet, born on September 29, 1949, is a renowned Canadian mountaineer known for his impressive climbing achievements and philanthropic efforts.
Book an expedition or a motivational talk through his page: laurieskreslet.ca