One of the world’s leading high-altitude climbers, Kenton Cool has successfully climbed Mount Everest eleven times. He is also the first person in history to complete the Everest Triple Crown, conquering the peaks of Everest, Nuptse and Lhotse in one continuous push from base camp.
A highly sought-after guide, Kenton guided Sir Ranulph Fiennes up the North Face of the Eiger in 2007 before leading him to a successful Everest summit in 2009.
You can win tickets to the evening at The Hub in Edinburgh from here.
Q: The event in Edinburgh is sponsored by The Black Grouse Scotch Whisky. Do people take drink on these climbing expeditions?
KC: Alcohol doesn’t help you acclimatise. In fact, it does quite the opposite. Having said that, every now and then, it’s really nice to get together with the team and have a drink. A couple of drinks are not going to derail an expedition.
Q: What’s the preferred tipple?
KC: It tends to be whisky. We will all bring a bottle in from Duty Free. It gets brutally cold sometimes, especially if you are on Everest base camp. Nursing a small tot of whisky helps.
Q: I guess there is no shortage of ice?
KC: Whisky connoisseurs will shake their heads at this but what we would normally do is mix warm water with honey and then add whisky. We call it a guide’s special. The guides will often get together and nurse two or three of these on a cold evening.
Q: What sort of food do you eat when climbing Everest?
KC: Altitude has strange effects on the body. We don’t crave the things you might expect. For instance, I love chocolate but, when I get to high altitude, I can’t palate it at all. It’s not one of the things that works for me. I’m much more of a savoury guy when I’m on the mountain.
Q: Is it all dehydrated meals?
KC: Lower down the hill, we will have various dehydrated foods, be they noodles or rice. And there are some quite tasty dehydrated meals on the market these days. It’s just that they are not always what the palate is asking for when you are high on the mountain.
At base camp, there will usually be a cook rustling up various delicacies for the team to eat. That can be quite interesting when you have a Nepalese or Indian cook trying to mix Asian cooking with western tastes. That leads to some really interesting things coming out of the kitchen.
Q: So what do you eat when you are higher than base camp?
KC: You want food with a high calorie content. It sounds a little silly but what we often end up chomping down on is a digestive biscuit with cheese and pickle on top. A digestive has around 75 calories in a single biscuit. It’s easy to digest. It’s a simple carbohydrate, predominantly sugar. The cheese gives you a little protein and then I just love the taste of the pickle. In a really high camp, that’s the sort of thing that we take: cheeses, hams.
A very good friend of mine, Ueli Steck, known as the Swiss Machine, swears by bread, cheese and saucisson. I’m much the same.