Journey to the Top: Mount Everest

Earlier this year, Year 3 Teacher Mr Jon Craddock packed his bags for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Nepal to begin the arduous but remarkable climb to Mount Everest Base Camp. Mr Craddock recently shared his inspiration for the trip and how he found hiking through clouds and snow for 13 days to a breath-taking (literally) peak elevation of 5,644 metres.

What inspired you to climb Mount Everest? Was this something you had always wanted to do?

It was actually my wife Lauren's suggestion that we climb to Mt Everest Base Camp as a way to celebrate my 40th. Lauren would sporadically ask what my number-one bucket list idea was, and I have always replied: “Everest Base Camp.”

Living in Australia, we don’t really know or get to experience mountains. When I left Sydney and moved to Canberra, I fell in love with the incredible landscape, mountain ranges, bushland, and abundance of options we have to explore. Even as a child, I was always drawn to nomadic culture - the idea of living off the land in balance. The idea of adventure has driven many of my other adventures, but for me, the Himalayas were always the pinnacle.

How long were you training for the climb, and what did the training involve?

I began working towards my Mt Everest goal in December 2022. Unfortunately, I was struck down with a severe ankle injury. I fractured my ankle, but I also tore my medial, deltoid and spring ligaments, which meant walking was quite painful. So, my training regime was down to swimming and riding.

I went in for an ankle reconstruction mid-March, which rendered me unable to walk for six weeks and in a cast and crutches before I moved to a moon boot for another six weeks. As soon I was out of my cast, I began a daily ice bath - a small tank filled with cold water and ice. Heading into winter, it was certainly not an easy feat, but once I committed, I found my swelling decreased and recovery sped up. By the end of May, I was able to walk without pain, and I could begin rebuilding my deteriorated muscles and cardio.

From there, I was visiting the physio twice per week, in the gym four nights per week, focusing on rebuilding my legs, and I moved to an indoor bike to regain some cardio fitness.

So, I would say my real training was shortened to three months of quite intense weights and cardio.

Did you climb to Base Camp or beyond? How long was the trek?

In total, the trek lasted 13 days. We ventured all the way to Base Camp at an elevation of 5,364 metres. We saw the Khumbu Icefall, but on the day, the clouds were quite heavy as it was snowing on us, so it was not possible to see very far. The Base Camp trek was quite a long and tough day. Departing early, the rain soon came, shortly followed by sleet and then snow. The following day, several of us took the opportunity to get up before the sun and climb Kala Patthar at 5,644m. This was absolutely incredible, but it was certainly the hardest climb of the trek. Scrambling over the snow and ice-covered rocks at the top, we were fortunate enough to be greeted by the sun as it rose behind Everest’s peak.

Did the climb meet or exceed your expectations?

I don’t think I will ever be able to explain how it truly felt to have finally reached a long-awaited goal. It was not as I had imagined. In fact, it was so much more. There wasn’t one thing that stood out, rather it was a culmination of moments that made the trip such an experience. Crossing suspension bridges one hundred metres above the Dudh Koshi River. Trekking through ancient forests covered with moss. Coming across the famed yaks and naks (a female mule) that would push past us on narrow mountain pathways. Being constantly in awe of the surrounding mountains that would sneak out from behind clouds, awakening you to the realisation that you are so incredibly small. Knowing that mountaineers such as Hillary, Norgay, Mallory, Fischer and Hall may have once walked the same path. Or perhaps it was just the simplicity of life on the track.

How long were you gone for in total?

With a few days in Kathmandu both prior and post-trek, we were out of the country for about 20 days.

Do you have another bucket list goal now that one’s ticked?

Having knocked this goal off my list, I feel there is a new desire to explore and have adventures. So, I have begun to add more to my bucket list – the Larapinta Trail in the Northern Territory, Ball Pass Crossing in New Zealand and ‘The Circuit’ in Torres del Paine, Chile. I would love to take my daughters on some longer hikes, perhaps explore the Tasmanian forests.

I have actually just applied to do an Arctic expedition on dog sleds, which I think would be amazing.

Have you been sharing your experience in the classroom?

Yes, I have! It was truly special returning to my class. My students were absolutely wonderful and incredibly keen to see pictures and hear stories. It was great to be able to share my experience with them and try to answer all their questions. I think they were most impressed with the fact that I didn’t shower for 13 days!