Imagine standing in a warehouse somewhere. Your mobile phone rings. You struggle to answer it… and there they are, your friends phoning from a Himalayan summit. Hugh Miller reports
13th November 1999. A cold, grey day.
I’m standing in a computer warehouse in north London, and my mobile phone rings, penetrating the stifled atmosphere. The other customers in the queue look around impatiently as I struggle to get the phone out of my pocket.
”Hello?” I answer, conscious of the stares levelled at me by the others.
“Alright Hugh, its Rob! comes the reply.
Rob Whittall and Bob Drury were in the Himalayas doing a vol-bivouac expedition with a BBC film crew, so a phone call from them was a bolt from the blue.
“What are you up to?” I ask, as if they’re sat in a pub down the road.
“It’s amazing, the country is beautiful, we just flew 25 km today and this is our first evening out on bivouac.”
“So you’re calling from your satellite phone from Nepal?” I gasp.
The shop assistant raises his eyebrows quizzically, and I shuffle off to an anonymous corner to continue this unbelievable conversation.
”Yeah, we’ve made a big bonfire and we’re phoning round all our mates. The flying was incredible today, big vultures everywhere and we landed on this grassy spine-back ridge just in front of the really big mountains, there’s a cultivated valley in front of us, and we’ve just smoked a fat one, and all the stars are out and everything!”
“We were with the film crew for three weeks, and got to know them all really well, so leaving them was hard today. Leo Dickenson got some amazing footage from his helicopter, it was right up beside us. But now were alone and it’s all still and beautiful.”
Rob passes the phone to Bob, who rants enthusiastically whilst I struggle with one-worded replies, then they ring off.
I trudge out into the city street and pull my jacket tight against the biting wind and stop, contemplating life on the other side of the world, where two of my friends are camped out on a ridge-top, ready to fly into the world’s biggest mountain scenery when dawn breaks.