Everest: Sea to Summit Expedition
In 1990, Macartney-Snape returned once again to Mt Everest with the idea of climbing the mountain from the sea to the summit. The idea had originally been floated by adventure cameraman, Michael Dillon. With sponsorship provided by Australian Geographic, amongst others, it would take Macartney-Snape three months to achieve this goal.
This was the first time anyone had walked from sea level and reached the top of Mt Everest, as even the first expeditions started from Kathmandu, at 1400m above sea level. While planning the expedition, Macartney-Snape and his then wife, Dr Ann Ward, were living in Meekatharra, Western Australia where she was stationed with the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Macartney-Snape trained for the upcoming expedition with demanding runs in the 40 degree heat of the surrounding bush and short, solo climbs on the large boulders around Meekatharra.
The 500 vertical metres from the Bay of Bengal involved a 1200 km walk from the sea, leaving Ganga Sagar on 5 February 1990, walking through India to the Nepalese border. He was joined by Ward, his sister Pip, film-maker Mike Dillon, Nepali cook Tenzing Sherpa and Charles Norwood, who drove a Land Rover with gear for the trek.
Macartney-Snape planned to avoid three large expeditions attempting the South Col route, by climbing Everest via the more difficult West Ridge, then traversing to descend the standard South Col route. He reached nearly 7500m on acclimatisation sorties, but bad weather and a strong avalanche risk changed Macartney-Snape’s plans to ascend via the South Col route. After two preparatory trips through the Khumbu Icefall to the Western Cwm, he left his team on 7 May to attempt the summit solo and without supplemental oxygen, carrying a pack with a tent, food, fuel and a movie camera to the South Col at 8000m. Light-headed and plagued by bouts of diarrhea following the challenging solo climb up the Lhotse Face, Macartney-Snape rested a day before setting out for the summit of Everest at 9.30pm on 10 May in bright moonlight. Climbing solo, weak with nausea and diarrhea and having eaten little in the previous days, it took nearly six hours in –30 C cold for him to ascend from 8,230 m and 8,536 m, nearly falling to his death at midnight when stopping to adjust the movie camera he carried. Then he climbed the South-East Ridge from the South Summit to the true summit. He achieved his second ascent of Everest at about 9.45 am on 11 May, the first to climb from sea to summit. On the summit he unfurled the flag of the Australian Geographic Society, his sponsor, and that of the Foundation for Humanity’s Adulthood (now named the World Transformation Movement).