After dedicating 12 years to climbing the seven tallest peaks across all seven continents for charity, Cayman resident Guy Manning has completed his Seven Summits Challenge, after his fourth attempt on Denali in Alaska last month.
He reached the summits of Kilimanjaro (Africa) in 2004, Mount Vinson (Antarctica) in 2010, Mount Everest (Asia) in 2013, Carstensz Pyramid, also named Puncak Jaya, (Australasia) in 2014, Mount Elbrus (Europe) in 2011, and Aconcagua (South America) in 2008.
So far, he has raised just over US$200,000 for the Cayman Islands Cancer Society.
All of his expeditions were self-funded, and the Cancer Society has been the sole beneficiary from the beginning for Mr. Manning, whose mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Having mastered the mountains, Mr. Manning is now turning his attention to the road. In June next year, he plans to ride more than 3,000 miles, with Bike Across America, nonstop from California to Maryland with a team of Cayman and U.K. cyclists. The endeavor will benefit the Cayman Islands Cancer Society and the U.S.-based Children’s Tumor Foundation.
Denali, the third-highest peak in the world at 20,322 feet, was Mr. Manning’s final of the seven climbs and his most difficult challenge.
“It took a bit of persistence to climb Denali,” Mr. Manning said. “But, thankfully, we made it this year.”
On his first attempt in 2009 on Denali (also known as Mount McKinley), “We actually went for the summit from the high camp, and halfway to the summit got hit with very high winds, about 2,000 feet below the summit,” he said. Mr. Manning and his team had to descend, and he suffered from frostbite on his face.
In 2012, on his second attempt, “We had a 10-day storm, very heavy snowstorms, we couldn’t leave our tents. Our lives were at risk. We couldn’t move and ran out of food and fuel in the end, as you can only obviously carry a limited supply,” he said.
“[We] slept a lot, played a lot of cards. We’d get out regularly to dig out the tent that would get buried in snow. That’s pretty much it,” Mr. Manning said of their time being stranded. “By the end of the 10 days, we were down to the last few cereal bars, so we had to descend …. ”
But the risk of an avalanche worried the team.
“We were unsure about descending because of the avalanche risk … we waited, and we heard overnight there had been an avalanche below us,” he said. “We climbed down through all this avalanche debris and we didn’t know at the time that it had actually been triggered by another team that had been in camp with us.”
That team left the day before and four of five on the rope line were killed, buried under the avalanche.
“We had no idea as we climbed down through all of that,” said Mr. Manning, who recalled the lone survivor.
“He got swept into a crevasse. The rope snapped and he was able to eventually climb out. But his four teammates were dead, and the poor guy, he had to climb down on his own. He was Japanese, he couldn’t speak English, and we couldn’t explain to him what had happened until 12 hours later.”
In 2015, “It was bad weather again. We got to the high camp, we were waiting for a chance to get to the summit, and it never came. Storms kept rolling in and we had to descend before getting caught into the storm.”
The success rate for climbing Denali is reported to be around 50 percent, and more than 100 climbers have died attempting the summit.
On June 10, Mr. Manning, along with Matt Parkes and John Moorhouse, whom he met on his trek to Everest, reached the summit of Denali after about three weeks.
His only regret was not taking a picture with the Cayman flag.
“On Everest, I was able to take the Cayman flag to the summit and we got a nice photo. I took it to the top of Denali again, and we got to the top and the conditions were quite dangerous,” he said.
With zero visibility, high winds and very cold temperature, “there wasn’t time to get the flag out; we had two minutes and we had to get down and try to find our way off the ridge in a whiteout,” he said.
Despite frostbite, food shortages and avalanches, Mr. Manning said of his challenges, “It’s been an amazing time. You see and go to some of the most remote place on Earth, Antarctica for example. It was phenomenal. I mean, you were only about 700 miles from the South Pole, you could see for hundreds of miles in every direction across the polar ice caps.”
Qualifying as the most frightening experience was the climb up Mount Everest in 2013. The journey to the summit took two months, with 40 people on the expedition, including 10 climbers, three guides and 11 Sherpas. Mr. Manning’s feet suffered from frostbite on this journey.
It was the only mountain where climbers required supplemental oxygen due to the altitude.
“It’s the only [climb] where you enter what’s called a death zone, where humans can’t survive for more than two to three days,” he said.
From this climbing effort, Mr. Manning raised US$100,000 for the Cancer Society.
Born in London and raised in the Lake District of the U.K., from a young age Mr. Manning enjoyed the outdoors, whether trekking or spending time on the hills. In addition to having a passion for mountaineering and cycling, “the great collections of mountains, and a chance to see some wild, pretty remote areas of the world,” Mr. Manning said, is what inspired the Seven Summits Challenge.
For more information, visit sevensummits.ky.