Cayman climber takes on the seven summits

Campbells partner Guy Manning is four mountains into his challenge to climb the highest peaks on each of the seven continents. 

 

As New Year resolutions go, this one was impressive – start climbing and tackle some of the world’s tallest mountains. 

“It was 2003, going into 2004, I was looking for a challenge. I remember we were sitting around in a restaurant and asking ‘What’s your resolution?’. I said ‘I’m going to try to climb’. I don’t think I even took myself seriously,” says Guy Manning, a litigator and partner at law firm Campbells.  

“Six months later, I did a course and I just started,” he recalls. 

Not one to do things by halves, the first mountain he took on was Kilimanjaro.  

“Once I did the course and climbed Kilimanjaro, I thought that was one down, so I decided to go for it… As time went on, I started knocking a few of them off,” says 39-year-old Manning. 

What he was ‘knocking off’ were some of the toughest, most challenging mountain climbs on the planet. So far, he’s climbed the 19,340 foot Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa; the 16,067 foot Vinson in Antarctica; Russia’s 18,510-foot Elbrus in Europe; and the 22,830 foot Aconcagua in Argentina, South America. 

Next on his list is the highest mountain in the planet, the 29,002-foot-high Mount Everest, which he plans to climb in May. 

And as well as challenging himself to scale to the top of the world, he’s also set a challenge to raise as much money as he can for the Cayman Islands Cancer Society. The funds raised will go towards building a new chemotherapy centre for the Cayman Islands and to give financial aid to cancer sufferers. 

As he climbs, he will be carrying a list of the 56 cancer patients being supported by the Cancer Society. “This will certainly inspire me, and will hopefully, in some small way, also inspire them,” says Manning. 

He is fully funding the expedition himself, so all money raised through corporate sponsorship or individual donations will go directly to the Cancer Society. 

His efforts have already helped raise spirits at the charity, which has been struck twice by burglars over the past three months. 

“The Movember committee devised a way for men help us raise money by growing their facial fair. The Be Bald, Be Bold, Be Beautiful group including Matthew Wight and Woody Foster found a way to shave their heads to help us raise money. Derek Haines figured out a way to raise money for us by running a marathon,” said the Cancer Society’s operations manager Jennifer Weber. “Now, Guy Manning is going to climb Mount Everest and help us help others.  

“We feel very touched that Guy is going to take all 56 of our current financial aid cancer patients with him in spirit as he makes the climb. He’ll battle the elements as our cancer patients battle their disease. Our hope is that they will inspire one another.”  

She added: “When our office was burglarised again recently, I know it caused some people to question who we are as a community. I want everyone to take heart. Guy’s endeavour is a timely reminder that this community is full of kind, caring, generous people with enormously charitable hearts.” 

As well as an enormously charitable heart, Manning’s also going to need very strong legs and an impressive level of fitness to take on Everest. 

This begs the question – which he admits he always gets from people all the time – how does one train to climb mountains on an island that’s almost completely flat? 

That’s where the Camana Bay Observation Tower comes in. He can be found, very early some mornings, running up the tower 20 consecutive times, two steps at a time, with a 70-pound pack on his back. 

He also does intensive cardio workouts and trains between 10 and 15 hours a week. A typical week consists of 10km of rowing followed by a 30-minute run on Monday; 90 minutes of cycling on Tuesday; 60 minutes cycling and 60 minutes of upper body and core strength work on Wednesday; a 90 minutes run and 20 ascents of the Camana Bay tower on Thursday; rest on Friday; 60 minutes of lower body and core work on Saturday; and six hours of running and cycling on Sunday. 

“I’m looking forward to getting to Everest for a break,” he jokes. 

Climbing to the highest point in the world will be far from an easy task. He leaves Cayman on 28 March to meet his teammates in Kathmandu in Nepal to start the adventure, which will take two months to complete. It starts with a short but hair-raising flight to Lukla, in the Khumbu valley, followed by a two-week hike to the Everest base camp. They will spend a month climbing up and down the mountain to get acclimatised before making their summit attempt in mid to late May, weather permitting. 

Once they set off, the climb to the summit is in four stages. The final leg from Camp 4 to the top is done at night and climbers usually start off between 10pm and midnight, using torches mounted on their heads to illuminate the way, reaching the summit in the early morning so that the climb back down to high camp can be done in daylight. 

“Eighty per cent of accidents happen on the descent,” says Manning. “People often get exhausted getting to the top, but obviously they’re only half way through the climb when they get up there. They’re tired, they’re exhausted on the way down, they’re not concentrating, it’s getting later in the day, the weather turns…” 

Once he knocks Everest off his list, he hopes to take on the 16,024 foot high Carstenz Pyramid in Australia next year. 

And then, he’s going to go back to the mountain he describes as his nemesis – Denali in North America. The Alaska Range’s Denali, also known as Mount McKinley, has beaten Manning twice.  

He made his first attempt to climb it in 2009, but he and his team were hit by a storm when they were near the summit and had to turn back after he got frostbite on his face. 

He returned there last year, but his team got pinned down in a storm for 10 days at 14,000 feet. “We could hear avalanches most mornings all around us. We were safe enough in our camp, but you couldn’t go up and you couldn’t go down. We ran out of food and fuel,” he recalls. They made the hard decision to turn back, but due to avalanche risks, they waited another 24 hours before descending. 

Another team of five that chose not to wait and left the day before them got caught in an avalanche as they made their descent and only one of that team survived. 

“That was pretty sobering,” said Manning, who says that assessing risks on the mountain and good decision making can reduce the chance of accidents on a climb, but he admits that “sometimes, you’re just unlucky”. 

“I’m not someone who goes looking for danger,” he insists. “I want to come back down with all fingers and toes intact.” 

On one climb, he very nearly didn’t come back down with his toes intact, following an encounter with a very large boulder.  

“It was on Elbrus. I guess it was my own fault. There was a lot of loose rock around. There was this huge boulder and as I was moving past it, I put my hand on it. It looked like it weighed a ton. Next thing I know, it rolled off, dropped two or three feet and missed my feet by about six inches and then went rolling off down the hill. 

“My teammate, a very good friend of mine was down below and I’m shouting as this thing is just hurtling towards him down the slope. In the end it was fine, but if it had landed on my foot, it would have crushed my foot. It could all have gone very, very wrong,” says Manning. 

His attempt to climb to the top of the world’s tallest mountain in May coincides with the 60th anniversary of the first ascent of Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. If he reaches the summit, he plans to plant the Cayman flag on top of the world when he reaches the summit. 

His wife Ruth will accompany Manning to base camp at Everest. While she won’t be attempting to make the summit of this mountain, she did climb with him to the summit of Kilimanjaro on his first climb. Once they’d reached the top, Manning proposed. He admits he didn’t get down on one knee when he asked her to marry him. “I thought the setting was romantic enough. Plus, I might not have been able to get back up again if I knelt down,” he says. 

While it’s been up to him to train and prepare himself for the climb, he says he’s had some tremendous support from individuals and companies. “I couldn’t do this without the help and support I’ve had from Campbells, KRyS Global, Grant Thornton, Netclues, Baraud, Zolfo Cooper, Dart, KPMG, PwC, Ernst & Young, and BDO,” he said. Even before launching his websites that will give fuller details of expedition and through which donations can be received, he received donations and sponsorship worth $30,000 in just five days last month, all of which will go to the Cancer Society. 

Manning’s preparations and his ultimate push to the top can be followed on sevensummits.ky

Next on his list is the highest mountain in the planet, the 29,002-foot-high Mount Everest, which he plans to climb in May. 

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