Paul Guest: Climber who was first to conquer the great Changuch peak

In the Cordillera Real range in Bolivia he came down some slopes by bicycle

Paul Guest was one of Britain's most talented young mountaineers, and before his untimely death at the age of 32 he had climbed some of the highest peaks on three continents as well as mastering a virgin Himalayan ice spire. "He was keen, resourceful and very strong, a climber who would have gone on to achieve great things," Martin Moran, leader of the 2009 British/Indian Nanda Devi East expedition said. "He was the ideal sort of guy." Guest died in a 1000ft fall from the Zero Gully ice-climb on Ben Nevis.

He had climbed the Matterhorn, Mont Blanc and the Eiger, and more recently had set his heart on conquering North America's highest peak, Mount McKinley in Alaska. A climbing career begun little more than a decade ago included more than 500 ascents, and on a trip to the Andean Cordillera Real in Bolivia, during which he reached the summit of the region's highest mountain, Illimani (21,122ft), he braved his way down some slopes by bicycle.

The elegant pinnacle which made Guest's name was Changuch (20,741ft), one of those peaks that surround the western summit of the twin-pointed "Bliss-Giving Goddess", Nanda Devi in India's Kumaon region. The British Mountaineering Council recorded the successful ascent of Changuch by Martin Moran, Rob Jarvis, Leon Winchester, Paul Guest and Ludar Sain as an important British first. It came after attempts since 1987 by British and Indian climbers, most notably the former Indian Navy commander Satyabrata Dam, who conquered Everest in May 2004, but was thwarted by a storm on Changuch.

"We were the first footsteps in the snow. It's nice to know you were one of the first ones to look over the sides," Guest said. "There were some great views up there. I loved India." The area is rich in legend and mountaineering history, and before he left England, Guest researched the career of his predecessor, the explorer Dr Tom Longstaff, who served with the Gilgit Scouts and the King's Royal Rifle Corps, and in 1907 was the first to climb the 23,359ft highest peak of the triple mountain Trisul, "Shiva's Trident".

Longstaff's daughter, Sally Amos, became a firm friend, finding in Guest's adventures an echo of her father's triumphs; and Guest and his colleagues in 2009 were to pitch tent on a six-foot wide perch on the precipitous feature named for him, "Longstaff's Col", at above 18,000ft. From there, as Rob Jarvis shows in his film of the adventure, the team could gaze into the near-impenetrable "Sanctuary" round Nanda Devi's 25,643ft western higher peak.

The lower eastern peak, at 24,391ft, however, is considered more difficult than Everest, and the group tested themselves on the 18,970ft summit of Nanda Lapak over two days in preparation. Only when they had climbed the first three pinnacles of the South-East Ridge did they judge the ascent would prove too long for the resources they had with them, and switched their energies to reaching Changuch's steep, narrow point.

A moonlit glacial walk on 6 and 7 June brought Guest, Winchester and Jarvis to the foot of the challenging face, crossed with icy old avalanche runnels and covered with aerated snow, that guards the North-West Ridge where Dam met defeat. It took the three men until after dawn to break through the cornice on to the ridge, and there they devoted some hours to chipping ice in order to make just enough room for their tents so that they could spend the night on the vertiginous, sharp, narrow edge. Next day Moran and Ludar Sain joined them.

Half an hour after midnight, very early on the 9 June, all five set out in darkness against a cold wind to make for the summit, crossing 400 feet of mixed terrain with Moran leading, before Jarvis took over to lead the group up the exposed snow and ice slopes above. Jets of spindrift glowed the colour of flame in the dawn, and Changuch presented them with an icy face, steepening to pitches of 55 and 60 degrees; but they achieved the peak at 9am, and got down the same day.

To reach the Pindari Valley they made what was only the fifth crossing ina century of the cloud-wreathed Traill's Pass, named after GW Traill, the first British Deputy Commissioner inKumaon after the Gurkha War of1814-16, whose hopes of a establishing a trade route that way to Chinawere dashed because it was too high and hard.

Guest, a farmer from Rock, near Kidderminster in Worcestershire, came from a family keen on outdoor pursuits, though he was its first mountaineer. He took part in local shooting events, volleyball, and circuit-training, and had been a pupil at Lacon Childe School in Cleobury Mortimer. His parents, Peter and Christine, said that they were immensely proud of their only son, the eldest of three children.

Paul Guest, farmer and mountaineer: born Bridgnorth, Shropshire 29 September 1979; died Ben Nevis 19 February 2012.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there