`Fed-up' Alison Hargreaves wanted to quit climbing

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The Independent Online
Alison Hargreaves was considering giving up professional climbing when she was killed on K2, according to the last interview she gave.

During a moving account of her life as a climber, tape-recorded in her tent on the mountain, Hargreaves said she was "pissed off" with people "collecting" mountains to please sponsors.

The interview, published in the Independent Weekend section today, was conducted on 27 July, three weeks before her death and four days after a failed attempt to reach the summit resulted in her camping out without a tent a few hundred metres short of the peak.

It was conducted by Matt Comeskey, a New Zealand climber who abandoned an assault on the summit on 13 August, the day Hargreaves and five other climbers conquered the mountain and paid with their lives. A seventh climber died the following day.

Asked by Mr Comeskey whether she would consider giving up climbing and spending more time with her children, Tom, six, and Kate, four, Hargreaves replied: "I am, actually ... because I'm so pissed off with the way things are going in climbing. People have always been competitive, which I think is fine. But people are getting so dishonest about things and it pisses me off."

The "dishonesty" to which she refers involves climbers systematically tackling peaks over 8,000m - often by the easiest routes available - simply to attract sponsorship. "This Himalayan game - I don't mind the competition, it's good, healthy - but I think it's getting a bit silly," she said. "So at the moment I'm not sure whether I'll continue to be a 100-per-cent professional climber."

Within minutes, however, she appears to contradict herself, indicating that she was torn between her career and her children. Having criticised other climbers for collecting 8,000m peaks, she tells Mr Comeskey that after climbing K2, the second-highest mountain in the world, she will start planning for an assault on Kanchenjunga, the third highest - if she can take her children.

"It is something I feel I might be very keen to quickly get things rolling. But, I mean, obviously kids are a big consideration if they're going to come with me to camp," she says.

During the interview, Hargreaves generously credits another climber, New Zealander Lydia Bradey, with being the first woman to climb Everest without oxygen. Ms Bradey claimed the distinction more than six years ago, but she failed to take pictures, splitting the climbing community into believers and non-believers.

Hargreaves says she believes Ms Bradey, but stresses that her own claim is to have been the first to conquer the mountain alone, without oxygen and without porters.