When Canberra public servant Gilian Lee made his fourth attempt at Everest, he was chasing something. He's still looking.
For Laura Darlington, climbing Everest was about getting even closer with her husband after nearly losing him - twice.
As a young man, Andrew Lock saw a talk by the first Australians to climb Everest, and realised he wanted to climb the mountain.
And Queanbeyan's Armando Corvini decided never to climb Everest, but he still wanted to tackle an 8000-metre peak.
These four Canberra locals were all drawn to the same place but their motivations for mountaineering differed.
Lee was rescued off the face of Everest in May, having failed his fourth attempt to summit the world's tallest peak.
Deep in the Himalayas, along the Nepalese and Tibetan borders, the mountain has drawn adventurers from across the globe. In Nepal it is also known as Sagarmatha, goddess of the sky, standing 8848 metres.
'Like touching home'
Armando Corvini first visited the Himalayas in 1988. An Italian alpinist who had immigrated to Queanbeyan, he was invited on an Australian expedition to Pomori, a peak opposite Everest.
"I didn't choose Everest ... it is the most beautiful mountain in the world. I lost the interest knowing so many people were there," he says.
"The pollution at base camp was so bad that I didn't like what I was seeing."
Climbing is in Corvini's DNA, he says. He learned to climb at the Dolomites in Italy.
Despite not wanting to summit Everest, he still had a desire in the 1990s to climb an 8000-metre peak before he turned 60. Instead, in 1994, he chose Ama Dablam, at 6812 metres. The climb is more technically challenging than Everest and Corvini's attempt was beset by bad weather.
His group had waited for the cloud cover to clear for five days, but decided to tackle the mountain as their climbing permits inside the park were set to expire.
On their final push to the summit the group had already started to suffer frostbite. On the descent, one of Corvini's climbing partners became delirious with altitude sickness, and he stayed longer in the elements than he should have.
After sleeping most of the day upon their return, they realised how bad it was; Corvini the leader, had copped the worst of it.
"When we took our gloves off, we realised the extent of the frostbite," Corvini says.
Ama Dablam cost Corvini most of his fingers and most of his toes. He was done climbing. But his friend Peter Cocker kept encouraging him.
"I used to say, 'Peter, look at me, there's just no way in the world I'd be able to climb'," Corvini says. "He was so important for my rehabilitation. He really believed in me."
The injuries forced Corvini to shut his Queanbeyan stone masonry business. He decided to do volunteering work to repay the debt he felt he owed Australia.
"It gave me so much good opportunity," he says. "Because what I've done in this country here, I could never have done in my own."
He started volunteering at a Canberra YMCA, helping people with physical disabilities recover after strokes or serious injuries. Corvini asked his supervisor if he could use the YMCA's small climbing gym.
"I could see she was surprised, could see she realised 'Wow, could this man climb?'," Corvini says. "She said 'Oh no, Armando, whatever you like.' It was so funny."
His supervisor, watching him climb, suggested Corvini start teaching beginner's classes. He was so nervous about his hands he hid them under his harness until he had to show his first class how to tie a rope.
"I see the faces of these people dropping," Corvini says.
Instructing helped Corvini return to climbing. He still teaches it privately in Queanbeyan and is off to the Dolomites in October. But he worries climbing has become purely a sport to some.
"Back in my day it was more a passion. You go to the mountains for passion, because you love the mountains and you love the environment, you're treading lightly, you're not polluting," Corvini says. "It's not a sport to me, it is a great passion."
"I love the feeling of touching rock. The rock, when I touch it, it is like touching home."
'Just an objective'
In May, Canberra IT worker Gilian Lee became the focus of national news when he was rescued off Everest after collapsing on his fourth attempt at the mountain.
What started as a cough after a night of partying too hard with a bunch of Russians at base camp, turned into a chest infection, then a high-altitude pulmonary edema - a build up of liquid in the lungs.
Lee lost consciousness at 7700 metres and was rescued by a group of Chinese climbers. He doesn't remember much of it, except waking up in a Kathmandu hospital days later.
He spent four days there in an intensive care unit, having suffered kidney failure, retinal bleeding and mild frostbite on his toes while losing 15 kilograms.
"I did my will and talked to my family and the guide that if something goes wrong, if it happened above 8000 metres to leave my body there, because it would be too dangerous to recover it," he says.
"I took a risk to go up without knowing how well acclimatised I was, and I played it by ear."
Back in Canberra, Lee is still recovering. His cough remains and his vision is slowly recovering
Despite four failed attempts, Lee doesn't rule out a fifth.
"I don't let Everest consume my life, it's not the be all and end all. It's just rock and ice and a highest point. I don't do it for ego, it's just an objective," Lee says.
"It's always sat in the back of my mind and when I set my mind to something, I don't like to quit and give up, and I'll give it a good go, but I'll do it on my own terms."
"I never say never because it's always at the back of my mind."
Ultimately, Lee is worried about living a sedentary life. His parents had pushed him towards becoming a lawyer, but he's found IT gave him more freedom.
He discovered mountaineering when he started university in 1997.
"I was bored with life to be honest and I needed something exciting," he says.
"There's nothing better than being on a summit ... sitting there and taking the rope off and you're free.
"At that instant you feel on top of the world. You feel alive.
"I tried skydiving. It's great when you jump out but the rest is boring."
But Lee admits there's a hole in his life.
"I don't know how to fill it without [mountaineering]," he says.
"I'm not suicidal because I still enjoy life. But I want to enjoy life on my terms."
Caught between two lives
For Laura Darlington, climbing to the world's rooftop was about getting closer to her husband. She'd almost lost him, twice, to cancer.
During his second bout they decided if they got through it, they'd do Everest.
The two scariest moments in her life were hanging off the side of Everest after a fall, and being told Ben's cancer was back.
"That's different. There's that gut feel. It's that ongoing dread. They hit you harder for longer," Darlington says.
"It just makes you realise you don't know what's around the corner."
Growing up, Darlington had always been a bit competitive - the younger sister to her brother. But her passion was cycling. A program at school aimed at finding kids' hidden sporting talents saw something in her.
"I was dedicating my life to riding bikes and I wouldn't even think about going to the snow because that would take my training time away from the bike," she says.
"It's sort of an individual sport that's got a team element to it ... I guess that's sort of similar to mountaineering.
"It was not really until Ben's cancer that I started to diversify."
Ben had seen Darlington leave on cycling adventure after adventure. He decided to find his own hobby, and chose mountaineering, even summiting Everest.
After Ben's second bout with cancer, Darlington began to train for Everest, climbing in New Zealand and Peru.
In May 2016, Darlington summited Everest. Afterwards, she and Ben spent the night trying to save one of their fellow climbers who had collapsed on the mountain.
They stayed with him overnight despite being told to abandon him.
"We'd been climbing with him for two months, you can't just leave him," Darlington says.
They were able to get the man down the mountain but it had come at a cost for Ben. He would end up losing most of his toes to frostbite and was hospitalised in Kathmandu.
Despite their close call, the two returned to the Himalayas to climb the world's fifth highest mountain, Makalu. Then the couple had a kid.
"That kind of put a pause on our 8000-metre mountain climbing," Darlington says.
Back home, Darlington is an accountant and director with KPMG.
"It's hard to settle back into society after you go and do these adventures," she says.
"I'm like, 'Man, I know what the other life is like and I wanna go chase it'."
"I feel like I have two different wardrobes. There's adventure Laura, and the one that has to go be sensible at work."
Darlington copped flack when she started climbing, having only been at it for a relatively short time before she climbed Everest.
"I think they thought I was there for the wrong reasons," she says.
After the birth of their child, Darlington says she felt people would be quick to judge if she tried to go and do another mountain.
But she's encountered sexism before, especially coming up in finance. Her response was to take a pair of pink Louis Vuitton high heels to Everest and pose for a photo in them.
"I think it was a bit of a f--- you," she says.
"I'm unashamedly me. I wear furs to work. I wear high heels. I'm not going to pretend to be someone else's model of what you should be or do or look like."
Chasing the challenge
While the other Canberrans approached by The Canberra Times could be considered hobby climbers, Andrew Lock is a professional adventurer.
Lock has climbed all 14 of the world's 8000-metre peaks unguided and was the first Australian to ascend six of them - excluding Everest.
Currently, he's preparing for his third attempt at traversing the Brooks Range in Alaska, hoping to be the first person to do so in winter.
"There's no kudos at the end of it. No one knows about that mountain range or really would care," Lock says.
"That's not why I do these things ... the adventure is just so appealing."
Lock's love of adventure was sparked in Scouts.
"I was very lucky to be in a club that had a very active outdoors club, to have a teacher that pushed us, that really tested us, planted in us that desire," Lock says.
He doesn't think he would be as lucky growing up these days.
"We've become so risk averse."
Lock was working as a cop in Wagga Wagga when he saw a talk by Tim Macartney-Snape and Greg Mortimer, the first two Australians to climb Everest.
"I was in my early 20s, having left Scouts, looking for direction in my life and I actually saw [their] slideshow," Lock says.
"I was hooked by the imagery. I saw their story and I wanted to go climb Mount Everest."
But Lock didn't want a guide. He wanted to go unguided - you couldn't climb Everest with a guide in those days anyway - and he knew it was a long road to the top.
"It was 15 years before I actually climbed Mount Everest," he says.
Lock started alpine climbing in New Zealand, then climbed in Alaska, then Nepal, then the Soviet Union.
"There is certainly the opportunity to circumvent the path I took. For whatever reasons people want to take that shorter route. I loved climbing. I thrived in that environment," Lock says.
"In the mountains I re-energise. I might get physically tired but spiritually I re-energise."
Lock says he was "royally spanked" after his first two shots at Everest and decided to attempt other 8000 metre peaks instead.
"When I finally came back to summit on Mount Everest, I had already summited six 8000-metre peaks."
It hasn't been without its close calls or tragedies. Lock has lost friends - 20 by his count - and come close to death, including being buried alive in an avalanche.
But he says the way to come back from that was to stay in the game with eyes wide open.
"If there isn't some risk and some challenge involved, I have no interest," he says.
Pursuing those mountains and the challenges involved gave him a goal.
"Working towards that is what gives me satisfaction in life. I don't know if it's a hole. We need goals I think, to set your sights on, whatever they are," Lock says.