Two decades ago, a hardy band of eight Canberrans were part of the Army Alpine Association expedition that embarked on an extraordinary journey to climb Mount Everest.
The expedition, from March to June 2001, succeeded in putting three people on the 8848-metre-high summit on May 25, 2001; Sergeant Brian Laurson of Victoria, and two sherpas.
Expedition leader, Canberran Zac Zaharias, got within 100 metres of the summit before bad weather forced him to retreat.
"It was primarily the weather turning bad and the lateness of the day that convinced us to turn around," he said.
"We calculated that the margin for error was completely gone if we kept going as we would most likely run out of oxygen and also descend in the dark, risking disorientation and going off route."
The climb was also emotionally and physically challenging for the most distressing of reasons: three Australians accompanying the expedition died in an avalanche. A South Australian climber from another expedition also stumbled into Zaharias' tent a night before their summit climb and died in his arms after succumbing to exhaustion.
There will be a 20th anniversary dinner for those people on the expedition on Saturday in Canberra at the Hotel Kurrajong, celebrating the bonds and remembering those lost on the mountain.
Zaharias, 64, who later succeeded in conquering Everest in 2010, said the 2001 expedition had been years in the planning.
The experienced mountaineer said it was his most intense climb, not because of the day-to-day physical exertion, but because of the deaths and the media scrutiny, even while they were still on the mountain. He felt the "constant anxiety" that nothing else could go wrong on the expedition.
Zaharias said he took comfort knowing even at 100 metres from the top, he and his climbing partner were still, at that point, the highest humans in the world. "We had the mountain to ourselves," he said.
Years later, Zaharias attended a book launch in Adelaide celebrating the life of that South Australian climber who died in his arms, Mark Auricht. It was surreal experience, but he was compelled to attend because he was the last person to see Auricht alive. It encapsulated the way the 2001 climb had a ripple effect through so many lives.
"These aren't events that just end," he said.
Carl Johnson was another Canberran on the 2001 expedition. He has a permanent reminder of the trip - he married one of the other expedition members, Lily Mulholland, who was then from Sydney. The couple married in 2004 and now live in Waramanga.
The 2001 Everest expedition was Johnson's last big climb. He and climbing partner Peter Lambert were preparing to leave advanced base camp, at 6400-metres elevation, to push towards the summit.
Lambert suffered a series of micro-strokes and Johnson abandoned any thought of attempting the summit as he accompanied Lambert down to base camp for medical attention.
"There was no question," he said.
Johnson later returned to advanced base camp as the expedition manager and had the thrill of taking the radio call that confirmed Brian Laursen had got to the top. Everyone in the party felt "enormous relief" and a sense of exhausted exhilaration.
"It helped to put behind all the pain we'd been through," Zaharias said.
Both men lament what they see as the corporatisation of Mount Everest.
They took pride in attempting the mountain with the backing of years of preparation but minimal resources, testing their skill. They said the commercial climbers now tackling Everest were doing so with the utmost support.
Zaharias says it is like saying you have crossed Bass Strait, but someone might have done it in a canoe (the old-style mountaineers with limited resources) while others have done it in an ocean liner (the commercial climbers).
The experience was not the same.
"They've taken away the soul of Everest," Zaharias said.
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