Kyrle Probus Club
   of Ross-on-Wye

 

Everest - 10th January 2013


THE agony and the ecstacy of climbing to the summit of Everest was graphically described to members of Kyrle Probus Club at their recent meeting, by ex-SAS officer Michael ‘Bronco’ Lane.
 
Together with John ‘Brummie’ Stokes, Bronco climbed the world’s highest peak in May 1976 as part of a joint British Army and Nepalese expedition and was awarded the BEM for his achievement. He finished his Army career with the rank of Major.
 
Born in 1945 in South Manchester, Bronco joined the Army at the age of 16 and at18 he joined the Paratroopers. It was during action in Aden that he became aware of an organisation they were supporting – the SAS. He and his buddy, ‘Brummie’ Stokes later applied to join the SAS and so, in January 1967 they turned up at Hereford for the selection process and were successful.
 
Having been posted to the Mountain Troop, they thought they should learn how to climb and in 1968, joined the Army Mountaineering Association. Bronco heard that a British Army expedition was going to attempt Everest in 1976 and, together with Brummie, put his name forward. The expedition, lead by Lt Col Tony Streather, included 22 British Army climbers and a contingent of Nepalese sherpas.
 
After five days of steady trekking, they established their base camp, before going on to tackle probably the most dangerous part of their route to the top of Everest, the Khumbu Ice Fall, a one-and-a-half mile stretch of unstable ice that moved about a metre a day. They also had to overcome the ever present danger of crevaces.
 
            At 25,000ft they established a small transit camp to reach the South Col, which was the jump point for the summit. Bronco and Brummie were overjoyed when they were asked by Tony Streather if they would like to be the first summit pair.  They reached the South Col at 26,500ft. The support team stayed there and on May 14, Bronco and Brummie set off for the summit.
 
The weather was bad that night and didn’t lift until three o’clock the next afternoon. They decided to go for it the following morning. By 1pm they’d reached the South Summit at 28,700ft and having overcome the Hillary Step, a 40ft rock wall, they were almost there. Bronco felt the rope slacken and saw Brummie up ahead of him waving his arms to indicate they’d made it.
 
They reached the summit at 3.15 pm on May 16 and began their descent at 3.40pm. The visibility was poor and they had very little oxygen. They had left a spare bottle stuffed in a snowbank on the South Summit, so their overwhelming need was to find this. They were in a bad state when in fading light, they finally stumbled on the orange bottle.
 
Their desperate state was not yet over, however. They couldn’t get the oxygen bottle connected to either of their masks and so Bronco took off one of his outer gloves to establish a firm connection between mask and bottle. They swapped the mask every few minutes throughout a long night, during which they slipped in and out of consciousness. They were finally rescued the following day.
 
The consequence for Bronco was that he suffered severe frostbite and back in England he had to have all ten toes and the thumb and top halves of his fingers on his right hand, amputated – by a surgeon at Hereford County Hospital.
 
end

  

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