Hoddlesden mountaineer is climbing all around the world via Lancashire
PUBLISHED: 14:13 14 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:36 20 February 2013
Paul Taylor has scaled the highest peaks on the world's seven continents. And he's done it with a Lancashire flag in his back-pack. Emma Mayoh reports
Weve all been there. The phone rings at three in the morning, your heart jumps and you think the worst. But for Paul Taylors partner, Anna, and children Jenny, 16, and Alice 12, it was the call theyd longed for.
Weeks earlier, 40-year-old Paul, from Hoddlesden, near Darwen, had set off on his latest mountaineering expedition - to scale the highest peak in the world. The call came from a satellite phone at the top of Mount Everest.
I wanted to ring my family. Id just climbed Everest and I wanted them to know Id made it, said Paul, pausing to consider this moment. Theyd not been able to get in touch with me for a while so I didnt think theyd mind me ringing them in the middle of the night.
These brief recollections bring unexpected signs of emotion from a man who normally runs a garage in Darwen. Until this moment, his attitude to his almost superhuman activities had been laid back and matter-of-fact. Its not because hes not proud of his achievements, he just doesnt like a lot of fuss.
Its just something Ive done. I went up Kilimanjaro, we did it, it was hard on summit day and we came down again, he said of his first major climb in 2003. Of course, I really enjoyed it and it gave me a taste for it. I couldnt wait to do another.
The fact is this climber is someone with a lot to make a fuss about. In just under seven years he has gone from mountaineering novice to someone who has scaled the highest peaks of the worlds seven continents. Its an astonishing achievement and only a couple of hundred others have done it. Hes also only the 70th person to make it to the top up the North Side Coll, the Everest route generally regarded as the more difficult.
I chose it because it was cheaper! he joked. The south side is more popular because its shorter. This was just an incredible climb to do. You cant quite believe it when youve reached the top. But, of course, youve still got to get down again and we felt even better when we were at the bottom and could have a shower and a beer.
Joking aside, these are the kinds of places that people get killed and Im lucky. All it takes is one mistake and that can be it.
Starting with Mount Kilimanjaro in 2003 and along with Everest, which he did in 2007, Paul has also reached the top of Elbrus in Russia, Aconcagua in South America, Mount McKinley in North America, Carstensz Pyramid in Indonesia and his final summit, Mount Vinson in Antarctica.
As you would expect, Paul has heaps of technical equipment, food and survival skills needed by good climber. But when he scaled the last summit, he packed a very special item - the Lancashire flag.
It seemed natural to take it, said Paul, who has used his climbing to raise funds for Derian House Childrens Hospice in Chorley. Im a Lancastrian so I took a Lancashire flag. I didnt realise it until I got back but I had it with me on Lancashire Day. We made the summit a few days afterwards, too, so I marked the day properly.
Paul, who as a youngster was a highly-skilled skier, was looking for a new challenge when a brochure about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro arrived on his doormat.
I fancied having a go. Ive always been quite fit because of the skiing and I do a lot of mountain biking and walks up in the Lake District. People normally do this climb over two or three weeks but I couldnt afford that, so I did the faster, cheaper option. We got up and down and I was pleased.
Dont be fooled by Pauls relaxed demeanour. Beneath the surface lies a determination that has driven him up all seven of these mammoth climbs at the first attempt. Hes come across all kinds of situations including having to curl up in his tent on the side of a mountain for two days to ride out sickness, finding the bodies of climbers who had not made it back, fearing for a climbing partner who he thought had died and being stuck for several hours between landslides.
At Mount McKinley we were on day 19 of a 21 day trip and the weather had kept us at high camp for two days. Thats not a camp you should stay at for long periods because its not good for you. We managed the summit on the last possible day; otherwise we would have had to call it a day. This is not a mountain you mess with. We were the first group to the summit that year and we were in temperatures of minus 60. We had to go that day, or not at all.
At Aconcagua, wed made it to the top but on the way down there was a man dead in the snow. Hed been there with his wife. Shed gone to get help but got lost. Hed died of exposure. Id had to fight my way onto that trip because the guide that was running it wasnt sure I could do it because Id never been that high before. I did it though.
You just feel like an insignificant speck when youre out there. But thats because you are. You are completely at the mercy of these mountains and the weather and you make sure you never forget that. Climbing is all about giving yourself the best possible chance to get to the top, nothing else.
Incredibly for Paul, the only real problem hes had is a bit of frost nip. Although you might think it was only the climbs that presented danger, Paul has faced other struggles.
He explained: We were trying to get to the starting point for climbing Carstensz Pyramid and there were some problems getting our 4x4 through to our meeting point. But there were troubles with some of the local tribes and all the cars were being stopped and not allowed to go through for a while. It was going to stop our chances of the climb.
We transferred all of our gear into another 4x4 at the checkpoint and then we were smuggled through some huge gold mines up to the drop off point at 9,000 feet. Fortunately it was really heavy rain so it gave us a good cover. Thank goodness we didnt get caught.
Since completing the seven summits, Paul has already had a go at another climb in Pakistan - the first hes not made it up.
And hes already got his family out climbing in the Lake District and maybe theyll take up his mantle. I expect soon though, well hear of a determined garage owner from Darwen, whos scaled yet another mountain. Hopefully, hell do it with his Lancashire flag in his back pack.
As Im leaving his house, after looking at the awe-inspiring climbing pictures that adorn many of the walls and listening to many of his astounding stories, he drops the biggest bombshell.
Im a bit nervous of heights, he grinned, with a glint in his eye. But I wont ever let that stop me.