1997 saw Andrew join an Australian Army Alpine Association (AAA) expedition to attempt the first Australian ascent of Dhaulagiri. Whilst it was the second attempt for the AAA, it was Andrew’s first time to the peak. Joining a team diverse in alpine experience and motivation, this was the expedition on which Andrew is famous (infamous?) for his comment that he “was there to climb the mountain and he’d stay until the last gas canister if that was what it would take”.
Indeed, after repeated blizzards and several summit attempts, the majority of the 20 strong team departed for home. Andrew and just three others launched a summit attempt in atrocious conditions which saw Andrew himself buried in an avalanche at camp 3. Determined to succeed however, he went on to reach the summit at night and in the pitch black of a howling gale. Stopping on top just long enough to take one miserable photograph, the descent became a battle for survival, searching for the route, buried camps and the strength to carry on. Only Andrew survived the descent without frostbite injury despite having to climb alone and without a head torch.
And, after days of battling overwhelming conditions just to get off the mountain, Andrew and his team were forced to immediately pack up their basecamp and commence the trek out to Kathmandu, having to climb 2 high passes en route in their absolute exhaustion. The story of this trek is almost as harrowing as the climb itself as the small group bivouacked in a blizzard without tents or cooking equipment.
Andrew’s first Australian ascent of this giant saw him lose over 15kg in body weight and is yet another stirring example of his motivation, tenacity, skill and overwhelming drive to both succeed and survive.