Paul launched his first expedition in 1988 at the age of 18. He proposed, co-organised and subsequently co-led (with mountaineer John Barry) a 47-strong team which succeeded in cleaning up 35 years’ worth of mountaineering rubbish at Everest Base Camp. Paul has been living out of a rucksack ever since.
After returning to Everest Base Camp in 1990 to re-assess the environmental situation, and again in 1993 as the leader of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Himalayan Expedition, Paul began to get serious about climbing the world’s highest mountain.
Building on his ascents of mountains in the Alps, the Andes and Alaska, Paul joined an expedition to the North Ridge of Everest in the spring of 1995. Paul reached a high point of 8000 metres, just 850 vertical metres short of the top.
Paul returned to Everest in the spring of 1996 with his friend Neil Laughton to attempt the South Col route. The tragic events of that climbing season have been recorded as the most disastrous in the mountain’s history, and recounted in books such as Jon Krakauer's 'Into Thin Air’ and Anatoli Boukreev’s and Weston DeWalt’s collaboration, 'The Climb’.
Paul, who was heading up the Lhotse Face to the South Col on the day that the storm struck, recoiled from the mountain. His personal experience of the disaster, combined with the loss of friends on Everest and other high altitude peaks, encouraged him to look away from the mountain of his dreams and instead attempt to fulfil another climbing ambition: to lead an expedition to an unexplored mountain range.
Paul found what he was looking for in 1999: a knot of unexplored peaks on the border of Kyrgyzstan, China and Tajikistan known by some as the Zaalayskiy Khrebet and to others as the Eastern Zaalay. Paul’s 10-strong team made ascents of several previously unclimbed mountains in the range, and discovered the approach routes to many other virgin summits.
The expedition was sponsored by Motorola and reported on by television and radio, as well as a myriad of newspapers and magazines. More than 100,000 people visited The Guardian newspaper’s special expedition website over the course of two months. Since 1999, Paul has advised several teams which have followed in his footsteps to the Zaalayskiy Khrebet.
After co-organising a multi-disciplinary expedition to the Indian Himalaya in the winter of 2001, Paul realised that he could not shake off the Everest bug.
However, he was plagued with self-doubt. Having arranged and then cancelled places on Everest expeditions in 2002 and 2003, Paul sought the advice of Robin Sieger to help him with his psychological battle. Having successfully applying the techniques that Robin taught him, Paul booked a flight to Nepal and began preparing for his third and final attempt to climb the world’s highest mountain in March 2004.
In the middle of May, Paul made his summit attempt. However, he was forced back by a fierce windstorm just 850 metres from the top. After retreating down the mountain, Paul decided to mount a second bid rather than quit. He finally reached the summit of Everest on May 24th.