Climbing the highest mountain in every country of Europe.
Eamon ‘Ginge’ Fullen, once an explosives disposal expert in the Royal Navy, began his climbing quest in 1990 after he broke his neck in a rugby match. He was critically injured and required two months in a metal “halo,” a head brace screwed into the skull, followed by months of grueling physical therapy. He says it changed his outlook.
Although George Mallory, the first man to attempt to climb Mount Everest, offered “because it’s there” as a reason to climb a mountain, Ginge sees more to the endeavor.
“It’s not because it’s there,” he says “It’s because I like to.”
The simple maxim has propelled him up two-thirds of the world’s highest mountains.
In 1992, Ginge began to climb mountains in Europe. The first was Russia’s Mount Elbruse which is 5,642 meters high. In 1993, having already climbed mountains in Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, he contacted the Guinness Book of Records to check if anyone had ever attempted to climb all of the highest peaks of Europe. No one had.
Guinness wished him good luck and with that, Ginge set about racing around Europe to climb each of the country’s highest peaks. Some were difficult physically, whilst others were difficult politically. In the Vatican City, a tiny city-state in the middle of Rome, home to the Pope and headquarters of the Catholic Church, he climbed the “highest peak” by scaling a 76-meter-high helicopter pad while evading the Palace Guard!
With the media taking an interest in what he was trying to achieve, word soon spread and another climber set out to try and beat him to it. In August 1999, with the other climber hot on his heels, Ginge contacted Max Adventure for help. Mount Shkhara in Georgia was the 46th out of a total of 47 mountains and due to its inaccessibility he needed a 4×4 vehicle to get him, his guides and all of their equipment there. One phone call to Mac, of Max Adventure, and a Land Rover Defender was made ready for the 3,000 mile dash across Europe and Turkey. Once there, with Mac manning Base Camp whilst Ginge conquered the summit, only Turkey’s Mount Ararat remained. Although not technically in Europe itself, because part of Turkey is, Ginge decided to climb it anyway to prevent any contention from Guinness Book of Records.
Mount Ararat, had not been officially climbed for over ten years, and as Ginge soon found out with many high mountains, they were havens for insurgent groups. Mount Ararat was no exception. Ginge’s record probably would have remained a dream if a Kurdish rebel commander hadn’t accepted a financial “donation” in exchange for safe passage. The record was his.
Mount Everest though, at 8,850 meters, is obviously the biggest attraction to any climber, and in 1996, after trekking on the mountain for six weeks, Ginge reached Camp One at 6,100 meters. He had not even begun his final ascent when disaster struck, he suffered a serious heart attack. Miles away from any medical facility, he made a grueling six hour descent to a Base Camp. He was airlifted to a hospital the following day. He says he “was a few breaths away from death”. He has not yet tried to climb Everest again.
Since the ‘European’ record, Ginge has tackled the highest mountain in every country of Africa and is going on to try and climb the highest peak in every country in the world.
He remains philosophical about his quest though and acknowledges he may never achieve his ultimate goal of scaling every nation’s highest peak. In particular, Mount Everest, which nearly killed him, might forever be out of his reach.
“Because of the heart attack, there may be a height limit. I may never be able to climb all of the mountains,” he admits. “But there is more than a lifetime’s worth of mountains and I am in no particular hurry.”
Max Adventure are proud to supported Ginge in his quest of achieving the ‘European’ record.