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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 May 2006, 12:27 GMT 13:27 UK
Woman speaks of Everest challenge
Phil and Pauline Sanderson (Picture from Everestmax)
Phil and Pauline Sanderson are heading home to Grantown-on-Spey
A woman who completed the world's longest climb has recalled how her rope snagged on a dead man's crampon while tackling Everest.

Pauline Sanderson, 41, from Strathspey, also revealed how her face turned blue when her oxygen mask came off.

Mrs Sanderson and her husband Phil, 39, became the UK's first married couple to reach the 29,028ft summit last week.

Her adventure began with a cycle expedition from the Dead Sea - the lowest point on Earth.

Mrs Sanderson has written about her experiences on the world's tallest mountain in a blog, an internet diary, on the Everestmax expedition website and in an e-mail to BBC Scotland.

In the blog, she described how her rope became caught on a crampon of a dead climber - one of many whose bodies remain frozen on the peak - while tackling a ridge on the way to the top.

Narrow ledge

She revealed her sadness at hearing news that one of their friends had perished close to the summit, unaware that they had seen his body near the summit.

Mrs Sanderson said: "At about 8,500m (27,886ft) I was contemplating how totally isolated we were.

"If anything went wrong it would be nearly impossible to get us down safely even with willing rescuers.

"Just as this was going through my mind I had to bend over to unhitch my rope which had caught in something as I was carefully manoeuvring round a narrow snow ledge.

"My rope had caught in the crampon of a dead man who was frozen in his grave. It sent shivers down my spine and I hesitated before carrying on."

Pauline and Phil Sanderson (Picture from Everestmax)
The couple on the summit of Everest

On their descent, Mr Sanderson went to his wife's aid when her oxygen mask - essential to surviving at high altitude - came off.

Mrs Sanderson said: "We only had one scary moment on the way down when I lost my oxygen supply.

"Phil apparently saw me waving in a panic - my mask was off and my face had turned a pale shade of blue.

"All was put right very quickly once he found that the source of the problem was a twist in my pipe."

The couple were stunned to learn of the death toll on Everest once they were safely back at Advance Base Camp.

She said: "In the space of the four days we had been on the mountain five people had died and several had lost joints and limbs to frost bite.

"The worst news was that the body hanging 100m (328ft) from the summit was our friend Jacques and we hadn't even known it. We were absolutely stunned."

In an e-mail to BBC Scotland, Mrs Sanderson said she and her husband have now reached Base Camp.

The whole thing is a bizarre and hopefully unique experience that is a huge mix of emotions
Pauline Sanderson

She said: "I would never have got to the top without my husband.

"The whole thing is a bizarre and hopefully unique experience that is a huge mix of emotions.

"We are delighted to be the first British couple but the original reason to do it was as part of Everestmax.

"We are the first team to have completed the longest climb on Earth from the Dead Sea to the summit of Everest."

Mrs Sanderson was the first of the team to the summit, beating Austrian Jerry Winkler who was attempting the same challenge.

The couple, from Grantown-on-Spey, work at Glenmore Lodge Outdoor Centre, near Aviemore.

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