Standing On Top of the World


On May 25, 2008, Alan Mallory, a 23-year-old Toastmaster from Barrie, Ontario, Canada, stood on the summit of the world’s highest mountain and thought, “I can’t wait to get down.”

It was a clear day with an incredible view of the neighboring Himalayan peaks. But the temperature was minus 40 degrees and he was exhausted and cold, mindful of the fact that reaching the summit was only half the battle. He still had to get down safely.

Alan was accompanied on the narrow and steep summit by his father, Dan, and his older brother, Adam, 25. Before heading down, he did what any serious mountaineer would do: He posed for pictures, exposed his bare hands to the cold wind and filmed the view. He also did what most mountaineers would not do: He dug deep into his backpack for his club’s 3-by-4-foot Toastmasters flag, tried to unfurl the large banner in howling winds so the text would be visible, and posed for more photos.

“If only you knew how long we stood there, in the freezing cold at the elevation of a jetliner’s cruising altitude, trying to shoot this banner before the wind furled it again,” chuckled Dan, Alan’s dad. “Most people stay a few minutes on the summit; we must have stayed 40 minutes.”

Climbing Mount Everest is an in incredible physical and mental challenge. No rescue is possible at its higher elevations, so climbers must bring emergency gear. Space is limited in a backpack that averages 50 pounds in weight and includes precious oxygen tanks to help with breathing in the thin air. As a result, climbers go to extreme lengths to shave off ounces, including removing labels from clothing and cutting toothbrushes in half. The Port Credit Toastmasters banner took up valuable space and weight in Alan’s pack. Why did he bring it? “It was left in my bag, and on summit day I thought I might as well bring it,” he says with a shrug.

The Toastmasters flag must have brought good luck to Alan, his brother and father. They all returned to base camp safely.

More Family Feats

Alan’s younger sister Laura, then a 20-year-old student at the University of Western Ontario, accompanied her father and brothers to Everest. She reached the summit a day later than her brothers and father, making her the youngest Canadian woman ever to summit Mount. Everest. In addition, the Mallorys became the first family of four to make it to the top of the world.

Alan’s mother, Barbara, had also ventured with her family all the way to Everest base camp, but fell during a training climb and tore her Achilles tendon. She returned home to Barrie, Ontario, where she supported her family by posting blogs on their progress.

Alan, draws on his Toastmasters skills, by giving presentations about the Everest experience. He uses the family’s adventure to inspire others to achieve their own goals. Says fellow Port Credit club member and former District Governor Janice Weir, DTM: “Alan’s journey is a perfect metaphor for Toastmasters itself: reaching for the top, scaling new heights, getting out of your comfort zone, and then feeling on top of the world when you achieve your goals.”

For the Mallorys (no relation to the late British climber George Mallory), it all started with an idea proposed by Alan’s dad over dinner: “Who wants to climb Mount Everest?” While most families would laugh this off, the Mallory family did not. Besides sharing a surname with George Mallory, this family thrives on adrenaline. Instead of lounging on beaches, the Mallorys spent holidays camping and climbing, and trained together for the Everest climb by entering endurance races.

“We are an ordinary family who had a collective and daring dream,” Alan says. “We followed through and we made that dream come true.”

Making Memories … and Conversation

In hindsight, was it all worth it? “This experience changed my life,” Alan says. “The memories still make us smile, even while we shake our heads in amazement. It sure gives us something to talk about at the dinner table.”

Would Alan return to Mount Everest or another 8,000-meter peak? He laughs. “No, I’m not going anywhere near there; it’s just too painful.” But he’s grateful for the experience: “I enjoy the challenge of doing something not many people have done”

His next challenge? Marriage. Alan tied the knot in August and is moving to Santiago, Chile, for two years with his new bride.

“That’s going to be a harder challenge than climbing Everest.”

You can read more about the Mallory family’s Everest adventure on their Web site

Suzanne Frey is the editor of the Toastmaster magazine and a member of Unimasters Toastmasters club in Lake Forest, California.

Leave a Reply