Why are you returning?
Last year, I thought it was a one-off. But I was given the opportunity to have another go, thanks to fantastic sponsors such as Everest. My fiancée Lindsey [Empringham] has also been very supportive. It can cost anything between £10,000 to £125,000 to climb Mount Everest.
What happened last year?
We had about 500m to go before the summit. We’d had a good night. Then I heard a woman screaming, sliding down. It was Sunita. I rugby-tackled her to stop her falling. She was in real trouble, and I thought, ‘You’ve had it kid’. My Army training kicked in and I went into QBO – ‘quick battle orders’ – as I carried her to safety.
What was the media attention like?
Unbelievable. At the time, I spoke to Lindsey on a satellite phone. When I spoke to her again, it had gone crazy. As someone said, ‘You’re a global phenomenon’. I was in bits, thinking, I’ll never come back. But the attention meant that everyone wanted me to return and reach the summit.
Have you always climbed?
I always wanted to explore. At 18 I climbed Ben Nevis and Scafell Pike, which set something off in my mind. I had some great adventures in the Army, trekking in the Andes and climbing Mount Whitney in the States. I took our daughter Emma climbing at 18 months.
You were injured while on active service in Afghanistan. What happened?
Well, I was blown up four times. The last time was in April 2009 when an IED (improvised explosive device) went off two feet away. There were three local soldiers there and one stepped on the device. They died and I lost an eye.
Has the loss of an eye affected your climbing?
It’s a bit like looking through a frosted glass window but I’ve adapted by developing a neck like an owl!
You were in the Army for 13 years. What did you do when you left?
I retrained to be an electrician, worked in security in Iraq and now I’m a joiner, which is what I did originally.
What is Nepal like?
Nepal is manic, but the friendliest place in the world. The architecture and the natural beauty are great. It’s a workout for the senses.
Any time for leisure?
I enjoy the outdoors. I love the Lake District, which I do on a budget, sleeping in the van. And I love rugby, especially my home team in South Yorkshire.
And what about keeping fit?
I have a personal trainer and go to the local gym but mostly I use the stairs a lot with a backpack full of weights. It’s great exercise.
Any further ambitions?
It’d be great to climb in Afghanistan. It’s the beginning of the Himalaya range and although marred by conflict, it’s very beautiful.
Leslie is raising funds for:
ABF The Soldiers’ Charity soldierscharity.org
Mountain Rescue of England and Wales mountain.rescue.org.uk
The Dearne Valley Bulldogs rugby league charity pitchero.com/clubs/dearnevalleybulldogs/
To make a donation, go to Leslie's Just Giving page
||This article was produced in association with Everest.