Kenton Cool

For mountaineer Kenton Cool, the three years he spent studying geology at Leeds were the stepping stones to the roof of the world. Kenton, who graduated in 1994, has since reached the summit of Everest several times and has pioneered major new climbs on peaks from Alaska to the Himalayas.

Kenton arrived in Leeds after a fairly conventional education in High Wycombe and with the intention of joining the army once he graduated but says his time at university transformed his life. “Leeds Uni is the place where I found myself. It was a time that moulded my path in life. As my time at Leeds progressed the thought of joining up disappeared as I was enveloped by a new way of thinking,” he says.

As an undergraduate Kenton was one of a group of committed young rock climbers who congregated around the University’s climbing wall, one of the first of its kind in the country. Like Kenton, several have since gone on to make careers as climbing guides and he admits that the friendships he forged at Leeds were probably as important as his studies in shaping his future. “By studying geology I got to meet some amazing people. I think most who were on the course were similarly minded and we were all keen on the outdoors.”

Kenton is now based in Chamonix at the foot of Mont Blanc in the heart of the French Alps, where he divides his time between guiding clients all over the world and organising his own expeditions to some of the planet’s toughest peaks. It is a lifestyle which those with more conventional careers can scarcely imagine. He says, “I’ve guided people all over the world and I am lucky enough to see the joy as they summit their own personal Everest, whether it’s Mont Blanc, Ben Nevis or even Everest itself. Each summit is unique at that moment, both for the clients and for me."

“Climbing Everest is a huge achievement and for the lucky few who reach its summit it is an emotional and special time. For many their lives change afterwards. Some go home to fame and fortune while others have reached the pinnacle of their dreams and things may never quite meet this again. I really enjoy the big expeditions to the great ranges. It’s hard to explain but I probably enjoy the Everest trips the most, not for the summit experience but for the whole thing. Basecamp there actually feels more like home than my apartment in Chamonix.”