Home Counties to Himalayas
Julie Tullis came to mountaineering late in life. In her early 40s, the Kent mother of two teenage children made her first visit to the Himalayas in 1981. She was hooked.
Five years later, in August 1986, she became the first British woman to reach the summit of K2, the world's second-highest mountain at 8,611m. Caught in bad weather during the descent, she never made it down. Her body has never been found.
To mark the 20th anniversary of Julie's death, her son Chris, his wife - also Julie - and their teenage children, Matthew and Stephanie, journeyed to the Himalayas to retrace her footsteps. A 180-mile trek, none had attempted such a feat before.
"I've wanted to go to K2 - well, the Himalayas - ever since she started going, but was a bit dubious in case I got hooked on it like she did. So I didn't go. Then when she died, I felt the need to go," says Chris.
Whereas Julie's goal was to stand atop the summit, the family's sights were set on reaching her memorial - a battered tin dinner plate stamped with her name and date of death, tied to a pile of rocks at 5,000m.
To further follow her lead, the family recorded an audio-diary of their trek. For Julie tape-recorded diaries of her expeditions with her climbing partner, the noted Austrian mountaineer Kurt Diemberger. Last year, a cassette she made and lost on an expedition in 1982 was found in a glacier, perfectly preserved.
Nor was it the only memento to turn up after Julie's death. Soon after she was reported missing, a postcard arrived, saying that she would do no more trips as she'd seen too many deaths on the mountain.
Chris has found that following in his mother's footsteps helps him understand what drove her to leave the Home Counties for the Himalayas.
"It's not so much just standing on top of a mountain. I learned that she just had so much determination, that was what really struck home - seeing the amount of effort it took to get to those places, to climb those mountains and the drive that she had to do that. It's just awe-inspiring."
Ray of light
To even get within sight of K2 involves two days of very heavy trekking, during which mother and daughter wondered if they'd even catch a glimpse of Julie's mountain of mountains.
While resting at Concordia, three-hours hike from K2's base camp, the mountain reared above them - the first time in 14 months that it had not been obscured by clouds, the guides told them.
Setting off from base camp to find the memorial, Chris spotted it glinting in the sunshine. "See that silver plate? That silver plate is where it is."
Once there, the family shed a few tears and added mementos to Julie's memorial, including a battered snow stick Chris had found in the loft.
"I didn't feel like I was approaching a graveside," says Chris. "It was a closure for me to have been and seen what she'd achieved. When I first sighted K2, it was crystal clear, there was no cloud on the mountain at all. After we'd been up to the memorial and we were leaving, it was covered in cloud and we never saw it again.
"She is where she wanted to be. If I died where I wanted to be, I'd be perfectly happy."
It's My Story: Return to Mother's Mountain is broadcast in the UK on BBC Radio 4 on 27 October at 1100 BST, or for 7 days afterwards at Radio 4's Listen again page.
Autor: Megan Lane
Further information at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/6088868.stm