HOME IN THE MOUNTAINS: Ted Atkins in Khumjung below three of the mountains he had climbed: Mt Everest, Lhotse and Ama Dablam.

Ted Atkins, a British mountaineer, entrepreneur and frequent contributor to Nepali Times on climbing safety in the Himalaya died on Tuesday while descending Civetta in the Dolomites.

Atkins was an aerosystems engineer and a member of the Royal Air Force Mountain Rescue Service and led the Mt Everest North Ridge Expedition in 2001. He summited Everest later from the Nepal side, and went on to climb Kangchenjunga, Makalu, Lhotse and Ama Dablam.

He also set a world record for the highest ever boat ride by paddling a raft on a glacial lake at 6,300m below Everest. Colleagues remember him as a man who pushed the limits to get the job done, and was always trying out new adventures like high altitude freefall diving.

After leaving the RAF, Atkins ran a thriving business selling bottled oxygen to Himalayan expeditions at a time where there had been several fatalities caused by faulty equipment. His cylinders had a new kind of delivery system that he invented himself. 

“Everything Ted did was to the max, he had so many adventures and epics it is hard to believe he fell on the way from a via Feratta near his home in Italy,” wrote a friend in a blog tribute.

Ted Atkins' last column in Nepali Times in the issue of 18 May 2018.

The article he wrote for Nepali Times this year in May recounted a close brush with death when his oxygen cylinder exploded before a climb. Many expeditions reported malfunctioning cylinder regulators procured in Kathmandu this year. In the article he blamed it on greed of unscrupulous businessmen. Atkins was working to make it safer with his company, Top Out Oxygeneering.

Atkins often lamented the commercialisation of mountaineering in Nepal in his columns and also had suggestions for improving Nepal’s tourism image. For instance, he thought Kathmandu Airport gave a very bad first impression of Nepal to visitors.

Atkins seemed to have a premonition of his death when he quoted in his last coluimn in this paper the words of Upendra Devkota, the neurosurgeon who passed away in June after battling terminal cancer: “Death is not so important. What is important is what the dead person leaves behind”.

Atkin’s last words in that piece were: ‘Wise words that make me wish I knew the doctor. What do we leave behind, did we make anything better, what will our children say about us? Think about the future, their future.’

“Always make things better”

Dawa Steven Sherpa with Ted Atkins at the Top Out Nepal oxygen bottling plant.

Ted was killed while descending a mountain near his home in the Italian Dolomites. A mountain that he had climbed many times before.

As a true engineer, his outlook on life was always to make things better. His contribution to Nepal, especially as a pioneer in the field of mountaineering oxygen systems, is immeasurable. He was always a patient teacher to me and humored me always in my ignorance. 

Many were the times we shared a plate of chips and a beer or sat in his ‘mad scientist lab’ and talked about the purpose of our lives. You always lived your life to the fullest, making the best of each day. In that same spirit, you have left us so very suddenly doing what you loved doing.

Ted was more like family to all of us here at ASTREK. His zest for life always energised us and his incredible stories could put a smile on anyone’s face. 

You may be gone but you will never be forgotten. I will miss you sorely. Dhanyabad for the memories MeroSaathi. Rest In Peace My Friend.

Dawa Steven Sherpa, mountaineer and partner with Atkins in Top Out Nepal.

“Spread positive energy”

Billi Bierling and Ted Atkins with citations for their mountaineering achievements from President Bidya Devi Bhandari in 2016.

Ted was an integral part of the mountaineering community in Nepal, greatly contributing to the development of oxygen systems and masks. With his Topout oxygen masks, he enabled hundreds of people reach the top of an 8,000m-peak in Nepal and fulfilling their dreams. 

Ted shall be greatly missed, not only for his incredible ability to come up with solid solutions to technical problems, his vigour to improve things and his expertise in many fields, but also for the amazing positive energy he spread around the streets of Kathmandu. It was always a pleasure to meet up with Ted, philosophise about life and the universe with him, listen to his adventurous stories and have a good laugh with him.

Ted certainly lived his life, which sadly ended less than three months before his 60th birthday, to the full and enjoyed every moment of it. Thanks Ted for giving so much to Nepal and its mountaineering community. You have made your mark and you shall be greatly missed.

Billi Bierling, mountaineer and convener of the Himalayan Database

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