Climbing the wall for Everest

Luxury lodge manager Andreas Breitfuss is on a mission to climb Mount Everest and he literally trains, late at night, up an especially-made rock wall on the estate. A tanked up guest going for a late-night walk at Tower Estate in the Hunter Valley might blink twice seeing a dark figure scaling the wall behind the actual tower of the main building. Andreas is set to make his bid during the 2012 Everest climbing season, which is April to June. He leaves for Nepal on March 29, and this isn’t his first attempt.

“When it comes to mountaineering I am really a novice in comparison to many of the famous alpinists of our time,” he says modestly. How confident is he?
“I am feeling really good, my lead up has been really solid with my training so I am stronger and fitter then my last expedition. Without doubt (the most testing part) will be the adjustment to the altitude and lack of oxygen.”

He does a lot more than climb the wall. Andreas does weight training five times a week because he needs to get to his climbing weight of 80kg, heavy pack work once a week and some wall and rock climbing. All up, it’s about two hours a day. The conditions of Everest are unpredictable, he says.

The top of Mount Everest will soon be Andreas’s destination

“However there have been some early snowfalls so this suits us for when we are going up the Khumbu ice fall. The snow fills up some of the crevices so it is a little safer.”

When he’s not climbing the wall, part of his managerial job includes slicing open champagne bottles with a sword, in front of lodge guests gathered for pre-dinner drinks around the fire. This rather flamboyant act is called sabrage, from the French word for “sabering”.

There are various stories on how this originated. It’s believed Madame Cliquot, who had inherited her husband’s small champagne house, used Napoleon’s officers to protect her estate, and as an extra reward she would give them bottles of champagne, saying “When you win your next battle, open the bottle”. The officers later sliced the tops off with a victorious flourish.  Another story recounts how Russian cossacks performed the ritual at wedding celebrations.

At Tower Lodge, Andreas sabers the top off a bottle of bubbly on Friday and Saturday evenings. It’s quite scientific. The colder the champagne bottle is before the ritual, the better, he says. it makes the glass more brittle. He cools the neck of the bottle in a bucket of ice beforehand.

“The old bottles make me nervous because they have no seams,” he says. “In 250 times up to about 12 have exploded.” He does take one safety precaution, attaching the champagne cork to a fishing line which is attached to something solid, so a popping cork doesn’t do any damage.

He runs the sabre along the seam of the bottle with the sword at right angles, twice and on the third time, he strikes.

You can track Andreas’s Mount Everest bid in real time via his GPS which will show up on his website We wish him all the best for his intrepid expedition to the roof of the world and a safe return home! Read more about Andreas and Tower Lodge here.




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