Caradog "Crag" Jones (born 1962) is a noted Welsh climber. While he has achieved a number of firsts on peaks around the world, he is most well known for being the first Welshman to reach the summit of Mount Everest, a feat he achieved on 23 May 1995, at the age of 33. As such he was the 724th climber to reach the summit. The final ascent was made with Michael Knakkergaard-Jorgensen, the first Dane to the summit. At 33, Jones was the same age as Edmund Hillary when he reached the summit, and indeed this was achieved virtually 32 years on to the day.
Jones and Jorgensen were part of a larger world team, led by Henry Todd of the UK, and using Himalayan guides. Other members of the team were Paul Deegan (UK), Graham Ratcliffe (UK), Sean Smith (UK), Anatoli Boukreev (Kazakhstan), Mozart Catao (Brazil), Nicolas Chappaz (France), Waldemar Niclevicz (Brazil), Ryszard Pawlowski (Poland) and Nikolai Sitnikov (Russia).
The first of the team to reach the summit was Ryszard Pawlowski, on 12 May, other groups following on 14 May and 17 May. Jones and Jorgensen formed the last group, reaching the summit on 23 May.
The team took the northern route (North Col – North East Ridge) following that of the former fatal expedition of George Mallory and Andrew Irvine in 1924, and their climb was equally plagued by poor weather. After three nights spent at the highest camp, their food and oxygen ran out. However, they learned on the radio that some abandoned oxygen bottles lay about 500 ft (150 m) above them, left by another expedition. They were also fortunate to find sufficient food, though bizarrely were joined by an American at this point, who, lost from another expedition, had overheard them on the radio. The American was, however, not in a good state physically, and Jones had to resort to threats to prevent him from tagging along and jeopardising the push to the summit. There were, in fact, a lot of climbers on the mountain at the time – Jones was the 61st person to reach the summit in the month of May 1995 alone, and indeed the following day saw American Jeff Shea and two Sherpas on the summit, with the monthly May total in 1995 reaching 75 successful ascents.
As of his impressions of the summit, Jones said :
|“||It felt as if you could see the curvature of the earth. And it suddenly dawns on you how thin the atmosphere is, especially when you've walked through it of your own accord. When you're on the ground, one assumes that there's this vast depth above you protecting the earth, but when you're up there, you realise that you're in an area that can't sustain life for very long. You think, Christ, it's like a gossamer that can disappear so easily and I felt a lot less secure after that.||”|
His ascent of Everest was made into a 52-minute film for television, and featured camera work by Eric Jones), another Welshman (but no relation) from Tremadog who has now twice been part way up Everest while working as a cameraman, but has never reached the summit – he was the third member of the 1978 expedition when Reinhold Messner and Habler became the first to reach the summit without oxygen cylinders.
Jones is not the only Welshman to have climbed Everest. The first disabled person (amputee) to successfully do so was Welshman Tom Whittaker, on 27 May 1998. He had previously lost his right foot and part of his leg in a car accident in 1979.
Other peaks and "firsts"
Jones has climbed in many countries across the world. His climbs include some "firsts" :
In 1991, with Mick Fowler, he attempted the south ridge of Ultar II in Pakistan but, despite reaching 6500m, was forced to descend due to bad weather. With Fowler, however, Jones had previously made the first ascent of Hunza Peak (6200m) in the same year. The same trip saw Jones climbing Bublimoting, but this summit was reached ten days earlier by a Swedish team.
On 25 January 2001 Jones made the first ascent, solo, of the highest of the Three Brothers peaks (2008m) at the north west end of the Allardyce Range on South Georgia. The Brothers actually consist of four peaks whose summits are 1466m, 1783m, 1837m and 2008m above sea level.
Shortly after arrival the weather deteriorated, and although it cleared, the three man team of Jones, Novak and Hughes was later kept tent-bound for five days. On the last day, the team left the tent in a white out, expecting a later clear spell, which had been forecast. However, when conditions remained bad, the other two decided not to continue, and Jones went on with the climb alone. Better conditions did indeed follow, and he reached the summit via the north-east ridge.
This was part of a combined climbing and filming expedition, which resulted in five 30 minute programmes. Recorded in Welsh, and entitled Haf Ganol Gaeaf (Summer Midst Winter), it was broadcast with English sub-titles. The series included :
- Sailing to get there and back
- History of the island
- South Georgia's wildlife
- First ascent of the 'Three Brothers'
In 2005, together with Julian Freeman-Attwood, Rich Howarth and Skip Novak, Jones completed a 17-day south-north traverse of South Georgia. As part of this they made the first ascent of Pk. 5680 (1,727m). (Some pictures here)
Following his Everest climb, Jones was afterwards in demand to make TV programmes for younger climbers.
He also supports local climbing and walking groups and is often invited to speak at functions arranged by such groups, which include the Alpine Club (UK) and the British Mountaineering Council. He is a former Vice-President of the latter.
Following a meet of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, he said "One aspect of these meets that is very important to me is that the visiting climbers go home with a much clearer understanding of (and often downright enthusiasm for) the adventure climbing ethic."
In 2003 a talk he gave was entitled "Speed Climbing – from Strone to the Antarctic".
Dafydd Morgan, Secretary of Clwb Crwydro Caron, Tregaron's Walking Club, described him as:
|“||... a most gentle, genuine and mild-mannered man .... Those who didn't know Caradog would have found it difficult to perceive how such a gentle and amiable person succeeded in reaching the summit of the world's highest, harshest and most unforgiving of mountains."||”|
- Climber Lists: Everest, K2 and other 8000ers
- EverestHistory.com: Everest Summits 1995
- High society | Magazine | The Observer
- films which leo has made or worked on since 1969 Archived 2 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
- TV Notes; Top of the World – New York Times
- SummitPost – Ultar II – Climbing, Hiking & Mountaineering
- The American Alpine Club — Search AAJ[permanent dead link]
- http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:WnTBwJjYYfEJ:www.uiaa.ch/web.test/visual/ExpCom/newa2002.doc[permanent dead link]
- South Georgia Island Welcome
- South Georgia Island Welcome
- BMC – International
- MCofS; Newsletter
- Artikel – Climbing.de – Alpinismus, Klettern, Bergsteigen, Berge, Klettertraining, Outdoor, Alpen, Bergsport, Expeditionen[permanent dead link]
- BBC – Mid Wales Tregaron – Crwydro Caron Walking Club