Kenton Edward Cool

Presentation address by Ms Suzanne Glavin


The first time he climbed the world’s highest mountain, Kenton Cool called home.  ‘I’m on top, Mum’, he said breathlessly.  ‘I’m on top of Everest.’  Her understated reply was the epitome of British reserve: ‘That’s nice dear. If you want to speak to your father, he’s out walking the dog.’

Such composure is in stark contrast to the infectious enthusiasm of the record-holding mountaineer, avid adventurer and Leeds graduate.  Over two decades, Kenton has established himself as a supremely skilled mountaineer on the world’s most challenging peaks. 

His achievements are towering:  he has climbed Everest twice in one week; he led Sir Ranulph Fiennes up the Eiger – raising £2.7 million for charity – and also to the Everest summit; and he was first to climb the ‘Everest Triple Crown’ of Everest, Nuptse and Lhotse in a single expedition. Barely seven weeks ago he scaled Everest for the thirteenth time, a European record.

High-altitude mountaineering requires technical, physical and mental qualities which are beyond most of us.  Strength, determination and stamina must be underpinned by self-belief and absolute focus. As a professional mountain guide, Kenton is responsible for building and leading teams of climbers up peaks in some of the earth’s most inhospitable places. The risks are high and margins for error low.

Kenton arrived at Leeds in 1991 and was taught by you, Chancellor, when you began lecturing that year. A member of Leeds’s outstanding mountaineering club, Kenton bemused fellow students by climbing along the stone walls below the Henry Price building, and honed his skills at Kilnsey Crag and Malham Cove. As a geology student, he was equipped to identify which rock walls would bear his weight and which might not, even if he did miss some of your classes, Chancellor, to hone his skills. 

Graduating in 1994, Kenton aspired to join the elite International Foundation Mountain Guide Association. But two years later he shattered both heel bones after a terrible fall.  Against medical expectations, he recovered following surgery: his subsequent achievements are all the more remarkable given that he still experiences bouts of chronic pain in his heels. 

Kenton Cool says that his goal is to inspire the next generation, but actually it seems to me that his extraordinary achievements and example serve as inspiration to us all, to every generation.

Chancellor, I am delighted to present to you for the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa: Kenton Edward Cool.