Mountain Climber – Keynote Speaker
Michael Groom is unquestionably one of the world’s greatest ‘big’ mountain climbers. In 1999 he successfully climbed Makalu, the smallest and for Michael, the last of the ‘big five’ – the five highest mountains in the world, Makalu, Lhotse, Kangchenjunga, K2 and Everest. Michael climbed them all without the assistance of bottled oxygen, and all but Kangchenjunga, without the front third of both feet.
In 1987, while descending from the summit of Kangchenjunga, his first big five mountain, he suffered crippling frostbite and later had the front third of both feet amputated. He was advised to get a desk job and that his climbing days were definitely over. He succumbed to incessant pain and disability. For two years Michael withdrew from the world and became yet another victim of the wrath of the world’s highest mountains.
He grew up in the wild Australian mountains, in a family of mountain climbers. During his first abseil, at the tender age of 10 his Dad walked over the edge of a 100 metre cliff. Somehow, he got to the bottom, but he experienced his first life threatening fear that he would carry with him for the rest of his life. The same fear that Michael will tell you has saved him on many occasions, when others have died. In the Himalayas fear and respect are comfortable bedfellows. The mountains demand your respect and respect your fear.
Twenty-five years later, sitting alone in his workers cottage, completely lost and numbed by pain relief and daytime TV, he never felt further from his childhood dream of climbing Everest. But Michael is not a quitter, and after enough time feeling sorry for himself and believing others about his condition, he decided that he would fulfill that dream. Slowly, ever so slowly, he trained himself to walk again. Then to run. A year later he was cycling and ready to start climbing again. First, it was the small rock climbs near his hometown of Brisbane, then back to the Himalayas. He climbed Cho Oyu in 1990. In 1991 and avalanche swept him 900 metres down the Lhotse Face of Everest and once again, miraculously, he survived.
In 1993 Michael returned to the Himalayas better prepared than ever before and climbed Everest and in 1994 K2. In 1995, the unknown Brisbane mountaineer climbed Lhotse and became the fourth person in the world to climb the four highest mountains. More men have walked on the moon!
In 1996 Michael was one of the few famous big mountain climbers to survive yet another Everest disaster. Of the six climbers from his team, who reached the summit, only he and American Jon Krakauer, author of ”Into Thin Air”, survived. On the descent, in cruel and violent conditions, he stumbled across another American, Beck Weathers, who was now totally blind. Placing his own life in extreme danger, Michael tethered Beck to a short piece of rope and guided and lowered him down some of the most dangerous sections of the mountain. The storm killed half the team. Beck survived but with crippling injuries to his hands and face. Michael returned home, shattered and disillusioned. It would be three more years before the big mountains lured him back, and he finally summited Makalu, the last of the big five in 1999. He was 40 years old.
Michael still lives in Brisbane with his wife, Judi, and son Harry. He is one of Australia’s popular keynote speakers and has been a professional speaker since 1991. He motivates soldiers going off to war zones, athletes struggling to come back from serious injury, professional people keen to get a little closer to the truth of ”no pain no gain”, and ordinary folk who just love to listen to one of Australia’s most amazing human endeavor stories. Michael Groom’s autobiography ”Sheer Will” is a can’t-put-down read, his personal presentation, accompanied with impossibly beautiful visuals, is to see the earth in its most natural and rawest form – the way the earth was meant to be.