Michael Westmacott started climbing at Oxford, scaling the Ashmolean Museum in an early exploit and placing an umbrella in the roof statue's hand.

Dons didn't seem to mind Corpus Christi walls being clambered, even when ancient crumbling stone thundered down into the quad.

The mathematics undergraduate had already served King and country by then, - he was seconded into the Indian Army where he learned Urdu and worked in reconstruction in the aftermath of war.

He enjoyed India and Burma, and had trekked in the north. There was no burning desire at that stage to conquer peaks.

Born and brought up in Devon, Michael recalls his first climbing trip to the Lakes. It came within a whisker of putting him off forever.

"We walked over Styhead Pass to Wasdale through snow. The first day I climbed, I went up Napes Needle. In retrospect, it was quite hard. Before that I had only climbed railways bridges and buildings in Oxford.

"It rained incessantly. It was so unpleasant I was ready to give it up by the end of the week.

"I went back to Oxford and realised climbing was really about the friends you make. They kept me going."

Ben Nevis provided good snow and ice training. Some of the routes were very challenging.

Danger adds spice, Michael explains, but obviously it should be minimised.

"I tackled fearlessly on the rugby pitch, but was always fairly fearful and careful in the mountains.

"You have to learn to control fear, put it on one side and concentrate all the more. Conquering fear gives satisfaction."

In a pair of old American Army boots, bought in North Burma, he tackled the Alps, becoming increasingly hooked on mountain exploration.

"In '52 we had just gone up one side of the Matterhorn and down the other, when a friend turned to me and said that was terrific. You know Everest is an awful slog and would need weeks of hard work, but I'd give anything to have a go'."

Inspired, Michael wrote to the Royal Geographic Society to ask if his name could be considered for the following year's Everest expedition.

"Six years of war had left a gap; established climbers had not been doing much and a new generation was emerging.

"I got a letter asking me to attend an interview with Colonel Hunt. I was excited, and apprehensive. He was a colonel and I had been a humble lieutenant.

"I need not have worried, from the moment we met he was a friend. He was a remarkable man. If I'd been refused a place, I would have rather taken it from John Hunt than anyone else."

Working as a statistician in the first agricultural research station in the world, Michael was prepared to give up his job if necessary to get to Everest.

When word came of his selection, he went with his employer's grace - and half pay.

"My family was quite excited. It stopped my father saying climbing again, don't know what's got into you'. If mother was worried, she contained herself."

There was only one training weekend in North Wales before Michael set sail to India on February 12, with all the expedition's heavy equipment and six team members.

"Food was much better on board than at home, where rationing was still going on. We tried to keep ourselves fit over the next 17 days, running around the deck and swimming in the tiny pool."

They travelled on by rail and road until tracks petered out at Kathmandu. Ten tons of gear had to be strapped to an aerial runway, before being distributed among 400 porters.

"We had been met by the British Ambassador's car in Kathmandu. There were only six cars in total then."

Speaking Urdu, one of Michael's early tasks was to take responsibility for the first contingent of 200 porters. The other 200 followed on a day behind.

"I loved the sights and sounds and smells of Kathmandu. Sadly, there was no time to look at it properly. It had already taken from February 12 to March 7 or 8 to get there.

"When I met Tensing I took to him straight away. He didn't have much English so we spoke in Urdu."

It took 17 days to walk the 120 miles to base camp. They arrived on April 12, Michael's 28th birthday.

The saga of supreme daring and exploration will be relived on Thursday.

Michael will go through his part in a five-minute slot. In a lifetime of climbing there have been no further Everest attempts. The man who finished his career working for Shell International "looking after Singapore and Thailand", says he has been "very privileged and very lucky".