"Bronco Lane is an exceptional soldier whose spirit of adventure and
readiness to take risks has led him to the most extreme and dangerous places
on earth - including the summit of Mt. Everest."
-- General Michael Rose
The above quote ably captures the spirit of Michael "Bronco" Lane, a
soldier, adventurer, climber and author. But it does nothing to capture the
sometimes-dark humor of the man who would eventually offer his amputated
frostbitten toes to an exhibit commemorating the 50th anniversary of Edmund
Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's historic first summit of Everest.
In 1976 Major Michael Lane was given leave from the British Special Air
Service to attempt an Army ascent of Everest. With his fellow SAS member and
friend Sgt. John "Brummie" Stokes, Lane reached Everest's summit on May 16th
in the first successful all-military ascent.
The expedition was a joint British-Nepalese Army operation under the
command of Lt. Col Tony Streather. Although they succeeded in putting two men
on the summit the expedition was marred by the death of Terry Thompson, a
Marines captain, who died in fall into a crevasse at Camp 2.
As he would later recount in his book "Military Mountaineering" after
summiting the weather atop Everest turned rough, as it often does, and the men
were forced to abandon their descent and bivouac in a snow hole near the South
Summit for the night. Both men were badly frostbitten, losing all their toes.
In the tradition of SAS humor Lane had his toes preserved and kept them
behind the regimental mess. When contacted by the National Army Museum
regarding memorabilia from his ascent Lane offered up his severed digits.
"Our team had no prima donnas, and unselfishness was displayed to a very
high degree. Unfortunately we lost Terry Thompson in a tragic accident, which
marred our ascent. Losing a climbing companion is a stark reminder that you do
not conquer mountains, but sneak up and down when nature has her back turned."
-- Michael "Bronco" Lane