TV adventurer Bear Grylls has led a secret expedition to Mount Everest to recover the body of Pippa Middleton’s brother-in-law, who died in a mountaineering accident hours after becoming the youngest Briton to conquer the world’s highest peak.
The Chief Scout, who counts the Princess of Wales among his friends, led an expedition to Mount Everest earlier this year to attempt to recover Michael Matthews’ body.
Matthews died in a mountaineering accident in 1999 at the age of 22, after following the example of his friend, Mr Grylls, who reached the summit of Everest last year at the age of 23.
Michael Matthews, 22, (left), with friend Jamie Everest before the Everest summit in 1999
Mr Matthews on the famous mountain in 1999 when he broke Mr Grylls’ record
Mr Grylls (left) with Neil Laughton on top of Mount Everest in 1998
He was the brother of the husband of Pippa Middleton, race car driver turned hedge fund manager James Matthews, 47.
He and his brother, the Made In Chelsea star Spencer Matthews, are friends of Mr Grylls, 48, the son of the late Tory MP Sir Michael Grylls.
“We had an expedition on Everest to try and recover the body of a good friend’s brother, who climbed the year after I got there but was never found,” said Mr Grylls.
“We really tried. We had the best team in the world.’
The Matthews family is desperate for his body.
The Chief Scout led an expedition to Mount Everest earlier this year to attempt to recover Mr Matthews’ body
Mr Grylls on Mount Everest in 1998, when he was 23 years old and set a record
Speaking at the Oxford Union, the Old Etonian said: ‘We had a team of about ten Nepalese guys and some other incredible western climbers. We managed to recover one body. It wasn’t Michael’s; it was a Nepalese climber.’
Grylls, who has attracted big names including former US President Barack Obama and Hollywood stars Kate Winslet and Ben Stiller to appear on his show, Running Wild With Bear Grylls, added: “The story hasn’t come out yet, so I don’t go to talk about it too much but it was a very special moment for [Michael’s] family.
“It’s the reality of high-altitude mountaineering, because that’s where people pay the ultimate price.”
In March of this year, Spencer Matthews was reportedly in the early stages of making a documentary about his late brother’s final days before he died on Mount Everest.
The CleanCo founder, 33, is said to be “extremely passionate” about embarking on the journey, following in his sibling’s footsteps.
He would have the support of his parents and his brother James, who is married to Pippa Middleton, to create the ’emotional’ project, where Spencer will visit his brother’s final resting place.
Project: In March, Spencer Matthews was reportedly in the early stages of making a documentary about his late brother Michael’s last days before dying descending Mount Everest
Spencer described his brother (to the left of brother James) as an ‘incredible force of nature’
The sun reported that Spencer planned to take his brother’s body home.
A source said at the time: “Spencer’s documentary on Michael and his final days is still in its early stages and Disney+ has expressed interest.
“Although the Matthews family have never been able to locate Michael’s body, there is a guide who believes he knows his final resting place.
“It’s a hugely emotional project and it will be a very troubling journey for many reasons, but Spencer is extremely passionate about getting started if he can make it work.”
Experienced mountaineer Matthews, who had previously conquered Kilimanjaro, died in 1999 during a quest that saw him become the youngest Briton to conquer Everest. He was the 162nd person to die on Everest.
Although he reached the top of the world’s highest mountain, he became separated from his group during the descent of the mountain.
Mr Matthews’ body has never been recovered and his family has never been able to fully understand what happened to him.
He was an accomplished climber who had climbed the Pyrenees, Swiss Alps and Kilimanjaro before starting his ill-fated Everest trek, which cost about £22,000, using a climbing company.
After leading the group, the rest of the climbing pack claimed he started to struggle towards the end and during their descent a storm with 100 mph winds hit which resulted in Michael being separated from the group.
David Matthews, the millionaire patriarch of the family, has always sworn that the mountain guides’ negligence was responsible for his death.
He filed a private case against three men who worked for the company, claiming that the safety instructions were inadequate, his oxygen supply was faulty and that the guides were unable to keep an eye on Michael during the climb.
The case was dropped because the judge insisted there was no evidence of negligence.
Michael’s brother James is married to Pippa Middleton, the younger sister of the Princess of Wales (pictured with Michael, Carole and James Middleton)
Spencer is married to model and TV star Vogue Williams
Spencer and his family have since raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for the Michael Matthews Foundation, established in his brother’s memory to support education projects in Africa and Asia.
In Spencer’s 2013 book Confessions of a Chelsea Boy: The Autobiography, he discussed the devastating loss of his sibling.
Speaking of the family, including his other brother James, he said: “His loss was devastating to the family and over time things got worse as the circumstances surrounding Michael’s death were never fully explained.
James took the news badly. With only a year and a half between them, he and Mike were best friends. The loss was heartbreaking for James.”
Of the unanswered questions surrounding the death, Spencer continues: “We were unable to say goodbye in person. We can’t go anywhere to sit with him.
“He only lives on in our thoughts with us. On Mike’s birthday, James and I send Mom and Dad red roses for the age he would have been. I think the way our family is coping with the loss of Mike is to believe that he will carry on with us.”
In a 2001 Guardian article about the tragedy, David, Spencer and Michael’s father, explained how he originally trained with his son and colleague Jamie Everett for the Everest expedition.
David was forced to abandon the climb after a training climb to Aconcagua, where he discovered surgery on his carotid artery prevented him from climbing properly.