One of the many gorge crossings on the ascent
Flying the Ultra Flag at Everest Base Camp
From the Summit of Kala Patthar looking
Ultra At New Heights
Over the past three years I have been lucky enough to have been part of a company that consistently takes part charity events. These have ranged from annual activities such as the Palace to Palace cycle race, the London Marathon, the Keswick to Barrow Walk, and the Birmingham Run, to various one off raffles, bake sales, book sales, and lotteries; that in 2013 raised a total of £18,388 for various local and national charities. All this activity has been superbly supported by PMES' Sports, Social and Charity Committee consisting of Lynette Percox, Iain Robertshaw, Emily Cox, David Greenwood, Paul Walker, Ian Setterfield, Simon Durrance, Andy Langman and Cathy Hunt.
Keen to support the company's charitable work, I agreed to embark on a charity trek to reach Mount Everest Base Camp and the summit of Kala Patthar in October 2013. I was accompanied on this challenge by my 78 year old father, who has for the past ten years conducted a number of mad adventures across the world. These have included cycling 1,000 miles in 20 days down the Danube; climbing Mt Kenya and Mt Kilimanjaro; and walking the UK Coast to Coast, the West Highland Way, the Atlas Mountains, and the Inca trail. These have supported various charities, including those that fight Cancer; the disease that took my mother and has affected so many of our friends and the lives of their families. The Everest trip was to be no exception with all money raised going to Cancer Research UK and Marie Curie Cancer Care.
The journey started on 11th October 2013, flying overnight into Kathmandu during the grip of Cyclone Phalin. The cyclone, the worst to hit the region since records began, had an immediate impact on the expedition. All internal airline flights to Luckla, the entry point to the High Himalayas and starting point for all Everest ascents, were grounded for the next three days due to bad weather. Faced with aborting the expedition before it had started, our group took the opportunity to charter a helicopter during a gap in the weather, finally reaching Luckla on the evening of the 15th October.
The next eight days consisted of a steady ascent from Luckla to Everest, acclimatizing as we crossed spectacular gorges and made our way further up the Khumbu Plateau. Throughout this period we received reports from returning climbers of the impact of Cyclone Phalin. Many of these climbers failed to reach Base Camp due to the weather. Of more concern, increased snowfall and a series of avalanches claimed the lives of nine climbers on the Tibetan side of Everest and one climber on the Nepalese side of Everest. However, as we were still five days away from Base Camp we decided to press on and the weather continued to improve as we progressed higher.
After receiving the traditional blessing of the Buddist Monks at Dingboche on 18th October, a common ritual for all Everest parties, we finally reached Base Camp on the afternoon of 22nd October. Although all 14 members of the Group made it to Base Camp, altitude sickness, exhaustion and injury were beginning to take their toll on some members of the Group. This resulted in only seven of us managing to summit Kala Patthar the following day, the highest point of the trek at 5,649m.
Apart from witnessing four avalanches and three rockfalls in one afternoon, the trip down the mountain was less eventful, but much more rapid; eleven hour treks became the norm over the next three days, recovering some of the time we had lost to Cyclone Phalin and enabling us to fly back out of Luckla on 26th October. As we returned to UK two days later, we found the mountain had one final farewell, with my father suffering a heart attack as a result of a knee injury sustained on the trek. Luckily, he has now fully recovered, is planning to stretch his legs with me on Ben Nevis in May, and is still joking about attempting the South Pole. As for me, I'm seriously considering my lead Sherpa's suggestion to attempt Mallory's Tibetan route to the North Col of Everest, a challenge for the future.
I would like to thank all those who kindly sponsored my father and I. Their support resulted in over £10,000 being raised for Cancer Research and Marie Curie Care. In particular I would like to highlight the extremely generous donations from the PMES staff in UK and the Ithra staff in Oman. My thanks also to Head Office and NSPI whose donations came with requests to fly the Ultra flag and Breast Cancer awareness pin during the trek, these were duly carried to both Everest Base Camp and Kala Patthar.