An intrepid team of Railway Children supporters is preparing to walk across the roof of the world to Everest Base Camp, as we print.
The expedition to Everest Base Camp and back takes two weeks trekking thousands of metres above sea level and coping with thin air and altitude sickness.
After arriving in Kathmandu, the team will fly to Lukla, rated the most dangerous airstrip in the world at just 460 metres long. Then comes the long trek to the village of Namche Bazaar following the valley of the Dudh Kosi river. The path commands views of some of the highest mountains on Earth including Lhotse and Mount Everest itself. Climbers usually pause for a day or two to acclimatise themselves to the thin air before continuing. The journey continues to Dingboche, a small village perched at 4,530 metres. The Everest Base Camp in Nepal is 5,364 metres above sea level, Everest is 8,848 metres.
The team includes Iarnród Éireann’s chief executive David Franks and Johanna Franks, Dyan Crowther, chief operating officer of Govia Thameslink Railway, and Michael Holden, chief executive at Directly Operated Railways. Mac Motraghi, head of bid delivery at Hitachi Rail Europe joins David Taylor, business development director, at Thales and Adam O’Connor, production maestro at Rail Media. Tim Wade, service manager at London Underground, and Dave Gregory, a paramedic in Suffolk, will be trekking along with Dave Thorpe of East Coast Trains and Andy Ridout of advance-TRS. Katie Mason of Railway Children with Simon Johnston, director at Mainspring, the events and publishing business, Darren Morley and Steve Whitehead, both of First TransPennine Express, complete the team.
In February, the team met for a practice hike through Edale in the Peak District. ‘It was cold and hard going through snow, but we had a good time,’ said Adam O’Connor. ‘Most of us came together to do the Kilimanjaro trek for the Railway Children and
team bonding is essential. All of us were aware that the Himalayas will be colder, tougher and have the added challenge of being at high altitude.’ The expedition includes climbing Kalapatthar with its commanding views of Everest.
‘When we get there we will aim to scale the neighbouring peak of Kalapatthar, which at 5,647m is pretty high and affords an excellent view over the summit of Everest itself,’ says Michael Holden.
‘Having survived the summit climb of Kilimanjaro four years ago, I wanted to set myself just one more extreme challenge in my life. This is it!
Dave Gregory has been preparing for the expedition by completing climbs in Derbyshire and the Cairngorms.
‘I am quite an experienced walker and have done the Three Peaks Challenge twice and walked parts of the French Alps,’ he says, but, ‘this is going to be something different and the environment and altitude will be challenging. Going from 50 metres to more than 5,000 metres above sea level will be quite different to what I’m used to.’
Everyone in the team is aware of the importance of the work of Railway Children. It’s a personal commitment. Railway Children is an international children’s charity that works to reach homeless children on the streets of Britain, Africa and India. In the UK alone, a child runs away from home every five minutes, forced to flee as a result of poverty, abuse, violence or neglect.
Says Adam O’Connor, ‘Railway Children is my charity for life. I met some of the children that we helped when we climbed Kilimanjaro. I have children now myself and realise just how precious they are.’
It’s a view echoed by Andy Ridout. ’As a father of four myself, hearing some of the horror stories that these children live on a day-to-day basis is extremely harrowing. The innocence of children is a priceless commodity and one which is cruelly taken away by those who seek only to coerce and exploit. For those of us who have children, it’s a cause that hits close to home as we often forget how unfortunate many other children are in this world.’
Andy, a committed triathlete, has been training all winter, running, cycling and getting in plenty of gym work.
Mount Everest continues to fire the imagination. Edmund Hillary, from New Zealand, and Tenzing Norgay, of Nepal, reached the top in 1953. The pair took photographs of each other and buried a few sweets and a small cross in accordance with local custom before descending.
To support the team’s fundraising effort click here