Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Everest, here we come

TEN boys from The Oratory School in Woodcote have set off on a trek to Mount Everest.

TEN boys from The Oratory School in Woodcote have set off on a trek to Mount Everest.

The group, who are all members of the independent Catholic school’s mountaineering society, flew to Kathmandu in Nepal on Sunday.

On Tuesday, they began a 8,800ft climb from Lukla, which is 9,383ft above sea level, to South Base Camp at 17,600ft, which they hope to reach by next Saturday.

On route, they will tackle the neighbouring summit of Kala Patthar — at 18,192ft, the highest point on the challenge.

The 180-mile walk is expected to take three weeks, including the descent.

The participants include Edward Hiscox, 18, from Sonning Eye, Jack Maple, 17, from Wallingford, and brothers Ollie, 18, and Alex Butt, 16, from Brightwell-cum-Sotwell.

The other six are international students Henry Au, 18, from Hong Kong, Manuel Quiante, 17, from Spain, and Germans August Westphalen, 16, Michael Groehe, 18, and Florian Gemmingen and Leo Waldburg, both 17.

The boys are being joined by geography teacher and experienced mountaineer David Watkins, 29, who formed the society two years ago, and fellow geography teacher Phil Poynter, 32.

The group is being led by Anil Bhattarai, who has climbed to Everest, and British mountaineer Stuart Smith, who agreed to help after the school advertised the adventure on Facebook. The group can only climb 1,000ft per day because of the danger of altitude sickness.

Temperatures are unlikely to be above 5C during the day and will dip well below freezing at night.

Before leaving Woodcote, August said: “It’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience — when you say you’re going to Everest, everyone knows immediately that it’s going to be tough.”

Edward said: “Most people think we’re very lucky, although some didn’t believe me when I said I was going. Not many people our age get the chance to do something like this.”

After their descent, the boys will visit the Laliguraas Baal Uddhyaan orphanage in Kathmandu. They will stage a party for the children and hand over £1,700 to Child Action Nepal, which runs the orphanage, and sports equipment donated by the school.

Throughout their adventure, the team will keep their families updated via Facebook and Twitter.

Edward, who hopes to study film at the University of Edinburgh, will be filming the trip and producing a commemorative video.

Each boy had to raise at least £2,800 to cover his costs. Among their supporters are mountain clothing manufacturer Montane, sports drinks company Nuun Hydration and kit supplier The Outdoor Shop. The boys sold an Everest-themed T-shirt and held a series of fund-raising events at the school, including a dinner with live jazz.

They did not have any specialist training but maintained their fitness by playing sport. They were briefed on the dangers of altitude sickness and how to spot the early warning signs.

Matt Dickinson, the first mountaineer to film on the summit of Everest, visited the school twice to address the society.

The boys had hoped the trip would count towards their Duke of Edinburgh gold award but the organisers refused to back it so instead they will complete the award on a trek to Morocco this summer.

Mr Watkins said the Everest trip would give the students valuable experience.

He said: “It will help their personal development — they’ve been responsible for many aspects of the trip, from managing the budget to booking hotels. They’ve also needed the business sense to come up with ideas for raising money. It’s going to leave them with a lot of memories and will challenge them. It will make them evaluate their weaknesses and strengths and put them outside their comfort zones.

“Although it will be uncomfortable at times, it will also push them to see how they deal with difficult environments.

“When the expedition’s over, I hope they’ll continue travelling to new places and learning from them.”

You can follow the group’s progress at www.facebook.com/everestbasecamp2013 or www.twitter.com/ everestbc2013

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