I have a friend at work – Fiona – who I catch up with regularly, she enjoys walking and spends a lot of her spare time looking after a gypsy horse she rescued. On my return from Italy we had met up in London because I had managed to get a ticket to see Levison Wood giving a lecture about his travels. I had excitedly announced my joy of securing a ticket on Facebook in such enthusiastic terms that she was prompted to purchase one too, and in the end three of us went along. Even though I had seen the TV programme (Walking the Himalayas) and read the book, seeing Levison in person and hearing him speak was very inspirational and afterwards I was determined to make some kind of decision about what to do on my Grand Adventure.
A few weeks later, Fiona and I were chatting and she told me that while sourcing some equipment for the stables she had come across the opportunity to trek to Everest Base Camp. It seemed an intriguing story so we arranged to meet for lunch and she told me all about it. Apparently there was a UCL Hospital research unit who were giving away large ammunition boxes, which would be ideal to use as feed bins for the horses.
Fiona went to their office to investigate and found out that the unit had been doing some research in the Himalayas over the last ten years into helping more people survive who enter into intensive care – and these were the very boxes that carried all the equipment to their mobile laboratory at Base Camp! The project is called Xtreme Everest, it was formally established in March 2004 as a project of the UCL Centre for Altitude, Space and Extreme Environment medicine. Since that time, Xtreme Everest has developed as an umbrella organisation collaborating with the University of Southampton, the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health (ISEH) and Duke University.
In the course of the conversation with Fiona, the lady in the office said that in April 2017 they would be going back to Nepal to present their findings to the Sherpa community and re-do the original trek that the UK participants travelled to take part in the research experiments. We met for lunch and Fiona came armed with a couple of photobooks illustrating the research and the images from the trip, and revealed that they were opening out the trek to anyone who was interested in taking part. We looked at each other and you could see both our eyes light up at the thought of going along.
As soon as I started looking at the photos I was hooked. I had said to myself after the Inca Trail that I had achieved my ambition and never again would I trek through the mountains, that I had got it out of my system. But, like the Trail, I know various people who have gone to Base Camp and it was something that had been in the back of my mind to do one day. By the time I got to the end of the book I knew it was meant to be: I was going to go to Everest!