A team of intrepid Hampshire firefighters have embarked on a once-in-a-lifetime trek to Everest Base Camp in aid of The Fire Fighters Charity.
Watch Manager Craig Sadler was first inspired to take on this venture when sat in a hotel bar in Wales in front of some climbing equipment that had been used to scale the mountain.
It didn’t take the 47-year-old father-of-three long to convince his close band of fundraising firefighters to attempt the mission alongside him.
“I would have done it on my own if no one else fancied it but I put the question out in the WhatsApp group and almost immediately everyone was onboard. My wife wouldn’t speak to me when I first told her, but she’s now fully behind us, as are all our families, friends and everyone at HFRS.”
Spread across nine stations, including one in West Sussex, the team have previously been involved in charity events including retracing the route of the Cockleshell Heroes in 2016.
Throughout the past year, the trekkers have been fundraising with skydives, quizzes, car washes and the Great South Run.
“We have funded the events, travel, insurance and kit all ourselves so that everything we have collected throughout the year is going to The Fire Fighters Charity. People have been so supportive even just knocking on the station door to donate. So far we have raised about £15,000.”
“As a Mental Health First Aider I am aware of how a firefighter can be affected following a traumatic incident. Knowing that someone is there to help can make all the difference. Fortunately I’ve never had to lean on The Fire Fighters Charity myself, but having seen the wonderful support they provide our friends and colleagues, I know it is a cause that will spur us on to reach Base Camp.”
The trekkers have worked alongside The Village Gym in Cosham to tailor their fitness regime from that of a firefighter to one that prepares them for Everest. They have also used altitude masks and garnered the support of ex-footballer John Barnes, DJ Fatboy Slim and former soldier and TV presenter Ant Middleton during their year-long fundraising mission.
Not only have they been preparing for the treacherous conditions they’ll be facing at 18,208ft above sea level at Kalapathar, they have also had to battle airlines cancelling flights, language barriers and even one of the team’s dog eating his passport and visa!
“It’s been a long time coming, getting to Nepal is proving to be half the battle. Once we make it to the bottom of Everest, I’ll feel a sense of relief and be glad to just solely focus on the climb.”
Despite having a limited amount of space with all the kit and equipment they have to take, the team will be distributing HFRS woolly hats and colouring books to the local Nepalese children.
“Seeing how little they have will be an eye opener. The gifts will be a way for us to give back to the communities and people that will be looking after us when we’re there.”
Upon arrival at Lukla airport, dubbed ‘the most dangerous airport in the world’, the group will receive a blessing from a local priest, but there is no time to relax, as due to the rearranged flights they have had to reduce the number of rest days on the two-week ascent.
Blisteringly-cold temperatures, sleeping upright, taking tablets, daily fitness tests and taping batteries so they don’t lose their charge, Craig and his team know this isn’t a holiday.
“We’ll learn a lot about ourselves, I’m sure. But with the team and our guides, we’ll be surrounded by good people, with a common goal. We are a determined group of problem solvers and like all firefighters are always up for a challenge.”
The team consists of wholetime and on-call firefighters and includes:
• Watch Manager Craig Sadler (47) from Waterlooville and Cosham
• Watch Manager Steve Pearce (51) from Cosham and East Wittering (West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service)
• Firefighter Guy Andrews (56) from Horndean and Southsea
• Watch Manager Martyn Elliott (49) from Havant
• Firefighter Phil Lamb (41) from Emsworth and Cosham
• Crew Manager Sam Jackson (30) from Horndean and Cosham
• Firefighter Simon Gambie (39) from Wickham and Cosham
• Crew Manager Paul Rogers (44) from Southsea
• Crew Manager Tom Davies (32) from Emsworth and Southsea
• Firefighter Neil Lane (47) from Cosham
• Watch Manager Shaun Ratcliffe (49) Gosport
To find out more about the team, their efforts and to donate visit their Just Giving page (http://bit.ly/EverestHFRS).