When Leah Pargeter, Digital Marketing Officer at workplace product specialists Direct2U, contacted us earlier this year to tell us that she and her Dad Ade were going to trek to Everest Base Camp to raise money for Promise Dreams we were delighted, nervous for them, excited, in awe, and had one main question… WHY?!
We have worked with Leah and her colleagues at Direct2U for over three years now and they regularly organise and take part in fundraising activities to support us, as well as making donations from sales of their products. The whole team are well known in our office for being creative with their fundraising and always going the extra mile to support us. Last year we were beyond impressed to hear that Leah and Ade had made it to the summit of Kilimanjaro but we never imagined that within just a few months they would have signed up for the next challenge, nor that their next challenge would be as huge as… well… Everest.
We followed their journey as they made their way to base camp as best as social media would allow (Leah tells us there is Wi-Fi available on the mountain, but it comes at a price!) and we had regular updates from her colleagues to let us know that they were safe (we did get worried when they were asked to sign their life away before they had even boarded the plane, but Leah assures us it only adds to the experience!), but of course as soon as they landed back in the UK we (Ali, PD Community Fundraiser, and Nikki, PD Dream & Marketing Coordinator) arranged to go and see Leah to hear all about it and find out how they had successfully completed their mission and raised over £2200 for our charity in the process!
Leah was a dancer from a young age until her teenage years but admits that she is not the most active person by nature. When she went to university she soon realised that she wasn’t exercising as much as she wanted to be and she began thinking of ways she could motivate herself to get moving again. She explained: “My Dad, Ade, has always loved the mountains. He and my Grandad used to camp most weekends and hike to the top of Snowdon or Scafell Pike. Camping is not my thing at all but I do love climbing the mountains for the gorgeous views from the top. After watching Comic Relief and seeing Cheryl Cole climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, I found it so inspiring that I decided in the spur of the moment that I wanted to do it myself. I asked my Dad if he wanted to do it with me and I was surprised that he said no! He didn’t think I was serious enough about it so he challenged me to join the gym and come back to him in a year’s time if I was still keen to take it on. I did it and the following year he took me seriously enough to sign us both up for the challenge.”
At this point both Ali and I let out a little gasp of excitement! For us, this is where the story really starts. We knew Leah throughout her training for Kilimanjaro, followed her updates as she went on training weekends (which even included camping! Outside! With no showers!) and were so chuffed last year when we saw the photos of her at the summit. Leah and Ade found it such a humbling, life-changing, challenging experience that as soon as they had finished they were planning their next adventure. The Everest Base Camp trek is a popular follow-on for many people who have successfully tackled Kilimanjaro so it seemed the obvious choice to them.
Leah explained that most people think that the challenge involves climbing to the summit of Everest, and that when you explain that it isn’t the summit that you’re trekking to (even the most experienced mountaineers have to train for around 5-10years before an attempt to reach the summit) they assume that the challenge isn’t as much of a feat as they had first thought. Let’s clarify something: it is an absolutely huge, crazy, dangerous, physically and mentally demanding challenge. The summit of Everest has an altitude of 8,848 above sea level. At 5,364 metres, anyone who makes it to Base Camp has therefore already made it almost two thirds of the way there. Over half of the people who attempt to reach Base Camp suffer from altitude sickness and for many of them it is so severe that they are unable to reach their destination. Whilst altitude sickness wasn’t a huge problem for Leah, Ade really suffered from it on this trip, but amazingly the duo both still made it to the camp. Out of a group of 20 who started the trek with Leah and Ade, 5 were airlifted off the mountain.
We asked Leah some of the most burning questions we had about life on the mountain and we are sure you will want to know the answers too (just in case you’re thinking of adding it to your bucket list which, after hearing Leah talk about it so passionately, we are):
Toilet facilities are usually a hole in the ground over a deep pit, known as long drops. They are only located at the lodges so in between camps it is wherever you find a bush! Toilet roll is never provided so take your own!
Food is basic – rice, beans, vegetables, and as many energy bars as you can carry in your day pack. Leah said that despite the amount of calories they were burning each day through trekking, she lost her appetite due to altitude sickness and had to force herself to eat as much as possible to keep energy levels up.
Showers were limited. Occasionally they would reach a camp with showers and hot water but they were rare. Leah explained that you soon get used to not showering!
The routes are busy, full of people taking on the challenge, Sherpas, and lots of yaks!
The weather can change extremely quickly. At the time when Leah and Ade went there wasn’t much snow – this one certainly surprised us to hear as we had visions of Leah trekking across a snow-covered Everest surrounded by a freezing, Disney Frozen-style icy wind! In actual fact Leah said she found it warmer than the Kilimanjaro trek they had done last year.
The experience was by far the best thing they have ever done.
All in all a successful feat. We are so proud of Leah and Ade who have tackled not one but two incredible challenges in two years that most people wouldn’t even think about doing in an entire lifetime. We can’t thank them enough for their efforts and are so glad they completed the trip safely. On top of all of their efforts they raised over £2200 for our small charity – such a huge achievement in its own right! Well done and thank you Leah and Ade – we can’t wait to see what you take on next!