Last Summer I organised a fundraising ‘Walk for Nepal’ in my local area. We had six people and raised £70. Every little helps, especially when strangers come out in the rain to support a cause, but I was a bit disappointed.
Fortunately it didn’t put me off. I’m privileged to have helped PHASE Worldwide to organise ‘Walk4Nepal’ – and last Sunday over 120 people reached the summit of Snowdon to raise over £15,000 for PHASE, a fantastic UK-registered charity working in Nepal. At the same time, we marked the first one-year anniversary of the Nepal earthquake that took over 9,000 lives: because one year on, the arduous rebuilding process is still far from over.
Walkers of all ages and sizes, from Ireland to Edinburgh – families, universities, individuals and companies – came to make this thing happen. We were lucky to have special guests including Alan Hinkes OBE, the first Briton to climb all fourteen of the worlds 8000-metre mountains, and three Gurkha friends who were on Everest with me last year. Some walkers had never climbed a mountain before… what a way to start!
The day kick-started at the Royal Victoria hotel in Llanberis, who kindly donated the use of their spacious Gwynedd Lounge. After a busy Saturday night of running around to get things organised, radios collected and tested, meeting and greeting, and letting the drinks flow; this was the real deal. The organising team were like cats on hot bricks. All we could do now was wrap ourselves in prayer flags and hope for the best…
With over 130 people signed up, getting 107 to turn up on the day was a success in itself. I had always worried we wouldn’t fill the places- this was clearly not the case! Fortunately, we also had the support of 16 volunteer qualified /trainee ML (Mountain Leaders) and medics to manage such a large group, and I’m proud to say everyone was well equipped – nobody was walking up the mountain in wellies!
Buses ferried everyone to Pen-y-Pass in two waves where they were briefed and set on their way around 9:30am. Someone noted that this moment was strangely familiar to a scene from Monty Python “Life of Brian”. I’ll leave you to work that one out… and a 50th birthday was made extra special with a big sing-along.
Once everyone was allocated into groups and strolling up the Miners Track, there was a sigh of relief. Now it was a case of leaving the mountain leaders to do their thing. I have never seen so much mountain expertise in one place before. Some had driven from as far as Devon simply to come and help – free of charge – showing the same sort of generosity that the Nepalese people are loved and known for.
The Miners Track starts gradually before a steeper rougher section up from Glaslyn. The mountain gods had blessed us with a decent forecast and clear skies to show Y Lliwedd and Crib Goch in their true glory, with the camaraderie rife amongst everyone as they made their way up Wales’ highest peak; looming ahead in the distance. Colourful Khata scarves tied on their rucksacks flapped around in the wind as we literally took over the mountain.
I could barely catch up with the first group, led by Tom, as they reached the summit in record time. Besides the usual pea-soup visibility, the conditions were kind to us. It was decided (thanks to Dilys for the idea!) instead of a one-minute silence, to have a one-minute clap at 11:56am to mark the precise moment of the earthquake and represent the spirit and energy of the Nepalese people.
Everyone further down the track had triggered a huge clap that echoed across the whole side of the mountain in a beautiful show of reflection. The eight of us on the summit worried about embarrassing ourselves by rupturing into random applause. So… we got everyone else on the summit to join in! The video choked me up. It was a truly humbling moment, though I felt sorry for the bloke and his wife on a Sunday walk who thought everyone was taking the p*ss as they huffed and puffed up the path…
Not long after, the remaining groups reached the summit at their own pace and relished the achievement and experience. A huge group photo somehow came together (with our newly-enlisted photographers of Jason Smith and Hannah Porter!) to capture the moment. Then out came a list of the names of those killed on Everest in 2014 and 2015, in the avalanche disasters, the second being triggered by the earthquake.
It felt poignant to read them out. Having personally been on Everest for both events, and three of the victims being my own team-mates, it tugged at the heartstrings once again: especially as these were only 38 of the 9,000 victims.
After being photo-bombed by a teddy bear, everyone meandered down the mountain before they froze. Nobody enjoys walking down the same way, so the Llanberis Track took us steadily back to the start. Later on, the search & rescue helicopter broke the peace as it swooped above, and some started twitching about who had fallen off the mountain… until, of course, the helicopter performed a number of planned fly-overs overhead, like something out of Prison Break. Thanks to Jason Rawles for arranging this added bit of excitement!
“Oh, and where is Alan?” came a text as we wondered where our special guest Alan Hinkes had gotten to. Having ran ahead to be front marker of the group, and Sarah staying at the back, we hadn’t seen him amongst the group in thick fog – but it’s fair to say he could look after himself!
All on schedule, the troops arrived back by 4pm without drama, and invaded the bustling hotel bar for a well-earned pint and leftover 9BARs. Everyone was down safe, and probably smiling. The vibe was ecstatic. All that remained was the raffle, and considering two members of my family won the prizes, you’d think it was fixed…
On a personal note, it was incredibly pertinent to have family, mentors, close friends (and making new ones), team-mates and sponsors present on such a memorable occasion.
As the group dissolved and many began long journeys home, they could feel very proud of themselves and their contribution. Some already had a connection with Nepal, others not; but they definitely did now. The event was a perfect display of resilience, effort, fun, team spirit and emotion – exactly how Nepal should be remembered.
Over £15,000 has been raised – and counting. This is enough to fund two health posts for a year and will make a huge impact. We cannot thank you all enough!
Extra donations are very welcome at: www.virginmoneygiving.com/walk4nepal12months
It’s been a pleasure working with Sarah, Dilys, Margaret and all at PHASE who work so incredibly hard for Nepal and I’d like to thank them for turning a wild idea into a roaring success!
On behalf of us all, a massive thanks to EVERYONE who took part and who sponsored the walkers so generously.