Every year, ambitious hikers come together to attempt to climb Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. Last December one of our clients trekked to Base Camp to honour the memory of his daughter and to raise funds for the charity that cared for her.
Standing at a height of almost 5,400 metres, with high altitude and below freezing temperatures, Everest Base Camp makes for an imposing challenge. Yet, every year thousands of hikers endure the 10 day journey up the mountain.
For Andy Small, it was a challenge that he was more than willing to undertake, to honour his daughter’s memory and to raise funds for Rainbows, the charity that supported her for over 20 years.
Ella Small was 22 when she sadly passed away in May 2018 after battling with pneumonia in hospital for 10 days.
Andy said: “Ella was a very happy smiley young lady, despite all she had to endure: medication, pain, challenges of communication and other associated issues faced by children and young adults with special needs. She always had a huge beaming smile, it’s that smile that gave all of us the energy to keep battling on Ella’s behalf.”
Andy and his family have supported Rainbows for over 20 years, even having climbed Kilimanjaro in 2011 and raising almost £16,000. This time he wanted to do something to honour Ella, and to continue his support for Rainbows, an organisation that meant so much to his daughter.
Rainbows provided care for Ella and her family for most of her life, helping to look after her as well as providing support for her siblings and parents. After Ella passed away Rainbows continued to support the family through a bereavement support group and are still available to Andy and the rest of the family now.
“Ella loved Rainbows and got a lot from them - they provided fantastic care. I felt I wanted to do something in her memory and funds to go to Rainbows."
Andy decided to climb to Everest Base Camp, with his friend Jim Tyler and Jim’s son Sam. After setting a target of £10K, he trained in his spare time by mainly walking uphill on his treadmill at home.
“Everest is iconic - it’s the highest mountain in the world and this was a once in a lifetime opportunity. There’s not much you can do to prepare other than improve general fitness , and I told myself it was only Base Camp, not the summit of Everest.”
The trio flew out to Nepal and began their 12 day hike.
“Everything that goes up the mountain needs to be carried by a person. As you walk you would see women carrying sacks of firewood overtaking you.”
Villages spot the base of the mountain, with teahouses dotting the journey up to Base Camp. Despite the time of year the air was warm, and the group started their journey in t-shirts, walking in the sunlight.
Days passed and the journey became harder as the group climbed higher. Time passes differently when it’s spent solely walking on a vast landscape, only stopping to eat or rest.
“Your normal routine goes away and it affects your mental health. We pre-booked the teahouses, meaning we had to walk each day in pursuit of the next resting place.
“The higher you get the more the altitude gets you, your breathing becomes laboured, and you’re tired. The teahouses the we stayed at were little more than a shack, unheated and not well insulated, with toilets that froze overnight.”
Despite the dangerous and taxing journey, the three made it to Base Camp and were met with -30 degrees temperature and snow, with strong winds.
“I felt rough when I reached the top, I had lost my appetite days before and I hadn’t slept well, but the elation of getting there was amazing. I don’t know what I imagined, I didn’t do much research, but there was a massive rock sprayed with the words 'Everest Base Camp'.”
The three snapped a photo in Rainbows T-shirts and Andy laid a pebble from a Rainbows bereavement session to rest at camp, a reminder of why he was there.
Shortly after Andy had to be airlifted to hospital for 2 days due to altitude sickness, but is now at home, safe and well. Despite the hardship of the journey, the family have raised an astonishing amount of over £15,000 for Rainbows.
"Ella was a true fighter, it felt only right that we challenge ourselves to reach Everest Base Camp and raise funds for Rainbows in her memory.
Please visit https://www.rainbows.co.uk/ to read more about the great work Rainbows do and the help they provide to so many families like ours.“
You can still support Andy’s cause and help Rainbows support children like Ella by donating to the JustGiving page here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/andy-small4
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