Everest Entrepreneurs scale the heights
Posted on the 24 May 2010
A group of entrepreneurs have returned home after completing the challenge of a lifetime – and declaring it one of the hardest, but most rewarding, things they have ever done.
The effects of altitude, freezing temperatures and the sheer energy and resolve needed to trek 40 miles in the Himalayas to reach Everest Base Camp proved too much for some.
But all the trekkers – who are members or associates of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum – agreed they had never experienced such camaraderie and support when teamwork encouraged those at their lowest ebb to achieve their goal.
The trip was organised as an opportunity for entrepreneurs to step away from their businesses and test themselves in an extreme personal challenge demanding high levels of fitness and stamina.
It has also raised more than £50,000 for Show Racism the Red Card, the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and other worthy causes.
The magnitude of the experience still has not sunk in for some, especially while the discomfort and difficulty of the challenge is still fresh in minds.
Carole Beverley, chief executive of the Forum, was one of nine trekkers who made it to Base Camp at over 18,000ft or 5,400m, four hours further trekking from the original base camp of Edmund Hillary, which the rest of the group reached.
Carole said: “I went into it thinking it was going to be 14 days of walking on nice paths looking at amazing scenery. It was nothing like that. You had to keep your eyes constantly on the floor because the paths were so rocky and dusty, there were horrible ascents that went on forever mostly encountering huge steps and, in some places, just a yard either side then mountainous drops.
“You really had to draw on all your spirit and strength.”
Carole, who ate mostly porridge, fried potatoes, runner beans and cabbage on the trek, had trained hard and her fitness was not called into question. However, the altitude took its toll.
“Getting up at 5am and trekking until 5pm was not a problem when you put your mind to it but some days I could be energetically walking along smiling and enjoying the breathtaking scenery, but on others the headaches pulsating behind my eyes were horrendous. We had supper at 6.30pm and went to bed at 7.30pm but the altitude also meant you couldn’t sleep when that was all you wanted to do at night because it was so cold. and you were exhausted”
The most memorable part of the challenge was the way it brought out the very best in the group, added Carole.
“No-one ever whinged. I knew entrepreneurs were single minded, tenacious people but they also showed great empathy. The teamwork was simply outstanding; whenever anyone was looking jaded or low people rallied around them to gee them along.
“There were some broken spirits, and tears, on the trip; because of the altitude some were fighting something they simply couldn’t beat. But there was always support.
“The experience took us right back to basics. It didn’t matter where you came from or how fit you were, there wasn’t a day when one of us didn’t suffer. In fact, those who were less fit were the most impressive because they had to trek for longer.
“I also have total respect now for the mountaineers who reach the summit of Everest. No question, our feat was tough, so what they do is truly awe-inspiring.”
Despite being so far removed from home, the conversations and relationships built on the trek are set to benefit businesses across the North East, according to Dr Tony Trapp, of IHC Engineering Business based in Riding Mill, another who made it to Base Camp.
“It really did make you realise that people can rise to fantastic things if they are put in the right situation. It was an example of what the North East can achieve with the right opportunity and encouragement. The entrepreneurial benefits cannot be underestimated,” he said.
Although one of the fittest members of the group, even Dr Trapp was almost brought down by illness and, at one stage, had to be ordered to hand over his rucksack to a sherpa.
“I had a cold which turned into a chest infection and with the altitude as well I felt very weak; your body goes into panic and you gulp the air but there’s not enough oxygen. But bit by bit, one foot in front of the other and with a sherpa nursing me on I got there.
“The whole thing was much harder than I anticipated, from a physical, mental and medical point of view. People achieved something they didn’t think they could achieve. It was arduous and dangerous but unlikely people did it.”
Dr Trapp and another trekker, Eddie Czestochowski, of Cell Pack Solutions Ltd and CPS Hobbies, South Shields, singled out fellow entrepreneur Anne Ganley as being inspirational.
Anne, of Sunderland-based Thompson Building Centres and TAPS plumbers' merchants, was brought down by severe altitude sickness on the first day.
Eddie explained: “After three days she picked right up and nothing was going to stop her. It inspired me because I thought if I get it then I can get through it.
“There were times when it was pure hell, especially at night feeling so cold from the inside. All I could think about was how I could get away. I always thought I could do it but, once there, there were times when I doubted myself.
“Getting to the top of Mount Kala Patar beyond base camp at 5630m and seeing the incredible views of Everest and the other mountains made it all worthwhile.”
Eddie said he learned lessons from the experience to apply to life and business.
“I probably didn’t prepare for it as well as I should; I have learned that preparation means you get more out of a situation. It was also the first time I have spent so long away from work; I learned that the company works well without me, which has given me the confidence to put some emphasis on other areas of the business.
”It was exhilarating, invigorating and I have definitely come back a better and stronger entrepreneur.”