This week Martin Hewitt, AGS founder and Everest team member speaks about his involvement with the ‘Everest in the Alps’ event in Verbier – ski touring the height of Everest in 4 days to raise money for a pioneering brain cancer charity.
The event also served as his penultimate training trip ahead of his departure for the Himalayas.
How did ‘Everest in the Alps’ come about – tell us about it.
‘In 2015, a team of 14 set off on the first ‘Everest in the Alps’ challenge: to ascend 8,848 metres – the height of Everest, the world’s highest peak – on skis, over four days in Verbier. The event involves approximately 32 hours of uphill ski touring. Each day the teams climb between 2,000m – 2,500m to reach the overall target of 8,848m in just 4 days. The inspiration and motivation for the event was a brave little boy Toby, and those like him who are diagnosed with brain tumours.
The first event 3 years ago raised over £3 million for The Brain Tumour Charity, helping to fund a new research facility - The Everest Centre- which is now leading vital work in the area of paediatric low grade brain tumours’.
How did the AGS team get involved with the Everest in The Alps event?
‘One of the organisers of Everest in the Alps is a friend of mine from University and also a previous Para – Tom Bodkin. Tom set up Secret Compass, which is the logistics provider supporting Everest in the Alps. When Rob, the Father of Toby (and the driving force behind Everest in the Alps) met with Secret Compass and the AGS team, we all realised that we were striving for the same thing - adapting to life changing injury through sport and adventurous challenge at the same time as encouraging others to support us.
Everyone involved thought it was going to be a one-off event, and the fundraising total far outweighed everyone’s wildest dreams, especially Rob’s. It is now going to be scaled up annually – this year was the 3rdsuccessive year of the event taking place.
The motivations of Cancer combined with wounded service personnel seems to encourage all of the participants to strive - the atmosphere is incredible and everyone pushes hard together. AGS is really honoured to be involved.
Anyone can sign up no matter what your skiing ability is or record of previous sporting achievement – you just need to have the determination and dedication to train hard. It is a fantastic few days - a gruelling but hugely rewarding challenge and great fun: https://www.everestinthealps.com/information/
This has served as the perfect penultimate training session for your forthcoming expedition – taking on the ACTUAL Everest this Spring. 4 days in Verbier ski touring is a small undertaking in comparison to what you have coming up – but ideal training in terms of the continuous ascent for up to 8 hours per day. Tell us more about your training?
‘Training for our Everest expedition was not the motivation behind being in Verbier, but we were in fact supporting other people to attain their ‘Everest’ and to support this incredible cause. We became involved with the inaugural ‘Everest in the Alps’ challenge and want to continue to be involved. It is the coming together of people with a strong will to do something to help The Brain Tumour Charity, as well as those with a motivation to push themselves through training and sport. We all have lots in common. It doesn’t matter that the challenge isn’t supporting those charities which the AGS supports – we all like to contribute to the efforts of others and it is of course fantastic training for us.
We were ascending between 1500 - 2000 metres per day, and used this opportunity to carry our full Everest expedition pack weight, which is aprox 16kg’s to maximise the training opportunity’.
You have just finished one final week of training abroad before returning to the UK. What were you doing, and why?
‘I have been in Klosters in Switzerland for the last week, assisting with the annual ‘Supporting Wounded Veterans’ ski challenge week – a ski camp for wounded and injured service personnel. It is not just a skiing holiday – but a mentoring programme which assists them with reintegrating into civilian society but at the same time offering them therapy in the fresh air and mountains and through the medium of adaptive sport. I am an Ambassador for the organisation, and am really honoured to be involved. I have found therapy through skiing as training myself, and I am therefore delighted to give my time to help others who are struggling post service, demonstrating to them that there are many others experiencing the same struggles, and that though coming together, we can succeed.
I am really pleased to be able to use this week to help others, but of course have had the opportunity to undertake my own training for a few hours per day. I have been ski touring between 2000 -3000m of ascent per day, whilst carrying my full expedition pack weight, which will be 16-18 kg’s. I have also been mentoring other wounded during the week and have been a ski ‘buddy’ for those who have joined the ski camp.
It has been a really positive way to spend my last week training before returning to the UK to have some much needed family time ahead of my departure for Kathmandu on Sunday 24 March.
I have had the time to train hard solo, but have also had time to reflect on and remember why we set up the AGS foundation – to encourage others with life changing injury and disability to strive for progress and accomplishment through sport.