Why we tackled Mount Everest for the British Red Cross
By Victoria Pendleton and Ben Fogle
Months of training, altitude sickness and bitter, whipping winds - a climb up Mount Everest is no mean feat.
But in 2018, TV adventurer Ben Fogle and former Olympic cyclist Victoria Pendleton did just that. Here they explain why they tackled the world's tallest mountain in support of the British Red Cross.
Everest Base Camp, May 2018, Nepal
Ben: I’m writing from Everest Base Camp in Nepal with former Olympic cyclist Victoria Pendleton.
Together we’re getting adjusted to the altitude before our attempt to climb Mount Everest.
And we’re going to do that in support of the British Red Cross.
Three years ago on 25 April and 12 May, huge earthquakes hit the area near Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital.
Around 9,000 people were killed and more than 800,000 homes were destroyed or damaged.
Overall, 8,000 Nepal Red Cross volunteers have helped their communities after the quake.
When you think of an earthquake, you think of that immediate response, of first aid, of getting people back on their feet.
But now we’ve visited British Red Cross projects in Kathmandu and saw first-hand what the Red Cross has been doing post-earthquake.
And we realise they do much more than emergency response.
How a cow can change the future in Nepal
Ben: During the trip we met a charming young man, Nanda, who explained to us that during the earthquake his house was destroyed.
He has aspirations of becoming a farmer and studying agricultural science and animal husbandry. But unfortunately, the money situation post-earthquake meant that his family couldn’t afford to pay his tuition fees.
A grant was given to his family by the Red Cross, and that small amount of money changed their lives.
They were able to buy a cow, and are now able to sell the milk from it to cover tuition fees.
This not only changed their lives now, but their opportunities in the future.
Victoria: The Red Cross grant has enabled the family to live, to study, and to do everything they need to do, which is quite phenomenal.
A vital part of living
Victoria: We also met Masali, a woman who lives in a community on the edge of a steep hilltop terrace.
Unfortunately, during the earthquake, the water was displaced, which meant they didn’t have access to water. (Some underground streams moved or were blocked after the earthquake so wells ran dry.)
Ben: In a place like this, where agriculture is everything, access to water is vital. Not just for washing and drinking, but also to irrigate the land so people here can grow crops.
Victoria: The Red Cross have helped Masali by proving a vital part of living, which is having running water.
She was also given cash so that she could buy seeds, fertilizer and some livestock, to rebuild her life.
I feel very honoured that I got a chance to see the work that the Red Cross does and the help they can provide. It really is very inspirational.
Ben: We all think about the immediacy of any sort of natural disaster – when you lose friends or relatives.
But what we discovered, by visiting this community and specifically Masali’s house, is that the work goes on. It’s not just about the immediate recovery.
It is deeply inspiring to see how the money donated to the British Red Cross comes out here to Nepal and actually makes a difference on the ground.
“It’s going to motivate us”
Victoria: One of the biggest things I’ve learned on this trip is the way that the Red Cross distribute their support is very individualised.
So, it’s not just ‘we think we know what you need’. It’s more, ‘what do you need and how can we help you best?’
An earthquake doesn’t discriminate. Everybody’s affected.
Ben: I’ve been a supporter of the Red Cross ever since I was a little boy.
But coming out here to Nepal has enlightened me, I suppose, as to the breadth of their work. It’s much more than just the relief effort.
The lasting image that I’m going to take away from here is that selflessness. All those people from Nepal who have volunteered their time to help one another.
And I think that as Victoria and I move on, and begin our attempt to climb Mount Everest, we’re going to think back to the few days we had here meeting all of those inspiring people.
And it’s going to motivate us.
Update: Victoria Pendleton had to leave the expedition team on medical advice.
“I am incredibly disappointed not to complete the challenge,” Victoria said.
“I am extremely grateful for this opportunity to have experienced one of the most impressive, imposing and challenging environments on the planet. The Himalayas are a magical place I feel honoured to have visited.'
'I am very proud to support the British Red Cross.'