SHORTLY after the devastating earthquake that struck Nepal in 2015, WO2 Paul Vicary had a ‘lightbulb’ moment whilst walking down from Everest Base Camp (EBC).
He felt compelled to help the Nepalese people affected by the terrible situation and one of the local guides told him that the only way to help was through tourism.
Paul decided to see if he could take some Army families – often the ones left behind – out there for the trip of a lifetime.
Back in the UK, a presentation on the planned expedition attracted 82 people, from which a group of 30 women signed up and began setting up committees, fundraising and training.
Two charities were chosen – Community Action Nepal, which supports the Nepalese population, and Family Activity Breaks which provides getaways for bereaved military families – and a target of £120,000 was set.
With only 18 months to raise the money, the group set to work planning events including an afternoon celebrating Nepalese culture and a charity boxing event which netted £36,000.
The trekkers set off in 2017 and, after a nerve-wracking flight to Lukla, took on high rope bridges, steep climbs, cold, thin air, altitude sickness and tiredness.
Their pace slowed as they approached the snowcapped mountains where altitude made even a few metres feel like running a marathon, but after seven days of hard trekking, the group finally reached EBC where a giant poppy was laid as an act of Remembrance to mark the Passchendaele centenary.
This was the largest group of women to ever reach Base Camp and the participants made it and returned safely in around 10 days.
Since returning, the group has reached its target of £120,000 and Community Action Nepal is set to build an earthquake-proof building for the Langtang region, which was severely affected by the disaster.
Marianne, who took part in the trip, said: “It was one of the hardest things I have ever done but an amazing experience.
“After being married to the Army for 23 years, it was nice to have some ‘me time’. It was the first time I had ever been away from my family for that length of time and gave my husband an insight into what it’s like to be at home managing the family.”
Ailsa, an Army wife of nearly 27 years who has supported her husband through numerous tours, trips and postings, agreed.
She said: “Until I went on the trek, I don’t think I really appreciated just how much difference having a loving family at home could make.
“Every text, voicemail, FaceTime call, Facebook post or email motivated me to continue to put one foot in front of the other, especially when I was feeling unwell, exhausted and cold.”
Training lead Rose added: “Not all girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice. EBC girls are made of adventure, fine wine, brains and no fear.
“They trained during the winter, no Welsh mountain too high. Our trails were crooked, winding, lonesome and dangerous, leading to amazing views.
“Praise has to go to the Sherpas who followed us almost invisibly assisting with carrying our backpacks if we were feeling the altitude, always with a smile on their faces.
“My thanks to the Sherpa who picked me up to avoid a boulder hurtling down the mountainside; the fact that there was a sheer drop the other side of the path made me all the more grateful!”
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