PETERBOROUGH Salvation Army members Robert Harvey and Justin Reeves start a once-in-a-lifetime trek to the base camp of fearsome Mount Everest tomorrow. The money raised from the adventure to ‘the roof of the world’ will be used for community projects in the city, including helping homeless people. Deputy features editor John Baker met the intrepid duo.
SOME people say that God makes them feel on top of the world, and two members of the Salvation Army in Peterborough will be taking that idea to the extreme next week.
Robert Harvey and Justin Reeves are part of a team of eight who will ascend to the base camp of Mount Everest to raise money for Salvation Army projects.
The churches of Peterborough will seem a million miles away when they are surrounded by ornate multi-tiered Hindu temples and Buddhist monasteries scattered through the tranquil countryside.
The duo have been preparing for the 17,000ft challenge in the Himalayas by taking on the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge and other trekking adventures.
They have raised £4,000 each to enter, and unlike other members from Yorkshire and London who are tackling the hike the money will go back to Peterborough, rather than national projects.
The duo have dubbed the trek ‘Robert and Justin’s Amazing Adventure’.
It starts tomorrow (October 1) with a flight to the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, and is due to end on October 17 when the team flies back to Heathrow.
Justin works at the Salvation Army’s Territorial Headquarters in London as the editor of ‘Kids Alive’, a national Salvation Army comic for young Christians, and is very active in the Peterborough community working with youths.
While Robert (56) is a fourth generation Salvation Army member who lives in Werrington, and works at the Werrington branch of Dresser Rand engineers.
His furthest travels have been family holidays to Turkey and the US, and his longest walking expedition has been in the Scottish Highlands.
So a strenuous climb in freezing conditions on the world’s most famous mountain presents a fearsome challenge.
But he said: “We are very excited about it.
“It’s taken us quite a long time to get the kit together as the list is quite extensive, and the temperature could be anywhere from 30 degrees to minus 20 degrees on the way up.
“The runway at Lukla airport is the shortest in the world, and one of the most dangerous landings in the world. It’s also the only runway in the world which is uphill.
“We are also worried about altitude – if anything’s going to stop us it will be that.
“We will be climbing to about 17,000 feet, but you tend to feel the effects by 8,000 feet.
“For that reason although we are spending 12 days in Nepal we are also spending two days to acclimatise, which involves stopping at a certain height.
“The secret is not going too fast, too high, too quickly, because that will stop you.
“On the last day we leave our camp at midnight, so we arrive at the base camp just in time to see the sunrise over Mount Everest, if the weather is good. It’s going to be pretty spectacular.”
The duo have raised their money through a number of sources and practised for the trek in some of the more testing conditions that Great Britain can throw at them.
Robert said: “We did the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge during August Bank Holiday, and I have climbed Ben Nevis. I have also done a number of local long distance walks on a Saturday.
“To raise the money we have done a lot of coffee mornings and car boot sales, and a curry and comedy night, which 150 people enjoyed.
“A friend of ours in the Salvation Army is a member of Birmingham Conservatoire and bought their brass band here – we raised more than £1,000 that night.
“I would also personally like to thank my colleagues at Dresser-Rand, who have raised more than £1,000.”
Justin, who lives in Corby and is a percussionist for the Peterborough Salvation Army band, will probably find it easier coming down the mountain than going up, as a Plymouth Argyle fan.
The duo have 1,100 Facebook friends between them pushing them on, and an online sponsorship website.
And Robert, a tenor horn player in the band whose wife Judith is community manager for the Peterborough Salvation Army, also has another special reason to make it back safely.
He said: “I have two daughters and my first grandchild is due two weeks after I return.
“So we hope the weather isn’t too bad - I have to get back!”
Mountains and monasteries
THE trek will last 12 days, which include two rest days to allow trekkers to acclimatise to the changes in altitude.
In that time climbers Justin and Robert will be climbing through the homelands of the Sherpa people, among their villages and Buddhist monasteries.
They will experience distant views of Everest and the neighbouring Ama Dablam, considered by many to be among the most beautiful mountains in Nepal.
One rest day will be spent at Namche Bazaar, the bustling market town in the heart of Sherpa Country, while another will take place at Periche, a cluster of houses set among the high summer grazing pasture of the region.
Each day of trekking will last between five and eight hours.
Some degree of altitude sickness is likely, with symptoms including headaches, nausea, insomnia, and fatigue.
A lack of water will affect trekkers in two ways; dehydration, for which salt rehydration tablets are essential, and a lack of showers, although a bucket of cold water will be provided free of charge if required.
Begging, extreme poverty, ‘long-drop’ Glastonbury-style toilets, and undrinkable water are other reasons why the trek is graded as ‘challenging’.
Peterborough Salvation Army
The army is known for its very active community work at the Peterborough Centre, including a twice-weekly day centre and a weekly drop-in centre for the genuine homeless of the city where food parcels are given out to the needy. There are also two charity shops in the city.
The money raised from the charity trek will go towards the Salvation Army Annual Appeal, which will help fund community projects in Peterborough.
The Salvation Army is a worldwide Christian church and registered charity working in 124 countries, demonstrating Christian principles through practical support, offering unconditional friendship, and very practical help to people of all ages, backgrounds and needs.