Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Introducing The Nokia Maps Everest Test

Welcome to my Blog. Above is a 4 minute showreel. This is probably the best way to see what The Nokia Maps Everest Test was all about.

This was made for us by Captive Minds, our PR company and was played to everyone on our last night together in Kathmandu. We had been in the Himalayan wilderness for 16 days and had no idea what impact our expedition had had on the outside world.

The showreel shows just a snapshot of the global news coverage we garnered during the build-up and actually during the event. The coverage we recieved was a great reward for all the hard work we'd all put in, but the real pay-off was in spending a year of our lives getting to know each other, training, planning and fund-raising, and then 18 days together in the most amazing setting, doing something truly special.

In the posts on this blog you'll see the planning and execution of this expedition from my point of view. We had some dark times, for sure, but we also had some amazing high's. All in all this is something of which I am truly proud, but there were 50 people involved and everyone played their part. Some played more of a part than others, and they know who they are.

There's plenty more up my sleave where this came from, so please keep an eye on here for future sporting adventures.

Please enjoy the blog. Some of the photos are courtesy of expedition photographer George Powell (TG Photography) and the footage is courtesy of ITV reporter Mark Jordan and Captive Minds.

Thanks also to our sponsors and partners: Nokia, Qatar Airways, Peace Nepal Treks, MKK Sports, Gray Nichols, Flicx Wickets, The North Face, Surrey Cricket Club, MCC / Lord's, ITN London Tonight, Cricket World Magazine,

Many thanks to all involved, and well done!


Monday, 20 July 2009

Day 15. Job Done!

What a few days we have had! I think I may have made myself, temporarily, the most disliked man on tour! People were tired, sick, fed-up and still I had to push them on to Lukla. Poor David got really sick. He, Breck and Wes suffered a great deal. Between them though with Markby and Nick they trudged heroically at the back to keep up with us. An amazing effort. Next up Joe came down with it. Not sure how he made it back, but with Ian and Cuzza’s support he did. I have to say I am proud of everyone for just gritting their teeth and getting the job done. There were some flashes of selfishness, but that is inevitable. However, there were also moments of outright selflessness and that is inspiring to see.

On the night of day 13 a few of us had to walk in pitch darkness as we helped an exhausted Jules and Joe into Namche Bazarre. However, the comradary was a wonderful thing. For me personally I felt that the trip back tested my resolve and belief in my decisions. I believe that I made the right decision though as we are now safely back in Kathmandu, with all our kit intact and we now have days and nights here to relax, eat and recover. I think people will come to forgive me!

I have to say that we have been so fortunate, with the weather first of all, but also in our choice of Trekking Company. Peace Nepal Treks have been spectacular. I went with my gut when I selected them, and it was the right call. All the guides, cooks and porters were phenominal, but in particular, Mr Nir Lama (the owner) has been a true God-send, and I am ever indebted to him for his tennacity, pride in his work, loyalty, patience, resourcefulness and kindness. Thanks so much Nir!

I love this City and am looking forward to hanging out here with this bunch of legends!

Last night in Lukla was a very special time. A few more people became ill, and that is a shame. The rest of us though had celebrations. Wes and I walked into Lukla together, as is fitting. On the main street, outside a bar the rest were gathered with beers. We got clapped in and soaked with beer. We made it! Cue hugging and general love-fest. Brilliant!

Hopefully there’ll be more of that tonight.

Day 12 - World Record Holders!

We are World Record holders! The game was a huge success yesterday. Even better, Hillary won!! Amazing performance and a great team effort saw us defeat Tenzing convincingly.

In the end all the Hillary boys stepped up to the plate like we knew we would. A strong opening partnership between David and Glen got us off the mark and from there we kept on going. Charlie Campbell bowled exceptionally, but everyone played their part. Most of the credit must go to Glen though. Throughout this whole thing he has been exceptional and excelled yet further on the day. Superior tactics, great leadership and a class performance. What more can you ask for from a skipper?!

It was a truly amazing experience. I am so pleased. There was a moment when we were batting that I took out to wander around the far side of the pitch and see the game happening in front of me with Everest and Nuptse as the back-drop. Now that is a special moment!

Celebrations were suitably debauched, with Champagne popped, cake cut and awards given out. Can’t wait to see the photos! A lot of my night was spent with the Sat-Phone glued to my ear doing interviews over in the UK. However, managed to find time between interviews to drink some champers or a beer. Brilliant night! Marcus was a total legend, as he has been throughout.

This morning I went up to Kala Patta with Dharma, David and Kiwi. We decided to avoid upper Kala Patta as it is always crowded. Instead we went to lower KP. Here we had the entire place to ourselves. Peaceful and with such an amazing view of Everest in all her glory as well as the entire Khumbu Glacier and the valley that we spent 9 days trekking up.

Last night I made a tough decision. We had previously always planned on getting back to Lukla in 4 days. However, I have been getting advice from locals and guides that this window of amazing weather will turn soon. Getting out from Lukla is tricky in rubbish weather and we will have no room for error if we take 4 days getting there. Therefore I have decided that we will get back down inside 3 days. This will be tough. However, it is possible and it will give me 2 days to get the Hillary boys out and 3 to get Tenzing. This is a much better situation. It’s going to make me unpopular, but not as unpopular as if we don’t get everyone back to the UK on time!

So we started our decent this morning after the visit to Kala Patta. I enjoyed the day’s trek, tough as it was. However, we now have a major problem. Chronic D&V (diahorea and vomiting) has broken out – nightmare! Wes and Breck have both succumbed and are in bad shape. We’ve tried to isolate the problem. Markby is also ill, but with different symptoms. I think he has straight forward exhaustion. If we are to make it down in the 3 days, I need this illness to go no further! It is a major concern, and am now making contingency plans. Tomorrow is a tough day too!

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Expedition Day 10 (Practice, Preparation and Base Camp!)

Today will go down as a highlight for me for sure.

This morning we had an awesome practice on the wicket. The ball picks up respectably from the wicket, and it’s clear we will be able to have a truly competitive game, which is a huge relief.

In practice I managed to bowl so badly that you’d think we hadn’t been near a net in the last year! However, I made up for it with my batting, so I am confident I will be able to play my part tomorrow. It was pretty special seeing everyone out in their kit practicing. Only 3 years since I had my vision, and now we are so close to it being real!

Just as we finished up our practice and let the Zingers on the pitch, we saw a sight; 2 columns of uniformed people approaching from Base Camp down towards us. One column all in yellow, the other all in red. As they roll up, it turns out to be Russell Bryce and his HimEx Summit expedition. They had come down to lay down a challenge to us. Having heard of our World Record attempt, they wanted to challenge us a week later to a higher game of cricket on the vast glacier above the Khumbu Ice-fall at about 6800m! It was done and received in good spirit and it was a real honour to meet this legend and his team. We gave him a pink Nokia ball, and Everest Test cap to be taken to the summit (amazing!) as well as signing a bat for them. They kindly invited us to visit their camp (a real honour as Russell is notoriously militant about not letting strangers into his camps as strangers bring illness) before heading back up the glacier.

After an early lunch, a few of us decided to ignore medic’s advice and head up to Base Camp. One thing that has become increasingly apparent to me up here this time is how unstable this glacier is compared to 3 years ago. The ceracs coming off the Khumbu Glacier are a fraction of the size, and constantly under the glacier you can here the torrent of melt-water running underneath. That was not a sound I heard at all last time. This year has been the hottest and driest that the guides can remember. Whether it’s a freak year or Global Warming I don’t know, but if it’s the latter then that is genuinely disturbing.

Base Camp is a cool place and we had a good wander. We had tea at the HRA hospital tent, met some climbers. I got invited to meet ‘The Colonel’ at the Indian Army Expedition tent. Nice bloke. Wanted to send his boys down for a game of cricket! Told him no as we only have a licence for one game and I didn’t want to get arrested!

After a pastry at the bakery (yes they even have a bakery there now!) we left the main camp and popped in to see Russell at his separate camp. At the entrance to his camp there is a sign that reads ‘Trekkers – F**k Off!’ (Like I say he doesn’t like visitors). However, we ignored this as we are in fact cricketers! (Besides we had an invite).

Once in the camp we were given a warm welcome by Russell and the others. We were given a tour and then lead into his ‘lounge tent’. This guy doesn’t do anything by halves. Compared to the squalid conditions the climbers at main Base Camp endure, this camp was 6 star! The cooking and dining facilities amazing, toilets amazing, looking at the supplies going to the upper camps, amazing. You are able to see how he has such a phenomenal record when it comes to getting his clients to the top and back safely.

However, it was the lounge tent that was the ultimate. High ceilings, full walled windows, plasma screen, DVD player, stereo, scalextrix and most importantly bar with beer fridge! Russell was quick to offer up a beer to us all. I know we’re not supposed to drink up here, but you can’t refuse Russell Bryce, that would just be rude. So we enjoyed a Tuborg and had a good old chat – awesome! However, we needed to get back as it was getting late, so we didn’t hang around.

On the way out I was fortunate enough to meet Phurba Tashi Sherpa. This man has already climbed Everest 14 times and is looking to summit twice more this year at least. And he’s still only young. What a legend! Getting back was a little hairy as we raced the setting sun back along the glacier. We all just got back in safely and have eaten.
Poor George has taken a bad turn though. He’s over done it today and has gone down with exhaustion. The medics currently have him on an IV drip to rehydrate him. Simmo, Joe and Zoobie rejoined us while we were up at Base Camp. Great to see them, particularly Simmo.

Expedition Day 9 (Arrival!)

We are here! What an amazing feeling it was arriving. We were back in our teams again for this final trek, and arriving with the Hilary boys to the place of our year long obsession was a very special moment. It was gutting that Simmo couldn’t also be there, or indeed the great Charlie B-N.

It’s such a spectacular stretch of trekking. We are up above 5000m for the entire days trek, looking down at the moraine and ice of the Khumbu Glacier as it makes its way down from Mount Everest. Constantly walking over that same Moraine, up as high as 5500m at some point. Amazing weather too.

Arrival was pretty special, but soon we were down to the business of preparing the pitch, clearing the out-field etc. Tiring work at such heights. However, really pleasing to see the track laid on a specially prepared strip. With the outfield cleaned and boundary calculated we’re looking in good shape. Tomorrow both teams will have a practice session on the wicket. Can’t wait!

On another positive, Simmo and Isla have made it safely to Lobouche. They are with Joe and Zoobie who we left behind this morning. All will join us tomorrow, which means we will have successfully got the entire expedition up here in time for the match. That is an achievement I will be very proud of. Massive thanks to the guides and medics for making that possible.

Expedition Day 8

Last night’s comedy night was nothing short of genius. We have some seriously hilarious individuals on this trip. Quite amazing. Joe, Miles and Jules were clear stand-outs though with their beat-boxing and wrapping outfit ‘MC Shark and Base Camp 1’. What a tough day we had today though. For the first time I have felt the symptoms of AMS much more severely. My usual mild headache became quite severe at lunch. I have started on the diamox as a precaution.
We had another casualty today. Simmo has been left behind at Dughla (our lunch-time spot) with a guide a porter and Isla the medic. Really horrible leaving him behind, but it was the right thing to do and he still has time to catch us up. The walk itself is probably my favourite stretch of the whole trek. There’s an amazing spot where there are shrines to the fallen of Everest. Mainly Sherpa’s but also climbing legend Scott Fischer who died in the 1996 catastrophe. It’s such an amazingly peaceful spot.

Now we are in Lobouche. Traditionally the worst place on the whole region. However, our digs have been a pleasant surprise – new and really quite comfortable. An impromptu photo shoot at dusk was a fun distraction too. However, a couple of heads have gone down and I am asking certain people to keep an eye on certain others and to help keep morale up. We may need to leave a couple behind tomorrow too. Another day here, and some rest, would be good for a few people I think. I really can’t wait to set foot on Gorak Shep again, and tomorrow is the day all being well – so exciting