A HAWICK rugby player will fulfil a lifelong dream when he hikes to Everest base camp later this month.
Prop and former Edinburgh Accies front row man Alistair Marsh and Hawick Harlequins player Alexander Norrie leave on Saturday to fly to Nepal for 17 days to trek the Himalayas.
The adventure will take the friends up to the famous base camp 5,356m (17,572 feet) above sea level, self-guided and carrying their own gear.
There they plan to walk higher, to see the view from Kala Patar (5,545m) before walking – with a guide – across the remote and less visited Ngozumpa Glacier and Cho La Pass to the Gokyo Lakes.
Keen hiker Ali said: “I’ve always wanted to just go there, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I like trekking and you can’t trek much higher than that anywhere in the world: it’s a challenge, the scenery is supposed to be stunning – there’s hundreds of different things I’m looking forward to. Everybody says I’m mad.”
Certainly the pair will be flying into Lukla – widely regarded as the most dangerous airport in the world – in a Twin Otter aircraft. And they face the serious dangers of altitude sickness as they hike up the world’s highest mountain without porters or a guide. But they plan to take time to acclimatise in the Sherpa village tea huts they’re staying in as they ascend.
“Everything you do is 10 times harder than doing it at this level,” explained Ali. “There’s 50 per cent less oxygen up there than at this level.”
The pair return to Scotland on May 2 and 12 days later, Ali will run the 29-mile Hearts and Heroes Challenge from St Mary’s Loch to Melrose to raise more money. Firefighter Alex is hiking the Everest trail for the Scottish Burned Children’s Club and Ali, a senior banking manager, hopes, through Hearts and Heroes, to help Poppyscotland and Hearts and Balls, “two charities that are all heart and help some true heroes” he says. Between them they hope to raise £2,500.
Ali had already signed up for the Hearts for Heroes Borders’ event when one of the charity’s fundraisers heard about his Himalayan adventure and suggested he also raise money through that.
So serious is he about achieving his ambition that he stopped playing rugby to try to remain injury-free for the Nepal challenge.
“I’ve played rugby all my life, rugby has come first all my life and it was time for a change, it’s got to take a back seat just now,” he said.
Ali, who has lost more than a stone, started training specifically in November, strengthening his legs and back for carrying his backpack, which will weigh up to 35lbs. He and Alex have been running and walking at the weekends.
“You can’t train enough for this – we just have to keep walking with our backpacks on,” said Ali. He has scaled the Munro, Ben Vorlich near Loch Lomond, as well as local hills including Cheviot and Mosspaul, in preparation.
Ali leapt at the chance when Alex suggested the challenge last year and his wife, Lorraine, a hairdresser, knowing how enthusiastic he was, is supportive, he said. But he admitted Lorraine was less enthusiastic after seeing footage on Lukla: “She’s a bit nervous now she’s seen the airport.”
Ali continued: “It’s not really dawned on us yet that we’re going and when folk say how do you feel about it, I can’t wait but there’s also a bit of fear of the unknown. There are a lot of problems we could encounter but they are calculated risks.
“I’ve done lots of trekking but I haven’t done anything like this before. It’s going to be one hell of a challenge.”
To support Ali, go to www.heartsandheroes.co.uk and click on find/sponsor a friend or team. To support Alex go to www.justgiving.com/Alexander-Norrie