Wednesday 30th April 2008 by C. Freeman
Sixth Former, Jamie Partridge is gearing up for an arduous 17-day expedition to Everest with the Army Cadets. After arrival in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, he will have a day of acclimatisation and a 40 minute flight to Lukla over the Himalyan foothills. The party will then begin their ten-day trek to the mountain's base camp which, at 5,600m, is more than five times the height of Snowdon above sea level.
Unlike some Himalyan treks, their route will cut across valleys meaning they will have to descend one side and climb up the next. By the time the base camp is reached the total ascent will be nearly 9,000m, about the height of Everest itself!
Jamie has already undergone two selection weekends and fitness training to gain his coveted place on the trek, which will also count as a major element towards his Gold Duke of Edinburgh's Award. A total of 12 cadets, 7 adult instructors, two trek leaders, 12 porters and 10 assistant porters will go on the expedition which will see the party regularly making descents to help them acclimatise to the oxygen-starved conditions with two rest days aimed at reducing the effects of altitude sickness.
Jamie said: 'There is a real shortage of oxygen up there and so you've got to go up a little way and then come back down to sleep, it's like two steps forward and one step back again.' Jamie, who has been at Brooke Weston since September, said: 'Even though we're walking not climbing there's still going to be really harsh conditions from really hot weather to torrential downpours and snow blizzards all of which can take place in the space of two days.'
The cadets will be walking an average of seven miles each day, but they will descend at night to sleep in 'tea-houses'; basic accommodation blocks supplying food and shelter. They have to take specialist equipment with them, like heavy duty sleeping bags as the night time temperature can drop to minus 60!
Jamie has been in the Army Cadet Force for four years and already has a good level of fitness, having skied in Austria and represented his Company in swimming and athletics and reaching national level in cross country for two years running. He will go on three 'skills' weekends leading up to the trek focusing on map reading with specialist tuition in mountain weather, clothing and first aid. The last of the weekends includes a 12km navigation exercise where cadets have to carry everything they need for a 'wild camp' overnight.Jamie has to raise about £1,600 to take part, and, along with the other participants he is organising a lot of fundraising and will have a stall at Lyddington village fete on 10 May.
Jamie is studying geography, media, psychology and sport at A-level and he'd ultimately like to study geography at University and then go on to a nature-based career, something like film crew on a survival or nature programme would be a dream job so this trip will give him lots of real life experience!
He said: 'I think I'm underestimating how hard it's going to be. I do worry about altitude sickness because that would ruin the whole trip. I'm just looking forward to arriving there, having the whole cultural experience, and then the scenery once we get trekking.'