As a retired RAF wing commander Helston man Hugh Gray-Wallis is used to seeing earth from the air – but less familiar with the view from up a mountain.
He can now add this to his list, however, having just returned from a successful trek to Everest Base Camp.
Hugh, 62, was part of a Cornwall Hospice Care Challenge Team of 13 who travelled to Nepal last month to raise funds for the charity.
Hugh's mother, a local artist and needlewoman, had spent her last weeks in St Julia's Hospice at Hayle, in September 2009, and Hugh had felt the desire to “give back” a little to help others benefit from the care the hospice provides.
Unfortunately, a stroke that same year delayed Hugh's ability to make that commitment, but this year he has finally been able to demonstrate his belief in their work.
It was, however, a “very arduous” challenge. Hugh said: “There were times when I felt I wouldn't make it, however ‘head down and plod on’ won through, albeit at times a little slowly.”
At 6ft 4in Hugh has a naturally long stride but found that to no avail at all on the mountain side. He had to “re-learn” to walk taking very small ‘baby steps’ up the steepest parts of the mountain, which enabled breathing control and steady progress rather than stop/start progress that is actually more tiring and energy consuming.
Hugh had some slight altitude sickness on day three of the trek, after an 800 metre ascent the previous day, but he quickly acclimatised and fortunately did not suffer further.
The achievement of reaching Sir Edmund Hilary's and Tensing Sherpa's original Everest Base Camp at Gorek Shep nine days later, at an altitude of 17,500 feet above sea level, was an emotional moment.
After a year's training along the coastal path and then the trek to the top, Hugh had carried a sprig of Rosemary (for ‘remembrance’) from his mother's garden, which he placed in a small cairn at Gorek Shep in memory of his mum.
He described it as “rather over-powering” and openly admitted to being somewhat “moved” by the sense of achievement.
“It was an amazing experience but an extreme adventure and not one to be undertaken lightly,” said Hugh.
“But I would recommend it to anyone who is looking for a very testing personal challenge.
“The views of the mountains are extraordinary and cannot easily be described.
“Just to be there is awe-inspiring, and then to realise you trekked all that way up – and down again – gives an enormous sense of personal achievement.”
Hugh has so far raised £3,135 for Cornwall Hospice Care and the team as a whole has raised nearly £60,000.
Donations can be made at www.virginmoneygiving.com/HughGray-Wallis.