Port Erin pensioner almost gets to Everest base camp

RETIREMENT CHALLENGE: Les Shires

RETIREMENT CHALLENGE: Les Shires

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LES Shires got just four miles from Everest base camp when heavy snow and freezing conditions meant he and his team had to call it a day.

Regular updates on Facebook illustrate how challenging the whole experience has been for the 65-year-old from Port Erin.

The trek got off to a very alarming start when he escaped a fatal plane crash in Kathmandu. The flight on September 28 immediately before Les’ crashed two minutes after take off, killing all 19 people on board including seven Britons, who were all trekkers, like Les.

The incident made him ‘a bit nervous’ he wrote.

On October 2, he posted: ‘We decided to take a later flight as we wanted to spend more time acclimatising. The plane crash really set the nerves off to a bad start.’

Before leaving the island to go on the trek, Les explained a friend Tony Parr – mentioned he wanted to trek to Everest base camp, he invited Les along. ‘I thought: “Why not, just do it!” Just because you retire life does not stop, too many people retire and go down hill pretty fast, I wanted to show at 65 I’m still fairly fit.’

As co-ordinator of Men in Sheds, the project for retired men in Port Erin, he is also getting sponsorship for the trek (which he is paying for himself) to raise funds for the charity.

His blog catalogues the physical challenges of the trek: the smelly feet, the tiredness, he fell and badly bruised his arm, ‘which was promptly sucked by leeches, yuk. Don’t like leeches’.

The foothills of the Himalayas are covered in trees and the weather has been wet and misty. ‘We are crossing deep gorges and rivers by cable suspension bridges which are not for the faint hearted – but compared to the flight...’ he wrote.

His porter Santa is carrying over 50kg of kit ‘with no apparent effort’.

They saw, ‘truly amazing views of the Himalayas before the clouds came down’ and on October 6, got their first sight of Everest, ‘amazing!’

He wrote: ‘We start each morning about 7am and then trek for seven hours. The terrain is rough with no vehicles and all goods etc. shipped by human porter, mule [not my favourite as you know], buffalo or yak. .

‘The food is good, but tends towards rice and vegetables with lots of eggs. The Nepali are friendly as are most of my fellow trekkers.’

On Monday, he wrote: ‘It’s not the trip of a life time it is more another experience that we add to the trip of life. As we only have this one life we should make sure that we are constantly seeking new experiences, making the very best of what we have and appreciating it.

‘For this trip I just wanted to see how far I could push myself, even at my great age of 65. The opportunity came up to do this trip with a friend of mine [who used to run trips like this for a living] and instead of thinking – yeah, maybe I should have done it when I was younger, I suddenly thought, NO, the only thing that is stopping me doing this is me and the general acceptance that once you reach a certain age the best holidays you can expect are with SAGA!’

But things became decidedly more challenging in recent days. The going was ‘much harder, much colder’, said Les, who went to bed dressed and he also got a cold, making breathing at 5,000m difficult.

Before the trek, Les was worried about getting altitude sickness, but it was Tony who fell sick and they had to take him to a medical centre four hours’ walk away. ‘Tony is ok now,’ said Les.

Just four miles from base camp, with heavy snow falling, they had to quit. He wrote: ‘Was advised this morning that it would be too dangerous to continue, not too upsetting as its been so good getting this far.’

To make a donation towards Men in Sheds charity project, phone 835436 or email jbridle(at)manx.net.

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