Reaching their peak
SELECT Member Gordon McArthur recently completed an arduous climb to Everest Base Camp as part of a group that raised £50,000 for the Electrical Industries Charity. Here, the WMQ Managing Director talks us through the peaks – and troughs – of his adventure
Hi Gordon. Why did you want to take part in the challenge?
I’d undertaken a few things for the Electrical Industries Charity (EIC) before, like the London Marathon, and heard about their other fundraising challenges which sounded good. I’d always wanted to try to do something out of my comfort zone, so when the opportunity arose, I jumped at it. I really wanted to see if I could rise to the challenge.
Who did you do it with?
I did it with one of my friends, David Bradley, who works for Keepmoat Homes. We train together and had done a couple of marathons together and always like to challenge each other. So when this came up, David jumped at it too. I think maybe we were a bit naive, thinking, ‘OK, it’s just Base Camp, so shouldn’t be too bad.’ But the closer it got, the more we realised what we’d committed ourselves to.
Did you do any special training?
We trained for around nine months, doing a variety of gym work, running and tackling various Munros and hills. We climbed places like Ben Lomond and Conic Hill, going up and down with backpacks on. We also did a number of 10-mile walks round Chatelherault Park near Hamilton. The only thing we couldn’t prepare for was the altitude, so we were quite nervous about that.
And how did it turn out?
It was fine – the altitude didn’t affect us much at all. Once we started walking, we could tell the air was thinning out a bit, and we did feel a bit breathless from time to time, but that was about it. We got through everything else no problem.
What were the other challenges?
The physical side was fine and really enjoyable; it was the basic accommodation and lack of heating and hot water that was more of an issue. Psychologically, that was a wee bit harder. Some of the lows came after a day’s hike, bedding down in a 2x2m room – the spirits definitely flagged a bit then. We were staying in tea houses, which were extremely basic buildings with a communal eating and toilet area. They were the most basic conditions I’ve ever experienced, but at the same time it made a better experience too; if you’d been staying in a comfy hotel each night it wouldn’t have been the same.
And what were the best bits?
The camaraderie and humour between us all was fantastic – we all made light of the situation and everyone got on and pulled in the same direction. In total, it was 14 days of getting thrown together with people you didn’t even know, yet we all came out of it friends and we all bonded exceptionally well; better than any trip I’ve been on before.
Did you suffer any side-effects?
Only a kind of low feeling, almost like an anti-climax at not being so physically active every day. In Nepal, we got up in the morning, hiked for hours, talked about it at night and then did the same the next day. And all the time, you didn’t have the usual day-to-day stresses because you were just focused on walking, which was quite cathartic.
How much did you raise? And what’s your next challenge?
David and I raised about £12,500 between us, and I’ve now signed up to do the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru with the EIC next year. Part of my training for that involves doing the Edinburgh Marathon in May. It gets me out of the house!
So would you recommend it?
Absolutely. It’s tough – the toughest challenge I’ve ever done. Some of the slopes were relentless and at times we all needed other people to tell us, ‘Keep going, you’re nearly there’. But at the end of the day it was a phenomenal thing to do – absolutely fantastic.
Find out more about the EIC and sign up for its next challenge at www.electricalcharity.org
Gordon tackled the Everest Base Camp challenge in September 2019 with ten other explorers, including Tessa Ogle, CEO and MD of the EIC.
To reach their destination, the group spent up to eight hours a day trekking through steep and unforgiving mountainous terrain, each carrying a 15kg pack.
After battling altitude sickness and climbing through freezing conditions for five days, they finally reached the camp’s coloured flags, which stand at 5,380m above sea level.
Tessa said: “The journey was incredible and the sense of accomplishment every member felt was undeniable.
“It was a physically and mentally exhausting expedition but we all became a tight-knit group because of it.
“Most importantly we managed to raise an astonishing £50,000 for those in our sector who need assistance most.”