Wednesday, 8 April 2009


Admittedly I have let things slide on the blog front which is particularly disappointing in light of all that's been going on over the past couple of months.

So I couldn't leave on that plane tomorrow without recalling some of the highlights:
  • 'Stand Up on Everest' comedy night at the Comedy Store on 9 March. Chris Martin lined up a fantastic set of acts not least himself :) and Russell Howard. We raised £6,000 for the Himalayan Trust and the trustees were delighted with the significant donation (we hope the first of many...)
  • 'High on Ice' the Everest Test farewell party on 20 March at the glamourous 24:London off Regent Street. All good intentions to stick to rigourous fitness 'my body is a temple' regimes went out of the window as the 50-strong Everesters and 350 of their closest friends partied the night away. The atmosphere was electric and if our friends hadn't appreciated the enormity of the task we were taking on until then, the evening gave them a great insight into the dedication, heart and soul that each member of the expedition has given to this cause.
  • Meeting at Lords. It was difficult to believe that after all those meetings over the past year that 28 March was our last gathering together before we all meet in Kathmandu. The exciting news was the Nokia Maps had come on board as our corporate sponsor. The guys from Nokia's media agency commented on the great camaraderie in the group and it was great that they appeared equally excited about the task ahead (if not slightly envious that they weren't getting on that plane with us!).
  • Wine tasting at Vivat Bacchus on 2 April. Thanks to the superb efforts of the Withers marketing machine (in the form of Caroline, Lauren, Birungi and Lindsay) about 65 members of the Bar, solicitors (one flew in from Jersey for the evening!) and Withers colleagues sampled some of South Africa's finest wines in order to raise funds for the Himalayan Trust and Lord's Taverners. I was overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and generous support of all those who attended and donations are still rolling in. There was a great atmosphere and even the black out at 10pm didn't stop the hardy few from staying till closing time.

Many people have asked me if I'm apprehensive about what lies ahead. My only fear is that it'll all be over too quickly, although I might give you a different answer by day 8 of 15!

Although we'll be unable to update our blogs online during the expedition, there'll be daily updates on and I have every intention of using good old fashioned paper and ink to record my thoughts and our experiences along the way. ITN are sending a cameraman up with us to beam back daily reports for the 6pm and 10pm ITN news so there should be no shortage of coverage on our progress.

The Guinness World Record attempt and cricket match is on 21 April ...bring it on!

Friday, 20 February 2009

Cricket Law

Last weekend I traded my Monday to Friday 9 to 5 familiarity with the laws of England for the relatively foreign laws of LBWs, boundaries and leg byes. A slot on the fully booked cricket umpiring course came up at the last minute which I saw as a way of unearthing the mysteries of the game which was taking us up the highest mountain in the world in April.

Six Everest-Testers and Mr Hill Senior travelled to Caterham where we joined 35 other eager cricket umpire wannabes for a 2 day course.

On arrival in the classroom, I felt a certain amount of trepidation. Not only was I the only female in the room (Helen had been assigned to the other class) but I was clearly surrounded by a group of people who had many years of experience and knew what they were talking about.

The gentle introduction to the Spirit of Cricket was encouraging and it was clear by the first break that one of the most important traditions of a cricket match was to never forget to thank the tea lady!

Then we got down to the nitty gritty and I was bemused by the amount of time given to dealing with the penalties for 'changing the condition of the ball'. We were given the example of an unscrupulous bowler making score marks on the ball and my hasty consultation of the MCC Laws of Cricket did not give any further clues as to why this was such a grave offence (much to BN and Hillsy Junior and Senior's amusement as I later found out). Physics was never my strong point...

I was surprised at how quickly the day slipped by as we examined foot faults; the players' ground; popping, bowling and return creases; no balls, wide balls and dead balls. Slowly some of the unfamiliar jargon bandied around in the morning started to fit into place.

It goes without saying that by the end of the day even the heads of the more experienced cricket connaisseurs among us were spinning and we all fully deserved a beer in front of the England v Wales 6 Nations game!

The next day went by equally quickly and even the LBW rule - which we were told causes frequent head scratching in the cricket world - was presented in a lucid and comprehensive way.

After a 10 question mock exam, that was it and we were left to our own devices to revise studiously in advance of Tuesday's exam.

So, concluding thoughts? The course was a great lesson about a quintessentially English sports game seeped in tradition. As has been pointed out to me, the surname 'Fudakowska' does not lend itself to the cricket umpires hall of fame. However if there's an opening, I'll be willing to give it a try - if not up Everest Base Camp , then perhaps at the next Withers LLP fixture in the summer.

I'm in full admiration of Curry and Hill taking up the challenge - I wouldn't want to be in their shoes at 5,165 metres when they call the first 'OUT!'

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Snow, Sun and Brecon Beacons

Ice-fall on cars shuts M4 bridges….Sheets of ice smashing car windscreens….Snow in Wales again

These were some of the news flashes on Friday afternoon just as a group of 21 of us were planning to drive up to Wales for an expedition-training weekend in the Brecon Beacons. After a flurry of emails debating the weather and road conditions and the wisdom of braving the M4, several vehicles (including two elderly Clios, a 4x4 Jeep, and a sports car) set off into the night.

The girls drove my trusted and reliable Clio as far as Chieveley Services where we piled into Isla’s 4x4 which would be much better equipped to deal with any rogue snowdrifts and falling icicles! After all the drama and build up, the journey was quietly uneventful and fuelled with a well balanced diet of crisps, Haribos, hummous, carrots and chocolate we finally arrived at Cardiff Cricket Club at midnight to be greeted by the boys who'd already been feasting on muffins, hot chocolate and beer.

Our organiser for the weekend - David Kirtley - assigned sleeping spaces to the hardy 13 who'd made it and everyone tumbled onto their respective sleeping mats (no blow up king-size beds like those carted to the Fantasy Farm Fitness Challenge (FFFC) two weeks previously) for a good night's sleep.

We were rudely awoken by a clanging bell at 7.30 - horror of horrors already half an hour behind schedule. Fortunately a hearty best-of-British fry up was awaiting us at the club house. Our hosts couldn't have been more accommodating and the incredulity on their faces when we told them the reason for the training weekend was picture perfect!

After packing our bags with all manner of equipment and the sandwiches lovingly prepared by Team Kirtley and Tooves, we finally all piled into the three most hardy vehicles and headed towards Brecon. After a few minor detours and picking up expedition member number 14 (our FFFC host Kinsey who was incredulous that we were so far behind schedule), the cars started winding their way down narrow country lanes lined with pristine snow covered trees. Brooksie's excitable squeals of 'It's like skiing' and 'It's like the Alps' paints the picture and excitement fairly accurately, as did my over eager photographing of the scenery through the car window (Jamo appeared surprisingly unconvinced when I tried to persuade him that taking pictures of snow-covered hedges was exciting...)

We finally pulled up in front of a farmhouse where the owners let us park in the farmyard, thereby limiting the risk of vehicles rolling into snowy and icy ditches. And then we were off.

Our brisk pace and the hazy winter sunshine soon precipitated the first stop to remove several layers of thermal clothing. And then it was to the foot of the first hill - the enthusiastic Kiwis with sandbags in their rucksacks (Glun and Blunks you know who you are!) bravely marched up ahead, slipping and sliding part of the way. Those of us with walking poles were extremely glad of them - particularly where the snow was knee deep, or in my case almost thigh deep! There was no one else about and we made the first tracks of the day in the pristine untouched powder.

For most of us it was a complete novelty to be walking in such conditions and we all relished the challenge surrounded by such stunning scenery. A couple of hours on and a heavy mist started to fall. After the lessons of the wild, wet and windy 3 Peaks adventure back in November and the mountain rescue helicopter hovering up ahead, none of us were willing to take any chances and we started our descent.

Running, rolling and semi-sledging down the hill made for a fairly quick descent and we returned to the cars satisfied with the walking accomplished. It was then back to the ranch for some welcome hot showers, Six Nations rugby and Cardiff's best curry.

The following day dawned less bright and after a night without heating in the pavilion (all good training for the potentially inhospitable Everest climate!) it was a more staid gathering of people at the breakfast table. Even our resident jokers Cuzza and Tooves were uncharacteristically subdued, perhaps unsurprising given the unappealing prospect of sodden boots and damp clothing.

Although a more efficient departure than the previous day, we were sadly still very much behind schedule (much to Kinsey's 'But the programme says 9.30 start' disbelief). Spirits were raised as we started our walk along a leafy gorge which eventually revealed the first mesmerising waterfall of the day.

Our walk took us up and down the sides of spectacular gorges and along the top up into the snow line again. The Kiwis and our leader Kirt could not resist the pristine snow in one field and launched into a set of 40s, trim-trail-Battersea-Park style while the rest of us laughed and did our best to put them off!

It was all going too well and we soon found ourselves at the bottom of a gorge with seemingly no footpath out and no means of getting across the river to the footpath on the other side without wading through the water. After much debate (the most useful contribution being from Jamo 'Spread out and it's each man for himself') we braved the chilly water.

It was then up to David and BJ - our Duke of Edinburgh bronze award navigator - who did a great job of getting us back on track. It was clear that fatigue was setting in when Butler and Tooves' chatter and banter was no longer to be heard floating through the air. We finally made it back to the pub car park at 4.30 and sadly had to forego the Sunday roast in order to start the unpredictable journey home.

Isla did a magnificent job of getting us back to Chieveley Services speedily, battling against the stubborn Jeep that insists it is only capable of a maximum speed of 65 miles per hour! HC then took over in the Clio and got us back to south-west London in record time. As we sang along to the Dirty Dancing signature tune 'I've had the time of my life' (it wouldn't be a girls' car without it) I couldn't help feeling that summed up the weekend perfectly.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

86 days till....

...9 April and I've finally set up my blog to keep you all posted on my progress until we get on that jet plane to Kathmandu!

If you want to find out what this is all about visit