Trekking Everest…An Interview with Philippa Thomas

Philippa Thomas, 50, from Andover (originally from South Wales) has decided to do something extreme to mark this milestone year. A long standing Valley Leisure member, she has planned to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support by doing a very unique ice bucket challenge at none other than Everest Basecamp. We caught up with her to discuss just how she is preparing for this challenge.


Why did you choose this challenge?

Being Welsh I love mountains, I’ve been to Nepal and Ben Nevis, but Everest is the highest mountain in the world. With having children and working etc. it just hasn’t been a good time, but my children are teenagers now, my eldest son is heading off to university and having just turned 50 I thought this is the year, Everest Basecamp here I come!

Why are you doing this challenge?

It’s a personal challenge and the fulfilment of a lifetime ambition, but I also see it as an opportunity to raise some money for a good cause that’s really dear to my heart. My dad, who was completely wonderful, passed away from bowel cancer in 2002. My dad had support from Macmillan, and in the final stages of his cancer they did a terrific job, so I’ve always wanted to have this opportunity to just raise some money towards a charity that I have had a personal experience with, that have done a fantastic job.

Why did you decide to do the Ice Bucket Challenge?

I decided to do the Ice Bucket Challenge because like many people I was nominated for it by various friends. I also saw a bit of a backlash on Facebook about it; many people were saying “just give money to charity” but I think they’re missing the point so I thought well I want to raise this money, there is a lot of publicity around the ice bucket challenge, and I have the opportunity to do it in a way that the majority will never be able to do. And if it helps me raise money as a result, then I think that’s great! I’m going to use water from the mountain stream and ice from the Cumbria Icefall too so it will be amazing!

How are you preparing for the trip?

Well I’ve been a long standing member of Andover Leisure Centre first joining in 1994 – I still have my membership card in my purse! My training started when I booked the trip about a year ago. I first started doing cardio classes, and then I started doing Tabata Training and going to the gym. I also started walking more, it’s a training exercise that you can’t really avoid, you have to get out and do it. Another key part of my training is yoga; I started doing classes with Michelle and Jane and I’ve been so excited about doing yoga I’ve actually started my training to become a yoga teacher! I’m actually enjoying training in the centre due to the variety of things you can do as opposed to seeing it as something that’s really boring!

What has been the hardest part of training so far?

The hardest part of training has actually been making sufficient time to come, I’ve got my own company, 2 teenage sons – their commitments, and I need to make time for my husband and friends! But now I work from home I have a more flexible schedule and I’ve found that if I book myself onto a class I will go. Booking gives you the discipline you need to go.

What are you most nervous about?

The altitude…you can’t train for that, the biggest risk with this trip is that you doing it too quickly. Some of the treks we’ve seen do it in 12 days but I’m doing it in 17 days which gives us a lot more time to acclimatise.

What are you looking forward to the most?

I am looking forward to the walking in the mountains and the clean mountain air; I’m not necessarily looking forward to eating lentil curry for two and a half weeks because that’s the staple diet, but I am just looking forward to being in the mountains.

How will you expect to feel at the end of your trip?

It’s the two E’s, ‘exhausted’ and ‘elated’. It’s the fact that my chosen charity will hopefully benefit financially from this so its not that I’m just doing this for my own enjoyment, I am doing it for others as well. I will also feel satisfied that I have done something good.

How do your family and friends feel about you doing the trip?

My friends think I’m mad but they also think it’s a great thing to be doing. My mother thinks that I shouldn’t be doing this at the age of 50, but she is worried. My husband has been fully behind me from the start, he is a maths teacher so he isn’t able to come along and it hasn’t really been a passion of his, but he is very supportive and has even been training with me. But I think that he is a bit worried that he has to cook dinner for three weeks, I think the local Chinese will be gaining a regular customer!

Philippa is flying out to Kathmandu on the 18th to start her Everest Basecamp challenge. If you wish to support her challenge for Macmillan Cancer Support, please visit her Just Giving page here:


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