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Yorkshire white rose scales the heights of Everest as fearless friends hike to base camp

The white rose of Yorkshire is now flying proudly on the slopes of the tallest mountain in the world after a pair of adventurous fundraisers from Bradford and Keighley climbed to Everest Base Camp to raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care’s Bradford hospice.

Mohammad Sharif, a dad of three and engagement officer for Bradford City, Bradford District and Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and his friend Iqbal Singh (known as Icky), a dad of two and security supervisor at Carlsberg UK, took their passion for walking to new heights in October with the fundraising trip of a lifetime.

Both proud Yorkshire lads, the two trained for the hike in the Yorkshire Dales, the Peak District, the Lake District and Spain, and considered their Yorkshire flag to be essential hiking kit for the trip, keeping their extra luggage a surprise from friends and family back home in Wibsey and Keighley.

Base camp

Yorkshire conquers the Himalayas: A tired but jubilant Sharif and Icky flying their county flag at Everest Base Camp, at over 17,000 feet above sea level.

The intrepid dads joined adventurers from around the world on the 130km hike to Base Camp, which they completed in 11 days across challenging and rugged terrain under the expert guide of a local Sherpa. Sharif and Icky began their Himalayan adventure in Kathmandu with a jeep ride to the starting point for the old trail at Sallari; what should have been a 10 hour off road connection turned into a 14 hour adventure when the 4x4 the two were travelling in broke down.

Once on the old trail from Sallari, the two hiked on mountain passes, scrambled over boulder-strewn hills and balanced on breathtaking bridges (shared by several donkeys and yaks on one occasion) to make it to Base Camp, pausing to remember those who had lost their lives on the world’s highest peak.

Sharif and Icky planned the trip in 2015 whilst on another walking trip to one of the many Wainwrights in the Lake District; both had dreamed of seeing the snowcapped peak. They decided to fund the trip themselves and began saving, but chose to raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care’s Bradford Hospice too. Icky’s mum is a breast cancer survivor and Sharif’s wife’s cousin was cared for at the hospice on Maudsley Street, and the two wanted to give something back to the teams who had supported their loved ones.

Marie Curie helps people living with a terminal illness and their families make the most of the time they have together by delivering expert hands-on care, emotional support, research and guidance. The charity cared for more than 420 people in their own homes across Bradford and Airedale in 2016 and the Bradford Hospice remains open round the clock, 365 days a year to care for people living with a terminal illness and their families.

The charity needs to raise £5,562 a day to keep the Bradford Hospice open and relies on charitable donations to keep its services running.

Icky and Sharif first set-out to raise £1,500 but were overwhelmed when friends, family and colleagues lined up to support their adventure, helping them to a current fundraising total of £5,264.00. The two are continuing to fundraise in the hope of reaching the total cost of keeping the Bradford Hospice running for a day, with just over £300 left to hit this total.

Sharif said: “We’d both always wanted to see Everest; we’re keen walkers in our spare time and we’d spoken about it on a trip in 2015. We decided at this point we were just going to go for it and spent the next few years saving up and training.”

The two trained in the UK as well as taking two trips to Spain in order to experience hiking at high altitudes. Icky explained: “We have some awesome walking country in the UK but nothing high enough for us to get our bodies used to coping with altitude. The two trips we did to Spain were invaluable as it was the altitude sickness and the challenges this places on your body that we found the hardest while climbing to Base Camp.”

Sharif added: “It wasn’t like anything we’ve ever experienced… We’re both fairly fit but nothing can really prepare you for how your body responds to hiking in high altitudes. We were there in autumn so it was fairly warm during the day, but the temperature dropped drastically at night. Everything takes a massive amount of effort when your body isn’t getting enough oxygen; eating and drinking was difficult and staying warm when the sun went down was a challenge for us both.”

Icky added: “We did it though. We persevered and dug in; we hadn’t come all that way to not reach Base Camp and we had our white rose in our backpacks to celebrate with once we made it.”

The two hiked for 17 days carrying rucksacks weighing in at 10kg, on a diet of lentils and rice and the odd bowl of garlic soup.

Sharif recalled the unusual cravings the two experienced whilst suffering altitude sickness including baked bean mirages (something he craved whilst on the track) and the many people they met on the way that were unfortunately air lifted due to injury or illness: “We were so sad for them, they’d come all this way like us and they didn’t quite get there. But having the chance to meet people from all over the world in the tea houses along the route was one of the really great things about the trip. It didn’t matter who you were or where you came from, we all had one thing in common and that was to reach the Base Camp.”

Sharif and Icky got their first view of Everest on day five of the climb, Icky said: “Our knees went weak when we saw the mountain for the first time, and we were sure it wasn’t the altitude sickness this time but just the thrill of seeing it.”

After 11 grueling days, the pair reached Base Camp and took the opportunity to unfurl their Yorkshire credentials alongside the collection of national flags from around the world. Icky chuckled remembering them posing for a photo (pictured): “People were asking us where we were from as they didn’t recognise the country our flag was from,” and Sharif added: “We told them ‘we’re from Yorkshire, haven’t you heard of it?’”

The two had put careful thought into which flag they wanted to carry to their final destination, with avid Leeds United fan, Sharif, joking to his family that it would be a flag from his favourite team that would be flown at over 17,000 feet.

Sharif added: “It had to be the Yorkshire flag; we’re both proud Yorkshiremen and this was a victory against all odds to reach Base Camp for the county as well as our family. We were proud to fly the white rose and made sure we left it in a tea house in Lukla (although we had to buy the bar staff a beer in order to get it pinned on the roof alongside national flags from around the world)!”

Now back in the county, the two are pushing on with their fundraising to reach their goal to cover the cost of running the hospice for a day.

Icky added: “We’re overwhelmed with how generous everyone has been, giving whatever they can to support such a great charity. We saved up to fund our trip so every penny donated to our appeal is going to the Bradford Hospice, we’re hoping we can make one final push to hit our total so we can handover the donation in January.”

You can donate to Sharif and Icky’s appeal and see more photos from their Himalayan adventure on their page here

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