Climbing champion Richard Parks will lead 13 women from all walks of life on a charity trek to Everest Base Camp next month.
A former Wales international rugby player, Richard became a world-record holder after completing the 737 challenge.
Last year he climbed to the highest point on each of the world’s seven continents, and journeyed to the North and South Pole, in less than seven months.
Now he will lend his expertise to members of Welsh Women Walking, who hope to climb the Himalayan Mountains and reach the 5,400 metre high camp.
The group, which was set up in 2009 by businesswoman Jacquie Williams, has 30 core members aged 40 to 60, who come together to walk in the Welsh countryside every first Sunday of the month. The Everest trip will raise money for chosen charities, Ty Hafan and Marie Curie Cancer Care.
Last December members of Welsh Women Walking attended a dinner, where they met Richard for the first time. Inspired by his story they decided to join forces. “The idea basically came from a wine fuelled dinner,” said Jacquie. “We have these crazy ideas but we always deliver.”
The team developed a soft spot for Ty Hafan, which runs a hospice for terminally ill children based in Barry, after meeting some of the children.
“It’s such an inspirational place,” said organiser Jacquie, 49. “We just got to know them and they really tugged at our heartstrings.
“We had target of £20,000 and we’ve raised £17,000 to date. We’re confident we are going to break that target. We always pay our own way on the trips so every penny we raise goes straight to charity,” said Jacquie.
This will not be the first trip for Welsh Women Walking. Two years ago they also climbed Kilimanjaro in Africa and raised £92,000. Now the team will use equipment from this trip to climb Everest. As part of their preparation the women are doing resistance training at the Aspire Fitness Gym in Canton.
The journey to Everest will be tough, but Jacqui said the group is open to all women of all fitness levels. “It’s not all about these crazy trips,” she said. “The first Sunday walks are open to anyone of any ability”.
The managing director for engineering company CS Aftercare, Jacqui started walking as a hobby in 2008. “I’d never really done hill walking but I absolutely loved it,” she said. “It’s a great alternative to the gym and I thought if I like doing this then maybe other women would.”
Welsh Women Walking offers an opportunity to socialise and network outside working hours. Each member donates £10 to charity for each walk, and after three years, the group has raised £130,000 in this way.
“I can say without exception that the group has bonded very well,” said Jacqui. “It’s been an absolute phenomenon. I just wish I could come up with ideas as good as this all the time.
“When you go out with a group of women, some of whom have never done anything like this before, there’s a definite sense of achievement.”
This Saturday the group will accompany Richard up Pen Y Fan in the Brecon Beacons. “We’re delighted to be walking with Richard,” said Jacqui. “He’s quite a Welsh hero and we’re really proud to be associated with him.”
Jacqui’s team will fly from Heathrow on April 22. To support Welsh Women Walking or to join them visit http://www.welshwomenwalking.co.uk/