After braving plummeting temperatures and breaking physical and mental barriers, a 53-year-old vet has become one of the first to conquer an unclimbed peak in Nepal.
Heather Bentley, of Great Barton, has spoken of the ‘emotional’ once-in-a-life time expedition of the previously unscaled 5,921 metre NarPhu Peak in the Lost Valley Region of Nepal last month.
Through the monumental feat she has raised more than £1,100 for Maggies, in Cambridge, a cancer support centre close to her heart.
The mum of two, who is now back at work at Thurston Veterinary Centre despite suffering frostbite from the trek, said: “Reaching the summit was the hardest thing I have ever done but it is a great feeling pushing yourself way beyond what you thought was possible and the feeling when you stand on a summit where no-one has ever been before is truly indescribable.”
She joined a team of six for the three-week challenge, which was organised by Expedition Wise, based in Wales.
At their base camp they faced the challenges and awe-inspiring majesty of their remote surroundings.
“There was a lot of snow. The snow at our base camp was about four feet deep and they had to cut out platforms to put our tents on to,” Mrs Bentley said.
“At night it was very very cold, it was less than minus 20 and when we woke up we were covered in frost.
“We were surrounded by the most incredible mountain peaks. It was really beautiful. We were camped quite close to a glacial lake which froze at night and we woke up to these rumblings of the ice cracking on the lake.”
The whole team succeeded in reaching the summit, although it was a ‘gruelling’ 16.5 hour day and involved ‘some incredibly steep ice climbing’ with temperatures at minus 40.
Mrs Bentley, who has tackled four previous mountain challenges in the last seven years, said: “It had been a hard climb. I was physically and mentally absolutely drained.
“When we got there we were incredibly emotional and you couldn’t get your head around the idea no-one had ever been there before. It was incredibly peaceful.”
With their landmark goal completed, the next challenge was getting down from the peak which was ‘really hard and more dangerous’.
“It did seem a long way back. I just crawled into my tent and fell asleep. The next day you’re on such a high and so elated, Mrs Bentley said. “Unfortunately I’ve got some frostbite that’s going to take a long time to recover. When you get back into real life you can’t quite adjust. You live closely to six people doing something quite bizarre.”
After the unique experience, she hopes to tackle another mountain challenge. Mrs Bentley raised funds for Maggies as she has friends who used the centre.
People can still donate at www.justgiving.com/Heather-Bentley1