Ten years ago, on the 60th Anniversary of the inaugural Everest Summit, AHF supporters Emma Huffam and Trevor Builder embarked on their own expedition.  They decided they would trek to the base camps of the 14 highest mountains in the world. They named their adventure Project Base8000.

Now on the anniversary of #Everest70, Project Base8000 is about to reach its peak.

On April 9, Emma and Trevor will begin their ascent to the 14th (and their final) Base Camp at Annapurna. Almost 70 years to the day after Edmund Hillary achieved his historical climb.

Although they don’t intend to summit Everest as Sir Ed and Tenzing did, their quest marks a huge trekking achievement for the adventurous pair. And, weather permitting, they will soon be celebrating ‘getting to the top’ of their own mountainous goals. After that, they will spend some time reflecting on the journey that has spanned a decade.

Where it all began

Emma and Trevor’s connection to AHF began with an exploration of the Himalaya and now they’ve witnessed first hand the difference the work makes to the people in the region.

During their 10-year Project Base8000 journey, they have witnessed some of the work that AHF has been involved in, in particular the solar lighting that has changed the lives of people in the Lower Solukhumbu.

“We take for granted that when the sun goes down we can still study, but over there, there’s no lighting after dark. Seeing the impact solar lighting has on their lives is amazing.”

“I wish more people could see that and everything that’s being done by NGOs like AHF.”

Always grateful

As well as being a personal endeavour, Project Base8000 is one way Emma and Trevor pay it forward to the trekking community. It’s a documentation of their adventures and an inspiring resource for fellow mountain lovers.

Ultimately it’s a call to meet a new challenge, whatever that is for you.

“You don’t have to climb to the top of a mountain,” says Trevor. “If you want to tackle something smaller there are so many options in Nepal.”

According to Trevor, being inspired by the greatness of the mountains is reward in itself. “I feel so grateful to be there with this mountain that’s looking down on you and you’re looking up at it.”

In addition to the physical and mental aspect, Emma and Trevor find being in the presence of the Himalaya a spiritual experience. As part of their Base Camp journey they made a point to get to know more about the mountaineering community, and have been fortunate to participate in three Puja (blessing) ceremonies.

“The local Lama comes along and they pray for everyone’s safe passage on the mountain,” explains Trevor. “The Sherpas won’t climb without that blessing.”

Preferring Base Camp treks to full-on mountaineering, Trevor and Emma hope some day to trek to Pikey Peak which is part of the original journey Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay walked before summiting Everest. “Today you could fly from Kathmandu but they did it before there were any roads or an airport,” says Trevor.

“It’s so inspiring to think about all the amazing expeditions from the past and some of the challenges they would have experienced,” adds Emma. Thinking about the people who went before them – such as Sir Ed – is inspiring to the Sydney couple.

Climb every mountain

“You don’t have to be a hero to accomplish great things. You can just be an ordinary chap, sufficiently motivated to reach challenging goals.”

Sir Edmund Hillary

Just like Sir Edmund Hillary those 70 years ago, Emma and Trevor’s journey has involved extreme highs and extraordinary lows. On one occasion in 2014, they had to be evacuated from their trek via helicopter, as altitude sickness got the better of them.

“We were so disappointed with ourselves for not finishing that,” says Emma. “We’ve drawn on that ever since. It taught us to be more prepared next time.”

What they learned from that trip is to incorporate mental training into their plans. As Sir Ed famously said, “It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”

“We’d left work and flown straight to Kathmandu so our heads weren’t in the right space … we hadn’t really thought about the challenge we were embarking on.”

So, how do they train mentally for a trek to an 8,000 metre base camp? One of the ways is by getting up every Tuesday at 4.30am to do a short local trek.

“If it’s raining we go anyway,” says Emma. “On some of the tougher [Base Camp] treks you might be in the dark or you might be in the wet so this is great preparation.”

It’s incredible to think that with a spark of motivation, and a willingness to go beyond one’s comfort zone, Emma and Trevor, two ordinary people are in the process of achieving something monumental.

As Sir Ed said, “My abilities have not been outstanding, but I have had sufficient strength and determination to meet my challenges and have usually managed to succeed with them.”

Emma and Trevor’s wish through Project Base8000 is that other ordinary folks just like you and I will recognise that each of us has the ability to climb a mountain, whether that be physically or metaphorically.

“These anniversaries are good reminders of how it all started,” says Emma.

If you’re feeling inspired to help the people of the Himalaya, donate now to support the continued work of our local partners in Nepal, Bhutan and India to help improve the quality of life for the people of the Himalaya, and to afford them the ability to set and achieve their own goals.

AHF’s programs in Nepal receive support from the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP). 

Words by Hannah Hempenstall

Project Base 8000 in Nepal