Escape member Alan Curr worked in sales in London before he was persuaded to organise a Cricket Match on Mount Everest. He now works in the Adventure Travel industry for Wild Frontiers and has recently published his first book.
How many times have you sat in the pub a talking about a unique idea? The conversation always goes the same way; let’s do something, let’s go somewhere. The next morning though, the excitement is replaced by a sore head and the idea fades. Every so often however, an idea is too good to keep down. That’s how I ended up organising a world record-setting cricket match more than three miles high on Mount Everest, raising over 100k for charity, writing a book and going on stage at the Royal Albert Hall with Chris de Burgh…
Simple, let’s get our cricket club into the Guinness Book of Records. How? Well, we’ll trek up to Everest Base Camp and play a full format game of Twenty20 Cricket. We’ll take a pitch, stumps, bats, pads and proper balls. We’ll need 22 players, two umpires and a scorer. Easy; right?
We took 50 people. The idea captured the imagination of other city dwellers wanting an opportunity to escape. We took two playing squads of 15, and another 20 trekkers made up of umpires, scorers, photographers, cameramen, doctors and supporters. We had to meet several times with high ranking members of the Nepalese government to gain the right permissions and obtain sponsorship from anyone who was willing to give it to us.
After that we had to fundraise and train, and for a full year we escaped the city. A group of 50 people, the majority of whom had never met before, managed to spend numerous weekends’ away training in Cornwall, Dartmoor, Scotland and Wales during the winter months. The whole project lasted a year for most; 18 months for those involved in the planning, and gave everyone a purpose, something to focus on, and something to be both excited and proud of.
I had been working in sales for six years when my friend Richard Kirtley came to me. I had no idea you could even go to Everest Base Camp, let alone play cricket up there. Surely mountains are all pointy, where would be find a flat area? Well, the venue was a frozen lake bed called Gorak Shep at 5165 metres above sea level, and about the same size as a cricket pitch. Then I found out it would take nine days to trek up there. Given that I was weighing in at 16 stone at the time and much preferred sitting in front of the TV to walking up hills that was quite off-putting, but I’d said yes now so what the hell.
Of course, there’s no point doing something half-heartedly, so I signed up to run a Marathon. Again, I’d not run at all in about 10 years, but thought if I could get through that then I could manage the walking. I got round, slowly. It was pretty painful, but invigorating at the same time.
Then I had to learn about altitude. Apparently there’s not much oxygen up a mountain, so that was another obstacle we would have to overcome, along with the sudden interest in our project of corrupt government officials in Nepal who were asking for bribes.
There were so many obstacles that at times the four of us who were the main organisers questioned what on earth we had gotten ourselves into, but we got through. We had a press launch in Trafalgar Square on a sunny day in January and were suddenly watching ourselves on the news and seeing our story in the paper. This thing was real.
We did the trek, played the match, and it was spectacular. I made a host of new friends and got a world record; but it was about more than that. I broke away from the routine I had gotten so bored with and was revitalised. Afterwards I travelled, even going back to Nepal to live for a little while, and I wrote a book about the trip – an ambition I’d had since I was a child. I also found a new career, working in the adventure travel industry and now I regularly run half-marathons and trek to exciting and remote places that give me the time away from London that I so crave.