Tanya Hodges treks to Everest Base Camp and raises (almost) £4,000 for UK Veterans’ Mental Health

Charity Ambassador Tanya Hodges has successfully completed a two-week hike to Everest Base Camp, including two nights spent in freezing conditions – all to raise much needed funds for mental health charity, PTSD Resolution.

“Last year in the UK, 71 military personnel and Veterans took their own life due to the mental trauma of war,” Tanya says. “This needs to be stopped. Please donate and support anyway you can. WE OWE IT TO THEM.”

Founded in 2009, PTSD Resolution provides therapy for Forces’ Veterans, Reservists and their families. Therapy is free, effective and delivered both promptly and locally through a UK-wide network of 200 therapists – with treatment also available online or by phone.

Tanya took on her gruelling challenge to save lives. After climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for the charity in 2018, she raised enough to fund six courses of specialist therapy.

“That’s six lives that were saved,” she said at the time, “so I am setting myself a new challenge.”

Determined to raise even more by heading to Everest in 2020, Tanya was well into training when Covid hit. Her trip to Nepal was cancelled twice, but – third time lucky – she finally made it in April 2022 and, after self-funding all her travel and training, has now raised just shy of £4000.

PTSD Resolution is a ‘lean’ operation with no salaried staff or assets, yet has had well over 3,000 referrals to date. Therapy is delivered across an average of six sessions, with 78% of cases seeing an improvement in reported symptoms.

Born in Shoreham by Sea, the youngest of seven children, Tanya has always been sensitive to the struggles faced by Veterans – her father served in the Royal Navy for twenty years until he was medically discharged.

As an adult, working in security training at Gatwick airport, she began noticing a lack of understanding around mental health while training her staff, many of them ex-military personnel. The curriculum covered the effects of firearms and explosives – but didn’t touch on invisible injuries like trauma.

Thanks to Tanya’s research and lobbying, the Department for Transport have updated their training and PTSD is now included as a subject in the syllabus.

In the course of her research Tanya became more aware of the immense human cost of military trauma and decided she wanted to make a difference. This – combined with her love of travel, hiking and adventure – took her all the way to Kilimanjaro.

And then to Everest…

Everest Base Camp 2022

Having her EBC challenge postponed was frustrating, but it meant Tanya could chalk up some impressive training hikes. In what turned out to be a three year preparation she tackled difficult terrain in the Peak District, Wales, Northern Ireland, Kyrgyzstan, Bulgaria – and some serious mountains in Majorca.

Further prep included HIIT training 3 time a week – and much research. As well as learning about Nepal and the conditions she was likely to face on the way to Base Camp, packing was a major undertaking. With the very limited weight allowance a huge  amount of thought went into acquiring, assembling and checking her kit – and there were many dry runs.

The hardest part of the challenge was the uncertainty, Tanya says. It was difficult to fully commit as plans had been cancelled twice previously. The trip was also overshadowed by testing anxiety, with Nepal requiring a PCR test for entry and exit – and lateral flow tests required on the climb.

“I had no social life six weeks leading up to the trek,” Tanya says, “I found it quite isolating!”

But finally, after years of thwarted plans, she was on her way!

It took two flights from Heathrow, via Doha, to get to Kathmandu – where it was 35 degrees by 10 o’clock in the morning. At their hotel Tanya and her fellow trekkers, a group of twelve from the UK and Canada, were briefed on the upcoming trip and served mutton biryani, their last meat dish for two weeks – as staying vegetarian en route is recommended.

Tanya insists she enjoyed the flight from Kathmandu – on a 16 seater “tiny aircraft” – to Lukla (2600m), the world’s most dangerous air strip.

“As you fly into Lukla you can hear the warning systems on the plane saying ‘low terrain,’ ‘pull up,’ ‘collision imminent,’” she says. “The runway is only 500m long with a 12% incline as you land to slow the aircraft down as there’s a sharp drop at the end.”

It was a hair-raising start to the 14 day trek which would take Tanya and her group from 2600m in Lukla to 5600m at Everest Base Camp – ten days to reach camp (up) and four days returning to Lukla (down). The group of twelve were accompanied by four guides, two yak drivers – and their yaks. They were to stay in teahouses along the way, apart from two (freezing) nights at Base Camp which would be spent in tents.

And so they began.

At first, the conditions were difficult but there were comforts along the way.

“Every day would start with a breakfast of porridge, eggs and toast,” Tanya says. “We would then walk for a few hours until lunchtime where we would stop at teahouses for sandwiches or pizza. We got to our tea houses most days by 4pm where I would stretch, get in my warm clothes and have dinner in the communal restaurant.”

The cold was growing more noticeable, but it was still possible to get warm and rest well. “The teahouses were cold – but the restaurants had log burners where they would burn dried yak dung to heat the room. Our dinners were tasty, we would have hot chocolate and occasionally apple pie for pudding.”

As they got higher though, the cold became impossible to escape – and conditions got tough. With no access to hot water the group used wet wipes for cleaning.

“The water started to freeze,” Tanya says, “and the rooms got very cold.”

Tanya describes the extremes and the contrasts they experienced as they ascended:

“Our walk started in very warm conditions through beautiful alpine forest with the spring rhododendron in full bloom – Nepal’s national flower. As we walked higher each day the scenery got more mountainous and the air thinner. We were blessed with blue skies most days but had a blizzard at Base Camp where the temperature got to minus 25.”

Blizzard or no blizzard, nothing could beat the feeling of making it to ‘the rock’ marking a successful 10 day ascent to EBC. Tanya had her picture taken with a PTSD Resolution banner and was delighted when some American Veterans gave her an impromptu round of applause for her efforts – and her cause.

“Seeing Everest for the first time was special,” Tanya says. “I also scattered some of my friends’ ashes at the memorial site… and we saw an amazing sunrise across the mountains.”

After some hot tea and popcorn Tanya and her hiking team spent a restful first night at  EBC – or as restful as possible.

“We had been in teahouses the whole way up so was a shock to be back in tents,” Tanya recalls. “We had a mattress on the floor and a down sleeping bag. I slept in three layers each night but found it comfortable – albeit cold!”

The combination of cold and high altitude made breathing difficult – and a few members of Tanya’s team were given supplementary oxygen overnight.

The next day, however, they were up and off to visit the Khumbu Icefall and to meet climbers preparing for the summit.

“We visited the medical tent and listened to the avalanches around us,” Tanya says. “and I was amazed how large the entire camp was. It took an hour to walk from the Everest Base Camp rock to our camp and tents!”

After two nights it was time to make their way back down to Lukla, a four day trip which turned out to be the toughest leg. “I developed a chest infection on the way down,” Tanya says, “which is quite common due to the cold and altitude. That was very hard, walking and not being able to breathe properly. And not washing my hair for 16 days!”

When Tanya was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in 2018 it was letters from Veterans treated by PTSD Resolution that kept her going. At night, huddled again the darkness and freezing winds, Tanya would read these letters from home – and draw strength from them.

On this trip, too, she kept Veterans and their families at the forefront of her mind.

“They need our support more than ever after the hardships of Covid and the recent events in Afghanistan and Ukraine,” she says.

“I have seen first-hand – at PTSD Resolution’s conferences – just how far the sponsorship money goes to saving the lives of our Veterans. I will continue to help in any way I can. I feel honoured to be an Ambassador and to raise funds and awareness for the charity.”

– All Tanya’s training, travel and gear is entirely self-funded, meaning every penny of the money she raises goes direct to PTSD Resolution, helping to bring desperate men and women back from the edge.

PTSD Resolution Chairman Colonel Tony Gauvain (retired) congratulates Tanya on conquering yet another challenge:

“I have the utmost admiration for Tanya’s determination in persevering with and achieving her challenge.  I am also immensely grateful to her for raising such a handsome sum and for her continuing support.”

If you would like to help Tanya reach her EBC fundraising goal of £4,000 – (currently at £3,873!) – her JustGiving page is still open:  www.justgiving.com/fundraising/tanya-hodges3


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