THIS weekend Ellis Stewart will set off to achieve a 20-year personal dream and attempt to become the first person from Hartlepool to conquer Mount Everest.
After months of gruelling training and fundraising to secure the £35,000 needed, Ellis will leave on a two month expedition to achieve the ultimate in climbing.
On Sunday, he will wave goodbye to his wife and two young daughters to battle through frozen waterfalls, temperatures of minus 20 and dangerous “death zones” to reach the top of the world at just over 29,000 feet.
Ellis, 40, said today: “My bags are packed, I’m in the best shape of my life and I’m raring to go.”
The closest experienced climber Ellis, of Bishop Cuthbert, Hartlepool, has previously got to Everest was in 2000 when he visited the mountain’s base camp, which stands at 17,500 feet above sea level.
“That’s what did it,” he said. “I thought I want to come back climb this.
“Over the years I’ve tried several times to get the fundraising but never really got close.
“This year it has all finally come through.”
The expedition is costing Ellis around £35,000 in flights, permits, kit and insurance.
But he is also using the experience to collect sponsorship for the NSPCC charity.
The dad of two has collected more than £5,000 so far for its ChildLine Schools Service which will see specialist NSPCC workers visit local schools to sensitively raise awareness of abuse and how to report.
After being flown in to one of the world’s most dangerous airports on the side of a mountain in the Himalayas, Ellis and his small team of climbers, will begin the journey up the south side of Everest.
They will spend three weeks trekking around the bottom of the mountain before reaching base camp.
Over the next four weeks Ellis will climb gradually higher up the mountain before climbing lower down again.
Ellis, whose motto is One Dream One Chance One Life, explained: “This yo-yoing up the mountain is to get acclimatised to the altitudes and prepare ourselves for the final summit bid.”
While away from base camp, Ellis will sleep in a thin two-man tent and rely on boil-in-the-bag meals cooked on a small gas stove.
The final stage will see Ellis enter the so-called death zone at 26,000 feet where the oxygen is so thin the body starts to shut down.
And the final push to the top will be a laborious 10-16 hour trek in full kit in the dead of night.
The aim is to reach the summit as the sun rises.
It is a moment Ellis has not stopped thinking about for years.
“I’ve thought about it every day for the last 20 years,” he said.
“Visualising it has formed part of my training to help keep me focussed.
“But it’s important to remember that the summit is only half way as you have got to get back down again, so you need to keep something in reserve.”
Ellis who runs his own leisure clothing company, will keep in contact with Tamara, and daughters Lara, six, and Isla, four, with occasional internet phone chats.
Other family and friends will also be able to follow his journey through updates on his Twitter and Facebook pages.
Ellis, who for the last three months has written a weekly Mail column detailing his preparations, said: “To not be there for that two month period is going to be tough on them and me.
“But as the days turn into weeks it should gradually get easier to deal with and the girls will be counting down the days to me coming home.”
Tamara, 34, who works as a teacher in Middlesbrough, added: “We will miss him massively but we will have a lot of support around us from both our families.
“I’m very proud of him. Ever since I’ve known Ellis this has been a big part of his life and it is nice to see it finally coming to fruition.”
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