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The ascent begins!

Early this morning, the teams strapped on their skiis and headed to the slopes to take on Everest In The Alps 2020.

All three teams left at first light this morning to start their four day challenge to ascent the vertical height that Everest sits above sea level (8,848 metres). That’s over five miles straight up.

Conditions were severe for the teams with heavy snowfalls and plunging temperatures.

Presenter Phil Spencer heads up a team and this will be his third time taking on Everest In The Alps.

Phil said: “Working hard at those temperatures, doing something that you’re not accustomed to doing is hard, things start to break down in your mind. You can find yourself losing the ability to make as good as decisions.

“So one of the biggest challenges up there is keeping on track, keeping that mental strength going and the motivation high in whatever conditions get thrown at you in the mountains.”

Rob Ritchie whose ten year old son Toby has a low grade brain tumour, founded the challenge’s concept.

In 2015, Rob and 13 of his friends and family travelled to the Swiss village of Verbier where they took on the very first Everest in the Alps – by skiing 8,848 metres uphill, the height of Everest.

On Feb 29, the three teams of the 2020 challenge will include TV presenter Phil Spencer, joining them and leading his own team, for his third attempt at the gruelling ascent over four days.

They’ll climb for 10-14 hours each day, burning 10,000 calories and using the energy required to complete three back-to-back marathons.

Sleeping in mountain huts, they’ll set out before dawn each day in temperatures that can drop as low as -30c during this epic challenge, as they did in 2019.

Phil said in the Everest In The Alps interview: “There are so many facets aside from the physical height. You’ve got the weather, the altitude, you’ve got the unknown, the route, the routine and you’ve got the temperature.

“It could be +20 degrees or it could be -20 degrees and that’s something else that’s quite individual to this challenge.

“There’s no hiding place in the mountains, once you start, you have to finish because your hut’s at the top, so what are you going to do? You still have to get up there even if it hurts or your kit breaks, your bed is still at the top of the mountain!”

Katie Henderson, the challenge’s youngest skier aged just 20 will be taking part together with her mum Teresa. Katie said the length of the challenge is the most daunting part and “getting up each day to go again no matter how much your legs try and convince you to stay in bed.

“Normally after a race or a hard training day you take a break to allow your body to recover but for the challenge it will be four days in a row of tough, long stretches of walking.”

Each day will be difficult and I’m sure there will be lots of low points but going through it with the rest of the team will be an amazing experience.”

Funds raised by all the 2020 teams will go to The Everest Centre, financed by The Brain Tumour Charity with a global remit to research new treatments.

The centre will fund several vital research projects that will help us understand more about low grade paediatric brain tumours and trial new treatments.

Now after three successful summits in 2015, 2018 and 2019, Rob and his team members have raised over £4.5 million – the single largest donation The Brain Tumour Charity had ever received.

Find out more here