Seven mums from Twyford are about to take on the challenge of scaling the height of Everest on skis in just four days in a charity fundraiser.
Tanya Ritchie, whose ten-year-old son Toby, has a low grade brain tumour, heads up Toby’s Team, which, along with six other teams, will take on the epic challenge on Monday 26 February to raise funds for vital research into childhood brain tumours.
The four-day challenge will test all skiers to their limits. They’ll be ascending over 2,500 metres every day to reach their target, burning off the equivalent calories of running several back-to-back marathons on each of the four days.
“The challenge next week has ruled our lives for months now. The training, the fund raising, covering the cost of kit and the trip,” said Tanya, adding. “It has been a serious consideration and an extraordinary thing to attempt for all seven of us.”
In 2015, Toby’s dad Rob Ritchie 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 a gruelling 8,848 metres uphill, the height of Everest.
The group raised an incredible £3million, helping fund the creation of The Everest Centre for research in Germany – a leading research centre into paediatric low grade tumours which opened in June 2017.
This time, the team of mums join six other teams, one of which (Smith & Williamson) includes the Channel 4 presenter of Location, Location, Location, Phil Spencer.
“Toby’s Team are a group of my close friends, who are all Mums from Twyford School, where all three of my boys have been to school,” continued Tanya, “Twyford School has been utterly amazing in their kindness and intelligent practical help with Toby (and his brothers) and it was at Twyford where, having just moved from London five years ago, Toby fell ill during this first term at the school in Reception.
“So, with the help of his teachers and the school staff, lots of people have played a role in keeping an eye on Toby for the last five years, at first helping him come to school for short periods while on 18 months to chemo, to now helping him not get too tired and making sure he can take part in as much school life as possible.
“This has been the best medicine for a little boy who just wants to get on with life, but can’t do it the same way as his friends.”
Toby’s Team is made up of Tanya Ritchie, NHS physiotherapists Tiggy Corben and Emily Bray, Twyford school teachers Philippa McNeil and Sarah O’Gorman, local farmer Bebe Corbett and archivist Lucy de Laszlo. The epic challenge will test all seven mums to their limits.
“The expedition is not without taking its toll. Several of us have been injured (I have just got over a repetitive hip flex strain), we have been utterly exhausted and teary at times, fallen out occasionally, but we have laughed lots, talked about everything and anything and formed a real team bond. Not everyone knew each other well and lifelong friendships have been formed.
“We have worked hard and are very proud of ourselves and each other. Our determination to make a difference will see us through.”
Along the route, the team will be spending the nights in mountain huts, giving them a basic but well-earned rest and a chance to gather their strength. Early starts mean that they have to be back on the slopes at 6.30am each morning.
Funds raised by all the 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.
Globally over 26,000 children have a low grade paediatric brain tumour and every year in the UK another 300 children are diagnosed. The location of low grade tumours in the brain often make them only partially operable. Consequently children often have to go through multiple rounds of invasive treatment like chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and relapse is a constant fear.
Sarah Lindsell, chief executive of The Brain Tumour Charity, said: “We are immensely proud and humbled to support everything that Rob, Tanya and their teams have done with Everest in the Alps.
“2015 saw an incredible success; the raising of vital funds that have led to the establishment of The Everest Centre, driving change for so many children affected, like Toby, with this devastating disease.
“With all the teams now ascent-ready with their training, we’ve no doubt that this year’s expedition will be even better, making a real difference to the lives of children everywhere affected by a brain tumour diagnosis and treatment.
“This is an incredible undertaking by any stretch of the imagination and we wish Tanya and the mums of Toby’s Team, along with everyone taking part in Everest in the Alps, the best of luck for their ascent.
“Every year, 500 children and young people are diagnosed each year with a primary brain tumour and they are the biggest cancer killer of children and young people in the UK.
“We are committed to fighting for all those people whose lives are turned upside down by this devastating disease. We will change these shocking statistics.”
(Pictured top: Tanya, Lucy, Bebe, Tiggy, Philippa, Emily and Sarah)