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Gurkha Everest Expedition: Kent soldiers from Folkestone-based 2nd Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles complete climb of Mount Everest

By Matt Leclere

The first pictures of Gurkhas from Folkestone reaching the summit of Mount Everest have started to emerge.

The soldiers, including from the 2nd Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles (2RGR) based at Shorncliffe, are the first from the brigade to complete climbing the world’s highest mountain.

The expedition lead team, with three Gurkhas in it, reached the top yesterday morning and were the first climbers to complete climbing the south side of the mountain this year.

Gurkhas and their Sherpas take a well-earned rest after reaching the top of Mount Everest. Picture: Gurkha Everest Expedition 2017
Gurkhas and their Sherpas take a well-earned rest after reaching the top of Mount Everest. Picture: Gurkha Everest Expedition 2017

More details are expected later today as the team make their way back to Camp 4 where communications are better.

Another 10 Gurkhas have now completed the climb and all are now heading back down to Base Camp, it was announced this morning.

They are expected to arrive back at Base Camp tomorrow, the team said in a Facebook post.

It brings the total to 13 Gurkhas from the Gurkha Everest Expedition 2017 who have climbed the mountain, which stands at 8,850m (29,035ft).

In 2015, the team was chosen to take on the challenge as part of the celebrations of Gurkha 200 marking two centuries of Nepalese and Gurkha service to the British Crown.

Gurkhas and Sherpas work together to fix the ropes to the summit of Everest. Three Gurkhas summit. The first serving Gurkhas on the summit of the world.

A post shared by Gurkha Everest Team 2017 (@gurkha_everest_team_2017) on May 15, 2017 at 7:15pm PDT

But after making their first acclimatisation rotation on the mountain, their progress was halted following the massive earthquake which killed 8,000 people and injured almost 20,000 more.

The country was thrown into chaos as the Gurkhas’ homeland was devastated by the quake.

The Gurkhas are expected to arrive back at Base Camp tomorrow. Picture: Gurkha Everest Expedition 2017
The Gurkhas are expected to arrive back at Base Camp tomorrow. Picture: Gurkha Everest Expedition 2017

Many of the team were left stranded some 6,000m up the mountain at Camp 1. At Base Camp (5,334m/17,500ft) a huge avalanche killed 18 people and the camp manager also received a bad head injury.

The only way the team could get off the mountain was by helicopter as their route back to Base Camp was blocked and they had to sit tight for several days while the dead and injured were taken off the mountain.

When their wait came to an end, the team helped co-ordinate a rescue mission of 120 climbers and Sherpas back to Base Camp.

Now they have returned to complete the mission they started two years ago.

Major Andrew Todd, the deputy expedition leader, won an MBE for his efforts in co-ordinating the rescue. He is taking part in the expedition again now.

A team of Gurkhas - including 2nd Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles (2RGR) - have become the first team of serving Gurkhas to summit Mount Everest. Picture: Gurkha Everest Expedition 2017
A team of Gurkhas - including 2nd Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles (2RGR) - have become the first team of serving Gurkhas to summit Mount Everest. Picture: Gurkha Everest Expedition 2017
The view from Camp 3 at 7,200m. Picture: Gurkha Everest Expedition 2017
The view from Camp 3 at 7,200m. Picture: Gurkha Everest Expedition 2017

They are taking the South Col route from Nepal to the summit which weaves through the treacherous Khumbu Ice Fall to the Western Cwm and up the steep ice wall of the Lhotse Face to the South Col which is a sharp-edged ridge between Everest and Lhotse.

The South Col is usually ravaged by high winds which means it has very little snow. This is where Camp 4 is from where the team will make their final assent to the top.

The expedition was halted in 2015 when the devastating earthquake hit Nepal killing 8,000 people. Picture: Johnny Fenn Photography
The expedition was halted in 2015 when the devastating earthquake hit Nepal killing 8,000 people. Picture: Johnny Fenn Photography

The route will take in the Balcony, South Summit and the Hillary Step and can take between nine and 18 hours.

Maj Todd said: “The Nepal Ministry of Tourism decided that all permits issued to climb Everest in 2015 would remain valid for two years, so at the beginning of April, the team will begin its second expedition to Everest. No serving Gurkha soldier has ever reached the summit of Everest.

“Hopefully, the Gurkha Everest Expedition 2017 team can change this.”

For more on the expedition and to find out about their progress visit the Gurkha Everest Expedition website or search Gurkhas on Everest on Facebook

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