Having lost his partner to cancer, Lisburn man Hayden Davis set his sights on Everest to help him cope with the empty space she left behind.
When Alison Pink died at the age of 50 in September last year from breast cancer, Hayden needed something that was going to occupy his time, and ultimately help with the grieving process.
His sister Allyson Hines suggested he join her on a charity hike to Everest base camp in aid of Friends of the Cancer Centre.
The 51-year-old from Lisburn accepted the challenge and began a year-long training regime which culminated in a trip to the Himalayas in November.
He said: “It was amazing – everything you wanted it to be, but at the same time very emotional.
“Alison passed away in my arms Sunday, September 24, 2017 in the Cancer Centre. That night my heart shattered into a million pieces as I’d lost my soul mate, best friend and the love of my life.
“We’d known each other since we were 14. We’d been together for 14 years.
“When Alison died I needed something to focus on, something to get me through it. Going on the Everest challenge meant I had to plan my year out. I was able to focus on the training and the fundraising.”
Of the Himalayan trek he said: “We had a couple of days in Kathmandu then flew to Lukla – the most dangerous airport in the world. It has wee single planes landing on the airstrip, stopping before they hit the mountain.
“From there we had a 12-day trek. Eight days up to the base camp and four days down.
“Basecamp is at 5,334 metres. If you were to go on and do the summit you have to stay at base camp for three or four weeks to acclimatise.
“You need to be a skilled mountaineer to do that. I was happy with the achievement of reaching base camp. Not everybody gets to do that. It was a nice achievement.”
He added: “You don’t actually see Everest from base camp because it’s blocked out by the mountains around it.
“I’ll be honest, the base camp itself was a wee bit of an anti-climax. Because it wasn’t peak season there were no tents there, it was just barren land.
“If you were going when they were summiting it would be like a village.”
Hayden, who runs a sportswear business, said: “It was a great experience. Very physically, emotionally and mentally draining.
“There were six people from the group of 28 who didn’t make it to base camp so it was by no means an easy feat.”
Hayden’s sister Allyson, who had suggested he go on the trek, was one of those who did not make it to the base camp, having been struck down with a chest infection in the final straight.