Chichester woman treks to Everest Base Camp to raise funds for Chestnut Tree House

Dorry Potter was travelling in Nepal when she saw a film for Chestnut Tree House’s Christmas appeal, about baby Rupert and his parents, Kate and Sam. “I know the family and I have done some fundraising before in memory of Ru, including abseiling down the Spinnaker Tower,” she says.

Dorry was so moved by the film that she decided to take on her biggest challenge yet – trekking to Mount Everest’s Base Camp. It wasn’t part of the plan: “I’m having a year out from work, and I decided to go to the Himalayas after meeting a sherpa when I lived in Scotland. I thought I would just tour round, go to a yoga retreat and meet some cool people.”

One of those people recommended a guide, and the very next day Dorry was off, wondering if she had taken on too much. “I am fairly strong and active, but I’m not a gym bunny,” she says. I like walking at Kingley Vale, but that’s nothing like climbing five and a half thousand metres.”

While the 12-day trek to Everest Base Camp is not technically challenging in the same way as the ascent to the peak itself, it is still very tough on the body due to the altitude. There are two acclimatisation days on the route but everyone reacts differently: “You can be in control and then you’ll walk for maybe half an hour, go into another altitude level and you feel so weak and can’t think properly anymore,” says Dorry. “At one point I went round a corner and suddenly my vision went and my head started ringing.

“The key things are to take deep, slow, steady breaths and to keep eating. Neither of those things come naturally at the time.”

The final day was the most challenging, partly due to the terrain – “like climbing onto the moon, scrambling over huge boulders for hours on end,” says Dorry – but also because of the cumulative effects of poor sleep, exhaustion and the altitude.

At nights the temperatures got down to -22 degrees and one night the curtains froze to Dorry’s bedroom window. “There were nights when I was crying myself to sleep thinking I would have to pay back all this money to my friends and family because I can’t do it. I’ve got some really cringey videos of me sobbing!” says Dorry.

However, there were many highlights too. “The views are staggeringly beautiful,” she says. “Although it was the end of the season and it was cold, there was not a cloud in the sky – it was just blue skies at the top of the world. I met some brilliant people. Also, knowing the support that I had at home was amazing. I would really like to thank everyone for all their support and generosity.”

Dorry raised £1,600 for Chestnut Tree House and is now thinking about her next fundraising challenge. “For anyone considering taking on a challenge for charity, I’d say: just go and do it. Firstly, we only live once. Secondly, don’t underestimate how much support you might get and how many people will be behind you and supporting you. Doing something like this and being able to raise money for such a worthwhile cause is an amazing feeling.”