We’ve told you the epic story of how Ed Jackson and the Millimeters to Mountains team got together and reached the summit of Mera Peak, Nepal, in November 2019.
One thing we’ve failed, as of yet, to do, is tell you the stories of each and every person who formed the team that reached the top.
Behind every one of the individuals we’re about to introduce, is a story of how the outdoors has helped them overcome a personal journey and how M2M has helped them grow.
Let’s meet the team…
Meet the team | Geraint Davies
I’m Geraint Davies, a semi retired children’s Orthopaedic surgeon at Sheffield Children’s Hospital. My connection with this trip is as a representative of the Neverest charity, which was established by 2 Orthopaedic colleagues to provide sustainable help in projects identified by local people. Our honorary president is Joanna Lumley. I approached Ed Jackson on behalf of Neverest as he was recovering from his own spinal injury, to see if assisting in this project would be of mutual benefit.
This trip aims to contribute to the construction of a centre for the rehabilitation of patients with spinal injuries in the busy town of Chitwan. Spinal injuries are relatively common in Nepal, a poor country. Rehabilitation implies a journey for the injured patient to achieve their optimal physical and mental recovery, but also to acquire a skill to earn money to sustain their future. I am privileged to have met the Nepali personnel behind this project, who are of the highest calibre. I am confident contributions to this work will bear fruit of longstanding benefit.
This is my 4th visit to Nepal over 40 years, this time with a group of people most of whom I had not met before. The group has been united in its goals of contributing to a worthwhile cause, and the physically challenging summitting of Mera Peak, alas beyond me this time. It has been interesting to interact with new people of different backgrounds and perspectives, and to have been expertly shepherded by Bigraj and fellow guides on behalf of TrekNepal. And the porters, wow! Indomitable.
Meet the team | Arron Collins-Thomas
So why am I here… 1 – I realised all the other guys who were big enough and ugly enough to haul Ed’s ass up if he falls down couldn’t make it. I couldn’t leave a poor Sherpa to try to lift him, he would crush them!
2- I needed some timeout.
Being away in the mountains has more than just a bit of time away from work for me. No phone signal has been a huge bonus and the time to my own thoughts has been invaluable.
Running a new business means I’m glued to my phone or laptop for large chunks of the day so the break away has been a real reduction of stress on my mind.
From the get go the group have been engaged in the breathing and movement advice I have given. This has eased aches and pains from the climb though Qi Gong practices and improving sleep and reducing stress on the body with the breath work. If these tools are something each of them can take home it will help transform their lives going forward.
The climb started with a long day in the jungle early in the trip when I had Ed on the reigns for the time. Being behind Ed was the most dangerous place on the mountain at times. The make shift reigns left me in a compromising position, not to mention poles slipping and almost lancing me and worst of all… Ed’s Dal Baht power.
Although I felt physically ready the trip I couldn’t prepare my body for the extra work of the reigns with Ed and the diet we had here really effected my energy levels. But following Ed and seeing what he puts his body through, it reminds you to just suck it up.
After the challenge of the mountain I can’t wait to go back full of energy and ready to tackle anything thrown at me! It’s helped me to remember why I’m doing my job and what aspects I want to focus on to give myself the work and life satisfaction I need.
Thank you Ed your work rate and passion never ceases to amaze me. How you stay so positive and driven even when you your hands are frozen still, your feet hurt, you have no grip on the ice and you are almost at breaking point is inspirational. It’s been an honour climbing with you and supporting you and I can’t wait for our next trip!
Meet the team | Matt Riley
I was introduced to Ed through a mutual friend, as M2M was looking for someone to document the Mera Peak trek with stills and video.
I’m a cameraman based in Bristol, and a big “outdoorsy” type. After learning about Ed’s story, the proposed spinal unit, and the itinerary of the trip I simply had to sign up.
Visiting Nepal and getting into the mountains has been a long held (and I had thought slightly unrealistic) dream. As tough as the trek has been it has been more rewarding than I could have hoped. I struggle to word how much reaching the summit meant to me but I did have a little cry at the top.
I’ve been bothering the rest of the group for interviews/portraits/content the entire trip, and it has been a massive pleasure to get to know each and everyone of them. Chat has never dimmed on the hours of “Nepali flat” hiking, and I’ve learnt a lot from discussions.
It’s been a massive challenge to capture the trip (limited electricity to recharge batteries which have died in the cold, trying to skip ahead of the group to get a certain shot while short of breath at altitude) but I hope I’ve managed to capture something of the inspirational effort Ed and the rest of the team has made for an incredibly worthy cause.
Meet the team | Kim Small
Hi I’m Kim. I’m a physiotherapist from Salisbury. I have worked with Ed as one of his (many) physios throughout his journey and now sit just a day away from summiting the 2nd highest trekking peak in the world.
A big incentive for me to come on this trip was the visit to the SCIC set up by Neverest orthopedics and to understand what has so far been achieved and the opportunities the new centre we are fundraising for will provide.
I can honestly say I was astounded by the centre, staff and patients. The people involved are dedicated & deeply caring, despite the challenges they face each year and the uncertainty around funding to keep the centre running.
Having worked in SCI rehab in the UK for many years, it is easy to get caught up in what is lacking, lost or changing without your control. The emotion and spirit displayed by the staff in Nepal was something I can truly empathise with, having myself been reduced to tears on many occasions in the fight for better SCI rehabilitation. It is so powerful to see what can be engineered when people step away from their solo trajectory and come together with a collaborative goal. I think this spans from what the SCIC here in Nepal has achieved through to what the M2M team on this trip has accomplished so far.
Throughout the trek, the support for each other has been remarkable. We very quickly became a team and the goal is to summit Mera Peak as one! You know you’re in safe hands when most of the day involves taking the piss out of each other.
Other than my daily struggle of working out how many layers to wear (and getting it wrong every time)…my toughest day so far was reaching 5000m after an aggressive bout of food poisoning. The group pulled together taking supplies from my bag and distributing them among themselves so I could make it up to camp. These gestures of kindness make all the difference after 24 hours of extreme evacuation and no access to a shower!
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t terrified of what the next 48 hours holds in store but we are in it together and I’m pretty sure I won’t have a clue what I was worried about at 6450m to watch the sunrise over the 6 highest mountains in the world!
Meet the team | Rich Davies
Everyone fails at who they are supposed to be, the measure of someone is how well they succeed at being who they are.
I have an ingrained need to please other people and in doing so was actually damaging myself and rather confusingly those around me. I had built up a life that was shrouded in lies, thinking I was protecting other people and myself but just doing increasing amounts of damage. The stress I had put myself under to be someone that I wasn’t and something that I wasn’t led me to breaking point. This caused me to make some very bad decisions and hurt the people closest to me. I lost control of what I thought was right and my life spiraled quickly.
I needed to take responsibility for myself and where my life was heading and that has led me here. The challenge ahead is going to be so tough but I hope it will enable me to focus my mind and give me the skills and belief to be able to achieve anything on my return.
Being in the mountains is giving me time to reflect and think about what I really want from life and break me down to appreciate the simple things.
Nepal is an unbelievable country with amazingly kind people that teach you very quickly that you can be happy by just being rather than trying to be.
Meet the team | Wyn Lloyd
I’m a physio in Bath who met Ed at a time when I was thinking about stopping Physiotherapy. I was lucky enough to work with Ed during the first year after his injury. Over that year I realised we both had a love for the mountains and I was able to share in many of Ed’s climbs that year which resulted in him climbing Snowdon a year after his injury. Being able to share my love of the mountains with other people brought me a new found joy in my work and helped me see the huge possibilities of Physiotherapy.
However, I’m not in Nepal because I’m a Physiotherapist. I believe that journeying through the mountains with people forges friendships and builds relationships. If anyone other than Ed had asked I may not have come, but whilst walking in the mountains with Ed we became friends and that’s why I’m here.
During this expedition to Nepal I have walked with twelve people I’ve never met. We’ve walked, talked, shared our views and worked out our demons. As we’ve shared we’ve learnt more about ourselves. I know myself better now than when we came to the mountains and I hope to leave them a better person, husband and father. I know I will leave the mountains with twelve new friends and as such will leave a richer man.
Meet the team | Daniel Rees
I had just parked my car heading out for Sunday breakfast with my mum when Ed Facetimed me last year about this trip. After the usual small talk it took him all of ten seconds to convince me to join him. Why? Two reasons.
I first met Ed when he came to Australia 10 years ago to visit his good mate Tom who was playing as our overseas cricket pro that year. Despite living on the other side of the world we remained good mates and id often catch up with
Tom and Ed when i went to the UK. Unfortunately Tom passed away in 2012 which led to Ed, Lois, Ceri (Tom’s sister) and I heading to Borneo for a rewarding trek. I’m not sure if it was a promise or a mutual agreement but we said we’d continue to do these adventures each year. Of course with Eds accident plans got put on hold until I got that FaceTime call, we have unfinished business, I had to say yes.
I’ve always been a bit of a nomad. I’ve tried to always say yes to things rather than look for reasons not to. We get so caught up in our own worlds we forget what else is out there. An opportunity like this doesn’t come around everyday which is another reason it took me ten seconds to say yes.
So far it’s been an incredible experience. Visiting the spinal unit was a good eye opener to why we are here. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I came. The trekking has been tough but when you look up and see the scenery it makes it easier and seeing Ed leading the pack is hugely inspiring. I have found it hugely rewarding so far, seeing the Nepali way of life and the different backgrounds of the group has made a trip of a lifetime so far.
Meet the team | Hannah Morgan
Perhaps I should start by introducing myself, I’m Hannah, also known as Han, Morgs, and today, apparently I’m going by Donkey!
While some on the trip have personal connections with Ed, I hadn’t actually met him, or any of the M2M crew until I saw his and Arron’s head towering over the crowds in Kathmandu airport. So how did I end up on the side of a mountain a couple of days in to a three week long trek without knowing a soul out here? There’s a couple of reasons spring to mind.
As a physiotherapist I’ve followed Ed’s recovery over the last two years with interest. His positivity and can do attitude has been inspiring to follow and I guess I wanted to experience it first hand.
Having visited Nepal a couple of times before, I’ve fallen head over heels for this magical country, and couldn’t wait to come back again. Being able to help fund a new spinal unit when the current one is so well organised is a privilege. There is so much, as western healthcare professionals, we can learn from the Nepalese’s attitude and resourcefulness.
My final reason for coming along is a little more personal. I’ve always been a sucker for an adventure, and the opportunity to test my limits, however since leaving the career stability of the NHS and moving abroad I’ve faced a number of professional challenges that have caused me to doubt myself and my own values. At times this has seemed crippling and as a consequence, my mental well-being suffered.
Being in the mountains is an opportunity to take some time out, reset, make some new friends, and see how we react to the monumental physical and mental challenges that come along with climbing a massive old hill. Somehow even the biggest issues seem to fade into significance when you’re surrounded by snowy peaks.
Meet the team | Ross Hair
Kothe, Nepal 26 Oct 2019
There are many reasons for me being on the path to Mera Peak…We are all here to support Ed get to the top (something only reinforced after the last 2 days of tough ‘Nepali Flat’ trek reaching the Hinku Valley) but the personal reasons are there also.
I’m one of the older members of the group at 53 and have just completed 30 years in international TV spent in London, Singapore and around both Europe and Asia. A primary motivation now are my 4 kids aged between 11 and 16, used to seeing Dad disappear for work and reappearing on the touchline at the weekends!
Digital natives all, which also means a strong peer group pressure to grab the mobile, I think it’s more important than ever for them to enjoy and appreciate the world beyond the next app, text or alert! If my efforts can inspire a love of travel, adventure and the mountains – and can provide motivation for them to look beyond their current borders- this would be time well spent. I’ve heard that they are all checking @M2Mclimb religiously, so there’s some encouragement there… As for me, well, a basic ‘can I physically complete this’ is a question I’d like to answer. Never having been over 6000m, this will be a significant challenge.
As for the experience so far, I’ve swapped drumming the keyboard for drumming the kidneys at our 6am ‘mobility and activation’ sessions with Arron. I’ve haphazardly sewn my climbing trousers back together after sitting down too quickly on the Lukla flight. I’m also enjoying ‘Radio Kieran’ through the bamboo and rhododendron forests before the mountains came into view!
Our M2M group from varying backgrounds is being forged together, ready for what is to come. That included (our exceptional guide) Bigraj’s mountain ‘beasting session’ yesterday, us all managing ‘2 Snowdons’ during the day in climbing 2000m and dropping back 1700m into Thathok. Dhal Bhat for lunch and dinner is powering us forward.
My thanks to Ed, my fellow trekkers and all at M2M for what has already been an epic adventure. Also to Sara and those 4 kids on half term back home. Out into the fresh air!
Meet the team | James Hulme
Winner of the Golden Crampon
The Golden Crampon is the flagship award given to an individual at the end of the trip. The criteria are unknown but the recipient always seems to be obvious, this time was no different.
“Mountains, or sea?” Honestly, my stint as an Army Officer rather put me off hills, and clouds. I’d choose a sun-lounger. When physical deprivation was the day job, I was inclined to avoid yet more exhaustion when precious spare time came my way. Now was time to reconsider.
Ed’s story came via a friend-of-a-friend. It really struck a chord. Leaving behind careers in professional sport, and leaving military roles for ‘civvy street’ – the challenges are definitely comparable. I certainly have my own demons. However, I don’t have that life-changing physical injury added to the mix.
And quite why altitude/no oxygen, exposure, pulsating blisters, stomach bugs, sprains, enforced jollity with strangers…is meant to be invigorating; it’s confounding. But, the clichés are often there for a reason, and mountains really can be a remedy for all manner of ills…including existential ailments.
Mera Peak is certainly a feat – its 21,200ft equates to twenty Eiffel towers on top of each other, or 73% the height of nearby Mt. Everest.
However, being on the summit, nay probably any summit, is only part way to explaining why such an expedition can become so meaningful.
I believe I speak for all the team when I say how inspiring the M2M mission is. I am so very glad to be in at the beginning, and excitedly wait for updates and developments of the next chapter. In the meantime thank you to Nepal and Nepalese people, culture and landscapes – I crave mountains once more!
Note from Ed: When I first met James at the meet up in London prior to the trip he was charming but I could tell he was very nervous. It was later that I would learn that since leaving the army over 8 years ago he has struggled to get his head around reintegrating into ‘civilian society’ and after James eventually shared some of the stories from his time as an officer in Afghanistan you can completely understand why.
James went from a quiet member to the heart and soul of the team, which was the highlight of the trip for me. One of the most poignant moments was waking up early at Kote and stepping outside to see James looking tired and a bit shaken up. He told me he’d had some bad dreams but then went on to explain that he hadn’t slept well enough to dream for 8 years, for the first time since he left the army he was sleeping properly.
Step by step, day by day he was leaving emotional baggage behind him and the real James; charismatic, kind and bloody hilarious was shinning through. James embodies everything positive about these trips and getting to know him has been a real privilege. Hands down, no questions asked, the most worthy recipient of the Golden Crampon.
Meet the Team | Bigraj Tamang
“I am from lower part of Solukhumbu region, my village lies at 1900m above sea level called Lokhim, however I’m currently living in Kathmandu. I grew up in the mountains and did lots of up and down everyday. When I was young I used to collect fire wood and grass from the forest bare foot, nowadays I have got a more advanced life and I trek with expensive boots…so Trekking and climbing mountains is very easy compare to my childhood. I still remember that until 10 years ago, I didn’t wear underwear or pants, when I became bit older I felt shy and I request my parents to give me pants, life was hard but also very interesting to look back.
“When I was 14 years I went to Lukla along with my friend, I had heard about trekking and I also wanted to try it. When I reached at Lukla, I showed many tourist around from different countries, but all I really wanted was to go trek with them, but it was hard to do so. I eventually found a trek to Mera. The first time I climbed Mera, I found it really interesting. I really enjoyed it. I had to carry tent and mattress, that was about 40kg…still I found it really amazing to visit different place everyday with tourist.
“I worked as a porter for long time 5/6 years and few years as a assistant guide, and always think about being a guide. When I was working as a porter & assistant, I knew I would have to learn English and the true value of good communication – it is the reason I learned English, slowly. But I’m still learning and after that I started my guide training, I got my license from the government and finally became a guide!
“Trekking is my passion I couldn’t give up. I still think I can’t stop doing trekking. I enjoy meeting people from many different countries and I always learn different important lesson from different people. I couldn’t study because of my economic situation, but I am satisfied I have learnt a lot from professional teachers/guests during the treks, learning by doing.
“Mera Peak: My big thanks goes to you Ed Jackson. I got that opportunity to work with such a amazing people just because of you, I never forget it and now we are working together I am really happy. Mera peak is one of my best trip ever in my whole trekking carrier because it was amazing. I am happy with the trip because who didn’t summit they were happy, I feel very lucky to get that chance to work with such a amazing team. I found all the people were amazing with positive mindset, actually I have learnt a lot from the Mera peak trip.
“An amazing part was my birthday celebration. I’ll never forget it. I was quite emotional & shy when we had a presentation session after we arrived in Kathmandu, in some way I felt I am just rubbish and I am doing nothing compared to you guys.
Anyway, I can’t explain in word how I enjoyed it, it was amazing trip. I always dreams big, so I had a big dream to run the trekking company very successfully, and now I have got that key to open the door to go into it and make a bright future, but I know if I can use the key properly, pray for good karma.”
Meet the Team | Allesandra Trompeo
What is the link between a 50 year old Italian woman and a group of English ex-rugby players? Before letting your imagination loose with scenarios, let me confess this was one of the many, many questions playing in my mind. Now, I know the answer: the boys needed a motherly figure in a mountaineering adventure…
It has been an incredible journey, long and tiring, but above any expectations. Nepal is a different planet: every time you turn your head there is a peak or a glacier or a mesmerizing view. Sometimes, in mountaineering and commercial expeditions there are very big egos – bigger than the mountains those egos are trying to conquer. I was looking for a different approach to the mountains and to the meaning of the whole trip in Nepal.
But above all, I wanted to learn about myself. Overcoming some physical difficulties at the beginning and I gained the courage to try and challenge myself as the trip progressed. I hit my limit and had to turn back because of altitude sickness on the day of the summit. Worried about how I would feel.
To my surprise I felt happy that I gave it all and I know with better training I can push myself further. I jumped into this experience because I am fascinated by the power of the human mind to overcome barriers and obstacles. And I also wanted to see first hand how the mountains and the outdoors can bring peace to troubled minds. I found some new questions and answers in my own mind and, more than everything, I found inspiration. Do not sit and complain if things go wrong or very wrong, but look outside yourself and be of help to someone else!
You can watch the film of the M2M team tackling Mera Peak, below.