Adventure blows the mind and heart wide open. It makes us feel like we are a part of something bigger, and it makes us feel alive. I’m now a firm believer that adventure is the best medicine for anything and everything: sometimes you just need to escape, a relief from the so called rat race, and a new perspective. This is precisely what I was looking for when I first applied for Just Challenge Himalayas and that is exactly what I got.
I prepared myself for the worst and hoped for the best. While the unexpected and the unknown kept the ante so high, the best part of every day was knowing that I was about to experience something life changing. The Himalayas has always been on my bucket list and I couldn’t imagine ticking it off any other way.
The experience: 53 life-changing kilometres
In the months leading up to the trek, I trained rigorously and on as many terrains as possible in Hong Kong, Taiwan and the U.S. Each location was very different, condition-wise: I faced severe winds, freezing temperatures, extreme heat and unbearable humidity. All training treks were different levels of difficulty, and execution times varied from 3–8 hours.
On the day, I was joined by a team of 100 eccentric, talented and refreshingly delightful people from all over the world as we gathered on this charity mission to trek the breathtaking mountains of the Northern Himalayas, located in India.
The mission? To trek 53 km in just three days! We were joined by superb athletes such as Michael Vaughan, renowned cricket athlete; Kenton Cool, with over 35 expeditions—particularly Mt. Everest—under his belt; and Rebecca-Louise Smith, LA nutrition and fitness guru and blogger. These exceptional adventurers upped the motivation and kept us truly inspired throughout the entire trek.
First stop, cricket
Upon arrival, we were taken on an outing with the entire team to support the mission at hand and see it in action. Challenge Himalayas has raised the most amount of money a Laureus Sport for Good event has ever generated before (read more about the charity below). We had a fabulous day out playing cricket with the children, and what a treat it was to witness true mentorship as Michael Vaughan and the entire team coached and interacted with the kids.
This is a fantastic initiative raising funds for Laureus projects in Hong Kong and India which are using sport to help children overcome violence, discrimination and disadvantage in their lives.
—Michael Vaughan OBE, Laureus Ambassador and former English cricketer
Day one: Base camp
At base camp, mornings started with very early wake up calls, delicious porridge, and warm-up exercises. We were briefed by our skilled trek leaders on what to expect during our trek and how to approach it. The long trekking days allowed for new friendships to blossom over warm conversations, and everyone looked forward to the hearty lunches after the long hard hours put in. We finished the days with restorative yoga, delicious curry and scintillating campfire Q and As with our star athletes.
Just Challenge covered every detail of the trip, the highlight of which was the thoughtful introductions to the local customs curated right at base camp. We learned how to prepare traditional chai tea, indulged in exquisite cuisine and dining experiences, and danced to local village music. A market was set up at camp, offering beautiful pottery, linens, cloths, trinkets, jewellery, and henna tattoos; all of these artisans were brought to camp in order to support local businesses.
Day two: Starry, starry skies
On the second day, we set up camp at The Sky Village, which offered 360° views of lush green mountains and clear midnight blue skies gleaming with stars. Evenings included boisterous team dinners, group mediation at sunset and campfire camaraderie.
Snow-capped mountains gloried in the sunshine as we trekked for hours on end. We passed fields of harvested crops such as wheat, sweet peas and tea leaves, quaint farms, colourful villages and smiling local people. Villagers worked their way through the fields, bundling and tying the day’s harvest.
Along the journey we visited a number of monasteries housing and providing academic and spiritual guidance for local monks and children. Amazingly, a couple of the local stray trail pups came with us all the way to the summit.
Day three: Success and exhilaration
While the treks where long and steep and the descent was nearly vertical and extremely rocky, the entire team stuck together. Every single person completed the expedition. We made it to the summit on the third day of trekking and celebrated our victory in fancy dress. Team Himalayas 2018 trekked 53 kilometres, ascending 2,700 metres—what a victory and a truly life-changing accomplishment!
Over $350K raised for Laureus Sport for Good
Laureus supports more than 100 sports-based community programmes in 35 countries to combat social challenges facing children and young people.
The initial $100,000 target of funding raised through Challenge Himalayas will go to Magic Bus to aid in their work to help vulnerable and marginalised young people across India. The astounding amount raised by Challenge Himalayas 2018 means that new initiatives are being supported to benefit young people across programmes in Asia.
Challenge Himalayas 2018 done! Quite possibly the most memorable three days of my life and could not be more thrilled with Just Challenge’s inaugural adventure.
—Lucy Bennett-Baggs, Just Challenge organiser
Laureus Sport for Good will use the remaining funds to support three amazing projects in Asia—Deaf Rugby; InspiringHK’s “YOUnique Sports Training Project”; and ChildFund Pass it back Vietnam—as well as a project in Hong Kong called “model city”, which aims to create long-term sustainable change. Such amazing organisations and initiatives. Well done Just Challenge, and well done Laureus!
Just Challenge—The organisation
Just Challenge is the impactful venture founded by Lucy Bennett-Baggs, who decided to forgo an event marketing career at HSBC for something more fulfilling. She swapped finance for philanthropy, sport for stats and analytics for adventure to bring us Just Challenge.
Just Challenge’s mission is to “deliver life changing adventures, for all abilities, with impact and meaning”. The model is geared towards corporate businesses in order to promote team work and employee engagement. This beats a pub crawl any day.
Having personally completed the first open-to-the-public challenge, I feel that I am in the best shape of my life mentally and spiritually. This trek not only left me with incredible memories and a very full heart, but it gave me a new mindset: it opened my eyes to what human beings are capable of when you bring them together for something with a greater purpose. I’m in awe of what we accomplished for ourselves as individuals, as a team, but most importantly for others in need.
An EPIC adventure with 100 people from around the world, Michael Vaughan and Kenton Cool raising over $350,000 USD for Laureus. In for the next one? Email firstname.lastname@example.org to register your interest in Challenge 2019 before we go live to the public! #inthistogether
Posted by Just Challenge on Monday, March 19, 2018
Sign up to experience the thrill
The next Just Challenge event open to the public will take place in Africa in May 2019, and the group of selected 100 people will be joined by Brian O’Driscoll, former professional captain and Rugby Union player. The 100-km trek will go through the remote African bush, and Refined Travellers is thrilled to follow along on the upcoming journey. If you’re interested in participating, apply today—you won’t regret it. #inthistogether
Phone: +852 6971 8428
Address: Just Challenge HQ, 2/F, Teda Building, 87 Wing Lok Street, Hong Kong
Cover photo by Complete IndiaAsia via Flickr, Facebook Cover photo credit Nico Wills.