World Highest Dinner Party
Members of the expedition team including (from left to right) Sherpa Nima, Jane Chynoweth, Sadie Whitelocks and Neil Laughton (Picture: SKA adventures)
As soon as the Mumm champagne hit our glasses, it started to freeze.
It was -25C, it was snowing and I was wearing an evening gown (courtesy of New York-based Cityzen by Azin).
There was more chattering teeth going on at the dinner table than chatter but we didn’t care because we’d done it: we’d smashed the record for the world’s highest dinner party on Mount Everest at 7,050m.
In total, there were eight of us around the table on April 30 when the sky-high feast took place, all wearing black tie and tucking into a two-Michelin star menu courtesy of Nottingham chef Sat Bains.
An eccentric explorer’s bright idea
Former special forces officer Neil Laughton, 54, came up with the idea to host the world’s highest dinner party more than five years ago after various other wacky feats, including driving a flying car from London to Timbuktu.
He’d had prior experience on Mount Everest, leading Bear Grylls on his first ascent in 1998. Laughton first attempted the record-breaking meal on Mount Everest’s North Col in 2015 but the Nepalese earthquake hit and the mission had to be aborted.
On that expedition it was just men decked out in black tie, so this time round he was keen to get some women involved. I was connected to Laughton through a mutual friend and met him for coffee before shaking hands and signing up.
Shortly afterwards, I spoke to my good friend Jane Chynoweth in New York – and as someone who loves spur-of-the-moment adventure as much as I do, she signed up too.
An expedition team from all walks of life
In total, there were eight of us who were mad enough to get on board for the record-breaking dinner. The group included professional adventurer Laughton, Jon Beswick, an architect from London; Ralph Fearnhead, a friend of mine and a lawyer in the city; Marcus Stevens, a doctor and the youngest member of the expedition at 27-years old; Paul Anderson, a chartered surveyor from Merseyside; Jane, a business consultant based in Manhattan and Sherpa Nima, our expedition leader.
Andrew Elliman, a moving and relocation logistics specialist from London, was also meant to join us but a combination of exhaustion and altitude sickness sadly forced him to return to base camp midway.
As with all expeditions, there were major costs involved.
Spots at the table cost in excess of £10,000, which covered visas, transport, food and accommodation.
I was advised to seek sponsorship, which meant firing out emails to hundreds of companies.
After months of ground work, Mr Fogg’s cocktail bar in London and Metaxa 12 Stars agreed to be a joint sponsor on the condition that I take a specially-designed ‘North Col cocktail’ up the mountain.
Pandora jewellery was another of my sponsors and the brand kindly decked the women out with silver bracelets and charms – showing we could still look stylish hiking up the world’s highest mountain.
Musto clothing helped kit me out with gear and Virgin Active gym supported my pre-expedition training.
Travelling into the wilds of Tibet
We started our expedition in Kathmandu, Nepal, before taking a one-hour internal flight to Lhasa in Tibet.
Our tour operator sorted us out with a group visa for Tibet and we had to show our passports throughout the journey as there are many police checkpoints along the way.
The drive to Everest Base Camp took us around a week as we wound our way up to higher altitude through the breathtaking Tibetan countryside.
Discovering my camping essentials
I love camping but the few weeks at Everest definitely pushed my love of tents to the limit.
One of my essentials included a sheepskin-lined wool hat from Seattle outfitter Filson, which has ear flaps and a string to tie around your chin so that it doesn’t come off during the night.
Another handy travel companion was my hipflask from Aspinal of London, which was filled with a stiff blend of whisky.
On nights where it was tricky to sleep in the cold, a quick nip helped me to drift off.
On the beauty front, wet wipes were a lifesaver and I was glad I packed a little mirror to check my face for wind and sunburn.
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