The staff of the Royal Navy’s Commander UK Mine Counter Measures Force (COMUKMCMFOR) organisation recently scaled the heights of Mount Everest in a bid to raise funds in support of The Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC).

On the 7 of March 2015 the COMUKMCMFOR team, based in RFA Cardigan Bay, set about scaling the world’s highest peak above sea level, figuratively speaking, by climbing the main stairwell of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessel over 330 times.

COMUKMCMFOR ensures that the sea lanes of the Gulf are safe by clearing sea mines and unexploded ordnance as they have the potential to cause great disruption to international shipping lanes, restricting freedom of the seas and damaging world economies. The Royal Navy is at the forefront of mine countermeasure capabilities, in experience, expertise and in technology.

Everest measures in at 29,029 feet, this meant the team members had to climb the nine decks 24 times each in a relay of shuttles, from 5 deck in the bowels of the ship, to 04 deck near the bridge, taking each team member to a lung busting 116 steps in order to reach a height of 87 feet on every ascent, which they did to set the standard for crews to come.

Turning the ordinary into something different

Chief Petty Officer Christopher ‘Smudge’ Smith, the event organiser and the team’s Above Water Tactical Specialist said of the event: “We wanted to come up with an original idea that our successors could have a crack at too.

“The amount of time we spend climbing up and down these stairs for work ends up feeling like mountaineering after you’ve done it enough times through the day, so it was good to turn it in to something positive”.

Surpassing great heights

Commander Tim Davey Royal Navy, Commanding Officer COMUKMCMFOR, started proceedings with his first set of shuttles at 6am. The rest of the team followed on and within 31 minutes they had already surpassed the height of several famous landmarks, including Big Ben and the Shard, reaching the an equivalent height to that of Dubai’s Burj Khalifa (2,722.4 feet) in 1 hour and 3 minutes.

Although the enormity of the task was beginning to set in, a blistering pace was maintained and the team dug deep to maintain momentum, reaching and passing Ben Nevis (4,409.4 feet) at 1 hour 43 minutes, before continuing on to Mont Blanc (15,780.8 feet), the approximate halfway point, in a time of 4 hours 36 minutes and receiving a visit and some words of encouragement from Commodore Keith Blount Royal Navy, the UK Maritime Component Commander (UKMCC).

With little left in the way of equivalent peaks to strive for, the team pressed on through pain and fatigue to reach K2 (28,251 feet) in 10 hours 25 minutes, finally realising the summit of Everest in an amazing time of 10 Hours 41 minutes 32 seconds. With a live running total of donations received in support of the event provided by Chief Smith throughout the day, the final total achieved on completion was £1,158.75.

Commander Davey said on completion of the event: “I am immensely proud of what my team have achieved today. It was a huge challenge, but we were up for it”.  On hearing of the final total he added: “I feel humbled at the generosity of the people who have contributed what they can, both in the period leading up to the event and throughout today. The Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity carry out much great work in support of our servicemen and women and my team and I are extremely pleased to have been able to do something in support of their efforts”.

COMUKMCMFOR are redeployed in support of tasking for the UK MCMVs, as part of the UKs commitment to maintaining stability within the Middle East and freedom of the sea lanes for mariners throughout the region.

Photo: COMUKMCMFOR enjoy ‘sundowners’ following a gruelling trek to the summit of Everest