H+H Head of Merchant Accounts treks to Everest Base Camp

Jill Grantham spoke to us about her recent journey to Nepal where she undertook the gruelling 130km trek to Everest base camp.

After nearly a decade with the company, Jill Grantham is a familiar face for our merchant customers. In her role as Head of Merchant Accounts, Jill travels the length and breadth of the country supporting our customers. However, Jill’s most recent journey took her even further afield on an epic adventure that she has dreamt about since her teenage years.

In October, Jill packed her walking boots and set off for the Himalayas to trek to the Everest Base Camp. At 5,364 metres above sea level the trek to the bottom of the highest mountain in the world is not for the faint hearted, but Jill’s drive and determination powered her through.

Jill was first inspired to travel to Everest when, at the age of 18 she met and talked to Captain John Noel, the photographer who accompanied George Mallory and Sandy Irvine on their ill-fated expedition to the summit of Everest in 1924. 

Noel has been credited by some for igniting British interest in climbing the world’s highest mountain following a lecture he gave to the Royal Geographical Society about a journey he made to Tibet in 1913. He certainly made an impact on the young Jill in his later years.

Jill comments: “At the time I didn’t realise who he was, it was only years later I discovered that I’d been speaking to John Noel. Now, of course I wish I had asked him more questions!” 

The trip took years of planning with several setbacks along the way due to injuries and, of course, Covid, so when Jill had the opportunity to go this year she jumped at the chance saying: “Thankfully, the H+H management team were very supportive and accommodating every time the dates changed.”

Jill lives in the Lake District which was the perfect place to undertake training to help her prepare for the arduous journey. Much like training for a marathon this involved building stamina, Jill explained that “it’s more about endurance than the distance you cover, to prepare you for being on your feet for ten hours a day.”

Slow and steady wins the race

Arriving in Kathmandu was an assault on the senses that Jill says, despite all her research, nothing could have prepared her for: “The smells, sights and sounds - it’s almost like being transported into a different world. Once on the trail, there are hundreds of people doing the same thing as you, however there are no cars or even pushbikes, everyone is on foot and everything is carried by donkeys and yaks.” 

The trek took eleven days, eight days to get to Base Camp and three days to get back down. The pace was slow and steady to cope with the challenges of the high altitude. However, it was the mental challenge that was the hardest to overcome.

Jill explains: “It was a really tough trek and every day had its challenges. I found that the trick was to stay in the moment and focus on what I was doing then and there, rather than worrying about what was still to come. 

“I had prepared mentally for the amount of walking but what I hadn’t taken into consideration was the undulation of the terrain. This meant that although we were gaining height every day, we had to drop down for considerable distances too. It could be quite dispiriting after climbing for two and a half hours to reach a summit to then have to walk downhill for an hour and a half before climbing again.”

All for one and one for all

One great source of strength for Jill was her teammates. She undertook the trek as a solo participant of part of an organised group and one of the highlights of the trip was the spirit of camaraderie.

She explains: “We were 21 people of different ages, from different walks of life who had never met each other before but this shared experience brought us together. On some of the tougher days, we all rallied round and supported each other.

“There were none of the distractions of everyday life, no TV or radio, and WiFi was only available in a small selection of Tea Houses in the evenings. We just talked to each other, sang songs and played countless games of I-spy. In the evenings we played cards or chatted to our Sherpas. I really enjoy getting to know people and drawing on their experiences – it’s an aspect that I enjoy in my work too.”

After eight days of walking through incredible scenery, Jill and her team made it to Base Camp. However, for Jill it wasn’t the place itself that was the highlight but rather, what it represented.

“We walked along the Khumbu Icefall towards the Everest Base Camp for two days and, for that whole time, could see Base Camp in the distance so we could almost imagine what it would be like when we got there. We also got to see incredible avalanches, rock falls and heard the ice flow’s creaks and groans as it moved along the valley. 

“When we finally arrived, I felt so fortunate to be standing at the base of Everest, and above all, I felt an immense sense of achievement. I had made this happen, despite all the setbacks. The realisation in that moment, that if you set your mind to something you can achieve it, was more important to me than actually being where I was.

“Walking back from Base Camp to our accommodation that night took another two hours, and everyone fell silent, listening to the sounds around us and taking on board what we’d achieved, absorbing that feeling of accomplishment. It was very humbling.”

Chase your dreams

Now that Jill is home and has had time to reflect on her epic journey, she would like to share what she has learnt with others: “For my whole adult life I have wanted to go and see Mount Everest. For the last few years there wasn’t a week that went by when I didn’t talk about it and I’m so grateful for the support I received from my family, friends and colleagues in helping me to realise my dream.

“The one message I’d like to get across to others is, if there is something you really believe in and want to do, find a way to do it. You don’t have to do it alone, get others on board to support you. I didn’t realise how resilient I could be and I am really proud of myself for pushing so hard to get to Everest and to complete the trek. I feel such a massive sense of achievement.”

Jill used her trek to Everest Base Camp to raise money for two fantastic charities: Mind, the mental health charity, and Lake District Search and Mountain Rescue Association which plays a critical role in her local area. If you’d like to donate to either of these charities through Jill’s fundraising pages, the links are below.

Mind: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jill-grantham1 
Lake District Search and Rescue: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/jill-grantham2