80-year-old John Hunt's virtual Everest climb helps raise £35k for Lotus Flower Trust's support of disadvantaged Himalayan communities
A SPRIGHTLY 80-year-old Hyde philanthropist virtually conquered the world’s highest mountain to raise thousands of pounds for disadvantaged Himalayan communities.
Despite recently suffering a heart attack, cancer and a bout of Covid-19, John Hunt, CEO and founder of Lotus Flower Trust, scaled 30,000ft – just over Mount Everest’s 29,031ft peak – during five weeks on his climbing machine.
The feat has so far raised over £35,000 for the charity he set up in 2008 to support schools, homes and skills centres for children, women and people with special needs in remote areas of India.
It will go towards expanding a school in Moradabad, a farm for destitute nuns in Basgo and four artificial glaciers to replace water lost due to climate change in four Himalayan villages.
John told the A&T a lifelong fascination with Mount Everest and those who attempted to conquer it inspired his challenge.
“It was tough, hard work – four sessions a week, at 1,508ft per session, for five weeks. I mixed the time on the climbing machine with weights and stretches,” he said.
“Since I started the Lotus Flower Trust, we’ve raised over £2m with which we have funded and built 73 projects – schools, homes, centres for special needs for children and adults, and artificial glaciers.“Sixty-nine of the projects have been in the foothills and at high altitude in the Himalayas. I’ve made regular visits to the Himalayas over 30 years. Ladakh, which used to be known as Little Tibet, is my second home.”
Students from Winchester College helped by covering the distance in runs around the city equivalent to going Mumbai to Everest Base Camp, via Darjeeling and Tibet.
This was part of the annual Mallory Challenge in honour of former student George Mallory, the mountaineer who led the first three British Everest expeditions in the 1920s.
The challenges marked 100 years since Mallory’s final and fated attempt to reach Everest’s summit.
John’s virtual Everest climb was showcased on Sky TV’s Russell Howard Hour, and he believed this alone generated over £3,000 in donations.
The octogenarian hopes to up the £35,000 to £100,000 through further fundraising.
The glaciers are needed as the real one has receded up the mountain – forcing villagers to walk hours to collect water.
“If the villagers don’t have water they can’t live, so they abandon their village and migrate to Leh, the capital town of Ladakh, which is already overcrowded,” John explained.
“We’d be stopping unnecessary migration and helping to preserve the culture of the village, so it doesn’t become a scar on the landscape.”
The Moradabad school is currently ill-equipped with 600 pupils crammed into 11 classrooms with one-brick-thick walls. Another 250 youngsters are on the waiting list.
It is hoped at least another 11 classrooms can be built, along with improved toilet facilities.
John usually keeps to a rigorous fitness regime, including daily early morning five-mile walks in the Forest.
He was diagnosed with prostate cancer two years ago and struck down by coronavirus early in the pandemic.
A cardiac arrest followed around Easter 2020 but, after having five stents fitted in three arteries, John was back out training in three weeks.
Although now having to recuperate for 10 weeks after a fall, John is already planning future fundraising feats which could include driving a Tuk Tuk from John O’ Groats to Land’s End, and something more physically challenging that he is keeping under wraps for now.
“I just want to put something back for all the adventures I’ve had,” he said. “I want to improve people’s lives and inspire them.”