18 April 2023
Mrs Elphinstone has spent the Easter holidays undertaking this incredible physical and mental challenge to raise funds for the Elphinstone Scholarship, enabling girls who demonstrate the promise to succeed the opportunity to benefit from an FHS education, regardless of their background.
Of the experience, Mrs Elphinstone commented:
“After the cacophony of Kathmandu, we spent eight days of trekking higher and higher, past cascading waterfalls and rhododendron forests, alongside yaks and temples, goats and stupas, as the majestic white peaks of the Himalayan range loomed closer. Staying in very basic accommodation of tea houses, people’s homes, with one room for everyone to eat, the conditions became ever more primitive without hot water or heat, with wooden beds in barns, and outside loos which were simply holes in the ground.
“At last we came to the eve of the Pass attempt, just as a heavy snow storm closed in. Rising at 3am on Easter Sunday, having slept in all our clothes, we found the skies had cleared and minus 15 degrees greeted us so that our water froze within five minutes and our eyelashes and eyebrows frosted over. We gained the first two hundred metres of altitude in bright moonlight, arriving at the Thorong high camp at about 5am as the sun rose over the Annapurnas. At 5000m there is only about a third of the normal level of oxygen in the air, and every step had the heart racing, the lungs bursting and the legs burning. The possibility of failure was real but unthinkable. Just when the effort seemed overwhelming, we saw the prayer flags of the pass ahead. I wept as I thought of the young children from disadvantaged backgrounds who would be able to come to FHS on a full scholarship as a result of our efforts and your generosity.
“The next week was spent trekking the other side of the range, descending increasingly into a world resembling Elrond in Lord of the Rings. But the uphill wasn’t over, and there was another ascent and subsequent descent of nearly 3000 to reach Ghorepani and the extraordinarily beautiful sunrise on Poon Hill where we saw the whole panoply of the Himalayas spread out in golden splendour. Finally, we reached the city of Pokhara in time for the Nepali New Year, and it was a wonderfully festive atmosphere, with music, street dancing and fireworks.
“The Nepali people are unfailingly cheerful, kind and hardworking, and their positivity in the face of huge hardships and poverty is so impressive. They also have a beautiful land and a rich heritage. It was the privilege of a lifetime to gain an insight into their culture and character.”
Having raised over £360k so far, every penny pledged towards the Annapurna Challenge will be dedicated to widening our bursary provision by supporting the Elphinstone Scholarship to run in perpetuity. Mrs Elphinstone’s display of resilience, courage and commitment also serves as a lasting inspiration to our FHS community as she prepares to leave Francis Holland after 11 years of Headship.
We would like to extend our enormous thanks to all those who have pledged their support so far towards the Annapurna Challenge. To find out more about our transformational bursary programme, please click here.