ONLY days ago, Canon Phillip Nixon was marvelling at the spectacular Himalayan panorama around Mount Everest. Today, he is limited to the view from his home near Oxford as he self-isolates in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
The 72-year-old retired priest had just completed a fund-raising expedition to the Everest base camp, when Nepal began closing its borders. He said: “We only just got back, the airlines were closing down all around us. If it had been a day later, we might not have got out. We had WiFi connections in most of the places we stayed; so we had an idea of what was happening in the outside world. But we didn’t realise just how close we were to not getting back.”
His 19-day hike to the camp at 17,500 ft, which raised £1200 for Christian Aid, was the latest in a series of his extreme hikes for the charity. In 2012, he climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania, and, in 2017, he scaled the Andes to visit Machu Picchu, in Peru. “I haven’t always been into athletic things like this,” he said. “It all started when I saw a sponsored bike ride in Jordan when I was 52, and a friend from church said we should do it.”
Canon Nixon, who served in parishes in Goring-on-Thames and Northampton, trained for the expedition by taking long walks around his home in Botley, to the west of Oxford, and making regular bike rides. “I had to get a letter from my GP to say he knew of no reason why I could not go,” he said. “The second-youngest person on the trip was a bit put out to realise he was not the oldest. He was a mere 61.
“Being the oldest, I wore more clothes than anybody else: I wore three duck-down jackets. The temperature drops to minus 15 in the bedrooms; so you don’t take anything off. Afterwards, I gave the gloves which my wife had given me for a birthday present and a jacket to one of the sherpas — they need them more than me.
“You could feel the lack of oxygen as we got higher. We were puffing and panting when we faced steep slopes, but it was a just a question of keeping going.”
The view as they approached Everest was “spectacular”, he said. “I was so impressed by how sharp the peaks appear. They go right up to a point; they are proper mountains.”
They were only allowed to stay at base camp for an hour or so. “It has no permanent buildings, and there were no tents,” he said. “It is a cold and desolate place, but it was good to be there.
“I don’t think my wife will let me go on another adventure. To be candid, I am running out of friends whom I can tap for sponsorship: we are all of a certain age.”
His sponsorship link can be found at justgiving.com/fundraising/phillip-nixon-christianaid