Petra McMillan, who owns the Dumbuck Hotel in Dumbarton; Alchemy Inns and Alchemy Drinks with husband Tommy, an ex footballer with Scotland and Dundee United.

She has, along with family and friends including nephew Ryan, raised more than £500,000 for Marie Curie over the past decade through a series of sporting challenges.

They are to be joined on the expedition by another 25 British climbers, many of whom took on Mount Kilimanjaro alongside Petra.

The team’s efforts could raise around £123,000 for Marie Curie and, with £20 paying for an hour of care, such a total would cover the cost of around 6150 hours of nursing care.

However, given her experiences in Africa, she knows no amount of training will prepare the fundraisers for the debilitating effects of every mountaineer’s greatest dread: extreme altitude sickness.
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Petra McMillan – training for Everest in the Lang Craigs high above Dumbuck and the River Clyde.  Picture by Bill Heaney

The illness can set in from 2000 metres and, with Everest’s base camp perched at four times the height of Ben Nevis, it’s likely the climbers will be forced to endure many days of discomfort as their bodies struggle to acclimatise to the conditions, which could drop to as low as -20C.

Petra said: “It’s a really tough challenge and we have no way of knowing if we’ll make it but we’re doing it for a great cause and that will really motivate us to dig in.

“So many people are tackling challenges and asking for support , so I’ve always felt the need to strive for tougher goals which might capture the public’s imagination.

The quest to ascend Everest is undoubtedly Petra’s toughest mission.

Petra explained: “Kilimanjaro was six days, this is 11, so you’ve got almost double the time at altitude and the temperatures are much lower.

“There’s a cumulative day-on-day effect of having to maintain your strength and stamina for that duration which is really quite challenging.

“Even when you’re sleeping you’re burning, burning, burning so it’s a constant battle when you’re on the hill, trying to take on enough food to have the strength to do what you’re asking your body to do but at the same time you don’t want to eat because you feel so nauseous.”

Fortunately, the team will rest slightly easier at night in their plywood shed ‘teahouses’ knowing that three of its members are doctors.

Offering some words of encouragement to her team, Petra added: “When you think about it, you’re actually walking on the rooftop of the world.

“The scope of these mountains and the enormity and scale of them compared to tiny little you is very humbling.

“When the horrible times come calling and someone needs care, it’s thanks to events such as this that the money is in the bank and the Marie Curie nursing is there.”

And they are off on the experience of a lifetime …

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Petra McMillan and Jenny Sampson give the thumbs up as they left Edinburgh Airport for Singapore last night. Picture by Gwen Erika Hunter

  • Anyone can receive free support through the Marie Curie Information and Support Line on 0800 090 2309 or visit mariecurie.org.uk/help.  If you are interested in getting involved in local fundraising with Marie Curie, please contact Sara Murray sara.murray@mariecurie.org.uk, or to find out more about Marie Curie’s local Helper service please contact Katie Wardlaw katie.wardlaw@mariecurie.org.uk To donate,  visit http://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/teamalchemyEBC.  For more information on Marie Curie, go to http://www.mariecurie.org.uk

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