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Ch-ch-cheers! MailOnline helps to break the record for the world's highest dinner party by eating a meal served at 23,000ft on EVEREST (and a gown was worn despite it being -25C!)

  • MailOnline Travel's Sadie Whitelocks went on an expedition with former special forces officer Neil Laughton
  • The adventurer tried hosting the world's highest dinner on Everest in 2015 but the Nepalese earthquake hit
  • He led a team of intrepid dinner party guests to the mountain's North Col to smash the record

By Sadie Whitelocks for MailOnline

Published: 14:25 BST, 8 May 2018 | Updated: 17:49 BST, 8 May 2018

I'd never felt so exhausted, I had a nagging headache and ice was steadily forming on the tip of my nose in the -20 degrees Celsius whipping wind.

I started to think that accepting an invitation to the world's highest dinner party on Mount Everest might have been one of the silliest things I'd done but not one to give up easily, I continued slogging my way up the 1km-high ice wall in a bid to not let my expectant dinner host down. 

Former special forces officer Neil Laughton, a 54-year-old avid adventurer, first tried hosting the world's highest dinner party in 2015 but the Nepalese earthquake struck and the mission had to be aborted. Now he was back on the mountain with a new team, including myself, to have another bite at the cherry.

MailOnline Travel's Sadie Whitelocks went on an expedition with former special forces officer Neil Laughton in a bid to smash the world record for the highest dinner party. Above, the team successfully dining at 7,050m on Mount Everest 

 

MailOnline Travel's Sadie Whitelocks went on an expedition with former special forces officer Neil Laughton in a bid to smash the world record for the highest dinner party. Above, the team successfully dining at 7,050m on Mount Everest 

 

A view of Mount Everest from advanced base camp where the team stayed before climbing to the North Col

 

A view of Mount Everest from advanced base camp where the team stayed before climbing to the North Col

In total there were eight of us taking part in the sky-high dinner, with one team member sadly forced to leave the table due to exhaustion mixed with altitude sickness.

The meal was due to take place at 7,050m (23,129ft) on Everest's North Col, with us approaching the looming peak from the Tibetan side.

I'd been put in touch with Laughton through a mutual friend, and after meeting him briefly for a coffee in London, I signed up to join him on his extreme dining quest, with the trip combining my love of socialising with extreme mountaineering.

To secure my place on the expedition I'd raised funds through generous sponsors including Pandora Jewellery, Mr Fogg's cocktail bar in London and Metaxa. Virgin Active also helped with my fitness training schedule while outfitter Musto kitted me out with a spread of weatherproof gear.

The world's highest dinner party took place in the morning to allow for better weather. Above from left to right, Sherpa Nima, expedition team member Jane Chynoweth, Sadie Whitelocks and team leader Neil Laughton 

The world's highest dinner party took place in the morning to allow for better weather. Above from left to right, Sherpa Nima, expedition team member Jane Chynoweth, Sadie Whitelocks and team leader Neil Laughton 

The dinner party table was finished off with plastic flowers and candelabras.  Above, the lamb tagine is served 

 

The dinner party table was finished off with plastic flowers and candelabras.  Above, the lamb tagine is served 

Like with most trips, the build-up seemed to fly by and suddenly I was there in Tibet fighting the elements and wondering what the hell I was doing. 

The journey to the North Col began with a drive through the wilds of Tibet before a week-long trek up into the heights of the Himalayas.

The ice wall, which lies at 6,400 metres (21,000ft) in the shadow of the summit, was one of the hardest parts of the ascent.

As I pulled myself up on a fixed rope it was so cold that I gave my fingers a quick squeeze to check they were still functioning. I also gave my toes a wiggle. It appeared everything was in working order, just a bit slow. 

Step by step, with my energy sapped by the lack of oxygen, I continued up the sheer cascade of snow and ice. 

Our expedition Sherpa Nima encouraged me to keep moving. By my side was the expedition doctor, Marcus Stevens, my friend Ralph Fearnhead - who'd signed up for the trip last minute - and London-based architect Jon Beswick.

The other members of our group - Laughton, chartered surveyor Paul Anderson, and another friend of mine, Jane Chynoweth - were well ahead.

'Everest is all about suffering,' Laughton had exclaimed before we set out to the slopes of Everest from base camp, and I was feeling the truth of his words.

The weather around Mount Everest (pictured is the summit) can change wildly throughout the day, with sunshine giving way to furious snow showers

 

The weather around Mount Everest (pictured is the summit) can change wildly throughout the day, with sunshine giving way to furious snow showers

To get to the world's highest dinner party, Sadie and the team had to scale a 1km-high ice wall 

 

To get to the world's highest dinner party, Sadie and the team had to scale a 1km-high ice wall 

It took the dinner party team most of the day to navigate the frigid route by fixed rope

 

The mountaineers had to be careful of gaping crevasses as they went

 

It took the dinner party team most of the day to navigate the frigid route by fixed rope and they had to be careful of gaping crevasses as they went 

After five hours of hauling myself steadily up ladders of ice and over crevasses, I finally reached the top of the frozen wall to the North Col of Everest.

This would be our setting for dinner in a bid to break the world record.

I shuffled slowly through the snow to my tent where I found my fellow camper Jane and flopped into my sleeping bag in a bid to get warm.

Sherpa Nima and another member from his team delivered some hot tea and spicy pasta to further our thawing before settling in for the night.   

It was pretty hard sleeping on the North Col of Everest at 7,050m with frigid winds howling, snow crunching and low oxygen levels causing me to gasp every once in a while. 

After drifting in and out of consciousness for what felt like an eternity, light hit the walls of the tent and it was time to rise for dinner. 

One of the mountain Sherpas stood in as the chef. The food was prepared by two-Michelin star chef Sat Bains at his restaurant in Nottingham before being freeze-dried and flown to Tibet 

 

One of the mountain Sherpas stood in as the chef. The food was prepared by two-Michelin star chef Sat Bains at his restaurant in Nottingham before being freeze-dried and flown to Tibet 

The dinner party team also sipped on a special cocktail created by Mr Fogg's bar in London , which contained Metaxa spiced butter tea cordial and yogurt powder

 

The dinner party team also sipped on a special cocktail created by Mr Fogg's bar in London , which contained Metaxa spiced butter tea cordial and yogurt powder

The expedition team had a dress rehearsal dinner at Everest base camp where the weather was much sunnier

 

The expedition team had a dress rehearsal dinner at Everest base camp where the weather was much sunnier

Laughton decided to host our dinner in the morning with a 6:30am wake up as the weather is generally better in the mornings.

In true British style we would dine in black tie. Jane and I - the only women in the group - grappled around in our tents to get into our dinner dresses. 

It was pretty tricky coaxing ourselves out of our warm sleeping bags into our flesh-baring ensembles but we sipped on hot tea to ease the pain. 

In the dim, snow-dappled light we managed to do our make-up using a tiny mirror and took a deep breath before stepping outside and making our way to the dinner table. 

It was a very surreal experience witnessing a white-clothed table sitting close to the peak of Everest. Laughton  had insisted on the edition of a candelabra and yellow plastic lilies, which certainly lifted the mood. 

With us all gathered around the table, complete with chattering teeth, we settled in for our record breaking feast. 

The menu had been prepared by two-Michelin star chef Sat Bains. He went on the original expedition in 2015 but suffered from altitude sickness, so this time around he'd prepared the food at his kitchen in Nottingham before freeze-drying it and shipping it off.

We'd had a dress rehearsal dinner at Everest Base Camp the week before our record attempt with a slightly larger group of people, who had since departed. 

The thought of tasting Bains' food again made me salivate and a Sherpa dressed as a chef suddenly appeared to dish the courses up.

To start we had a dish of miso soup, followed by a lamb tagine and a delicious chocolate log-style pudding to finish.  

The world's highest dinner party expedition raised funds for mountaineering charity Community Action Nepal

 

The world's highest dinner party expedition raised funds for mountaineering charity Community Action Nepal

A view inside Sadie's tent, with a big warm sleeping bag being one of her essential items 

 

A view inside Sadie's tent, with a big warm sleeping bag being one of her essential items 

Something about the cold weather made all of the flavours stand out more and I went in for seconds.

To wash everything down we sipped on Mumm champagne, but we had to be quick, as the sparkling liquid started freezing almost as soon as it was poured into our plastic flutes.

We also had a brief glug of a special 'North Col' cocktail created by Mr Fogg's bar in London, which featured a heady blend of Metaxa, spiced butter tea cordial and yogurt powder. 

All freezing to the bone in -25 degrees Celsius and lacking in conversation, we mopped off our plates of food and wrapped up dinner.

We'd smashed the world record and couldn't wait to start making our way back to base camp and to civilization. The thought of warm showers, balmier climates and WiFi were all too much of a temptation.

There was a point on the expedition where I thought I'd bitten off more than I could chew.

But thankfully, with some determination and support from my fellow team members I made it to the world's highest dinner party for what will be one of my most memorable meals for years to come. Ch-ch-cheers to that! 

The world's highest dinner party expedition raised funds for mountaineering charity Community Action Nepal. To donate further to the cause visit mydonate.bt.com 

Wear a hat with ear flaps to bed, shower with a saucepan and keep a hip flask handy! A girl's guide to surviving some of the most extreme camping conditions in the world

Here are some of the key essentials Sadie packed to get her through the extreme mountain weather at over 20,000ft.

When sleeping in temperatures below -20 degrees Celsius, one of things that helped stop my head from freezing was a sheepskin-lined hat from Seattle outfitter Filson, which handily has ear flaps and a string you can tie under your chin to prevent it from falling off in the middle of the night. 

Another handy gadget was my Petzl headtorch, which helped me to navigate the interior of the tent and try and sort some of the chaos by nightfall. 

Sadie, pictured with her camping companion Jane Chynoweth, said a hat with ear flaps helped to stop her head from freezing in the frigid Everest weather

 

Sadie, pictured with her camping companion Jane Chynoweth, said a hat with ear flaps helped to stop her head from freezing in the frigid Everest weather

Sadie said a head torch helped her to navigate the interior of her tent and organise some of the chaos by nightfall 

 

Sadie said a head torch helped her to navigate the interior of her tent and organise some of the chaos by nightfall 

But my ultimate camping companion was my Rab expedition sleeping bag, which I borrowed from an adventurous friend. 

The down-filled bag is designed for extreme mountain conditions and temperatures below -30 degrees Celsius. It costs over £800 - but I could see why.

To keep extra toasty in the sleeping bag, I slept fully-dressed and I would also cuddle a bottle filled with hot water. This would generally stay heated until the morning and made a real difference to my quality of sleep.

When things hit a real low, I dipped into my hip flask, which was filled with a delicious whisky. Despite the doctor's advice not to drink at altitude, the punchy concoction definitely helped warm the cockles!

Out in the elements, top pieces of kit included a pair of 'hydrotech gloves' from outfitter Musto - which prevented my fingers from falling off in the cold - and the Levity 60 backpack from Osprey, which was light to carry and had lots of pockets to store various knickknacks.

When it got really cold, Sadie said she sipped some whisky from her hip flask before going to sleep

When it got really cold, Sadie said she sipped some whisky from her hip flask before going to sleep (left) while a pocket mirror was handy to check on her windburned face (right)

Sadie said going to the toilet in the middle of the night was pretty treacherous - the loo was often housed in a ramshackle tent on the edge of a hill (pictured above) - so she generally resorted to peeing outside the tent by moonlight

Sadie said going to the toilet in the middle of the night was pretty treacherous - the loo was often housed in a ramshackle tent on the edge of a hill (pictured above) - so she generally resorted to peeing outside the tent by moonlight

The tents often froze over in the night, with the exteriors coated in a layer of frost 

 

The tents often froze over in the night, with the exteriors coated in a layer of frost 

When it came to toilet antics, a stock of wet wipes from Boots were a life-saver, as was a squeeze tube of hand sanitizer. 

Going to the toilet in the middle of the night was pretty treacherous - the loo was often housed in a ramshackle tent on the edge of a hill - so I generally resorted to peeing outside the tent by moonlight.

While we couldn't have showers at altitude, I turned to nagging the chefs for a saucepan of warm water. Dunking my head into the silver bowl, I managed to resurrect my steadily-dreadlocking hair a little! 

My small pocket mirror helped me to keep check on my peeling, windburned face, while my pocket tweezers were used for a further spot of mountain preening.

Luckily the knife my father sent me before venturing off to chop my arm off should I have fallen into a crevasse didn't come into play. Only to dissect an apple.

TRAVEL FACTS 

Oman Air runs regular flights from London Heathrow to Kathmandu via Oman with prices starting from £477. To use lounge facilities during extended stopovers PriorityPass offers access.

Flights from Kathmandu to Lhasa in Tibet are operated by Sichuan Air.

The world's highest dinner party expedition was run in conjunction with Sherpa Khumbiyila Adventures, a Kathmandu-based, family-run business. The company runs private mountain-focused tours in Nepal and Tibet.

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