The North Devon Gazette will be following a group of North Devon explorers as they trek to the top of the world for Children’s Hospice South West.

The Everest Diaries.The Everest Diaries.

A group of North Devon explorers are scaling the top of the world for the Children’s Hospice South West, and in this new monthly column, the Gazette will be following their gruelling journey all the way to the summit.

Team leader Jason Ashton, from Bideford, is taking on the 8,858m Everest climb with friends Dan Coleman, Stuart Wheaton, Beth Vickery and Lorna Smith.

So far they have endured weekly climbing sessions at Rock and Rapid, taken on 16-hour treks across Dartmoor in the snow and pushed themselves to the limit.

Retired professional fighter Jason, 45, said: “The next trek across Dartmoor will be 100 miles - with only a 40 minute break.

“This year we’ll be taking on a Tough Mudder; two half-marathons; climbing Ben Nevis four times and Snowdon five times; and in October we’ll fly to the Himalayas to scale Island Peak.

“It’s going to be brutal but we need to prepare ourselves - this is going to be a dangerous trip.”

The team will fly to Everest’s base camp in March 2016 to allow time to acclimatise and climb through the base camps slowly.

During the final 858 metres to the summit, they will need to wear oxygen masks and face a 10 per cent chance of death, and an even bigger chance of frostbite.

“If you’re injured at this stage, they say you’ll never come back,” said Jason.

“But we’ve said we’re going up there as a team and if anyone falls we won’t leave them.

“We’ll be likely to pass the bodies of those who took on the same challenge and never succeeded.

“We’re doing this for the kids at the hospice - we can’t let them down - and we won’t.

“When you go to Little Bridge House and see those children and they’re so full of life, knowing they probably won’t be around for that much longer, it’s worth taking a risk for that.”

Jason and the team visited Little Bridge House this weekend, and in the run up to the trip are hoping to raise £200,000 for the charity.

“We’ve set up a crowdfunding site for those who want to donate towards our equipment, as well as an online donations site.”

If you would like to donate, you can do so online at: www.virginmoneygiving.com/team/everestchsw

You can also back the mission, both as an individual or corporate sponsor, at: www.crowdfunder.co.uk/everest-summit-for-the-children.