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As she sat on the plane to Delhi, little did Vivienne Lafferty realise that the people listed on her Exodus documents would become lifelong friends, including her wonderful trek leader, Valerie.
Over twenty years ago, Vivienne signed up for an expedition to climb Stok Kangri in Ladakh, here she tells us just how important that first-ever Exodus trip was to her.
Vivienne with her group
Stok Kangri Trek
The trek was tough, challenging, exhilarating and from the moment we arrived in Leh, gasping from lack of oxygen, we bonded as a group, interdependent and very supportive.
There were many hilarious moments. In Delhi, the coach luggage door wouldn’t open so they ripped it off with a huge crane; we played cricket at 5,000 metres using the loo spade as a bat and were astonished how far the ball flew; on one afternoon Valerie called for an inspection of our tents and two of our group trying to clean the mud out of their tent managed to spread it over the whole groundsheet instead.
We believe we hold a world record too as one of us did the highest Morris dance (complete with bells, stick and hankies) on the summit to the amazement of Valerie and the bewilderment of our Sherpas.
We all agreed one of the best moments was sitting in a beer garden in Leh at the end of our trek, sipping ice-cold beers, listening to the Eagles and feeling very content with our achievements. That was when we planned the first reunion.
We have now had 29 reunions. In the first years, we met twice a year but after 10 years it became an annual event. Members of the group got married, had children, and sadly one of us, my partner, died.
Two people from the US were on our trek and some of us are still in touch with them too. Always inclusive, we have added to our numbers picking up friends along the way who have become part of the group: partners, friends, children, dogs!
We have held reunions in various parts of the country: North Yorkshire, Brecon Beacons, Derbyshire, North and South Wales, Staffordshire, Cumbria and Shropshire and we are always looking for suitable places to stay given that our numbers can be over 20.
For our tenth reunion, we decided to dress up for a celebratory meal. The women packed their long dresses and make-up; the men had their suits cleaned specially. The women got ready first and excitedly awaited the men who arrived . . . as tramps! We were not delighted but now, of course, we can see how funny it was.
When we were chatting at our last reunion, we added up the number of Exodus trips in total the group had done. It was 56 with two people doing 11 each (Peru, Ethiopia, Everest base camp, Nanda Devi, Amritsar and Kashmir, Burma, Spain, Italy, Karakoram, Morocco) and one person who had done 6 (Himalayas, Karakoram, Morocco, Finland, Italy, Alaska).
Exodus has always ‘done us proud’ and this is a great opportunity to thank the folk in the office for the Champagne they sent on our 10th reunion and the drinks and huge box of goodies we received on our 20th Year Reunion. Another massive thank you to Valerie too, who always gets to our reunions if she is in the UK.
I am so glad that by a quirk of fate I ended up on this trek with this set of people. They are my friends for life. So here’s to the next 10 years!
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