Highest Ever Rugby Match to Take Place on Everest This Spring

The spring climbing season in the Himalaya is still more than two months away and yet we’re already starting to get a glimpse of what we can expect when the climbers start arriving in Kathmandu later this year. But in addition to the teams of alpinists who will descend on major 8000-meter peaks in late-March and early-April, there will be some decidedly beefier adventurers. That’s because an ambitious group of rugby players has announced that they will play the highest match ever, with Everest serving as their pitch.

Billed as “rugby with altitude,” the LMAX Exchange Everest Rugby Challenge will send two teams into the Himalaya where they will trek to Everest Base Camp to play a match. The event is being led by rugby stars Lee Mears, Ollie Phillips, Shane Williams and Tamara Taylor with the hopes of setting two world records. The first of those records will be the highest altitude full-contact rugby match ever played, while the second will be the highest altitude mixed touch rugby match in history as well.

The teams are expected to arrive in Kathmandu on April 13 and will spend 24 days in Nepal trekking the Khumbu Valley to reach EBC. Along the way they’ll acclimatize to the altitude with the hopes of playing the two matches at 6500 meters (21,325 ft.). That is the approximate height of Camp 1 on the South Side of the mountain and a considerable altitude challenge to say the least. The pitch will actually fall on a flat piece of ground that sits between Everest and nearby Lhakpa Ri.

The players are trekking to Everest and playing a tough rugby match just to set records however, as the goal is to raise £200,000 (approximates $257,000) for the Wooden Spoon charity. The organization uses rugby to helps kids with disabilities and in 2015 it sent 11 rugby players on last-degree journey to the North Pole as part of its fundraising efforts. The Everest Rugby Challenge looks to be even more high profile and raise more cash however.

As usual when it comes to Mt. Everest, there are always a few stunts and dubious “firsts” that crop up each climbing season. While it is easy to dismiss these rugby matches as that type of event, we still have to applaud these athletes for playing a match on the mountain. At the altitude they are talking about that will be no easy feat, as the air will be thin and the ground will be rough. I wish them all luck in this effort and I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

Kraig Becker