Independent spirit of Camden girls’ school inspires Everest trekker

A former pupil of Camden School for Girls will trek to Everest Base Camp in an all-female expedition to raise �100,000 for women affected by war.

Nora Russell, 28, is one of ten women trekking to the camp in Nepal, which at 5500m is over half the height of the world’s tallest mountain.

They will be led by Susan Harper Todd, who is one of only five British women ever to have summated Everest, and will also be accompanied by female Sherpas.

The trekkers come from very different backgrounds but are united by a belief in the empowerment of women, and are all supporters of the charity Women For Women International.

Miss Russell, who works as a major gifts officer for the charity, said: “It’s important that women’s voices are heard. These are the people who suffer the effects of war behind the scenes and who are left to pick up the pieces once the conflict is over.”

The charity helps rebuild the lives of women affected by war in countries such as Afghanistan, Bosnia, Congo, Iraq, Kosovo, Nigeria, Rwanda and Sudan.

“It’s something I never thought possible,” said the self-confessed City girl, who recently moved from Archway to Essex Road, Islington. “I’ve never been very sporty and never used to go to PE lessons.”

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But after Susan Harper Todd approached the charity and offered to lead a trek for free, the charity worker realised it was a “brilliant opportunity” she could not miss.

Since April she’s been training for the 14 days of tough climbing in the Himalayas carrying a backpack of 15kg in temperatures as low as -20C.

Training has included two team trips up Snowdon in Wales and regular runs up the “pretty steep” Parkland Walk between Finsbury Park and Highgate.

“Everyone has been given an individual training plan,” she said. “We have to train to increase our ability to uptake oxygen. Everything we do at altitude will be much more difficult due to the thin air so we have to do everything we can to increase our fitness. I’m definitely not allowed to take the lift anymore!”

In part Nora has been inspired by the “progressive” ethos of her old school, Camden School for Girls, in Sandal Road, Camden.

“The school had very strong principles about educating girls to become independent women,” she said.

“We were taught that we have the capacity to achieve whatever we set out to and not to take anything for granted. There was no spoon feeding - we were taught to get out there and show your stuff.”

The 14-day trek takes place from October 5-20 and the ambitious �100,000 fundraising money will support another 4,000 women in education programmes.

The group will also carry prayer flag “messages of peace” to Everest base camp which will be passed to another team member to take to the summit in April 2012.

So far the team has raised �26,000 towards their �100,000 goal.

To support Nora and Women for Women International’s work visit