Used to prayers and silent exclamations of wonder, the foothill of Mt Everest saw an entirely different spectacle when a group of 15 people burst out into a "fist-pumping version" of "Knocking on Heaven's Door" with a Welsh rock star leading the choir. The world's highest mountain rocked to what is probably the highest gig so far with musicians, adventurers and cancer survivors from five countries staging a concert at the 5,650 m high base camp Sunday to raise funds for the worldwide fight against cancer.
"It was pure bliss, pure peace," said Christine Allen, who was part of the nearly 40-member expedition that on Oct 9 began gathering in Kathmandu from Canada, the US, Australia, Britain and France for a two-week trek to the base camp.
"We meet cancer on every mountain we climb, in every place we gather. Our musicians have played their hearts out and we have cried our hearts out. Listen up world and join us in our fight."
The fight started with Mike Peters, lead singer of the Welsh rock band The Alarm, who was diagnosed with cancer in the 90s and survived. Peters teamed up with James Chippendale, a fellow cancer survivor to found the Love Hope Strength Foundation that is trying to fight cancer worldwide.
The Foundation started with its first concert on the top of the Empire State Building and this month planned an Everest gig to buy screening and treatment equipment for the Nepal Cancer Relief Society that is associated with the Bhaktapur Cancer Hospital, Nepal's only full-fledged cancer care centre.
They chose the Everest because it is one of the most compelling icons and guaranteed to draw world attention to the fight against cancer. The Foundation is hoping to find a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for having performed the highest gig at 5,650 m. The summit of Mt Everest is 8,848 m above sea level.
Besides the thin air where breathing becomes difficult and the biting cold, the team also had to cope with stomach viruses, lack of electricity and a snowstorm. Finally, only 15 people were able to undertake the seven-hour trek to the base camp from Gorak Shep and take part in the performance.
Writing about the feat in his blog, Peters described how climber Alan Hobson, another cancer hero and mountaineer who was part of the Everest Rocks tour, could find little support when he was diagnosed with leukaemia.
When Hobson asked his local cancer support network how many people survived blood cancer, they could only tell him how many people died from cancer. "We, as a foundation, are dedicated to changing that," Peters said. "Now is the time to tell the world about how many people survive, that is why have we all climbed our personal Everest...
"Because of the publicity, the TV camera, the website, the podcasts, the videos and every single upward step taken by each and everyone of the Love Hope Strength ... the world is sitting up and taking notice...if this is what we have to do to get the message across to the world then let's do it again.
"I am proud to have walked with every single one of you and I would hope to walk with you again in the future." The Foundation's battle on cancer will continue in the Nepal capital Monday (Oct 29), when they will stage a show in Kathmandu's Durbar Marg.
Another member of the team, Aden Holt, said she was there though she was neither a cancer survivor nor lost a loved one to the disease because "we all need that arm around our shoulder.
"When Mike sings 'Give me Love, Give Me Hope, Give me Strength', it's a call to action," Holt said.
"We all need it, and we need it from each other. We all need that motivation from a friend to get out of bed in the morning when there seems to be no reason to."