Sailor completes galactic challenge to help NHS

A sailor in Britain’s biggest warship has completed the greatest mountaineering challenge in the galaxy.

HMS Queen Elizabeth Chef James Hopkinson set out to scale Rheasilvia – twice the height of Everest and believed to be the tallest mountain in the solar system – to raise money for medics fighting the coronavirus.

Inspired by others in lockdown, including Captain (now Colonel Sir) Tom Moore, James wanted to do his bit to support NHS workers as the aircraft carrier began operational sea training off the south coast.

Looking for an unusual challenge before his draft to the 65,000-tonne warship ended, he fell upon Rheasilvia, the highest peak in the known universe – a mountain estimated to rise 22,000 metres (about 14 miles) above the surface of the asteroid Vesta, discovered by the Hubble telescope in 1997.

Over three weeks, whenever the Mancunian had the time (and energy) he trotted up four flights to stairs from his accommodation on the carrier’s No.6 Deck to No. 2 Deck (Queen Elizabeth’s quarterdeck) – climbing 70 or 80 times a day for two to three hours.

“I’ve never done anything like this before and I don’t really go to the gym either,” he said. “But I just wanted to do something a bit different. I have to admit that I nearly gave up around the 11,000 metre mark.”

The carrier’s Commanding Officer Captain Angus Essenhigh was at the top of the ladders on the final of James’ 1,675 ascents.

“It makes my knees sore just thinking about it, but it was amazing to see James’ dogged determination and huge congratulations on this remarkable achievement to an inspiring young man,” he said.

Leaving the Portsmouth-based ship to complete his chef training, James reported that his legs were “a bit sore” from stepping over the hatch sills, but otherwise he was ok.

His shipmates have so far chipped in nearly £200 for his efforts. If you’d like to thank James for his efforts – and help the NHS – donations can be made via: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/james-hopkinson2