A BANGOR man is heading off on what he hopes will be a life-enriching adventure that he’ll remember for the rest of his days.
Every spell of travel Dayle Jones has ever done has been with family or friends, but last Christmas, the dad of two was struck by a thought – a solo quest, and something just for him.
Within days he had signed himself up and paid for a trek to Mount Everest’s base camp.
Fifty four year-old Dayle then decided that he might as well use the trip of a lifetime to help raise money for a worthy cause.
So he chose Codo Drops mental health drop-in centre, on Bangor’s High Street, which offers art and creativity as ‘mind therapy’ according to founder Chris McGuiggan.
Dayle, who works as a Coastguard Support Officer at Belfast Coastguard headquarters, in Bregenz house and has also taken part in K9 search and rescue, came to learn of the centre through its work with Ards Rugby Club, where he has coached youth teams since 2006. As a result, Dayle is also aiming to raise money for a new kit for the club’s young teams.
Dayle, who is originally from Leicester, flies out from Belfast on Thursday, March 16, for London where he’ll catch a flight to Nepal via Dubai. From Nepal, he will board his final connection to Lukla, a place popular for its proximity to the mighty Himalayas.
“And from there on it’s all downhill,” he quipped.
He’s not joking completely however, because though he’ll be heading far beyond sea level, not all of the terrain he’ll traverse will be ascending towards the heavens.
“It won’t all be upwards,” he said. “It’ll be uneven, and level here and there, but whereas Slieve Donard is about 850 metres above sea level, Everest Base Camp is about ,588 metres above.”
It’s all about mind over matter for Dayle as he prepares to scale the base of ‘the roof of the world’ in central Asia’s Tibetan Plateau.
“I’m just going to have to bite the bullet,” he said. “It’s all about the mind, really; your mind will give up before your body.”
And despite the luxuries of Google Earth and the like, which he could use to fully familiarise himself with the mammoth task he faces, Dayle prefers to defer the pleasure and to drink in the moment once he’s there in the flesh.
“I have looked at the route but I don’t want to spoil the experience,” he said. “It’s so easy to be disappointed and I just want to go and see and judge it for myself. The whole idea is to step up and experience it and I want the memories to be first hand.
“So much now is done through a screen and you go to concerts and people are watching it through the lens of the camera but I want to experience this, in the moment, while I’m actually there,” he said.
Dayle explained why he fancied a quest all on his own.
“It was the first time my sons weren’t with me for Christmas, as they were with my ex-partner and I just thought to myself that I’m always with other people and always doing things with others.
“I realised I’ve not really done anything for myself and I wanted to look back on my life, someday, and be able to say that I did something just for myself, by myself.”
Dayle has been limbering up for his challenge with regular coastal walks – the uneveness of it hopefully preparing him for the trek ahead of him – and a few hikes up the Mournes, sometimes with his sons, aged 17 and 13.
Commenting on the charity he hopes will benefit from his supporters, Dayle said the Codo Drops centre is close to his heart.
“It aims to improve people’s mental health through art and conversation. Its relaxed and friendly atmosphere provides a setting for people from all walks of life to come in, have a chat and use the large range of art materials If they wish,” he said.
“For many of the people who visit Codo Drops, art is a form of escapism that can be very therapeutic so having the materials and space to express themselves and support from our volunteers is important,” he said.
“In addition to this the volunteers from Codo Drops can signpost people to local services that offer a range of mental health support and link them into other community groups, since mental health isn’t a one size fits all issue.”
With the months of waiting for his Himalayan escapade now down to just days, whatever the experience brings Dayle, he can’t wait to find out – and he promised to share it with Spectator readers following his return to Bangor on April 3.
Readers can support Dayle on his adventure by contributing to his Just Giving page he has set up for the Codo Drop https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/dayle-jones-everestbasecamptrek?utm_term=7pqrgvVbK&fbclid=IwAR2i_f3TKTYBnm2s5NhGsyjgPx1Hi8nfoVYPs4jcqbX5sSrdreDtjqsEV1A