A comedy duo known for their unabashed confessions and hilarious take on motherhood made history when they scaled Mount Everest to stage the highest altitude stand-up comedy gig on land.
The Scummy Mummies, aka Ellie Gibson and Helen Thorn, have been through thick and thin in the 10 years since they brought their comedy stylings together for a double act.
With more than 500 live performances and 250 podcast episodes under their belt, they decided to set themselves this mammoth challenge, and it's made their friendship stronger than ever.
“We’ve been through a lot in the last 10 years,” Ellie recalls.
“I had a premature baby, Helen got divorced, and we had to keep the business going when Corona meant we had to cancel a 40-date tour.”
And it's at the toughest times that friends embark on the craziest adventures together!
To mark the 10th anniversary as a comedy double act and a super-mummy duo, the Scummy Mummies grabbed their climbing shoes, packed some shiny catsuits, and decided to try something amazing: they headed to Mount Everest to perform the highest stand-up comedy gig on land ever.
“We wanted to celebrate getting through all that by doing something that shows the strength of our partnership, our ability to overcome challenges, and our love of doing things that are a bit silly. So breaking a world record seemed like a brilliant idea!” – Ellie Gibson
Of course, the adventure ahead required special training and plenty of dedication.
Before the trip, the two comedians kicked off their training by running the London Marathon 2021 together.
Although Ellie can't run because of her "dodgy knees" (as she herself defines them), Helen discovered a real passion for running and, since then, she has completed several more running events.
“For this trek, I did barre fitness, swimming, and spent a lot of time on the stair stepper at the gym,” Ellie goes on explaining. “We also did a practice 100-mile hike in May 2022, walking through the Lake District and Yorkshire.”
However, despite all the preparation, tackling the highest mountain in the world proved to be even harder than the duo expected.
Accompanied by incredible guides that made the ascent just a little less arduous, Helen and Ellie soon started noticing the downsides of the high altitude: from extreme physical endeavours to suffering from lack of sleep and migraines, Everest wasn't kind to them.
The weather posed another challenge, too, forcing the group to carry on while caught in a blizzard.
“But the biggest challenge of all was missing our kids,” they say.
“We didn’t always have a phone signal or internet to stay in touch. It was wonderful to get home to them, and we’re so glad we can tell them it was all worth it because their mums are record breakers.”
However, reaching Nepal's South Base Camp after a 10-day trek brought a disheartening surprise.
Once there, the duo realized that the base camp didn't stand at the expected altitude: although Nepal's base camp is supposed to stand at the elevation of 5,364 m (17,598 ft), due to global warming the glacier had melted and resulted in a lower-than-expected altitude.
They could stop there and wave their record goodbye, or persevere and look for another camp.
So the Scummy Mummies' quest for the record continued, as they powered on to reach the feet of the Khumbu ice fall.
There, just a little further up, Ellie spotted a group of yellow tents.
“We had to clamber over rocks for 10 minutes to get there, and when we did, we discovered that it was Nims’ camp," Ellie says.
That is how the record-breaking adventurer and mountaineer Nimal "Nims" Purja, inadvertently joined in on the adventure.
In 2019, Nims tackled all the legendary Eight-Thousanders in less than seven months and completed the fastest ascent of all mountains over 8,000 m in only 189 days.
“We are big fans,” Ellie explains. “We had watched Nims’ documentary in a coffee shop in Namche Bazaar, a town in Nepal, just a week before.”
“We explained the situation to his camp manager and asked if we could perform the gig there. He said 'yes, of course' - and we will be forever grateful.”
Once they found the perfect spot - and the perfect crowd - it was time for the gig itself.
Setting up the gig proved to be a challenge, too, as the duo prepared their jokes in the freezing cold while wearing nothing but shiny gold catsuits.
However, Helen and Ellie were met with a heartwarming enthusiasm from the crowd, who cheered and had plenty of fun, making for an amazing experience.
“Trying to do comedy at minus 15 degrees conditions when you’ve had very little sleep and suffered from altitude sickness is tough," Ellie confesses.
However, they also knew they could count on each other for moral and emotional support.
“We’ve been through hard times before, like that gig in a Thai restaurant in Manchester to nine people. Trekking to Everest was easy peasy by comparison,” she adds.
For Ellie, the most beautiful moment of the trip happened when she could admire the vastness of Mount Everest at midnight, as a nightly toilet break led to an unexpected moment of utter tranquillity in the deserted camp: just her and the mountain.
Although crawling out of her cosy sleeping bag in the frigid cold was a struggle, Ellie admits she didn’t expect the jaw-dropping landscape that was waiting for her outside the tent.
“Stepping out of the tent, into the cold, and seeing Mount Everest under the stars was just amazing,” she recalls.
“There was no one around and it was totally silent. The glacier was glowing in the moonlight and it felt like being on another planet.”
“With all the excitement and exhaustion of doing the gig, then the stress of trying to eat and get into bed before it got too cold, I hadn’t really had a moment to appreciate the magnitude of what we’d achieved. But it hit me then, in the silence, while looking at the most spectacular view I’d ever seen.”
The attempt was completed to raise awareness and £10,000 for Borne UK, the UK-based charity that researches the causes of premature birth and supports families and babies that are going through premature childbirth.
Borne's cause is very personal for Ellie, who has a close relationship with the charity and has even visited their lab to meet their scientists.
The comedian explained that she learned about Borne's efforts after her son Joe was born nine weeks early in December 2014.
“It was a very scary time and there were moments when we didn’t know if he was going to make it," she confesses.
"Our story has a happy ending, but I wouldn’t wish what we went through on anyone, and I know the outcome could have been very different.
“I am also inspired by the mums who message us about their experience of having a preemie. I know how much it takes to go through that, to keep your head up every day because you have to, for your baby.”
What the future holds
Although this was the very first record for the Scummy Mummies as a duo, Ellie also holds the record for the longest videogame marathon playing PowerWash Simulator. She clocked in at the incredible time of 24 hr 6 min 33 sec in February 2023.
That is also the overall longest videogame marathon playing a simulation game ever.
Although Helen was a big supporter of the attempt and was always nearby to cheer on her teammate, finally achieving a world record together "feels like a dream" for the two performers.
“It feels like the pinnacle of our achievements of the last 10 years, and a great metaphor for all that we’ve had to overcome, and how much we can accomplish when we stick together.”
And, although they have promised their kids that they will settle down for a while, they certainly don’t rule out the possibility of a future record attempt.
Maybe this is just the beginning of the Scummy Mummies’ record breaking.
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