A nursing volunteer climbed one of the highest peaks in the world to celebrate her first year as an assistant.

54-year-old Val Bennett, from Bishop’s Stortford, reached the summit of Island Peak within the Everest mountain range of the Himalayas on May 16.

The daring volunteer who has been a nursing assistant on St Clare Hospice’s Inpatient Unit since April 2018, raised more than £2,500 for the Hastingwood-based charity.

Speaking about her experience, Ms Bennett said: “The magnitude of the challenge was far greater than I had anticipated, and I can’t believe I did it.

“It was physically exhausting; you are constantly out of breath, just tying your bootlaces up takes your breath away. The day we headed for the summit we set off at 1am and arrived back at 5.30pm the following day.”

On May 1, Val arrived in Nepal to take part in the sponsored fundraising challenge 23-day trip up the Khumbu Valley.

Not for the faint-hearted, the 4ft 10.5in assistant was challenged by rocky out-crops, broken glaciers, a steep 200m head-wall and a knife-sharp ridge.

“I also had to drink five litres of water each day and was only affected by altitude sickness for one day, which was a new experience,” said Ms Bennett.

“You can’t sleep, you can’t focus, everything hurts, even your eyes but thankfully it passed and never returned.

“Added to that, Island Peak has become a more technical climb in the past two years, as part of the head wall collapsed making it harder to get to the ridge as the head wall is a 300-metre vertical climb."

After completing the trek of 6,189 metres above sea level, Ms Bennett said she was “absolutely thrilled” to complete the challenge.

She said: “Through my volunteering role at the Hospice, I see first-hand the difference that our care and support makes to local families.”

“It’s such a privilege to help St Clare deliver their care to people who need it, completely free of charge.

The 54-year-old said she was inspired to take up volunteering at the hospice after retiring from running her own business.

“I had extra time to spare and felt I could offer love, care and support to the patients and their families,” said Ms Bennett.

“I wanted to do something meaningful, I knew it would make me happy to offer something back to society and try to make a little difference – and by helping others in the local community.”

To support Ms Bennet, visit her online fundraising page.