At only 25 years old, Aaron Gage has already done more than most people in their lifetime.
He has been a footballer, fitness trainer, model and now the Nottingham-born go-getter is entitled to an entry in the Guinness Book of Records.
Showcasing the first line of Buddhist fashion, Aaron and a small team of models set the record for the highest catwalk on Everest.
“It was a surreal experience,” says Aaron. “I’ve always wanted to climb Everest but it was just amazing.”
The model, who is represented by FOMO Models and has worked for ASOS, Puma and JD Sport, was contacted via social media a few weeks before the event’s scheduled date to see if he wanted to be part of the record-breaking challenge.
He said, “I had just got a tattoo [depicting] a “mountain of strength” a few days ago – that’s the meaning of the name Aaron – so I felt like it was meant to be. “
It turned out to be what Aaron now describes as a “spiritual journey.”
“Being in nature, visiting monks, seeing happy people with fresh air, water and food … it made me realize that I didn’t need so much than I thought. “
And all in the name of raising awareness about sustainable clothing and climate change.
Speaking of his “once in a lifetime” trip, Aaron said it “opens his eyes”.
How it all began
Like many things in the world of Covid, it all started with a zoom interview.
By the time he finished the second interview with Zoom, Aaron had secured the job and was planning to take off two weeks later.
“I had very little time to think about it,” he said, “but I felt like it was meant to be.”
He was heading to “The Mt Everest Fashion Runway,” the highest altitude fashion show on earth, and would promote the new sustainable Buddhist fashion line from fashion label KASA.
He said he was already physically ready for the challenge and the trek “.
Before becoming a model, Aaron’s footballing skills had placed him at Notts County Academy, Mansfield Town and Wrexham, while also becoming a personal trainer.
“I’m a good, physical person,” he said, “that’s what I do. When I told my family and friends about the trip, they weren’t surprised. “
Arrival in Nepal, four days in a luxury hotel followed. The show was to be documented by a film crew – the story of the event will air in a TV show to be released next year – so after the interviews and filming came a flight to Lukla and the adventure has really started.
Aaron said, “We were greeted by the people who live there. They greeted us with food, smiles and traditional dancing.”
From there, the first trek started. “I was just trying to figure it all out,” he said.
“We had to pack light – we were allowed 15kg for our clothes, our snacks … whatever we needed.
“At the first camp, the Sherpas would prepare the food they were carrying – rice and dahl – but then … We were in tents and it was raining so much that there was leachate all over them and inside. tents too – it was such a shame we had to book at a local lodge for the night. There was no luxury. Eleven models from all over the world, mostly camping. This was not what we do normally but it was a challenge that I took up in stride. “
While some suffered from altitude sickness, no one refused the trip. All of them have reached the top.
“I’m a strong-minded person. We worked together, training people where needed.”
Reach the top
The former Quarrydale school student explains that the last four days of the trek were the most difficult. “We did not have a telephone signal, we were in a group of two but since we were an odd number I stayed alone. We were in our tents from 6:00 am / 6:30 am to 6:30 am. You have to be mentally strong to I had a book but that was it.
It took 12 days to reach the 5800m point at which the parade would take place (surprising only four days to descend – Aaron says it takes longer to climb as you have to stop in certain places to acclimatize at altitude).
When the group of models, the Sherpas, and the TV crew finally reached the point of the runway, the snow was knee deep.
“It didn’t feel real. But after the hike we were more than ready for it.”
Watched by the 20 Sherpas who had transported all the ground, the tents, the food … the film crew and a “super audience” who had been transported by helicopter, the show began.
Models around the world wore Kasa, an international design fashion brand based in Kathmandu, which showcased its biodegradable, renewable and ethical fabrics during the runway.
“It was fun, an amazing experience – a parade with Mount Everest behind you,” the Notts-born model said.
But if guests could be airlifted, why the models trek?
In addition to breaking records, the event was designed to raise awareness about sustainable fashion. So, while guests and outfits were airlifted, to help minimize the environmental impact of the event, the models walked from Lukla to Gokyo. All disposables had to be brought back from the mountain. Organizers said they have done everything possible to raise awareness about climate change and to ensure that the event itself will have a light environmental footprint.
Aaron added, “I showered once on the trip – 16 days, one shower.”
He said: “I learned a lot. A village – which was the most incredible place I have ever seen – with a lake, lodges, a mountain behind – in 20 years will be washed away if climate change continues. on the same path it will be the first place to go. The most beautiful place I have ever seen could be swept away. “
Nepali Times reported that the glacier is shrinking and the snow line across the Himalayas is receding due to the climate crisis.
Aaron said, “It was an amazing experience but it was the people who made it. We came down from a hill that opened up to the village and there was a huge school and to see all the kids playing. No cell phones, no toys just making their own games They all have dreams and aspirations, they are so smart – it was an amazing part of the trip.
“Nothing leaked until later. I got jobs in Germany after the show, but then I took a three week break in Dubai and it all hit me. I was like ‘Wow, I just did that! ‘
Having started modeling only two and a half years ago – his friend had posted a photo on his Instagram story and Arran had been spotted as a result – Aaron’s rise to success was swift and even though he moved on – including Wollaton, Sutton in Ashfield, Wales, then London – he’s a Nottingham boy at heart.
“It sounds easy and glamorous, but I also did a lot of normal work which gave me a lifetime experience,” he said. “I’m so grateful and when I’m home with my family in Nottingham – well that roots you. When I get back I just love being family.
“This trip especially made me realize the importance of family and gave me a lot of thought. The people I met on the trip were so happy.”
Inspired by Aaron’s incredible journey and a little envious?
He concludes: “Did I tell you the part where I was very very cold”.
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