Over the period of ten months, an eccentric team led by ex-SAS trooper, climber, author, explorer and TV presenter Bear Grylls, with Lt Cdr Alan Veal RN, team leader of the Royal Navy Raiders Freefall Parachute Display Team and explorer and balloonatic Sir David Hempleman-Adams, planned to set the world record for the highest, formal, three course meal. This was to be the Champagne Mumm Altitude Challenge, aka The World’s Highest Formal Dinner Party.

Ultimately successful, this is their story, which is dedicated to my two great friends, Flight Sergeant Chris Thorn who sadly passed away on 9th July 2008 and Russel West who went out of focus forever on 13th November 2015. Blue Skies both of you - we miss you.

Since this mini-site first appeared in 2006 it had lain dormant, largely ignored and unloved. However, a few years ago I received an email from Dr Ollie Bird who had done all the hypoxia trials and evaluation for the team at the RAF Centre for Aviation Medicine, RAF Henlow, asking whether I had any images that he could use to show what he actually did at work.

Having complied with this request, I decided to re-examine all the original RAW image files. After this somewhat exhausting operation I realised that only a fraction of the images shot by the team had ever seen the light of day. As the vast majority didn’t fit the immediate requirements they were quietly forgotten.

Having looked through over 35Gb of original images - a vast amount for those times - I decided to remaster all of them and then select a wider range to encapsulate the event. Some sections have been shortened - nobody wants to see endless shots of people around tables working on the planning - whilst others have been enlarged to give more of a flavour of the event. In early 2012 some sections were further tidied up and in 2014 all the pages were entirely remastered.

In August 2020, during the free time allowed by the COVID-19 dramas, all the original RAW files were again remastered using the benefits of modern software and the difference is staggering, allowing subtle nuances to be seen for the first time. Additionally, an extra page has been added explaining what kit we used to achieve this.

July 2024 will be the nineteenth anniversary of this madcap event performed by my eccentric yet dedicated friends. I salute you all.


Bear Grylls' Champagne Mumm Altitude Challenge