Peak form guide to the Mount Everest crowd

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AS THE top of Everest becomes more and more crowded, it is becoming harder to work out who is actually up there, so to help you, here is a checklist of the teams currently attempting to climb the world's highest rubbish dump.

Best Young British Novelists. This team of 19 talented, unknown British writers has reached base camp, where they have set up a bar and are fiercely arguing about whose round it is. Their progress has variously been described as brilliant, arresting, thought-provoking, challenging, superbly eclectic and a total turn-off.

The G4 Security Squad. There are four of these tough guys battling their way to the top, though there were 16 of them when they started.

Patrick Lichfield and the Most Beautiful Women in the World. 'Is this the only place in the world where I haven't shot an award-winning calendar with my bevy of classic beauties?' gasped lovely Patrick Lichfield when we reached him on his cordless phone somewhere halfway up the world's greatest pure white backdrop. 'Goodness, darling, I have no idea. I'm just having so much fun that I don't have time for questions like that - Sybil, easy on the tonic] Thanks, pet] - I'll say one thing though. This is one place where we're going to run out of lemons long before we run out of ice . . . Ciao]'

The Brian Blessed Look-alike Fan Club. In tribute to their hero and his well-known dream of climbing Everest entirely without the use of acting technique, six men with booming chuckles and bristling beards are even now halfway up the big mountain. They have so far caused three major avalanches.

The Jockey Club. Quietly and calmly, the old men of the Jockey Club have been trying since last year to become the greyest heads ever to get to the top of Everest. Unfortunately, every time they set off, one forgets something and they have to go back and start again. They started again this morning.

The Comic Impro Team. Paul Merton and John Sessions are climbing in the style of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, as written by Kingsley Amis, and plan to continue according to ideas radioed up to them by a studio audience at home. Their one fear is that when they get to the top, they will find Tony Slattery there already.

The Greenpeace Serious Litter Squad. The men from Greenpeace are now at about 14,000 feet in an attempt to become the first team ever to take a bottle bank up the mountain without oxygen. 'The bottle bank is only for the disposal of green glass, I'm afraid,' says lead Greenpeace climber Ralph Parking-Fiennes. 'People with brown or clear bottles will just have to take them home with them.'

Gerald Kaufman and the Parliamentary CD Hit Squad. Gerald Kaufman, who is still trying to lose the tag of 'The man who would have lost Labour the last election if they had come nearer to winning it', has now established himself as 'The man who flew to America to find out if CDs were cheaper over there and found that on the whole they were, even if you remembered not to add in the air fare', is now halfway up Mount Everest and is absolutely furious that not only do they not sell CDs round there, but that half the NatWest cashpoints on the route to the top have run out of money. He plans to kick up a jolly big fuss when he gets back.

The World Heavyweight Boxing Champions. The bodies controlling world boxing, or, rather, failing to control world boxing, have eight heavyweight champions between them. They refuse to fight each other, but six of them are now roped together, making a publicity-seeking climb up Everest. If it is successful, I understand the mountain will come to Europe to seek a rematch.

The Serious Fraud Squad. A team of top fraud investigators is going up looking for Asil Nadir. They know he's not there, but that's the way they like to operate.

The Female Comedy Team. A team of young alternative women stand-up comics is attempting to prove that it is possible to climb Everest without the aid of make-up. 'That's actually a joke,' explains team leader Sister Teresa (not her real name). 'We're going up to find somewhere on earth where there's no sex. And I'm afraid to say that so far we have been successful. That's probably a joke, too.'