Colin Cooper and Craig Hignett have led a group of 15 fundraisers to the 5,895m summit of Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds for children’s causes and charities.
Pools’ new management duo and their fellow Finlay Cooper Fundraisers, including Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling, reached the top early this morning (Thursday) following an eight-hour climb in darkness.
Accompanied by experienced guides, they climbed by torchlight for eight hours to reach the summit of Africa’s highest mountain in time for the morning sunlight to give them spectacular views across the plains below.
Speaking to BBC Tees from the crater at the top of Kilimanjaro on Thursday morning, a clearly emotional Cooper revealed that he had completed the climb in memory of his son, Finlay, whose passing following a tragic choking accident before his second birthday inspired the formation of the charity.
“It is fantastic, we have got everybody up. The lads have put the work in and everybody has helped everybody, it has been a marvellous team effort.
“I am feeling very emotional and very proud. We have been fantastically well supported by everybody.
“Anybody who chooses to put any money into our pot, we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
“I have an emotional moment coming up on the summit but it has been really tough and there is a bit of work to do yet and then we have to get down the bleeding mountain aswell!"
Hignett added “It’s unbelievable, not only have I made but everyone has made it, the 15 of us have made it. Apparently only 5% of groups make it as a whole, normally there is a drop off but I have to give mention to Mike Riley and Graham Fordy, the elder statesmen of the group. They have been absolutely fantastic this morning.
“We set off at 12.50am this morning and it’s been a case of trek and trek and we have just got here now and then we have another ten hours to get back down to camp. It has been an unbelievable day, it’s been quite emotional up here but we have all made it for the Finlay Cooper Fund.
“It is jaw dropping up here, I can see the curvature of the earth from here, it’s just fantastic. And the effort it has taken, it hasn’t been plain sailing, I suffered with a bit of sickness and dizziness in the climb and other have suffered with hallucinations. So it hasn’t been a walk in the park I can tell you that, it’s been a real effort from everyone and it has been very very emotional.
“When you can see the board that says congratulations you have arrived, it’s just fantastic because you think you’re never going to get there.
“We’ve now got to come back down and that is going to take twice as long, we are not only going back to the camp we were at last night, we are then going on another three hours to the Millennium camp where we will camp tonight and hopefully where we’ll get rid of all of the altitude stuff we have been suffering with.
“So we are only half way there, we have to trek back down now and that is going to take another ten hours but we’ll all be back with our certificates to show everyone.”
Craig Hignett will be speaking to Alistair Brownlee each morning at around 6.30am to bring daily updates from Kilimanjaro. You’ll also be able to hear the latest news and updates in the BBC Tees Sports Bulletin at 6pm (95FM).
We’ll continue to bring you a daily summary here on hartlepoolunited.co.uk as the Pools’ pair, along with Jeff Stelling and ten other trekkers climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
To sponsor Cooper, Hignett, Stelling and their fellow Kilimanjaro trekkers visit www.virginmoneygiving.com/team/finlaycooperfund or to donate £5 text “coop15 £5” to 70070.