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Ain't no mountain high enough

SUCCESS: The team at Africa’s highest point (pictured, Eddie Nestor (left), his wife Lisa; Eddie’s manager Sarah; and trainer Dave

“IT HAS been several weeks since we came down from Africa's highest mountain and I still feel mentally and physically shattered.

The locals believe climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to be stupid; a feat for only Westerners with more money than sense.

Nevertheless, it had always been on my bucket list and somehow I managed to convince my trainer Dave, my manager Sarah, and my wife Lisa to join me on the excursion.

Robbie Gee was supposed to come too but as he exceeded the weight allowance, we had to bid him farewell at the airport McDonalds. And judging by the size of the burger that was in front of him, I couldn’t help thinking he’d make a great bouncy castle for my kids!

Undertaking the climb was part of a series of events we put on for a fundraising exercise we called Silimanjaro. Our aim was to raise money for four charities: We Are Macmillan Cancer Support, the ACLT (African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust), The Rudolph Walker Foundation and Urban Synergy.


READY TO RUMBLE: The team before the climb

The first thing to say is this: Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is hard – really hard. They call it the ‘crying mountain’ and I have to admit, we all cried. Not the polite, ‘sniff, sniff’ cry either; but the ugly, snotty one that you hope nobody ever reminds you of.

I did start to keep a diary but if I shared with you some of the things I wrote in there, you would have no respect for me. So I am going to give you edited high (or should that be low) lights.

I now know that camping is not for me. It's horrible and let’s just say, it was made more uncomfortable for my wife Lisa by the fact that when it was cold and raining, I wasn't leaving to go to the toilet.

In fact your personal hygiene takes a real battering. One of the guys was hallucinating and needed to have an injection. He begged the female doctor not to inject him in his bum, as he hadn't changed his briefs in five days.

Travelling huge distances over rough terrain in terrible weather conditions may sound like a great bonding experience for a man and his wife, and it was. It has definitely brought us closer together. The one ‘domestic’ we had was when I asked her how it was possible for people to cook food thousands of metres up in the mountain that tasted better than she could manage in England with an expensive pot. Suffice to say, my observation didn’t go down too well.

It really was amazing how the porters were able to walk past you carrying tents, pots, your luggage and theirs and still get to the base camp in time to set up your tent and cook your food.

Altitude is a weird one. I had bought a mask to train in, consulted doctors and even gone to an altitude centre to prepare for its affects, but it still got me.
Headaches, vomiting, nosebleeds all added to a feeling of tiredness and nausea – a bit like when I first met my mother-in-law!

On the fourth day, already tired, disorientated and fed up, you are woken at midnight and you walk, in the dark up a never-ending and incredibly steep hill. Just in case you think I am exaggerating, we arrived at the summit at 09.42am. Though tough, it isn’t really the physicality of it that gets you. It’s the mental and spiritual side that is tested. That is perhaps the reason why all the women in our 22-strong group made it to the very top of Africa’s highest, in the beautiful and welcoming bosom of Tanzania.

I truly didn’t believe I was going to make it but then learned of the regenerative powers of the sun. It was amazing to feel the strength of light. I also learned the real meaning of teamwork. It is a weird thing that the climb was easier for me when I had someone else to worry about.

We all had our moments and nobody was embarrassed about shedding a tear once we got to the top, but for me there was one day, which had a profound affect on me.

Lisa is scared of heights – I know, it’s probably the worst phobia to have when trying to climb a mountain. And though we refer to the ascent as a climb, it is in actual fact more of a trek, except for this one part: The Barranco Wall.

This was mountain climbing and with the rain, which had now turned to ice, it was very scary indeed. It was here that the previously invincible porters became human.
A calor gas cylinder fell off somebody’s head and another person was treated by the doctor for severe chest pains. So when Lisa started suffering a panic attack, everybody could relate to her fears – but it wasn’t pretty and I felt impotent.


BONDING EXPERIENCE: Eddie and his wife Lisa

Even the doctor was told to go away and let the four porters who had now taken control, get on with trying to help her. What hurt me is that I could not. It was too serious for that.

If you have ever seen a loved one completely lose it and not be able to help, you’ll know it isn’t nice.

Not even Dave, who took personal responsibility for all of us as a personal trainer could do anything.

Even now, having completed the journey of a lifetime, achieved something many people only dream of, and raised nearly £40,000 for charity, all I keep thinking of is a situation in which I was powerless.

Before anyone gets too sentimental, Lisa did manage to make it and showed that ignorance and bloody mindedness could be used to positive effect, as she did no real training at all.

I didn’t cry when I was diagnosed with cancer, jumped from a plane, or ran the London Marathon, but I did on the mountain and it felt good.

Would I do it again? Hell no. Would I advise anybody else to do it? Yes. You will have to dig deep and it is at those times that you really find out about yourself and that is a bit scary, but good for the soul.


MISSION COMPLETE: Eddie Nestor conquered Kilimanjaro

Sound Flash on September 5 is the finale of Silimanjaro and will see DJs including Daddy Ernie, Special Touch and Mistri come together to provide an evening of entertainment. R&B, rare groove, reggae and much more will provide the soundtrack for the night, which is our way to celebrate conquering K and to thank everyone who supported us along the way.

It gives us all a huge sense of pride to have raised money for worthy charities, but we are even more proud of how the project has been embraced by the community – and it is fantastic to not have to use the word in a pejorative sense.

People really have been fantastically generous with both their time and money, and on behalf of Sarah, Lisa, Dave and Robbie, this is our opportunity to say thank you. Hope to see you on September 5.”

l Sound Flash will take place at Camden Centre, London WC1 on September 5.
For more information, visit www.eddienestor.com

l You can still donate by going to Virginmoneygiving.com/Silimanjaro or text sili to 70300 to give £3.

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