Neil's mountain of a challenge

PUBLISHED: 11:13 19 October 2006 | UPDATED: 13:33 04 May 2010

MOUNTAINOUS CHALLENGE. Neil prepares for his fundraising African climb.

MOUNTAINOUS CHALLENGE. Neil prepares for his fundraising African climb.

THERE are probably very few people in the UK who haven t been touched by cancer either personally or through family or friends. For Ely father-of-two, Neil Harrap, his experiences were enough to prompt him to plan an ambitious and arduous fund-raising cha

Kilimanjaro

THERE are probably very few people in the UK who haven't been touched by cancer either personally or through family or friends.

For Ely father-of-two, Neil Harrap, his experiences were enough to prompt him to plan an ambitious and arduous fund-raising challenge to conquer Africa's highest mountain.

LESLEY INNES talked to him about his plan to trek to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro to raise cash for Macmillan Cancer Support.

A SPECIAL friendship which lasted just five short weeks gave civil servant Neil Harrap the push he needed to trek to the top of Africa's highest mountain for charity.

The father-of-two had met and become friendly with a fellow Yorkshireman, who had been diagnosed with cancer, during a hospital stay.

After being discharged, Neil returned to the ward to visit his friend, but he died on New Year's Day just five weeks after his diagnosis.

Neil's life had been touched in the past by family, friends and work colleagues who had been affected by cancer; however, it was his friend's death that gave him the final push to raise cash to help sufferers of the disease.

Now he plans to trek 19,335 feet to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in February for Macmillan Cancer Support, the charity which helps people cope with the practical and emotional effects of their diagnosis.

"When I saw what happened to this guy it knocked me sideways," said Neil, 47, of Cambridge Road, Ely.

"It struck me hard and it touched my heart to witness the effect it had on his family and the loss they suffered.

"The tragic loss of this good man gave me the incentive to take on this challenge, get myself back to full fitness and help others along the way."

After 29 years in the RAF, Neil's fitness had suffered following a motorbike accident, which crushed the bottom of his right calf, and a fall at home which left him with a broken ankle.

Now working at RAF Wyton in Huntingdon as a civilian equipment project manager, he has lost three stone in weight and plans to lose at least another two as he prepares to make the six-day mountain trek, which is considered to be one of the toughest in Africa, in February.

But he worries whether altitude sickness will takes its toll when he makes his climb to the summit where there is only 50 per cent oxygen in the air.

"Altitude sickness is so indiscriminate," said Neil. "Nothing really prepares you for it. Even the Sherpas who make the trip week after week can still suffer from it.

"So getting to the summit is not guaranteed. But, fitness-wise, I will be ready."

Neil is committed to raising a minimum of £2,900 in sponsorship for the charity and has set a personal target of £5,000.

"I'm looking for sponsorship, particularly from others who have either directly benefited from Macmillan Cancer Support, or from members of the public who'd like to help this worthy cause," he added.

Anyone interested in sponsoring Neil can contact him at neil.harrap@tiscali.co.uk.

KILIMANJARO – IN THE KNOW

# Mount Killimanjaro is a huge dormant triple volcano.

# It is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free standing mountain in the world at 19,335.6 feet (5,895 metres).

# The mountain was first conquered in 1889.

# Scientists concluded in 2003 that molten magna lies just 400 metres below the surface.

# Although the mountain appears dormant on the inside, glaciers that have covered its top for 11,100 years are rapidly disappearing and there are fears it may collapse.

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