Eight Torbay RNLI crew volunteers swapped their drysuits and yellow wellies for thermals and hiking shoes as they set off for Tanzania to start their Mount Kilimanjaro climb.
A huge fundraising effort has been ongoing since March last year, with station volunteers taking part in a series of relay challenges, from a sky dive to a 12-mile swim and 200-mile bike ride, and the team has raised more than £70,000 for Torbay RNLI thanks to the support of the local community.
Now, the culmination of the relay is climbing the highest free-standing mountain in the world.
With an average age of 60, the climbers have been training hard and will be relying on teamwork and camaraderie to get to the summit at 19,341ft.
Ian ‘Barney’ Barnaby has led the organisation of all six challenges, and is looking forward to setting off.
He said: “After months of planning, we’re finally approaching the moment we’ve all been waiting for and working towards – the climb.
“We’re under no illusion it’s going to be easy but we’ve all put a lot of time and energy into our preparation and are determined to all reach the top of the mountain.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we’re overjoyed to have raised over £70,000 for Torbay RNLI, where we have all volunteered so much of our time for so many years, so that’s a huge motivation for all of us.”
The idea to climb Kilimanjaro was conceived as a last fundraising ‘hurrah’ before the oldest members of Torbay RNLI’s lifeboat crew retire over the next few years.
The eight volunteers climbing Mount Kilimanjaro are crew members Ian ‘Barney’ Barnaby, Richard Fowler, Roger Good, Simon James, Gary Fletcher, Richard Burden, lifeboat operations manager Nick O’Brien, and lifeboat medical advisor Dr Rob Bromige.
Collectively, they have an average age of 60 and an incredible 193 years of volunteering experience.
Members of the public are encouraged to go along at midday today (Thursday, February 9) to give the climbers a warm send off.
Barney said: “We’re fortunate to have both Dartmoor and the South West Coast Path on our doorstep where the bulk of our training has taken place. We’ve been going out in groups when we can but that’s not always been possible due to work and on call commitments for the boat.
“We had an excellent weekend camping on Dartmoor and got some arduous training in, the weather was what you would expect on the moor so our kit got properly ‘road tested’!
“Obviously the one thing we can’t train for is the altitude and it is inevitable that we will all get altitude sickness but, hopefully, only mildly. It will also be very cold on the summit, -15 to -20. The challenge. while hard physically, will be as tough, if not tougher, mentally. Summit night is best described as brutal – 1,300 metres straight up, which is about the height of Ben Nevis!
“I’m sure through teamwork, resilience and shear mindedness we will help each other make it to the summit.”
The climbers are due to start their ascent on Sunday, February 12, with the aim to summit in the early hours of Sunday, February 19. They will returning to Torbay on Thursday, February 22.
The volunteers hope to hold a number of talks in the local community to share an insight into their experiences, as well as an event to thank their key sponsors.
Barney said: “We’d like to thank everyone who has supported us so far, from all our business sponsors, to everyone who’s donated whatever they could afford – it has been incredible to see how the community has got behind us.
“Everyone who has donated will be on that mountain with us, and in our tough times, it’ll be that overwhelming support that will keep us going. We will give it our all to get to the summit and fly our flag on Mount Kilimanjaro.”
Torbay RNLI will also be posting regular updates on their Facebook page as the climb gets under way.
The event’s lead sponsor is Interline builders’ merchant, who have contributed significantly towards preparatory logistical and fundraising costs. Helly Hansen has also made a significant contribution towards the specialist mountain-climbing clothing needed.
For more information and to donate, visit www.justgiving.com/campaign/RNLITorbayKili23