A MALLUSK man, bitten by the mountaineering bug at the summit of Kilimanjaro, will be taking to the the slopes of Mount Everest next year for another charity challenge.
Stephen Bell travelled to Tanzania earlier this year to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
The exhilarating challenge stirred his interest in the outdoors so much he has since climbed Mount Snowdon and completed half-marathons, bike rides and triathlons.
“Kili was one incredible experience,” said the 32-year-old who recently became a father.
Stephen, a store manager for Tesco, travelled to Tanzania as part of a group of 23 explorers who took part in the challenge for the charity in March.
He added: “The Alzheimer’s Society was the Tesco charity of the year but I have experience of seeing people go through the illness and it is a terrible for those affected and their loved ones, so that was an added incentive for me to get involved.
“From the moment we arrived in the country everyone was very welcoming, but it was daunting to stand at the base of the mountain and see the challenge ahead.
“It took us five-and-a-half days to reach the top and I was worried about how the change in altitude would affect me.
“But out of our group I was one of only four who did not need to take the altitude sickness tablets.
“Because everyone else was suffering I took it upon myself to help keep the spirits of the group up by doing silly things and just chatting to people - which for me as a shy person was difficult, but for the group it was something which was needed.
“At the end I passed around my diary and people signed it saying how much they appreciated the help I gave them to get to the top and for me that was very rewarding.
“The hike was difficult but there were people of all ages that were able to do it so that kept me going.
“It was awesome, there was one night I stood in the camp and it was totally quiet and there was not a cloud in the sky. It was just me and the stars and it was an incredible sight.
“Since I have come back I have never had so much energy. I have done half-marathons, a bike ride round the Mournes, completed a triathlon and climbed Mount Snowdon in Wales.
“Before I would have thought nothing of spending hours on the Playstation at night, but I have not even looked at it since I returned.”
Next year Stephen will set off for Asia to tackle the world’s tallest mountain, this time for Cancer Research.
“We will only be trekking to the base camp of Everest,” added Stephen, “the summit is for the professionals.”
“Kilimanjaro was just under 6,000 metres and the Everest base camp is slightly less, but it will be a much tougher and challenging hike with very different weather conditions.
“Last year I raised £3,500 for the Alzheimer’s Society and next year I have set a target for £4,000.
“Every penny raised goes straight to the charity and I pay for all the travel expenses myself. It is a fantastic way to raise money for a great cause and you get to experience so much by doing it.”
Stephen is holding a raffle to raise money, details of which can be found on his Just Giving site at www.www.justgiving.com/stephen-bell5, and collections boxes will be available in Tesco stores across Newtownabbey.