Tag Archive for kilimanjaro

Dave’s 11 Top Mountain Tips



Resident mountain expert Dave Sculthorpe has seen a peak or two in his time, having climbed to the heights of Kilimanjaro, Everest Base Camp and Oman. We asked him to come up with his top mountain tips to help you prepare for your next challenge.



Choose the right mountain, be realistic!
If you have never tried on a pair of walking boots, then Stok Kangri may not be the one for you. Here at Charity Challenge we’re all about being inspired, but we also want you to achieve that goal. It may be best to start with a UK challenge like our Snowdon Triple Challenge. Once you have the mountain bug then you can look at going farther and higher. Most of the best UK mountaineers cut their teeth in Scotland or Snowdonia and still keep coming back!

Choose your route and plan
Some of our challenges have different routes or seasons that you can ascend them in. Your first job is to do some research and see what will be best for you. Once signed up its time to start learning! Look at the history of the region, flora and fauna, myths, legends, language. This will heighten the experience when you get there. For me, reading about the mountaineering history of the Khumbu region made my trek to Everest Base Camp that bit more atmospheric.

This is universal for any challenge. If you do not have the physical ability then the challenge will be much harder than it really needs to be! This is not to say you need to be an Olympian and everyone will still struggle at certain points. All it means is that you will not need to suffer unnecessary discomfort and you will really be able to enjoy what is all around you! We provide full training plans and advice for how best to maximise this.


Let people know where you are going
More applicable to going out alone in the UK than one of our overseas challenges, but we have all seen 127 Hours…

Gear up
Along with training this is the one thing that can make or break a challenge. Most leaders will have seen waterproofs that aren’t water proof, soles falling off boots in the first 45 minutes, horrible blisters or just generally unusable junk. Firstly, do your homework, Don’t worry if you don’t know your boots from your Berghaus, there are plenty of reviews online, or go into a shop like Cotswold and ask the staff. Here are a few key things to look for in kit:

  1. Fit for purpose – do you need warmth, waterproof, sun protection, breathability?
  2. Good quality – Does it do what it needs to?
  3. Lightweight – You are going to carry it, so make sure you aren’t loaded more than the pack mule.
  4. Inexpensive – Kit can be expensive, but don’t always go for the most expensive kit. You can get good bargains when you know what to look for!
  5. Worn in – Try before you buy, then wear it whilst training so that you have worked out any problems. The last thing you want is for you to discover something catastrophic when you get to the mountain.

Dealing with altitude! Pace yourself
Altitude can affect anyone! It does not discriminate between how fit you are, how good your kit is or how old you are! No matter which mountain you are attempting you can bet the local guide will have a phrase that roughly translates to ‘slow down’. ‘Pole Pole’, which means ‘slowly slowly’ in Swahili, often becomes a mantra when climbing Kilimanjaro. And for good reason, the slower you go the better chance you have to let your body adjust or acclimatise. This will ultimately make the whole experience more pleasant and avoid the worst symptoms of AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness).


Sounds simple, but staying well hydrated will solve so many problems it is a wonder to think it’s so underrated. Whether you are in the desert and mountains of Oman, the Cairngorms or the Andes, it is so important. Being hydrated makes our body’s performance better and ultimately the challenge easier, but it also helps prevent heat illness and aids acclimatisation to altitude.
Top Tip: If you really hate drinking water try and take concentrated squash or isotonic powders to make it more interesting, or mask the taste of your water purification tablets.

Prevention and protection
You only have yourself to blame…
Mountains can be harsh environments despite the amazing scenery. UV levels are much stronger at altitude due to the sun’s rays passing through less atmosphere. This can really surprise people so you should wear high factor sun cream and lip balm with SPF protection. Similarly the weather can be tough and very changeable, so the correct kit, hydration and attitude will help you prevent everything from hypothermia to heat exhaustion depending on the environment. Don’t be scared – all of this is easily avoidable!

Enjoy the journey
This sounds simple but is important. Often, if people aren’t used to walking on uneven terrain with walking poles and with a backpack on, they spend a lot of time hunched over looking at the floor. Remember to pick your head up and take in everything that is around you. Chat to the guides and your fellow trekkers, play games and take lots of photos and videos. Remember this is what you have been building up to for months so make the most of it.

Bring a treat
Sometimes it is incredible the morale boost a little home comfort can bring. Whether this is a sachet of cuppa soup or hot chocolate, your iPod or a comfy pair of shoes for around camp. It can make the difference in reminding why you signed up and why you are pushing yourself to the limits.


Be ready to adapt
This is true of all expeditions but especially mountain treks. Things will change, plans will go out the window and the heavens will open when you really wanted that bucket list photo. This is just what happens and if you can take this in your stride or even learn to enjoy this inevitability of expeditions, then your time will be all the better for it.


Now that you’ve got the tips, we bet you’re ready to bag yourself a peak! Head over and choose your challenge today.

choose your challenge

Bag A Peak: Mountain Summits Infographic

Mountain infographic

Head on over to our website to pick your next mountain challenge.

choose your challenge

20% off all open challenge deposits – Hop to it!

The Easter Bunny has been let loose and is giving away 20% off the deposit on all open challenges*! Yes that’s right, book on any of our ‘open challenges’ before 31st March 2016 and quote HOP16 at the time of booking to get your Easter surprise!

There are so many exciting challenges to choose from, but if you’re a little stuck, let us help you!

Amazon Jungle Survivor Challenge

Be up for the ultimate jungle experience in the world’s largest rainforest and be the first Charity Challenge group to conquer the forest extremes in 2017? You will be trekking through the depths of the Amazon jungle in search of wildlife, dolphin and caiman spotting from canoes, developing your fishing skills in order to catch your dinner and sleeping in hammocks encompassed by the night sounds of the wilderness. What more could you want?! Click here for more information.

Cycle Burma

Enjoy the remoteness of this challenge! Cycle approximately 330kms of Burma’s rural countryside, from the former royal capital Mandalay to Inle Lake. Pedalling through the itinerary, expect to soak up spectacular sunsets over the ancient city of Bagan and pass remote villages in untouched corners. Click here for more information.

Kilimanjaro Trek: October 2016 a sell out!

Due to overwhelming demand, we have launched a new open Kilimanjaro (Lemosho Route) Trek this year in October 2016.  A magnificent mountain, that takes pride and stands tall in Africa. On many bucket lists, Mt Kilimanjaro is a must and this could be your chance. Click here for more information.

Want something slightly close to home?

Want to do a challenge, but not so far away or not over so many days? Then fear not, as we have a fantastic range of UK challenges which are proving to be very popular.  How about a 2 day trek in the Lake District tackling five of England’s most demanding peaks or a 140 mile bike ride from the Cumbrian coast to the North Sea? Even better, how about a multi activity challenge? Trek, cycle and kayak in Snowdonia National Park over 2 days! Who said the UK doesn’t offer physically and mentally challenging adventures? Let’s embrace the Great British outdoors!

More challenges

We have over 30 different challenges with almost 200 departures, so if any of the above challenges are not quite your cup of tea, click here to find the right challenge for you!

Follow us on Instagram

Did you know that we are now on Instagram as well as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn? Follow us at charity.challenge to find out what we’re up to, the latest promotions and just to view some fabulous images of our challenges!

Am I too old and unfit?

Am I too unfit blogAt Charity Challenge we are lucky enough to work with a huge variety of people and often get asked questions regarding age and fitness levels, so when 55 year old cancer survivor Jackie asked if she was fit enough to do a challenge, we were inspired and overwhelmed by all your incredible stories and support. A huge thank you to everyone and to Jackie, we can’t wait to have you on a challenge with us soon, you are an inspiration.

Below is Jackie’s question and your fantastic replies: 

“I am so pleased I found your page and have been enjoying the info and stories – I am hoping for some advice from you – I am a 55 yr old cancer survivor who has been looking into doing a challenge, both from the “giving something back” angle and also to give myself a goal and some much needed motivation, however I worry about not keeping up with the rest of the groups – your pictures show fit looking thirty ish people and I wonder if you can offer any advice on this? I walk and cycle at present and would obviously train, but I worry about my age slowing me up! Ps I am 2 years post treatment Thank you in advance! Jackie “

Sally Wilson: I broke my back Jackie in 2008 and since then I have climbed Kili, run the London marathon, trekked to Machu Pichu and sled 220kms with husky doges. £50k is in the kitty for my charity Help for Heroes having met two soldiers who lost legs in Afghan. They remain my inspiration. So…. Take a deep breath, commit to a challenge. You will NEVER regret. As for being fit. The Charity Challenge family supports all abilities and none of them are races. By being at the back you can enjoy the scenery and the kettle is ready and boiled at the end of each day. Do it x Thanks to charity challenge I now concentrate on life’s positives. Thank you. Kili remains the greatest achievement in my life and I thank Hellen our leader for that.

Sally Wilson Gareth Smith: I am over weight and unfit and I was able to walk the Great Wall. Was tough don’t get me wrong but I did it. Gareth Smith2 Mark Barry: In January last year I couldn’t climb a flight of stairs, but in October climbed Kilimanjaro. I am 51. You have beaten off cancer so you can do it. You can check out a blog I wrote about my experience. There is plenty of text and photographs you can use or email me and I can send you some stuff. The link to my blog at http://marksptc.blogspot.com I am thinking of doing an update 6 months on as 5 of our group have stayed in touch and met up. I think it is an important part of the story if anyone undertakes a challenge.Mark Barry

Steve Bignell: Go for it,you don’t know what your capable of until you do it,cancer is the hardest thing your ever going to face

Jamie Foskett: Hi Jackie. Firstly I think this will be a walk in the park seeing what you have had to battle through . Massive congratulations on that and that shows you’re a true warrior.
If this helps, I know countless people similar to your age that perform marathons with myself, life doesn’t stop at 55. Age is just a number. Get training and show all of those 30 something’s up!

Sue Gray: I was 62 when I climbed Kilimanjaro with Charity Challenge, although not at the peak of my physical ability due to recent chemotherapy, my team encouraged me all the way. That was nearly 3 years ago and the majority of my fellow climbers are still in touch with each other and have regular get togethers. Definitely go for it – I did and never regretted it!

Sue Gray

Christine Kelly: I was 51 when I did my trek and not that fit having beaten breast cancer. It was the best experience in the World.

Hilary Banks: I was 54 and just a few years earlier had a major stroke which left me disabled for a couple of years. I signed up for the same reasons as you are thinking – to raise money for the Stroke Assn and as a personal goal to work towards. I decided to do the Sumatra Jungle challenge. I was in a fantastic group of ladies (nicknamed by our guide Sunarto Kinol as The Tigers!) and with one exception we were all over 50 – the oldest being in her late 70’s. Yes it was hard work, but it’s not called a challenge for nothing! The thing is that everyone wants you to succeed and so you get the most fabulous encouragement and support throughout, both from your team members and the guide team. Take the plunge, you won’t regret it and it’s a huge sense of achievement…

Hilary Banks & Christine Kelly - Sumatra! Chris Robinson: I was nearly 64 on my first challenge and last year at 67 cycled over the Andes (though wasn’t 100% fit following an operation). Intend to do a cycle challenge again next year – when I’ll be in my 70th year. Do it Jackie and prove cancer didn’t beat you!

Moyra Mcglynn: I have done 2 trips with charity challenge … My first age 52 and second aged 56. The support you get from the other people with you and the organisers is incredible I am hoping to do one more before I am 60. You go girl. Both my experiences were nothing but exhilarating and the camaraderie was heartwarming and restores your faith in human nature x

Brian Palmer: Hi Jackie, I’m 66 and not exactly an athlete I have done SEVEN challenges with CC every single one has been fantastic. Rest assured the challenge leaders never set a pace that can’t be managed by all in the group and the support by the local team and doctor is always superb. Just make sure that you are able to walk all morning, 3 or 4 hours (with breaks) and another 3 or 4 hours after lunch. Stamina is the key not speed. Take my advice, go for it Brian Palmer - Stok Kangri Lesley Weeks Jackie…I did my first challenge aged 50, overweight and not very fit, I have since done another three, with each one getting a little fitter but not thinner  Don’t worry about it, Charity Challenge are brilliant at looking after you but not smothering you, there will be some sort of back up transport, jeep, car or horse if you really can’t manage it at any time. I would suggest something not too mountainous and walk it. If you are at the back of the group don’t worry about that either as as the week will go on the group at the back gets bigger and remember it’s not a race, you go at your own pace. Good luck and let us know what you decide.


Fiona Scragg: Hi Jackie, I did my first challenge when I was 45, unfit and overweight. I was even scared abot getting across London on my own to meet my group at Gatwick. 5 years on I have just entered the ballot for the 2016 London marathon. Go for it. You never regret what you have tried only what you have missed. xx

Rachel Walker: Hi Jackie, I am a soon to be 40 year old of just above average fitness I would say, and in September I am taking part in the Stok Kangri summit trek in India for the NSPCC. This will be my 6th overseas challenge with Charity Challenge and I can’t recommend them enough. They are truly life changing and you get to meet life long friends. My 1st trek was the Inca Trail which I did in 2005 with my Mum who was 68 at the time. She led our group over the highest part of the trek as the last thing you want to do at altitude is go fast! I’ve also done Everest Base Camp with a 64 year old (he had no problems) the human body is capable of so much! I would say get booking, you certainly won’t regret it!! Rachel xxxx

Sarah Kelly: And you’re always looked after too- it’s a group and everyone encourages each other – you will be fine x

Katherine Irvine: Ditto to all above and what Sarah Kelly said – like minded people who all look out for one another on the challenges. If someone is struggling a bit then it’s okay as everyone has those days – that’s what a challenge is all about. Arrive at the airport as strangers, but friendships are forged by the time the challenge starts. We all get each other through it! And the challenge leaders both from Charity Challenge and the local tour leaders really look out for us all, regardless of fitness or age!

Katherine Irvine
Iona Nelson: I did the Everest Base Camp challenge in March/April this year and we had a range on our group: from 22 right up to mid 50s! There was a massive difference in ability too, but the guides and sherpas always made sure the people at the back had someone with them, and spread themselves throughout the group to make sure everyone was alright. Everyone did really well, some.not making it due to altitude sickness (which has nothing to do with age or fitness), but everyone did really well, young and old. The group supported each other the whole way through – it’s an incredible experience and you’ll make friends for life! Definitely go for it!

Iona Nelson Everest Base Camp
Wendy Mould: I did the ‘Great wall’ trek aged 48 and ‘The Machu Picchu’ trek aged 50. Both very different but equal in the fact that we went thr speed of the slowest person. I went with the attitude that if the slowest person was me then so be it because at least i was doing it. On both trips the “team spirit” was amazing as we we’re all there with a common goal to raise money. For the reasons you stated just go for it. Enjoy x

Trudi Clark: Charity Challenge are best choice for organisation, attention to detail and people’s needs. I’ve done Peru, Kili and Zambezi with them; where I had the privilege to meet two cancer survivors, no one ever slows the group up it is always at a pace to suit everyone. I must say I felt, especially with a special lady on Kilimanjaro trek, it was an honour to have shared the challenge with her. So go for it, you’ll love it (but do take plenty of baby wipes!).

Trudi Clark - Zambezi

Sue Youngman: I’d say probably not but you’ll never know just how much you can achieve unless you try. I was thinking similar thoughts this time last year when my friend Elaine Nicholas (58) was trying to convince me to sign up for Trek Cuba at the age of 63. I agreed, to celebrate my 10th anniversary of finishing treatment for breast cancer. Once signed up we followed the training schedule religiously to make sure we were the best we could be. We had an amazing time and taught the youngsters a thing or two. The picture says it all!

Trek Cuba - Sue Youngman

Jo Berridge: I’m a fairly unfit 30 something. On the 4 treks I’ve done I’ve been accompanied by several cancer survivors aged 30-60, my mum aged 67 came on my last one (and is coming on my next!) and the CC celebrity that Shirley (now aged 80 and having done ten treks I think!!) was also on the last one. The only person on the 4 treks I’ve done that really struggled was a 30 something who’d done no training. I promise that you will be fine but more importantly whichever challenge you pick you will love every second and probably end up addicted keep us posted please!! Xx

Jo Berridge - Machu PicchuElisabetta Maldini: I was an unfit 48 years old and managed to complete the Machu Picchu trek. The group, the guides and all the staff have been amazing all the way! I would recommend it xx

Anne Williamson: A challenge is not a race. You go on it for your own achievement and enjoyment . Enjoy.x

Anne-Marie Davies: No way – do it!

Marie Chaston

Marie Chaston: My dad went to China with my sister and I in April this year and he’s 70. He’s by no means a fitness freak and he was at the front or middle of the group. I don’t know about the other challenges but you will be fine on Great Wall. My sister and I were both over weight and did about 6 months walking and didn’t find it too hard. I’m sure if you already walk and cycle you would be fine. No one was ever rushed or felt like they couldn’t keep up. Charity challenge is a fantastic company and will look after you.

Marie Chaston's Dad - Dave Relph

Leah Hocking: My mum is this age suffers from Parkinsons and attempted the great Wall of China challenge. In the end it was too much for her to go with the main group, but the local guides martin and tony did a fabulous job arranging alternative routes and another local guide. She was disappointed not to do the full challenge but still had an amazing time and overcame a huge personal challenge. I’m a 20 something and not terribly fit and felt like I was dying once or twice but the team and Angela Gillespie our English guide got me through. Give it a try you’ll be fine!

Sharon Hartley: Jackie you survived cancer. You can do ANYTHING x

Katie Podgorski: Regardless of age, Jackie, you can do it.

Jackie Whalen: A huge THANK YOU to everyone who has commented on my question, I can see that I’ve come to the right organisation and I feel so inspired by your stories and support, I feel amongst friends already and now it’s just a question of choosing my challenge!

A huge thank you to Jackie and everyone that replied. Jackie, welcome to the Charity Challenge Family!

If all these incredible stories have inspired you to challenge yourself, why not take a look!


Easter Eggstravaganza! 15% off overseas challenge deposits!

Newsletter-Easter-PicOverseas Challenges just got Eggstatically good with 15% off deposits*… Eggxuse the pun…

Charity Challengers, put down those Cream Eggs and call the Easter egg hunt off, because for 2 weeks we’re offering 15% off the deposit for OUR OVERSEAS CHALLENGES*. All you have to do is peruse and choose your challenge, sign up and quote ‘EGGS15’ at the time of booking! For full terms and conditions please click here*

Angkor Wat to Bangkok Bike Challenge

This brand new challenge begins at Khmer masterpiece, the temple complex and UNESCO World Heritage Site of Angkor Wat. From here our challenging 400km cycle showcases the best of Cambodia and Thailand and everything in between.

Angkor-to-Bangkok-blogYou’ll pedal past ancient temples, colourful pagodas, endless paddy fields and smiling locals before hopping out the saddle onto the white sandy beaches of Thailand. It’s then one final push to bustling Bangkok the Thai capital, where we cross the finish line. To get the wheels in motion click here! angkor-wat-bike-ride

Beyond the Grand Canyon 

Why not escape the cold, windy October weather and go challenge yourself in some of the most spectacular mountain terrain the USA has to offer? Our Beyond the Grand Canyon Trek takes you off the beaten track into the heart of the ancient homelands of the Havasupai Indians, crossing crystal blue waters, past cascading waterfalls and the towering red buttes that form this majestic and challenging landscape.

Beyond-blog2 At night you will camp in the tranquility of the desert before finishing (and celebrating) all you’ve achieved under the bright lights of Las Vegas! If you want to go Beyond, click here! Beyond-blog2

Kilimanjaro to Ngorongoro Crater Bike Challenge

Set against the stunning silhouette of Kilimanjaro, this challenging new cycle sees you tackle 350km of African savannah in the saddle. The heat and terrain add to the difficulty of this challenge as we pass through Maasai villages with the ever present panoramic views of Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru.

Kili-to-Ngorongoro-1The long days will be worth it as we arrive at our final destination, the outstanding Ngorongoro Crater. As one of the world’s most abundant game reserves expect to see lions, elephants, giraffes and gazelle. To book your place in the saddle click here! Kili-to-Ngo-Blog

Trek Burma 

Burma remains South East Asia’s best kept secret, our challenging trek takes us through the undulating terrain of the mountainous tribal villages of the Shan Hills, absorbing yourself in the mystical beauty of this ancient land.

trek-Burma-2--blogThe long days will see us tackle varied terrain along dirt tracks, through dense forests and vast tea plantations. At night we will stay in local Buddhist monasteries before finishing our long journey at the breathtaking Inle Lake. Here we will have a chance to absorb the majestic scenery from the floating gardens to the silhouettes of leg-rowing fishermen. If you want to uncover the secret click here. Inle-Lake-Blog-1

Kilimanjaro Summit Climb

At 5,895m, Mt. Kilimanjaro is one of the largest volcanoes ever to break through the Earth’s crust. Your mission – to reach the cloud covered summit! With 2 routes available, the Rongai Route and Lemosho Route both ascend through a variety of farmland and forest with the opportunity for wildlife spotting. At night the temperatures drop considerably offering clear skies perfect for star gazing.

Kili-blog-1You’ll feel on top of the world as you walk high above the clouds. It is important to not underestimate the enormity of this challenge with summit day alone seeing us ascend over 1000m – the views and sense of pride at the top are more than worth it! If you want to reach the roof of Africa click here! Kili-blog-2

To explore all of our other challenges please click here and you could be kayaking the Zambezi, camping at 4,000m or dog sledding through Sweden all in aid of your favourite charity!

Get through the Winter blues with £100 discount off the deposit on our spring departures!

We’ve had a great summer this year and although we’ve been promised a heat wave this month, Autumn and Winter are slowly creeping up on us.

The first few months of the year always seems to be the slowest and hardest months to get through, so we’ve decided to give you something to look forward to.

The majority of our departures between January and May now have a £100 discount off of the deposit!*

This includes:

Book on any one of these challenges by quoting BLUES and get a £100 discount off of the deposit* and have something to help motivate you through the winter blues. Offer ends 31/10/2014.**

We know that some of you have been let down by Student Adventures and are now looking for alternative challenges, hopefully you can take advantage of our current special offers.

Don’t forget, we’re still celebrating Pachamama in Peru and the Moon Festival in China and are giving £100 off all 2015 China and Peru challenges! Make sure you book soon (quote promotional code PERU when booking on a Peru challenge or MOON when booking on a challenge in China), as this offer expires on the 31/10/14!

If you have any questions about any of our challenges, then don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Kind regards

Marketing Manager

T: +44 (0)208 346 0500 | E: info@charitychallenge.com | W: www.charitychallenge.com

*One promotion can only be used at any one time.

**Subject to flight availability



We have received an unusual number of calls today asking if everything was OK!

The reason for this concern is that some of you may have read in the National Press, and heard on Radio 4, about a company specialising in charity challenge style events that has gone into administration.

The company in question (GBCE Ltd, trading as Student Adventures) was a small organisation specialising in low budget university student groups. Sadly, it has developed a poor reputation in the industry over the last 18 months. The company did not renew their ATOL licence earlier this year but continued to trade and, today, went into administration leaving their clients without services in the destination country.

I am very pleased to tell you that Charity Challenge is in no way connected or affiliated to Student Adventures or their holding company.

Today’s events have been reported in Travel Weekly and The Independent, “As Nottingham University were about to check in for their flight to Tanzania via Dubai to climb Kilimanjaro, the organisers sent out an email saying they had gone out of business.”

The firm advised clients that while they could fly as planned, ground arrangements had been annulled: “We are unable to provide any services for you as a customer of ours whilst you are in-country in Tanzania.” The message added: “We are deeply sorry that we have not been able to meet our commitments to you and it was our honest intention to fulfill (sic) our service and obligation to you.”


Charity Challenge has been trading very successfully for over 15 years and was one of the pioneers in challenge expeditions. Charity Challenge is now the world’s leading fundraising challenge company. We have helped over 1700 charities to raise in excess of £40m and have taken tens of thousands of people on life changing expeditions.

Voted best Challenge Company by the Institute of Fundraising Awards in 2013 and 2014, Charity Challenge has been involved in many of the sector’s most successful challenges including the Comic Relief climb of Kilimanjaro and the Hell and High Water Challenge down the Zambezi.

Many new inexperienced companies have been established in the last few years and started to offer similar challenge events and have cut costs substantially to compete, which has had a direct impact on the quality and safety of the services that they can offer.

At Charity Challenge, we pride ourselves in providing exceptionally well thought through, risk assessed, professionally managed challenges with outstanding levels of quality and safety. For charity and corporate groups, it is their reputation in our hands, and for the participants, it is your wellbeing.


If you are booked with Charity Challenge, please know that you are in very safe hands.

If you have booked with Student Adventures and manage to secure a refund, we will offer you £100 off of any of our overseas challenges (excluding London to Paris).

If you are in a group and have flights and no ground services, please get in touch as we may be able to provide you with the services you require.

If you have a group but no services booked, we can potentially organise a full package for you.

From Simon Albert, Founder & Managing Director of Charity Challenge

T: +44 (0)208 346 0500 | E: info@charitychallenge.com | W: www.charitychallenge.com

Charity Challenge hits 15: An interview with the BOSS!

CC 15y Celebrate Banner Website

June sees Charity Challenge proudly celebrating 15 years of inspirational fundraising challenges! HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US! So we thought it would be nice to interview the boss, Simon Albert, about Charity Challenge’s journey over the last 15 years.

What was the inspiration behind setting up Charity Challenge?

Simon-trekkingAbout 18 years ago I signed up for one of the first challenges of their kind with about 120 other people. I saw an advert to trek Petra which was somewhere I had always wanted to go to. We trekked through Jordan and it was really quite inspirational. Then the charity asked me to climb Kilimanjaro and I did that the following year having never climbed or trekked at altitude and I managed (with some difficulty) to get to the top. There were only three people in their 20s including myself. Most of the people were more or less of my parents’ generation and I felt there wasn’t anyone who offered inspirational challenges for young people to raise money for charity.

So over the next two years I travelled with Jeremy Gane, a very respected tour operator who later became my business partner, first to Tanzania to design a trek with the Maasai through the African bush, and then to Cuba to trek the trail of Cuba’s revolution. Jeremy organising the tours and I became the tour leader with a view to take a group of around 40 people to do each challenge.

At the time I was doing a graduate training role and a very respected business person gave me some sage advice that I have never forgotten. It was that if you want to be successful at something you should do something that excites you and that you are passionate about. I realised then that I could combine my love of travel with organising events to raise money for good causes. A few months later I came up with the idea of Charity Challenge.

I discussed it with Jeremy and with his valuable input, and from my initial experience of the trips I’d been on as a client and then leader, certain elements stuck with me. The first was that we should stick to small groups which were more environmentally responsible and would give the participants a much better and more genuine experience. Secondly, the pricing should be completely transparent and include everything that could be included, and the third was to launch open challenges where anyone could go and raise money for any charity. We were the first people to do that.

That has been a fundamental part of our business over the last 15 years. The initial trips made me aware of a number of other audiences who might also be interested in these kinds of challenges. I’m proud to say that some of the first organisations that we were involved with 15 years ago are still clients today and that includes CLIC Sargent, who were the charity supported on our very first trek up one of the world’s highest active volcanoes, and the NSPCC, who did a Kilimanjaro climb and a trek with the Maasai.

How did the business develop during the early years?

The early years were tough, as with any new business. When I started the company it was me Sumatra-blog-13on my own in a box room that someone had provided me with. Jeremy was working from his own established tour operator. Although the romantic dream had been to travel the world, I was pretty much stuck in a tiny office, 13 hours a day, seven days a week – sometimes for three or four weeks without a break. But the hard work paid off and from the initial portfolio of five or six challenges we have greatly increased the number of activities that we offer, the number of countries that we go to, the number of participants that we have engaged with and the number of charities that we have raised funds for. The portfolio now includes treks, bike rides, runs, mountain climbs, dog sledding, snow shoeing, sledge hauling, white water rafting, kayaking and horse riding. We travel to the North and South Poles and every environment in between including deserts, rivers, jungles, mountains, volcanoes, oceans and rainforests.

Describe some of the highs and lows of the last decade-and-a-half

During the last 15 years we have had to deal with a multitude of unforeseen situations including bird flu, SARS, terrorist attacks, cancelled flights, strikes, tsunami, hurricanes, the Arab Spring and the eruption of an Icelandic volcano. Pretty much every significant world incident impacts on our business. As an example, the Women’s Great Walk of China in 2004 was a walk 300 women across the entire length of the Great Wall of China over a seven month period. It consisted of 24 back-to-back challenges starting in the Gobi Desert and ending at the Yellow Sea. But by group three the impact of SARS meant the government threw out all tourists and refused to let any others in. So at a moment’s notice we had to organise for hundreds of clients to do different treks of the same length but now in Peru, Thailand, Mexico, Tanzania and India. It was a massive undertaking and learning curve, but one that enabled us to respond quickly to other such incidents.

CC-IND-Shovelling-GravelIn 2004 we decided to create a new type of challenge called Community Challenge which would involve our clients going to a number of developing countries and working with local NGOs to build houses, schools and community centres. We were due to launch it in January 2005, but a few weeks earlier on Boxing Day 2004 the Asian tsunami occurred. I remember sitting in my hotel room on holiday glued, day after day, to the TV and finding it hard to comprehend the sheer scale of the devastation and the number of lives that had been lost.
We had never worked in Sri Lanka and had no ground handler or charity partner. We had never worked with the national airline but we knew that this was something where we could have a positive impact and, driven by this desire to help, we set up and launched a programme with Habitat for Humanity GB that took us to tsunami-affected communities in Sri Lanka and India in order to rebuild hundreds of houses.

I myself went on the very first group and worked with a local fisherman who was out in his boat at the time that the tsunami struck. The boat was destroyed, but he managed to get back to land –  though it took him three days to finally reunite with his wife and two young children. I worked with a team of 16 people and we helped him rebuild his house. This was one of the most powerful experiences I have had and I still have a photo of him and his family and what was left of his fishing boat, framed on my wall. It reminds me every day that we can make a difference.

In the year after the tsunami we sent more volunteers to Sri Lanka than the UN. We were personally thanked by the minister of tourism in Sri Lanka and managed to raise over £1.1million for the rebuilding process. In the years that followed the programme expanded to India, Tanzania, Nepal, South Africa, Mexico, China, Cambodia and many other countries. The majority of the participants were part of corporate teams taking part in corporate responsibility programmes or HR-led team-building challenges.

These challenges accounted for a third of our business at the time that Lehman Brothers went bust and the world became aware of the global economic downturn. We (literally) lost a third of our business. Not only did this have a drastic impact on the commercial side of Charity Challenge, but it meant that we couldn’t follow through with what was happening in many of those developing communities.

Celebrities Climb Mount Kilimanjaro For Comic Relief - Day 7Soon afterwards we were approached and appointed to organise the Comic Relief BT Red Nose Climb which involved Gary Barlow, Cheryl Cole and a host of other celebrities climbing Kilimanjaro. It was my business partner Jeremy Gane who successfully organised and escorted a team and crew of 34 participants to the top of Kilimanjaro with 100% success. This included a huge BBC crew, a team from Radio One, the celebrities, photographers, journalists, charity representatives and support crew.

I reached the summit side by side with Jeremy and when the last of the celebrities had reached the summit we hugged and Jeremy broke down in tears. The stress and workload of organising such a high profile challenge had been immense and it was a massive relief. What’s more, the trip went on to raise more than £3.32million for fighting malaria in Africa.

There have been many highs and many lows, but in the process we have helped raise over £40million for 1,670 UK, Irish and Canadian charities. I couldn’t be prouder!

What would you consider the company’s biggest achievement to date?

Over the 15 years there have been numerous achievements that I’m particularly proud about.
In 2007, after we launched our Community Challenge programme we were highly commended by the Queen’s Award for sustainable development and highly commended in the Virgin Holidays Responsible Travel Awards, which was run globally. We were the second best in the whole world for the category of Poverty Reduction.

Simon meting the Prince of Wales!Although I initially thought it was someone playing a joke on me, I received an invitation to Buckingham Palace in 2011 to celebrate 100 years of British adventure and was honoured to meet the Queen and Prince Philip, as well as a number of other members of the Royal Family and famous adventurers including Michael Palin, Bruce Parry and Ben Fogle. There was a second brush with royalty when I was introduced to Prince Charles at an event which connected business with worthwhile charitable causes.

However, the one achievement that makes me the most proud was being nominated as one of the 100 people who make Britain a happier place in the Independent on Sunday Happy List

We have been the first to introduce a number of concepts and have always driven best practice within the sector. Most recently we have been recognised in the Partners in Fundraising awards which are run by the Institute of Fundraising and voted for by the charity membership of the Institute. The awards launched in 2013 and we were voted the Best Challenge Company both in 2013 and 2014. It’s great after 15 years of hard work, developing the business and doing our best to represent the charity sector, to receive this kind of recognition.

I once had advice to only ever do business in a way that I could look back on it at the end of the year and be proud of how I handled the decisions I had made. Sometimes there could have been easier decision or more profitable options, however I have always stirred to focus on what I felt was right by the developing communities where we run our challenges, the charities we support and the individuals who take part in the challenges. After 15 years as I look back, I am very proud of where the business has come.

What direction to do you see Charity Challenge taking in the future?

It’s an incredibly exciting time as we move further into 2014 and out of a five-year economic Holi1_WC30395downturn. It has been hard for people to commit their own funds and to raising thousands of pounds for other people when throughout the UK people have been having to tighten their belts. But almost as soon as it turned to 2014 there seems to have been a massive upturn in confidence and we have just had our best first quarter in terms of the number of people booking on to challenges since the start of the recession.

We are currently reviewing our entire business by taking a step back and assessing how we operate and how we can make it a better experience for everyone involved. We hope to be launching a new and improved Community Challenge service before the summer is out. We have recruited a number of new members of staff from the charity, travel and entertainment sectors who are bringing lots of new ideas. As well as new countries and new activities, we are redesigning our website and have lots of new and exciting ideas to launch.

I hope this is a new sustained growth period for the entire charity sector and Charity Challenge intends to be at the forefront, driving innovation and best practice.
We introduced Charity Challenge in Canada two years ago and this is an area which we are continuing to develop. We launched a huge range of UK challenges in 2013 and I am pleased to say that most are selling out this year.

We have also established a number of worthwhile partnerships to be able to deliver some mass participation UK events and to restart a number of our Community Challenge school builds around the world.

And now for a few thank yous…

PeruFirst and foremost to the man who inspired me about the world of adventure travel but more specifically about the ethics of responsible travel and responsible business! Long before the buzz words of responsible business became hip, Jeremy Gane was running Gane & Marshall International in a way which looked after its staff, porters, guides and entire crew like a big family. I was privileged in the early years to travel with Jeremy to Cuba and Tanzania and to develop the first itineraries. It was this experience of the way that Jeremy did business that has given me a model that I have stuck to with Charity Challenge. Jeremy became my business partner in 1999 and has been my best friend ever since and I’m grateful for his ongoing support, guidance and very valued input.

Thanks to Simon Lester for the inspiration to do something I am passionate about. I am so pleased I followed his advice!

Thanks to Rita Eker from the One to One Foundation who gave me my first shot in the charity world. I am forever grateful.

Thanks to all of the incredible people have worked for Charity Challenge over the years and who have contributed to the ideas and operation of our expeditions.

Finally, and by no means least, a huge thank you to my wife Lianne, and to my sons Benji, Gadi and Nathan, for putting up with me. I`m privileged to love what I do, which means I find it hard to switch off at nights, weekends and holidays! I can’t wait until the boys are old enough to join us on some challenges around the world!



Attend one of our free information evenings in January and find out what a Charity Challenge is all about!

Come and find out what our challenges are all about and hear how you can take part in a ‘once in a life time opportunity’. This is your opportunity to find out about our challenges, the way we work and why we are different to other companies in the market and meet some of the Charity Challenge team before you book on a challenge.

The information evening will be held on the following days:

•    Wed 22 January 2014 at 7.30pm – “High altitude challenges” at The Altitude Centre (Kilimanjaro, Machu Picchu, Everest Base Camp, Avenue of the Volcanoes, Dalai Lama Himalayan Trek, High Atlas Trek and Atlas Mountain Bike)

•    Thu 23 January 2014 at 7.30pm  – “Other challenges” at a London venue at The Altitude Centre. (Great Wall of China Trek, Sahara Desert Trek, Icelandic Lava Trek, Sumatran Jungle Trek, Trek/Cycle Burma, Dog Sledding, Rajasthan Cycle Challenge, Cuba Trek / Bike)

The following information will be covered:

•    Information on our portfolio of challenges
•    Support you will receive from Charity Challenge
•    Fundraising
•    Fitness training
•    Other pre-expedition preparation
•    Buy/hiring kit for the challenge
•    How to book and why to book with Charity Challenge
•    Discounts on the night
•    Q&A session

Places are limited on both evenings, so if this sounds like something you’re interested in, then book your place now! Please email Firdous@charitychallenge.com with the date of the evening you would like to attend, the number of people attending (anyone interested in booking a challenge is most welcome) with their name and email address and also the name of the challenge you are interested in.

We look forward to meeting you in the New Year and hopefully helping you to achieve your personal goal and raise vital funds for a charity close to your heart.

Diary of the Kilimanjaro Summit Climb!

Recent Kilimanjaro Trekker Shaun has kindly shared his Kilimanjaro Summit Climb diary with us, documenting the ups and downs of the mountain and his journey of a life-time! Definately worth reading if you’re heading out to the ‘Roof of Africa’ yourself!…

DAY 1 – Rainforest

Awake at 7.30 local time (4.30 uk). Buffet breakfast is ok, omelette, bacon, beans. Need to get the body fuelled for the journey ahead. We all gather at reception. Everyone appears in high spirits, especially after the antics and delays from the previous day! Trucks get loaded and off we go, it’s roughly 2-2.5 hours drive to the starting gate. When we arrive we have to start around an hours hike further back due to poor terrain! And off we go. Everything seems good so far everyone happy and chatting. Appears we have a good group for this. After a couple hours we stop for lunch and then it really kicks in! A lot of near vertical climbing up muddy and wet paths! Then it’s down a bit, up a lot, down a bit and this trend continues for a while. We spot a couple of monkeys and everyone is of the same opinion thus far : we weren’t expecting it to be this tough, especially on the first day! Then finally around 5.30pm we reach camp for the night. Dinner is at 7, was quite tasty under the circumstances and even the ginger tea seemed to hit the spot.

DAY 2 – Shira 1

Wake up call 6.30 am (3.30!), finally open eyes just after 7. Pee bottles worth there weight in gold! steves snoring not so! Pack up all our kit and head over to the breakfast tent. Some bland porridge followed by omelette and bacon and more ginger tea. Then it’s all systems go at 8am. We hike a further hour and a half through the jungle until we reach the moorland. It’s lot more of the same, up a lot, down a bit. But you can now see how high you really are. We continue the hike and stop for lunch on top of a hill around 12.30. After this we hike for around an hour before we finally see Kilimanjaro in all its glory. A lot of realisation sinks in for most at this point. The sheer magnitude of what lies ahead can now been seen visually. You wonder at this point how any one manages it! (See pics). We hike on for a further hour to camp which is 3550 metres (I skydived from a similar height!) somehow I have managed to sprain my knee so Katherine has given me a support brace and hopefully rested up will be fine in the morning. We relax for a couple hours before tea time which is much the same as the previous night. And it’s now we can see the summit of kili, there is no cloud cover around the mountain at this point.

DAY 3 – Shira 2

Start the same, up 6.30, washy washy! Pack up tent, breakfast. Few pics of kili and we set off across the moorland. After a couple hours we approach what is called the ‘cathedral’, (previously I had commented saying I could climb that today and it doesn’t look much lower than kili!, these were words I was to eat!) So we start hiking up the cathedral and I say a little prayer, we come to what seems a midway point and no one is prepared for what lies the other side! It’s just a sheer drop from height looking out over the planes, we must be some 3800 metres up and for the first time you can actually visualise it! Personally it’s wobbly legs time for me but I suck it in and stand for a photo. Then it’s kit bags off and a further hike to the top, I read my inspirational notes and look at my pictures before setting off somewhat uncertain. We ascend to quite a hight before it looks like we’re at a peak and you can see the drop either side! I stop here, that’s enough for me. The group continue a little higher for a short time then it’s all back down and a rather pleasant two hour hike  along the ridge to camp. We set our kit out in our tents, have late lunch, rest an hour then go for an hours acclimatisation hike. I believe we camp at 3840 and we head up to nearly 4000. The views today are amazing, at points we are actually in the clouds. We then engage in some brokeback photos for moral boosting and everyone is in good spirits. At dinner jackson (our trek guide/leader) says we are the craziest group he has had! from what i gather all in a good way. so far no one has been taken ill or needed treatment and i think this keeps morale high. On a personal note I seem to feel better as each day goes on. Today was rather daunting for me however actually seeing the height we were at. I have a few headaches but thinks this is due to anxiety and sun rather than altitude sickness. I also think i’m thinking about barranco wall to much and think this may prove the hardest day for me, if i make that i’m convinced i’ll reach the summit. Knee is holding out but still sore, have had it braced all day. The nights are getting much colder now.

DAY 4 – Barranco

Begin in the same way. Up 6.30, pack tent, washy washy, breakfast and ready for the off at 8. Long day today we trek from 3840 to 4600 and then back down to camp at barranco 3900. As we set off everyone appears in good spirits, other than a few headaches no real issues. After trekking for an hour or so we stop for water and toilet break, there is a rather large rock there with a make shift ladder and some of us, including me, climb it for photos. Then the first off putting sign as someone is bought back down the Mountain. It’s all uphill this morning till we reach lava tower at lunch time then pretty much downhill to camp. We are literally walking in the clouds this afternoon. The climb appears to be taking its toll now on a couple of the group, we split a little before hitting camp, most of us arrive 4pm the others 15-20 mins later. We set out our kit in our tents and head to the mess tent for tea and peanuts. We play some poker and cheat before dinner (I win poker!) The headache I’ve had all day has finally gone and discussion over dinner is very positive. By now Katherine our dr says she has usually lost members of the group by this point. We all feel positive for summit day now as we’ve now been to the start point of 4600 metres and should be fairly well acclimatised. As the clouds clear we see barranco wall, this has been my final fear but doesn’t seem so bad today. I’m growing in confidence as each day goes by and only feel slightly hindered by my headache. Again I believe this is anxiety related, it disappears as soon as I hit camp and I’m otherwise functioning very well in all areas. After dinner we play some more cards and the group bond some more. We seem to get on really well and I believe this will stand us in good stead come summit day. We share some laughs over cards and its off to bed for the night.

DAY 5 – Karanga

7am start today. The usual breakfast, washy washy etc. I’m rather nervous about what lies ahead-barranco wall, I’m sure some rock climbers would take pleasure in completing this. Some two hour hike up a cliff face gaining 300 metres in height! From 3900-4200. Starts off well and I feel ok. Didn’t manage to eat much breakfast due to anxiety so after half hour or so feel rather empty! Then I begin to look down! As we get higher you can see views from all around as we’re in a canyon, as intimidated as I am I take pictures and take in all the views. We’re 4000 metres up and you can really see it now. Fighting nearly kicks off at one point as one of our guides, George, tells porters to wait! They square up and porter is dragged back. Later find out George is a Masai warrior! So we continue up for what feels like forever, with occasional light headed ness and thoughts of thought+motion=no room for fear and after two hours we reach the top. Tremendous achievement for me and I now believe nothing can stop me from reaching the summit! We all stop for pics and high fives before heading onto camp which is some 2 hours away. Everyone seems fine and still in good spirits. After a while we can see camp, great we think until we see it’s the other side of a canyon! George leads the head of the group down his secret, quicker, safer path and we’re off, we start ascending the other side as the others appear at the ridge back on the other side. We get into camp set up tents, washy washy, tea and popcorn followed by some more cards then dinner a couple more games of cards and bed. Everyone told not to think about mountain. Crazy to think that tomorrow night we will be heading for the summit!

DAY 6 – Barafu

7am arise again followed by the usual then about 9 we head off. Last day of ascent trekking today as we reach base camp ahead of leaving for the summit tonight. Amazingly everyone is still going. This proves a tough hike though. We gain over 600 metres en route to camp. I have a funny moment at the half way stage and spaz out a bit, I pull myself together eat chocolate and off we go again. We hit camp about 12ish and its straight to inflating mattress and power kip! We’re camping above the clouds now! We have lunch about 2 we get chips which was a great surprise and boost. I’m feeling much better now and eager to get on with it. It’s been a hard week, more than I ever imagined and we’ve come so far now that failure is not an option. At 5pm it’s briefing for summit climb and dinner, the group look tired except me! I’m buzzing and ready to go! I hope it’s not all the other way around in 5 hours when it’s time to get ready and go for it!

SUMMIT NIGHT/DAY 7 – Summit (Stella point and uhuru) to Millenium Camp

We’re due to wake at 11pm but just before I’m woken by the sound of Steve shivering and complaining of stomach cramps. He’s not in a good way. The doc gives him some meds and we all go for porridge before heading for the summit. As we set off Steve is sick but soldiers on, what a trooper. All you can see are headtorches of those heading for the summit. Its cold and it gets colder the higher we go. The view is something else, I’m glad it’s nighttime to be honest. You can see the lights in Arusha and they look so far down and keep getting lower! Steve is sick again and the doc gives him more meds. The walk seems never ending. Slowly the group is spilt by pace, I find myself in the leading group with Richard and Serg being lead by alpha. We trek on at a good pace but it just feels like every time we think we’re getting somewhere its even further! We start to see people being taken back down the mountain which is a bit unsettling. It’s really cold, I have all my layers on, thermals, fleece, baselayers, trousers, shirts, jackets, coats, hat! 3 layers on my legs and 7 on my top! We try to stay positive, it’s hard, my legs are starting to cross over and I’m getting off balance a bit, I have slight stomach cramps and am tiring rapidly. Finally after some 7 hours of trekking we approach Stella point as the sun is rising, the last few hundred metres seems to  take for ever, rich is hallucinating, I’m not sure I’m gonna make it,  More people are being rushed downhill rather quickly, i go over my inspirational thoughts and pics in my head and somehow we muster up the energy to reach the summit. Alpha sorts us a ginger tea and as we try to chill for a minute then he announces its off to uhuru! Rich really isn’t feeling it but Serg gives him some meds and off we go. At 50% oxygen levels unfortunately there is no time for rest and recouperation. It take us a further hours round trip and as we get back to Stella point we’re happy to see the rest of the group have made it up. Most have suffered some form of altitude sickness but Steve is the worse and has to be rushed down with suspected HACE. Me, Serg, rich and alpha head back to camp, it’s a gruelling 3 hour trek down. I’m physically shattered and have to rest every 15 mins finally we get back to camp and I crash in my tent as steve is being taking lower to millenium camp. I miss lunch, feel awful, ache all over and feel sun stroked so I’m so happy I now have to trek to millenium camp some two hours away! Take some painkillers and push on through. Get to camp, Serg buys me a coke which is a nice touch, game of cards and dinner. Steve’s appears much better, what a legend, how he got up there like that is beyond me. We’re all tired and don’t think it’s quite sunk in yet what we’ve all accomplished today. Out of the 12 of us all made the summit at Stella point and 10 at uhuru.

DAY 8 – Mweka

Arise at 6am, yesterdays achievements still haven’t quite sunk in yet. We have breakfast and then it’s time to tip all the porters and watch there celebration song and dance before setting off for the final 4 hours of descent down to the gate. It’s quite a leisurely walk downwards from the moorland and then finally the rainforest but were all thinking the same by now, can’t it just be over, be back at the lodge, a nice shower, wholesome meal and a beer! Eventually we reach the gate, sign out and head to the village for refreshments and to be harassed by locals trying to sell us all sorts before jumping on the coach for the two hour ride back to the lodge. Everyone’s done in but happy. Great trek.
Amazing achievement and memories.

If you’ve been inspired by Shauns words, you can donate to his cause on his fundraising page here. If you’re interested in taking on the Mountain yourself, click here to find out more about our Kilimanjaro Challenges by clicking here for the Lemosho Route and here for the Rongai Route. To see the many other amazing challenges we offer, you can visit our website at www.charitychallenge.com. To keep up to date on all Charity Challenge news, please enter your email address into the adjacent box to subscribe to our mailing list.