ITS a walk – its not a climb,says Marilyn Fry of the trek up Mount Kilimanjaro that she and her daughter Kate are about to undertake.
They and the 23 other members of the party will ascend at the rate of 600m a day to the top of this Tanzanian mountain which, at 5896m above sea level, is the highest free-standing mountain in the world.
Bringing in the cows over the steep slopes of Higher East Cornworthy Farm, Cornworthy, near Totnes, Devon, should have set her in good stead, says Marilyn. She was encouraged to take part by Kate, who became involved through friends of friends. Husband Richard would love to go too, but feels obliged to stay at home to get on with autumn cultivations. The Frys, who gave up dairying last year, farm 283ha (700 acres) in all. Most is down to arable crops but they run beef cattle on the steeper slopes.
Kate, one of the couples four children, lives in London where she works as an osteopath. As Kate has had exams to cope with, Marilyn has had to tackle most of the fundraising, for this is not simply a leisure trip. Though there is little doubt they will enjoy the experience, the principal aim of the expedition is to raise money for Parents for Inclusion, a registered charity with the slogan "Getting a life".
PI works to ensure that young disabled people get the education they need to lead full and effective lives as adults within their families and communities. PI is about "accepting difference as ordinary and not an excuse to dismiss, reject or ridicule", and is anxious that the views and opinions of young disabled people and children are valued and acted upon.
Those tackling Kilimanjaro for PI pay their own expenses of £1200 each and are expected to raise up to £2000 for the charity. Cream teas and coffee mornings have helped Marilyns cause and she is making good progress towards her target. She has received strong local support. "Our village is a very close-knit community," says Marilyn whose fellow-worshippers at St Peters Church have turned up trumps.
Running and trips to the gym have featured in her physical preparations – both things she enjoys anyway – and all the climbers have spent a few days in Wales mountain-walking.
On the first day in Tanzania they will have to sign in at the foot of the mountain to confirm their fitness. How the altitude will affect them is Marilyns only concern but they will do some acclimatisation trips before the attempt on Kilimanjaro. On the first part of their journey they will trek through rain forests, says Marilyn, who is excited about the wide range of ecoclimates they will experience.
Each climber will carry a day pack and porters will take care of everything else including the responsibility of digging latrines each night. "We had a bit of a moral dilemma about the porters but were assured they needed the opportunity to earn $10 a day," says Marilyn.
After completing the climb, the party will spend two days on safari before returning to the UK. And there is one thing Marilyn can be assured of -there will be a load of paperwork waiting for her back home where farm secretarial duties are taking an increasing amount of her time and have caused her to reduce to one morning a week the hours she works as a classroom assistant.
To sponsor Marilyn call (01803-722280). To contact Parents for Inclusion call (0171-735-7735)