Charity trekkers raise thousands for worldwide conservation projects

ZSEA charity trekkers reach the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

ZSEA charity trekkers reach the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. - Credit: Michael Goodman

Two friends joined former Dereham Times editor Chris Hill and 10 other charity trekkers on a bid to conquer Africa's highest mountain.

Jo Bell and Vikki Middleton before their bid to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

Jo Bell and Vikki Middleton before their bid to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. - Credit: Archant

Vikki Middleton from North Elmham, and her friend Jo Bell from nearby Beetley battled against altitude sickness and bitterly cold weather on the seven-day expedition to climb Mt Kilimanjaro and raise money for the Zoological Society of East Anglia (ZSEA), the charitable trust which runs Banham Zoo and Africa Alive and works with conservation projects around the world.

After five tough days of trekking and acclimatisation, the summit bid began at midnight but was beset with plummeting temperatures just before dawn, with powerful gusts of wind and freezing fog coating the climbers and their equipment with ice.

Nevertheless, the team dug deep, with nine reaching the 5,895m (19,341ft) peak after an eight-hour climb.

Sadly Vikki and Jo, nicknamed the Golden Girls by the group, were unable to make it to the top, turning back after a couple of hours having reached about 5,200m.

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But Chris, now EDP agricultural editor, battled on to successfully reach the summit.

Michael Kitching, head of fundraising for ZSEA, said: 'We are all absolutely delighted the expedition to Kilimanjaro was a success.

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'We know that the mountain is an incredible challenge and for nine of the 13 participants to reach the summit is an excellent achievement, showing steadfast dedication and a true fighting spirit.

'But the group's achievements go beyond standing on the roof of Africa. As a group, they have so far raised £23,543.30 towards saving some of the world's most endangered wildlife, much of which sits on the plains below the mountain. From snow leopards in Mongolia, to rhinos in Africa, lemurs in Madagascar and our UK-based work at Africa Alive and Banham Zoo, the work that these funds contribute to is absolutely vital.'

Led by Everest veteran Jo Bradshaw, the ZSEA team was drawn from across Norfolk and Suffolk.

It included animal keeper Frankie Bleasdale and shop supervisor Joel Bessey from Africa Alive, near Lowestoft; training advisor Hannah Neale and her partner, former Royal Anglian soldier Michael Goodman, from Bardwell in Suffolk; marketing director Valerie Watson Brown, from Bridgham, near Thetford; David Blood, an engineering manager from Little Plumstead; fireman Pete Sheedy, from Poringland; florist and hairdresser Hayley Talbot; and DIY shop workers Julie Davies and Dave Farmer.

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