Epic African mountain climb for schoolboy, eight
PUBLISHED: 19:00 26 February 2019 | UPDATED: 09:16 04 March 2019
An eight-year-old from Colchester is climbing one of Africa's highest mountains and raising money for the St Helena Hospice, which cared for his grandfather at the end of his life.
Sam Ford, who lives in the Essex town, will be trekking up the highest peak in the Atlas mountains – all 4,167 meters of Toubkal, in Morocco – in aid of the doctors and nurses that cared for his grandfather, along with mum Helen and dad Martin.
The 4,000m ascent is not for the faint-hearted – the family will be walking for hours at a time, and altitude sickness can make climbers dizzy.
And even though the mountain will be frozen when they get there, they will have to compete against loose shale and stones falling away under their feet.
Mr Ford, who volunteers as a Colchester community first responder, said: “I made it clear to Sam that we are all going to get tired and grumpy and we might fall out, so we have been mentally preparing.
“He knows when things get tough he can thing about his grandad up there. It’s what he needs to keep going.
“His nan gave him one of his grandad’s watches recently and he’s decided he going to take that with him up the mountain so he always have a bit of his grandad with him.”
No one in the family has ever climbed a mountain or dealt with altitude sickness before, but Mr Martin says if anyone can make it to the summit, Sam can.
“He goes to the Ultimate Ninja climbing course every Monday, does yoga with his mum every Thursday swims at Colchester Academy every Friday – and we’re walking as far as we can in the week to get some miles under our feet,” said Mr Ford.
“Sam also trains at the SD Martial Arts, Gym and Fitness Centre, run by Sean Doyland, and he’s been great letting Sam use the equipment there.
“He has always been active and we are quite fit, but none of us know how we’ll cope with the altitude sickness.
“At the end of the day we are still a family, we are still going to be safe.
“If one of us starts feeling sick, all of us are coming back down.”
The trio are heading out to the base camp to acclimatise to the altitude on April 11, before setting off and aiming to reach the summit on April 17.
On the way they will need specialist equipment, such as crampons and ice axes.
They will also go up the mountain with a guide and a cook to make sure everyone is as safe and healthy as possible.
“We have never walked in crampons before and you can’t train for it here – they don’t make crampons small enough for Sam, so he’s getting micro-spikes for his shoes,” added Mr Ford.
“Companies are now sponsoring him for the climb, sending him things – he’s got special gloves and mittens, a water bottle, a specialist sleeping bag – it will make all the difference when we are on the mountain.
“I picked this mountain because Sam really wanted to do something for the hospice and not many children have climbed this mountain, he’ll be the fourth person under 11 ever to go up there.
“I’ll be climbing Kilimanjaro in October as well, so I’ll need the practice.”