Back to Blogs

The Kili Climbers give their final preview ahead of their expedition

  • Publish Date: Posted 11 days ago
  • Author: Jamal Niaz
Over the past year, we have been following the journeys of Morson Forces ambassador, Andy Reid, Group Training Director Matthew Leavis, and Principal Engineer Graham Eardley, as they prepare for their climb of Mount Kilimanjaro. 

Our CEO, Ged Mason caught up with the Kili-Climbers for the final time before the emotional climb, which will take place on the 13th anniversary of Andy’s life-changing injuries in Afghanistan.

 Last time we saw you at Bannatyne's Gym doing your prep. How has it all gone for you?

Matthew: “Well, training is getting very real. I’ve realised that, I need to put as much effort into this as possible to make sure I have the best chance of success. I did 18 miles in a local Rotary Club walk recently which was good fun. I feel great and my knees feel good. I think it's as good a preparation as I can do locally to me. But, I'm traveling to do the three peaks, just to try and get as much training as possible.”

Andy, I know you've been away with the family and I hope you've continued training, have you put some mileage in between the San Miguel?!

Andy: “Yeah I’ve been training by walking around a ship in Barcelona. I tried to get 22 laps in a day, which adds up to 5km, in between dinner and looking after the kids. Having that bit of family time is very important for me as well. I’ve also been mentally preparing myself for what we’re going to do. The physical aspects are, on the first day it's 5km. I think it's 7km the next day, then it's 2 to 3 per day, as we climb we’ll be doing shorter distances, but we’ll have to deal with the altitude.”

You've had a lot of friends, family, and the company supporting the Standing Tall Foundation. That must give you extra motivation as well?

Andy: “For every £70 raised that's one mental health session delivered to somebody, or one drug and alcohol session. That could potentially save someone's life. So, when I’m walking around and it's raining, that's I’m thinking about.

At the minute, the cost of living crisis is affecting a lot of people so when someone donates £10 to your page, you know they're probably going to miss out on having a beer at the weekend because of that. That's gives us the motivation to make sure that we all work hard to complete this challenge and raise the funds to deliver back to the people who need it most.”

We've got some Morson colleagues joining you of course, has your prep gone as well as expected Graham?

Graham: “Fortunately, earlier this year I did a long trek at altitude. So for me, it's just been keeping that condition going. I've done some walks in the lakes and the peak district, just keeping all the mileage in the legs. It's great to see all the funds come in. How willing people are, there's no question they just say yeah, give me the page, tell me where I can donate. It's been really good to see, and it is a motivator for us.”

Andy, obviously this is going to be a quite special trip for you because this isn't the first time you've done it. So, what does it mean to you this trip, this time round?

Andy: “It's going to be very emotional because when I went last time I was 22, young and fit, I just joined the army. I’d been driving a forklift truck in Haydock before joining the armed forces. 18 months later I went to go and climb the world's tallest freestanding mountain. Who would have thought I'd leave the UK, never mind going to do something like that. When I first got injured I thought, is this me now, stuck in a wheelchair? What can I achieve as a disabled young man? But then, as I progressed on my journey and did little challenges, such as the bike ride, jumping out of aeroplanes, and stuff like that. To go and revisit this mountain as a disabled person, I’m showing people what can be achieved beyond injury.”

It's important the fundraising that we're doing and you're doing, can you summarise a little bit the good work that you've done at the foundation and what it's going to help?

Andy: “Up to now I think we've helped about 135 people with mental health sessions. Individual people with up to twelve sessions per person. So that's what most of the fundraising goes toward. These could be young people who miss their friends and family, people whose parents passed away during COVID, or who’ve tried to take their own life. We can help people who are struggling because of employment issues or their general day-to-day. Life's tough isn't it, and a lot of people struggle. We’re helping them get back on track again, not by giving people a handout but giving people a hand up. Back into feeling more valued, back into society, back into employment, back into the housing market. These are the kind of things we do.”

What are you most apprehensive about and what are you looking to get out of it? 

Matt: “The fundraising is really important. Andy and I have worked on a few things and I'm a bit involved with the charity. I think hearing that we're going to be summiting with Andy on the 13th anniversary of his injuries. That'll be quite emotional, but also it's really inspirational. When you and I first started talking about this, it was a bit of ‘oh, yeah, let's go’. Now it's becoming obvious that it is a real challenge.

I think my biggest apprehension is that I've never spent any real time at altitude. Also, it's the circumstances you find yourself in. Eight days away from your friends, family, and loved ones, no contact with them whatsoever. Sleeping arrangements as well, no showers, no toilets. There's all of that to consider. I'm trying to prepare as much as possible for that, but to see Andy summit, to do that with him is going to be so motivational.”

How many people are going in total?

Andy: “There's eight in my core team. I've got two physios, one was my physio back at Headley Court when I first got injured, so that will be emotional as well. I've got a consultant surgeon with me and Vicki who looks after my prosthetics, looks after my legs and all the rest of it. They're in my core team and then there's about 23 I think in the main body.

We're going up and we should all meet on the day before we summit, we come together as one big group and we'll all summit together. That’s going to be amazing.”

We're proud of all three of our Kili-climbers and the effort they have put in to help raise vital funds for the Standing Tall Foundation. Over £2,500 has been raised by Andy, Matt and Graham’s Just Giving pages and there is still time to donate to this incredible cause. We wish them the best of luck and look forward to hearing about their highlights when they return!