A 15-year-old Ron Dearing UTC student who took on a major trekking challenge in Nepal has raised £1,500 for a charity which supports disabled children and their families.
Year 10 student Matthew Preston-Blake and his father Kris Blake took on the daunting task of tackling Mera Peak, the highest trekking peak in Nepal at 6,476 metres.
Despite missing the summit by just 400 metres due to extreme weather and Kris experiencing food poisoning twice, they raised £1,500 for Freddie’s Friends, a Hull-based charity which provides specialist equipment, support and respite for disabled youngsters and their families.
Their adventure tested their stamina to the limit, as they faced sweltering heat during the day and below zero temperatures overnight while sleeping in basic lodges.
Kris said their highly experienced climbing Sherpa guide, Tashi, who had already trekked to the summit of Mera Peak seven times since March, believed Matthew was the youngest western person to take on the gruelling challenge.
It comes after Matthew, accompanied by Kris, became one of the youngest ever people to reach Everest Base Camp when he was just 12 years old, raising more than £1,500 for the Hull 4 Heroes charity.
Matthew said: “Mera Peak was very hard and Everest Base Camp was easy compared to that. We trekked for 13 days in total and we climbed and trekked for nine hours on the longest day.
“I learnt a lot about different cultures and facts about the mountains. If you’d told me when I was younger that I’d be doing this, I wouldn’t have believed it.
“We had to rope up, use crampons and cross crevasses but it hasn’t put me off taking on a similar challenge again.”
Following the trek, Matthew and Kris were invited to Tashi’s house to meet his wife and daughter and enjoy a traditional Nepalese meal together.
Tashi was previously part of a team which attempted to scale the south face of Lhotse, the fourth highest mountain in the world at 8,516 metres, but an avalanche forced them to abandon the challenge on the border of Tibet and Nepal in 2019. He gave Matthew his jacket from the expedition as a memento.
Kris, Director of Hull and Leeds-based AJ Building, a Partner of Ron Dearing UTC, reached 6,000 metres on the trek and said the experience will stay with him forever.
He said: “With travelling and delays, we’d been awake for 28 hours by the time we reached our hotel and we were collected to leave for the start of the trek at 5am the next morning.
“I got food poisoning twice but I carried on for as long as possible, even early in the trek on day two.
“The weather conditions and adjusting to the altitude was so tough and someone had to be taken off the mountain by helicopter because he was snow blind.
“We managed to reach the high camp, which was about 400m off the summit. It would have been about a five-hour slow walk to get there and we could even see Mount Everest and snow leopard tracks.
“It’s one of the hardest physical challenges I’ve ever taken on but Matthew kept me going and I couldn’t be prouder of him. I’m just sorry he couldn’t reach the summit but he tried so hard and reached 6,100 metres.
“We’re really pleased to have raised money for Freddie’s Friends and grateful to everyone who sponsored us.”
Freddie’s Friends was set up by Mark and Rachel Appleyard in memory of their two-year-old son Freddie, who was born with a rare brain disorder and died in December 2008 after battling a series of serious health complications since birth.
Kris and Matthew covered the entire cost of the trek themselves, ensuring every penny raised will be donated directly to Freddie’s Friends.
Rachel, who is also Key Stage 4 Information, Advice and Guidance Mentor at Ron Dearing UTC, said: “I’m so glad Matthew and Kris are back safe and had such an amazing experience. But I’m also incredibly grateful for the fantastic amount of the money they raised.
“It will make a huge difference to at least five children and their families and they’ve also helped the spread the word about Freddie and the charity, keeping Freddie’s memory alive.
“I never want people to forget who Freddie was and that’s why this amazing achievement by Matthew and Kris means so much.”
Anyone who would like to add to Matthew and Kris’ fundraising total can donate online via https://bit.ly/3DsvvuP