Ellie sets sights on Kilimanjaro

A woman who almost reached the top of Kilimanjaro last year is giving it another go for her father's charity - and she hopes thoughts of her family will take her to the top.

A woman who almost reached the top of Kilimanjaro last year is giving it another go for her father's charity - and she hopes thoughts of her family will take her to the top.

Ellie Draper from Edingthorpe will be battling low temperatures and dangerous altitude sickness for the second time to get to the summit.

She is hoping to raise at least �2,200 for the Benjamin Foundation, which was set up by her father Richard Draper after the death of her brother Benjamin in 1992.

Miss Draper said: 'I think knowing that I'm doing it for my family will get me up to the very top this time. On the last night, when I'm traipsing through the dark, I will hold on to the fact that I'm doing this for something that's so close to my heart.'

The 26-year-old student is following in the footsteps of Chris Moyles, Fearne Cotton, Cheryl Cole and six other celebrities who scaled the peak earlier this year for Comic Relief, raising more than �3m.

Miss Draper is offering promotional photos of herself at the summit with a company flag to the three highest bidders - a powerful incentive to make it to the top after being defeated by the mountain at the second-highest point on Kilimanjaro last year.

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She said: 'I was absolutely exhausted. The sleeping bag I brought wasn't warm enough - the temperature gets down to -15 degrees and water freezes inside the tents. I got no sleep.

'We set out from the camp at the second-highest peak at midnight to get to the summit at sunrise. I kept going for seven and a half hours but I was just too tired. My body just said, 'OK, no, that's enough'.

'My family is very supportive but they think I'm absolutely crazy for doing it again. That last night was a horrible night and not something I'm going to forget in a hurry. After the climb I said I wasn't going anywhere near it again.

'But I was so disappointed not to get to the top, and I'm much better prepared this year, both physically and mentally.'

After raising money for organisers Childreach International last year, Miss Draper volunteered to lead a team of 24 this summer. The 24 other climbers will fundraise for Childreach International, but as team leader, Miss Draper is free to fundraise for any charity she likes.

Miss Draper said: 'The Benjamin Foundation is my dad's charity, so I have very close family connections, and I've worked for them as well. It's just something that's always been part of my life.'

Kilimanjaro in Tanzania stands 19,340ft above sea level, and is the world's tallest free-standing mountain, with the largest distance between the base camp and the highest point at Uhuru Peak.

Miss Draper has wanted to climb the mountain since spending nine months in the region as part of a gap year in 2005, teaching English to nine- and 10-year-old children at the Samanga Primary School.

She said: 'I could see the peak of the mountain from the window of my bedroom when I woke up every morning, and when I found out there was a charity climb I had to do it. This year I stepped in to be team leader so that more people would get the chance to climb.'

Mr Draper said: 'Last year, it took an awful lot out of her and she's worked so hard to try again. There's a dual link this year - she did her gap year in Tanzania, so she knows the area, and she's doing it in aid of the family charity.

'Hopefully, the additional challenge of doing it for us will help push her along those last few metres.'

The team fly out to Tanzania on June 29. After a tour of Childreach International's local projects, the climb starts on July 1, and they hope to reach the summit on July 5 before returning to ground level on July 7. After the climb, the team will visit the island of Zanzibar off the Tanzanian coast for some much-needed relaxation.

The Benjamin Foundation, based in North Walsham, provides services and opportunities for children, young people and the homeless in Norfolk. It was set up after the death of 17-year-old Benjamin Draper in a motorcycle accident in 1992.

To sponsor Ellie Draper, visit www.mycharitypage. com/elissa. To find out more or to bid for the climb, call 01692 500999.