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Triumphant celebrities return to UK after braving extreme weather to climb Borneo’s highest mountain peak for Barnardo’s

Release Date: 25 May 2018

Five daring celebrities are celebrating after battling torrential rain and thunderstorms to reach the summit of Borneo’s highest mountain peak and raise money for Barnardo’s.

TV personality Lydia Bright, Made in Chelsea’s Sam Thompson and James Dunmore, astronomer Mark Thompson and presenter Helen Fospero swapped high heels and tuxedos for walking boots and rucksacks for the gruelling trek through the jungle before ascending 4,095m high Mount Kinabalu.

On route the intrepid group braved temperatures of up to 38 degrees Celsius combined with crippling humidity, blood-sucking leeches and scary nights in the pitch black jungle.

The celebrities and other Barnardo’s supporters, including Helen Tiffany from East Grinstead, who was a Barnardo’s baby, also took part in challenges from harvesting rice and eating jungle grubs to challenging locals to a game of Takraw, similar to football and popular in Borneo.

Lydia harvesting rice

Lydia harvesting rice

Along the way they learned more about how Barnardo’s supports thousands of children and young people every year. They were given a “survival pack” filled with items such as tea and suncream, and were told how Barnardo’s distributes similar kits packed with essentials such as kettles and toiletries to young people when they leave care.

In a letter written to motivate and inspire the group which was read to them in the jungle, a young carer wrote:

Barnardo’s helps me because with helping my mum, I never have time to do anything with my friends. Barnardo’s has helped me bond with new people and I’m thankful for that.

The team hacked through the jungle to base camp, located at a height of 3,280m, before resting and then starting the testing four-hour scramble to the summit overnight.

At 4,095m, Kinabalu is almost four times as high as Mount Snowdon in North Wales.

The return trip to Kinabalu National Park in northern Borneo, which involved navigating steep inclines and treacherous conditions, was almost as challenging and exhausting.


Whole team at summit

Barnardo’s fostering ambassador Lydia, 27, from Essex, said:

It has been the most difficult thing I have ever done, both physically and mentally. When you are so tired, it’s so difficult to keep moving, but the team have been brilliant. We all encouraged each other when we were flagging and finally we all made it.

It was the most incredible view and brilliant moment for us all to reach the summit. I’m so proud to have made the climb and raised money for a charity that’s so close to my heart.

Lydia at the summit

Sam, 25, from London, who is one of Barnardo’s newest ambassadors, said:

It was really hard going at times. When it’s pouring with rain and the trail is so steep, you really had to push yourself to carry on.

Reaching the summit was a real achievement. It’s genuinely been a proper challenge and I’m really happy to have been a part of it and supported such a fantastic charity.

James, 28, from London, said:

This whole experience has been brilliant, from trekking through the jungle and playing football with the villagers to sleeping in the open and finally reaching the top of the mountain. I’m so proud to have taken part and to have reached the summit.

James and Sam at the summit

Barnardo’s ambassador Mark Thompson, 45, from Norfolk, carried a drone up the mountain and used it to film incredible footage of the jungle from the air.

He said:

The jungle was just incredible. It was amazing how the plants and fauna changed as you got further up the mountain and with my drone we were able to see all around us.

The views were breath-taking. It was really hard going but so worthwhile, a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Fellow ambassador Helen, from London, said:

I have a wonderful sense of achievement and it was really interesting learning about the villagers’ way of life. I also ate one of the grubs. It was disgusting but I’m glad to be say I at least tried it.

Drone footage

Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said:

Climbing to the summit of Mount Kinabalu was a huge challenge for our celebrities and their fellow supporters. The tough terrain and extreme weather conditions made it really hard and they should all be very proud of their achievement.

On behalf of Barnardo’s, I’d like to send our congratulations along with a huge thank you for raising money that allows us to continue to provide vital services for the UK’s most vulnerable children and young people.

Whole team

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