A Stockport executive assistant swapped the boardroom for hiking boots and Africa’s highest mountain to help profoundly disabled students.
Hayley Rose, of Hilda Grove in South Reddish, took on the six-day ascent of Kilimanjaro for Seashell Trust where she is personal assistant to the chief executive.
The charity educates and cares for children and young people with complex learning, physical and communication disabilities at its national centre of excellence in Cheadle Hulme
The 35-year-old reached the peak at dawn after a gruelling final 8.5-hour overnight trek.
She said: “It was much harder than I had imagined. The final summit was in the pitch black, freezing cold dead of night.
“It was a difficult trek on rocky and sandy terrain. Sometimes the sand was quite slippery and it was difficult to know whether or not you were going to fall off an edge as it was so dark.
“We got to see an amazing sunrise over Kenya just before we reached the summit so it was lovely and bright with clear blue skies at the top but still very cold. There was lots of snow and icicles, and a huge glacier.
“The guide was keen to get us down as quickly as possible as its dangerous to spend too much time at the top due to the altitude. The air is very thin the higher you get, so it was difficult to catch your breath.
“I felt sick on the first couple of nights but took the advice of the guide and was OK for the rest of the trip.”
Despite trekking to Everest Base Camp a decade ago, Hayley admitted she had felt nervous after a trapped nerve in her shoulder disrupted her training.
She said: “One of my best friends wrote me motivational cards to open each day of the trek, which really kept me going on difficult days.
“I had a little cry of relief that I had made it to the top, and just couldn’t wait to get back down and tell my mum.”
And she has some advice for the nine celebrities, including Dan Walker and Ed Balls, who are following in her footsteps this week for Comic Relief: “Drink as much water as you can take, eat everything in sight, and take it as slowly as possible.
“The guides are constantly telling you ‘pole pole’ (slowly slowly in Swahili), and they’re right.
“Crawling out of a sleeping bag every morning after a freezing cold night of barely any sleep and finding the motivation to carry on for another day is incredibly hard but it’s so worth it to be able to say you’ve reached the summit.”
Hayley, who has worked for Seashell Trust for nearly seven years, said: “I’ve seen first-hand the amazing work the charity does, and the difference it makes to families.
“I’m really lucky to spend every day on our beautiful site, with our inspirational students.
“I’ve raised just over £2,000 including Gift Aid, and because I paid for the trip myself, every penny goes to Seashell and helping our students reach their potential.”
You can still sponsor Hayley here.