AN Otley man has finally achieved his aim to scale the summit of Kilimanjaro - three years after his original bid was scuppered by the Covid pandemic.

Simon Birkby was originally meant to ascend what is one of the world’s highest mountains in 2020, in memory of his father Howard who died of cancer.

The global outbreak of Covid put his plans on ice but now he has now finally been able to realise his dream.

Simon said: “I had originally planned and booked the trip for October 2020 in memory of my late father, and fund-raising for Cancer Research UK.

“Action Challenge, the tour group that organises the trips, kindly held my deposit with no expiry date for rebooking, and I finally managed to do that for July this year.”

Simon travelled alone but joined up with a group of 11 other trekkers led by a UK mountain leader and a medic, and a team of Tanzanian guides and porters to lead them up the mountain.

Kilimanjaro is the largest free-standing mountain in the world, a dormant volcano, some feet tall.

Trekking to the summit requires walking through very high altitudes above 3,500m and then extreme high altitude above 5,500m. It takes five and a half days to reach the summit, with acclimatisation for the altitude, and one and a half days down.

Ilkley Gazette: Simon Birkby

Simon raised more than £3,000 for Cancer Research UK and said he had made “bonds for life” within the first day with his group.

He said: “It was a massive physical but also mental challenge. I am told it is just about the biggest thing that ‘normal’ - ie not athletes/trained climbers - people do. It was the experience of a lifetime, both for a good cause but also pushing the boundaries of what you think you can/are comfortable doing.”

Simon passed through clouds, rainforests, alpine moorland and desert, finding the infamous Barranco Wall his toughest mental challenge.

But it was all worth it. Simon said: “Seeing sunrise as you reach the volcanic crater rim is an unforgettable experience, before the final push to the summit.”

Simon set off on his unforgettable journey from Aberdeen, where he was waved off by his wife Beverley and his children Charlotte, nine, and James, six. Although he has lived in Scotland for some years, he describes himself as a “proud Yorkshireman” whose roots are in Otley.

Ilkley Gazette: Simon Birkby

Simon originally had a £2,000 target, which he smashed when he finally got to do the challenge. He told at the time of his original bid why he was fundraising in memory of his father.

He said: "Cancer is horrible in any form and I would not wish the awful sentence that the last year and some has been on my Dad on anyone. I am so proud of him for how he dealt with it.”