Ain't No Mountain High Enough

Ealing man is at the top of the world after climbing Mont Blanc

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Ben Popplestone, 35, from Hanwell has just completed one of the biggest challenges of his life.

He climbed the highest mountain in Europe in aid of a charity founded in Ealing.

Here he tells about his epic journey:

On Friday, 18 June 2010, at 10.30 in the morning, I was standing on the summit of Mont Blanc, the highest point in Europe at 4808m.

I had undertaken the challenge to raise funds for ACET (Aids Care Education and Training), a charity that was founded in Ealing by Dr Patrick Dixon 23 years ago and now has teams in many countries across the world. ACET works at grass roots across the world to provide education and a compassionate response to the global AIDS/HIV epidemic.

Thousands continue to die of AIDS every day and it struck me whilst I was training to climb Mont Blanc that it is particularly relevant at the moment as South Africa, which has one of the highest AIDS and HIV rates in the world, are hosting thousands of football fans from across the world.

Climbing a mountain just under 5000m is never easy, but to be possible, good weather is required to make it a safe climb. Unfortunately, last week, the south of France was experiencing freak weather in the form of torrential rains and the worst flash floods in the region for 50 years. This made the altitude acclimatisation more difficult and as the week moved on, it looked increasingly unlikely that my climbing partner, Andrew Smith, and I would have the opportunity to make the ascent.

However, on the morning of Thursday, 17 June, after a night of thunder storms, the rain gradually stopped in Chamonix and there were patches of blue sky, and we began our climb from 1800m. Despite an afternoon snow storm on the mountain, we reached the Refuge du Goûter at 3800m in the early evening for an overnight stay. We met some fellow climbers over dinner who told us that they had been at the hut for several days waiting for suitable weather to make a summit attempt and one had even been caught in the previous evening’s thunderstorm and had to turn back.

At 3.30am on Friday, the weather seemed to have miraculously cleared and we could see towns in the valley below lit up in the dark so we left the hut and started the long uphill trek to the summit.

The weather over the week had left a blanket of deep snow, which made it very tough going and it took 7 hours to reach the summit. The weather started to close in again on the route back to the hut and we could see we were trekking above the rain clouds. The following morning, the thick mist was back and it was snowing as we made our final descent. With the climbing season just starting and this solitary good-weather window last week, it's possible that we were among the first to make the ascent this year.

I'm very grateful for the opportunity, and the weather, to do this and have raised over £1000 for ACET in the process.

Money is still coming in and further sponsorships can be made at

Ben Popplestone

22 June 2010

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