It’s the sort of trip that friends hate you to go on.  Mine are already pretty tired of my Facebook posts as I work my way round our camps on my annual pilgrimage to spend time with our crews in various corners of the world, but this was my second climb with Jonny and every bit as good as the last, so here goes with another round of dodgy selfies.

Every year we look for brilliant causes to which we we can lend our social enterprise expertise, on a not for profit basis.  We deliver the trip at cost and participants then raise us much as they can for the cause.  For this expedition we were all supporting the Jonny Wilkinson Foundation.  Jonny retired last year from an extraordinary career in rugby and following a number of testimonial dinners has thrown his time and body on the line to raise money for his Foundation.

In addition to Jonny we were also privileged to have All Blacks star Carl Hayman on the trip.  Given his 120 kilo status we did a quick review of our casevac plans, added a few more porters and doubled the rations.  Each of the guys that joined us on the trip chose to be there.  They all dug deep into their own pockets to make donations to the Foundation and then went the extra mile to raise additional funds.  If you haven’t experienced what its like to spend time with people who are prepared to do this then I strongly recommend you give it a go, its great for the soul.

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(Carl & Jonny)

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(Team Kinabalu, left to right:  Matt, Leo, Buffy, Dom, Ken, Steve, Westy, Max, Alex, Al, Carl, Jonny, Stu, Rory)

I have lost count of how many times I have sworn it’s the last time I haul my aging frame up a mountain, but the opportunity to lead this trip alongside our crew in Borneo had me polishing the boots and upping the ante with squats in the gym.

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Mt Kinabalu isn’t a massive mountain but its high enough to present a significant challenge at 4095 metres.  Its steep.  Really steep.  Then of course there is the pace at which you take on the ascent and descent and it was clear from the outset that our team had no intention of hanging around.  I tried pointing out that myself and Rory (Director Camps International Asia) had a good 10 years on most but unsurprisingly, sympathy was fairly thin from the team.

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Expeditions are the ultimate leveller and succeed in bringing together characters from all walks of life that otherwise wouldn’t mix.  We had a diverse bunch of guys ranging from entrepreneurs to hedge fund managers, business leaders and sportsmen.  We arrived in Borneo strangers and after 4 days and a lot of hard laughing, we’re a team of close friends spread across several continents with a shared pride in having achieved something special.  There aren’t many ways you can achieve this but it’s a pretty standard outcome if you throw yourself into a well organised expedition.

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(Westy cam)

So thank you to all the crew who joined us on this brilliant adventure.  The pace was brutal up and down, the humour as relentless as the incline and the team spirit was outstanding.  Thank you to Carl Hayman who cruised almost casually to the sunrise on the summit and back, smiling all the way.  Thank you to Jonny Wilkinson, a gracious and generous host throughout and great to be part of the JW Foundation journey.

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(Sunrise over Borneo)

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(Chilling on the summit)

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(Left to right: Rory, Carl, Jonny & Stu)

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(Team Kinabalu presentations post climb)

One week later my legs are now feeling vaguely like my own and I am already starting to look at the next challenge and where it might take us (here comes the sales pitch).  Another mountain with Camp Peru, Amazon challenge with Camp Ecuador, school build at Camp Kenya, Kilimanjaro with Camp Tanzania or an expedition with Camp Cambodia?  Choices choices eh?

Ethical Journeys Without Compromise.

Stu

Founder & CEO

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(Latest member of the Camps crew in training)