Ronan Keating, Denise Van Outen, Ben Shepherd and Fearne Cotton on the way up Kilimanjaro

Last summer Charity Challenge was approached by Gary Barlow about
staging a Kilimanjaro climb for Comic Relief. By December we were
working almost seven days a week on planning the event.

Sadly for the taboloids, there’s little gossip to reveal.
Expeditions to remote places are great levellers; Kilimanjaro proved no
exception. The tough conditions, extreme weather and altitude sickness
issues were the same as any other group might experience. And they put
in the legwork – this was a long project that demanded months of
training followed by an expedition under gruelling conditions.

Critics might wonder whether it was right for the celebrities to
have such a large entourage of porters, guides and support staff. Was
it worth it? What about the impact on local people? Did the mountain
environment suffer? 

There is no doubt that the trip proved extremely worthwhile. The
climb raised £3.35million, with every penny of that going to provide
mosquito nets in Africa, as well as helping disadvantaged people in the

What made the expedition such a mammoth project was not the
celebrities, but the challenge of transmitting the event to numerous
media outlets each day. A BBC documentary was filmed and edited on the
mountain, to be aired just three days after the climbers returned to
the UK. Then there were daily updates about the climb on Radio One and

Behind the scenes, the nine celebs were joined by 25 people from the
BBC, Comic Relief and Charity Challenge, as well as a 140-strong
Tanzanian support team. Around 800kg of media equipment was flown out
to Africa and two editing suites were set up at the base of the

The Tanzanian support team, led by imposing chief guide Emanuel,
were completely unfazed by the celebrities, who were mostly unknown to
them. The team managed the logistics amazingly well, enabling everybody
to summit.

The environmental impact was light. The group climbed in low season,
the portered loads were correctly divided, no fires were lit, no
rubbish was left on the mountain, and all the support team were well
paid, tipped and looked after according to the guidelines of the
Kilimanjaro Porters Assistance Project.

The recession has led to a fall in foreign visitors to East Africa;
however, the Red Nose Climb has provoked an unprecedented interest in
Tanzania and Kilimanjaro. Charity Challenge received more than ten
times the number of enquiries they would have expected for this time of
year. Should this interest lead to bookings, well-managed tourism could
provide a huge boost to the local economy.