Four North East professionals are ditching their business suits and hospital scrubs as they prepare to climb Mont Blanc, Western Europe’s highest peak, for charity.

Chris Huntington, asset based lending director at Yorkshire Bank, David Ramsay from RSM, Paul Moat, financial planner at Gale and Phillipson and Kevin Kendall operating department practitioner at the RVI, will be taking on the challenge in aid of Maggie’s Centre, which offers free practical, emotional and social support to people living with cancer and their family and friends.

Travelling to Chamonix on June 16 2017, the team plans to summit two peaks; Gran Paradiso, Italy’s highest mountain and Mont Blanc. At a mighty 4808 metres, Mont Blanc is one of the most prized summits of the Alps, and the four men have only nine days in total to complete the task at hand. They will be climbing the famed ‘Mont Trois’ route, a more technical and longer route than the standard guide’s route.

Built in the grounds of the Freeman Hospital, Maggie’s Newcastle is a warm and welcoming place, with qualified professionals on hand to offer an evidence-based core programme of support that has been shown to improve physical and emotional wellbeing. Maggie’s is part of a national network of centres who offer this type of specialist care and support.

Maggie’s relies on voluntary donations to support and grow its network of centres and to develop its unique, high quality programme of support. The charity’s aim is to make the biggest difference possible to people living with cancer and their family and friends.

Karen Verrill, centre head at Maggie’s Newcastle, said: “We’re delighted that David, Chris, Paul and Kevin will be taking on this incredible challenge for Maggie’s Newcastle. It’s thanks to amazing people like them that we’re able to fund our unique programme of cancer care. Maggie’s supports anyone affected by cancer, including family and friends. Around 100 people a day visit our North East Centre for support. Our team of experts offer medical, financial and psychological advice over a cup of tea in a relaxed environment. You don’t need a doctor’s referral or an appointment; you can just drop-in anytime Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm.

“As a charity, Maggie’s Newcastle relies on donations and fundraising efforts such as that of David and the team, which allows us to continue to develop our unique, high quality programme of support, offering the best support possible to people with cancer as well as their family and friends.

“Everyone at Maggie’s sends the very best of luck and is hugely thankful to David, Chris, Paul and Kevin for choosing to support us.”

In preparation for their challenge, the four climbers have had a huge amount of work to do, as Chris is the only team member with previous Alpine experience. On top of busy work commitments, they focused on a mixture of gym work, running, indoor climbing and rock-climbing in the Lake District, as well as extensive logistics planning. They also have a careful acclimatisation plan in place, put together entirely by Chris – the only one team member who has experienced the effects of altitude: this was an important part of the team’s preparation.

Learning technical skills such as moving together roped up for glacier preparation, crevasse rescue and avalanche awareness was also factored into their preparation. The team completed an extended trip to Fort William in Scotland and climbed the north face of Ben Nevis via various winter climbing routes – this gave the team great experience and proved to be a real motivator showing the climbers how well they we all worked together.

On their challenge, David commented: “I’m delighted to be supporting such an amazing charity by taking on the challenge of scaling Mont Blanc and Gran Paradiso unguided this summer, especially as I’ve unfortunately had to see first-hand what outstanding work Maggie’s do. The support they offer across the North East is invaluable.

“This is a massive step out of my comfort zone, as it is for all of us for various reasons, but it’s a great team and we all work together extremely well, which will help when the unexpected invariably happens 4000m up a mountain in the snow.

“Each of us knows what a massive challenge this is, not only from the physical or mental perspective, but on the time we need to dedicate beforehand in order to be prepared for the climb and conditions. We all know however that this will be a once in a lifetime trip and doing it in aid of Maggie’s only gives us more in the way of motivation.”

Paul also commented: “I am thrilled that as part of the challenge we can help raise money for an excellent charity such as Maggie’s. I think if you are unfortunate enough to have had a family member or friend who has suffered from cancer, the support Maggie’s provides is essential. My uncle died of pancreatic cancer and so I understand how this affects families, giving me a great understanding of what our fundraising will help Maggie’s do.”

Chris Huntington said: “This objective has been 12 months in planning, preparing and training. Without a professional guide the upskilling requirement for the team has been a huge undertaking. I am delighted we have been able to raise money for Maggie’s as part of the challenge, a superb charity close to the team’s hearts.’’

David, Chris, Kevin and Paul have been documenting their progress on Instagram, which can be followed using the hashtag #leblanc17, as well as posting regular updates on the team’s JustGiving page. https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/LeBlanc17