Local rugby referee and businessman Terry McCartney began his hike up Mount Kilimanjaro this week to raise money for a charity close to his heart.

The hiking expedition to the summit of the highest free-standing mountain in the world has been organised by Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) Charitable Trust to help raise money for severely injured rugby players.

Explaining what the charity means to him, Terry said: “I’ve been involved in rugby for about 40 years, since my days at Gloucester House, and I’ve been a rugby referee for 30 years. I have been on the pitch when there have been a number of serious injuries but thankfully not neck injuries.”

He continued: “I’m very aware of local people and friends who have ended up in wheelchairs with life threatening injuries, so it was sort of a nice tie-in that it was going to be through the rugby fraternity which I have an interest in as well.”

“That’s not to say that one charity is more deserving than another but it’s just one that I can relate to,” he added.

When planning the expedition, the IRFU Charitable Trust aimed to have all four provinces of Ireland represented, with a team of hikers from Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connaught taking on the challenge. Terry will join the team from Ulster, which will be led by retired Irish rugby player Stephen Ferris.

In training for the hike, Terry completed two training expeditions with his team as well as taking advantage of the walking routes around Fermanagh.

“We’re lucky enough that we have the Cuilcagh boardwalk but it only goes 600 metres and I’m going about 10 times that in terms of altitude,” said Terry.

Prior to the expedition in an interview with the Impartial Reporter, Terry explained what his challenging hike would entail. He said: “We will be on the mountain itself for eight days. They reckon it’ll be about six hours of walking a day and the only exception of that is on the summit day, which is 15 hours of walking.”

Talking about the schedule for the summit day hike, he said: “You go to bed relatively early evening, you get up at 12 midnight and you start to walk. The walking is quite slow because it’s quite a gradient and there is less oxygen. You sort of get up on it around 7am or 8am and you’ll be able to see the sunrise when you are heading up Kilimanjaro. Then in the middle of the afternoon you get to the top.”

Noting the generosity of local people who have helped him prepare for the hike by providing kit, Terry said: “People have been very generous, a number of people have sponsored clothes and donated me jackets. Obviously there’s an awful lot of people who have helped fundraise for the charity as well, so we’ll probably end up with about £2,500 of fundraising for the charity.”

Terry set off on his fundraising trip to hike Mount Kilimanjaro with the IRFU Charitable Trust on Monday with the climb planned to start yesterday (Wednesday).