IT took a year of planning, vigorous gym sessions and an ever-increasing number of long, hilly walks, but for one Malton businessman, standing at the summit of Africa’s highest mountain made it all worthwhile.

Rob Davies, 58, took up the challenge to climb Kilimanjaro at the beginning of the year, with a pledge to do something positive in 2009.

Nine months later, he was one of a party of 23 fundraisers who met for the first time at Heathrow airport to begin their two-week adventure.

“I’d never been to Africa before, which was one of the things that attracted me to the challenge. But the climb was 10 times tougher than I’d ever imagined,” Rob said.

“All but one of our party made the summit, which is a gruelling five- day ascent, gradually acclimatising to the altitude and passing through the mountain’s eco-systems.”

Rob added that the climb had been mentally as well as physically challenging.

“You don’t sleep properly and you lose your appetite. It is a huge battle to keep going.

“During the climb you also start to feel quite lonely and vulnerable, it was incredibly tough and a lot more challenging than I ever envisaged.”

Despite suffering from altitude sickness, Rob was encouraged to the top by one of the local guides and managed to smile for one photograph at the top before pleading “get me out of here”.

He said: “By the time you get to the top you feel so awful it’s hard to appreciate the stunning scenery. I take my hat off to anyone who manages to do it.”

Before tackling the mountain, the group helped refurbish four classrooms at a primary school in the town of Moshi.

“It was an incredible and extremely moving experience spending time at the school and something I shall never forget,” Rob said.

“The staff and children made us feel so welcome and, apart from the valuable work we were able to complete, we also found time to play and sing with them.”

Rob added that despite the youngsters at the school having very little in the way of material things, he had never met such happy and well-mannered children.

“The highlight of the visit was at the final assembly when all 800 children sang happy birthday to me – I cried buckets.”

Rob funded the cost of the trip himself and set out to raise money for Ryedale Special Families which supports families of children with special needs and disabilities.

His target was £1 for every metre of the climb – £5,985 in total – and to date he has raised nearly £5,500 with sponsorship yet to come in.

“I would like to say a huge thank you to all those who have sponsored me so far,” Rob added.

“I would love to do more voluntary work as I found it so rewarding but I don’t think I will be tackling Mount Kilimanjaro again.”

Anyone who would like to help Rob reach his target can make a donation at