Jonathan Humphreys will pack his bag and head for Tanzania after the Ospreys opening fixture of the new season on Friday night, as he joins 14 other former Wales skippers for the Captain's Climb.
Forwards coach Humphreys is part of a group attempting to conquer Mount Kilimanjaro, the world’s highest freestanding mountain and the fourth most prominent mountain in the world, with the expedition getting underway on Monday 6th September.
‘Humph’ will join 14 other former Wales captains, including ex-Ospreys Scott Gibbs, Mark Taylor and Paul Thorburn, and Ospreys Schools Ambassador Garin Jenkins, as they attempt to conquer the Tanzanian mountain in aid of the Velindre Cancer Centre Stepping Stones Appeal.
The Captain’s Climb is the brainchild of sports photographer Huw Evans, whose family has recently been affected by lung cancer - the disease for which the appeal provides research funding - with the aim of raising £1million for the cause. A party of 55 people, including Evans himself, will set off for the summit on Monday.
Speaking about the challenge, Humphreys said today:
“I’m looking forward to getting up there and getting it done now. We’ve talked about it for a long time, now the climb is nearly upon us. It’s going to be an amazing challenge, once in a lifetime, and it’s something I’m really looking forward to.
“The training has gone as well as I could hope. Trying to squeeze it in around the job is a challenge in itself but it’s been okay. People tell me it’s not necessarily about how fit you are but how you handle the altitude. I won’t know the answer to that until I’m doing it. That’s part of the experience though, pushing through on something I haven’t done before.
“It’s a mental challenge as much as a physical thing. I’ve got the wife telling me to come back safely, but I’m going to give it a good crack. But, if a couple of pop stars and a guy who sits in a studio playing records can get to the top of this mountain I’ll be very disappointed if I don’t!”
As the build-up to the climb intensified, the Ospreys hosted a fund-raising dinner at the Towers Hotel in Swansea recently, organised by Humphreys’ coaching colleague at the region, Sean Holley. There was an amazing response to the event, with in excess of 260 people attending, the most ever at a sit-down function at the popular venue.
With the support of Ospreys players and staff, who donated a range of memorabilia and prizes for auction and raffle, a minimum sum of £5,750 was raised on the evening, with that total expected to rise still further. Humphreys paid tribute to those involved in putting the evening together as he concentrated on preparing for the climb itself:
“I’m extremely thankful and completely indebted to Sean Holley and everybody involved in the dinner. I know that Sean put a great deal of effort into the event and the response was overwhelming, not to mention very humbling personally. We raised almost £6,000 for the charity, which was an amazing effort from everybody, all the boys here who gave up their time or donated memorabilia. I’m keen to do it justice and get to the top in the best shape I can.
“It’s going to take five and a half days up and one and half back down again. I’ve been training hard to ensure that I’m in good condition for the challenge, which will be as tough as anything we ever faced on a rugby pitch, if not tougher.
“It’s a fantastic cause which I’m honoured to be representing. Lung cancer is a dreadful illness and anything we can do to help fight it is welcomed. It’s a quite sobering fact that if you go back 10 years or so, both breast cancer and lung cancer had something like an 18 per cent survival rate. Since then, lung cancer has stayed at that level while breast cancer has gone up to 80 odd per cent because of the funding and research that has gone into it. It’s a great cause and we really want the money that we are raising as a group will help to make a big difference.”
Dr Jason Lester who heads up the Lung Cancer Research department at Velindre Cancer Centre said:
“We are raising the profile of an area of research which gets a bad press because people wrongly associate lung cancer with smoking, which isn’t the case, this disease can and does affect people indiscriminately and we hope to achieve the survival rates that other cancers have already attained. It’s an area in need of funding and this initiative is an extremely welcome one and one that will do untold good to The Stepping Stones Appeal.”
Ospreys Elite Performance Director, Andrew Hore, added:
“Everybody at the region is 100 per cent behind Jonathan, and the rest of the climbers especially those with an Ospreys connection, and we wish them all the best. It is a tough challenge ahead for them all, but it is a good cause and we hope that they can raise much-needed funds for the Stepping Stones Appeal.
“It’s not going to be easy. Knowing Jonathan as I do though, I have no doubt that his determination, competitiveness and will to succeed will get him to the summit.”
Anyone wishing to back Jonathan and donate to the Captain’s Climb can do so by visiting www.justgiving.com/captainhumphreys