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RAF personnel scale their own urban mountain

In the first attempt of its kind, three RAF personnel scaled the 837 steps of London’s iconic Gherkin skyscraper 50 times, to match the height of the world's tallest mountain, Mount Everest.

Standing at 180m tall over 38 floors, The Gherkin, officially known as 30 St Mary’s Axe, doubled up as the 8,848m high mountain in the gruelling 12-hour challenge on 1 March, to raise funds for the RAF Benevolent Fund.

Gherkin climbers

Senior Aircraftman Karl Cassar, Senior Aircraftman Perry Wright and Corporal Ryan Burrows all hail from the Aeronautical Information Documents Unit based at RAF Northolt and were determined to raise as much as they can for the RAF's leading welfare charity.

With Perry leading the charge, completing 50 individual ascents, and the support crew of SAC James George and SAC Anna Duckett joining in too, the team has so far raised more than £760.

Karl said: "The idea originally was to run up and down the emergency stairs at London Underground stations but that idea didn't fly with their managers! But after I helped out, at a collection for the RAF Benevolent Fund at London Bridge, underneath The Shard, I thought, 'why not climb iconic buildings instead?' After a few calls here and there, The Gherkin gave us the all clear.

"I'd never done anything like this before, but although it was so tough, it's great to have done something that will inspire others that isn't your normal event. Anyone can ride a bike to raise money but this was something amazing!"

Karl said: "I'm the first person in my family to join the military – it's really important for us to mentally and physically test our ability and capacity, and this was the perfect challenge to do that.

I have heard from colleagues about the great work the Fund does for the RAF Family. It makes complete sense to give back to a charity that is at the heart of the RAF and I can't wait to get going."

Gherkin climbersL-R: Gherkin climbers Karl Cassar, Perry Wright and Ryan Burrows

Perry said: "What a challenge! I really hit a wall halfway through but was absolutely determined to see the feat through – even clocking up 50 ascents! The teamwork was great too – we really pulled together to see each other through."

Paul Hewson, Regional Director for the RAF Benevolent Fund, said: "What a truly incredible feat from the team! When Karl came to us last year and told us about his idea, we didn't think it was something that could be done, so to see everything come together and the team complete their challenge is a great testament to their dedication and enthusiasm.

Support from RAF Northolt has always been strong and we are so grateful that the team chose to take on such a demanding challenge for us this spring in such testing conditions. Congratulations all!"

The team hope to raise an incredible £2,500. To show your support, please visit: www.justgiving.com/companyteams/UrbanMountainChallenge or text URBA50 followed by £1/£1/£5/£10 to 70070.

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