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Reaching new heights

June 27, 2019

“I thought something positive should come out of Billy’s passing and so I jumped on board the Mount Kilimanjaro climb.”

As far as personal challenges go, they don’t come much harder than climbing the world’s tallest free-standing mountain.

Henry’s second Guide Dog Quade

Henry Macphillamy conquered Mount Kilimanjaro in 2012 in honour of his first Guide Dog, Billy, a chocolate Labrador who sadly passed away earlier the same year.

“It was absolutely devastating,” Henry recalled.

Henry had his second dog, Quade, at the time of the climb but said it was Billy’s memory motivating him and his desire to ensure other people with low or no vision had the opportunities he was afforded because of his Guide Dog.

“These dogs empower you to be your best self,” he explained.

“I thought something positive should come out of Billy’s passing and so I jumped on board the Mount Kilimanjaro climb.”

Henry personally raised more than $30,000 for the Guide Dogs NSW breeding program, and together, the group raised more than $100,000.

“It was a great mix of people, who were all doing the climb in support of Guide Dogs,” Henry said. “There was an instructor, someone from the marketing team, clients of Guide Dogs, supporters, and some amazing donors – an incredible range of people.”

Henry was a late-comer to the climb group, giving himself just eight weeks to prepare. While he joked that it was the greatest motivation for an eight-week challenge, he said the earlier people could register and set their goal, the better it would be for preparation.

“I did quite a bit of training. I was studying at university at the time, so used the uni gym a fair bit. The boys in the gym sort of used me as their project.”

Henry spent two months running laps of the park in a weighted vest, doing countless step-ups, and even altitude training.

“I was fairly fit to start with, which helped. But if you give yourself time, I really do believe anyone can do this. It’s a challenge, but it’s achievable.

“The altitude was the hardest thing to adjust to – going so high, so quickly. The guides tell you to go very slow; they will literally walk in front of you because it is dangerous if you go too fast.

“The climb was really well organised, they were professional, we had a great team leader and a great group of people. They all managed the risks, and we always knew there was oxygen and a doctor if we needed, so there was no need to worry.”

Early bird registrations will open on 3rd July for the Mount Kilimanjaro climb in 2020, in support of Guide Dogs Queensland.

Henry was recently matched with his third Guide Dog, Yasmin, at Guide Dogs Queensland and was appreciative of the future climbers who would challenge themselves personally and physically to give hope to many other Queenslanders living with vision impairment or blindness.

“It was phenominal; it’s hard to explain what it was like. The climb was challenging without being too challenging that people should feel they can’t achieve it,” he said.

“The group I was part of raised more than $100,000 which helped establish a breeding program. That is something everyone who took part, and everyone who kindly donated, should be extremely proud of.”

At the summit, there was a sense of accomplishment but Henry joked that it was only in reflection that he could realise the scale of achievement.

“It was so cold and windy, my only thought was ‘let’s get off’,” he said.

“But it was an incredible feeling. You could feel the wind; it was like nothing else I had ever experienced. I’ve been skiing and been to cold places, but this was the coldest I have ever been.

“There is rock everywhere, it’s baron, like being on a different planet. The volcanic rock is hard to describe. There’s nothing else around you; you could have been on Mars.

“But, it’s amazing. Just truly amazing.”


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Help raise funds to support the start of a new adventure for Queenslanders who are waiting for their perfect Guide Dog match.