Northern Lights: Ain’t no mountain high enough to raise awareness of knife crime!

On 14/10/2018 a knife took the life of a funny, caring and energetic young man; Kavan Brissett. This loss touched every soul that Kavan had ever met. However, one person who felt this pain personally was Kavan's ex school teacher, Andy Tiplady. Andy felt the need to prevent this tragic loss from happening again.
Cheque presentation.Cheque presentation.
Cheque presentation.

I met with Andy and his family a few times and our first chance to work together came when we installed a weapons amnesty bin at their Ministry, 427 Halifax Rd, Sheffield S35 8PB. This weapons bin has prevented over 30 weapons from reaching the streets and causing further heartache. One of the weapons that was placed into the bin was a machete with a 2.5 ft long blade. This weapon was taken from a boy aged 14 – he was caught sharpening it by his mother.

In the meantime, Andy had sights on a mission! Andy along with his wife Heidy, they took on the mammoth task of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with their son Joshua. Their aim was to raise awareness of knife crime and pay tribute to Kavan while also raising funds for Always An Alternative, to enable longer term outreach work by supporting the fundraising for the Mobile Youth Club.

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I reached out with some questions and here are their answers:

Andy Tiplady and his son JoshuaAndy Tiplady and his son Joshua
Andy Tiplady and his son Joshua

How long did it take to plan?

Three years. But due to CV19 we had to wait and then eight months with a knee replacement operation, so it took three years to plan and organise.

What did you do to prepare?

Fitness – We worked on our health to get as fit as we can

Hypoxic Training – From my Sport Science background, Joshua and I used a machine that decreases the oxygen to simulate the altitude at the top of Kilimanjaro, 5,892 m. This took about eight months to do. We both started to train and then sleep in a tent at 5000+ m so we could alleviate altitude sickness. It worked. Our % of oxygen saturation was the best in the group.

Get the right gear, clothing, and things we would need for the expedition. This took a lot of time and saving up for.

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Andy said he should have done more mountain and hiking training but time was not on their side.

Joshua added that they did lots of walking and dog walks.

How did you feel before setting off?

Andy: Confident but always in the back of your mind is “will we finish?” How right we were on that one as it was tough, really tough.

Joshua: I felt a mixture of excitement and anxiety and fear!

How far was the walk?

Joshua: It took 8 days, 8 LONG days of walking.

Andy: 53 miles / 85 km. It might not sound a lot but at most points we were walking 6-8 hours a day covering 1-1 ½ km per hour due to altitude. The guides have a Swahili word “Polie Polie – Slowly Slowly!”

What was the hardest part and how did you feel?

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Andy: The constant up and downs throughout the climb. Some days you thought it would never end. “1 more ridge” – 7 ridges later we were still going. At some points we felt we would never finish, especially the first 2-3 days. But we broke it down to put one foot in front of the other and not focusing on where we were heading, but just looking at the feet in front of you and keep going.

Joshua: The hardest part, by far, was summit night. I felt sick in the stomach because I was absolutely terrified about what was coming.

What kept you going?

Andy: My son Joshua, others in the group, the fear of failure, banter and being able to laugh and finally an inner belief I could finish it

Joshua: It’s hard to say, but in my mind, it was never an option to turn back.

What’s next?

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Andy: We would like to raise more funds for “Always an Alternative” and to take some young folk with us to help them maybe broadening their horizons and aspirations. Maybe another Kilimanjaro trip or ‘Tour du Mont Blanc’ a 100-mile trek, visiting 3 countries, over 11 days is being talked about. We will see.

On the fourth anniversary of Kavan’s death, Andy, Heidi and Joshua organised an event for the boys to tell their story in person. It was such a special time becoming a part of their journey. To finish, they presented Always An Alternative with a cheque for an amazing £5,100 to go towards the Mobile Youth Club. I would like to say a huge thank you for support that that they have shown.

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