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League stars heading for Everest in aid of the Steve Prescott Foundation

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The likes of Lee Briers and Barrie McDermott are on their way to the top of the world, in aid of the Steve Prescott Foundation

Super League legends Lee Briers, Barrie McDermott and Alan Hunte are on their way to the top of the world, in aid of the Steve Prescott Foundation.

They are among 41 people who will ascend the hills of Nepal, eventually arriving at Everest base camp, and the "Kala Pattar" to reach 5645 meters above sea level.

It's the latest in a series of incredible challenges, which have helped to raise over a million pounds for SPF, which continues to keep its founder's name alive, just under two years after he passed away.

It's exactly a year to the day since many of the same team entered the Guinness Book of Records for playing the highest ever game of Rugby League - on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, and as he checked in at Manchester Airport, Lee Briers can't help but feel responsible for their latest endeavour. 

The Everest Base Camp Challenge
Image: The Everest Base Camp Challengers

"Three days after we got back, we were reviewing what we did. Martin Blondel (SPF trustee) said 'What's next?', and I jokingly said 'Everest.' I didn't even think anything of it at the time, but about five days later Ade Cunliffe from the Foundation called me and said he'd done a recce, and we could do it."

Twelve months of planning and hard work later, and the team are heading off to their first stop at Kathmandu. An eleven day trek awaits. Each member of the team has raised at least £4,500.

Among them are Steve's wife Linzi, and his son Taylor. "I'm little bit nervous" admits Linzi, "A bit excited, but ready to go. It was Taylor who wanted to do it, as soon as he found out that the Foundation were doing this he wanted to go. Obviously I couldn't let him go on his own! So I've put my hand up, and now we're here. I think I'm more excited than he is!"

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After a successful playing career with Hull and St Helens, Steve Prescott was diagnosed with a rare form of stomach cancer in 2006. Having been treated at The Christie Hospital in Manchester, he set up the charity in an effort to help others. 

Seven years of fund raising followed, before having a pioneering transplant operation, which was initially a success - but Steve later died from complications. It wasn't in vain. The surgery he underwent has now been successful in several other cases, ridding people of pseudomyxoma peritonei, and saving their lives. His remarkable achievements were recognised by the Rugby Football League, renaming it's highest individual annual award - as the Steve Prescott Man of Steel. 

'Never again'

Barrie McDermott has been an active supporter since the beginning, but admits he never thought he would be doing more climbing after last year's efforts. "I got down from Kilimanjaro, I said 'Never again', and gave away all my climbing and hiking gear, boots and everything. Come January, I had to buy it all again when I heard about Everest!" 

"When there's a crisis in the Rugby League Family, we all try to help and support. Steve's inspirational attitude and the way he carried himself through the time after his diagnosis, was something you couldn't not be involved in, so in terms of the charity, right from the beginning, I was on board."

Emmerdale actor Michael Parr - born and bred in St Helens - is also on the trip. "It's for a great charity, I admired Steve when I was a kid - I never actually met him - but I used to go and watch Saints pretty much every weekend. It's what you do if you're from St Helens - it's like a religion. So they asked me and I said yes."

The aim for this trip is pretty simple - to raise as many funds, and as much awareness as possible for the SPF Special Causes Fund, the Rugby League's Try-Assist, and The Christie. But there's no getting away from how hard this will be. 

Sense of achievement

Former Saints winger Alan Hunte also went to Kilimanjaro. "You're nearly five miles up, the air is pretty thin. It's tiring, but that doesn't take anything away from the sense of achievement you get from doing something that not everybody does. Who gets to wake up with the peak of Everest as your vista?!"

Lee Briers has vowed to carry an doing the challenges, adamant the work the charity does is clearly visible. "I've been involved in a lot of charities over the years, but you don't actually see where that money is going. We're meeting people now who are actually living, through this charity, who have got a new life. Steve didn't get that, but what he did was give other people lives. And if we can carry on giving people lives, that's brilliant."

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