AUDIO: Jeff Stelling, Colin Cooper and Craig Hignett reach Kilimanjaro summit

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HARTLEPOOL United’s new management duo described their excitement as they made the final steps towards reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro this morning.

Colin Cooper, Craig Hignett and proud Poolie Jeff Stelling have four days of challenging climbing behind them.

But the dedicated trio, who are joined by 13 other trekkers raising cash for the Finlay Cooper Fund, made the final approach to the summit by a torch-lit climb overnight and were expected to reach the peak this morning.

Speaking from Barranco Camp ahead of the final climb to the summit, new Pools boss Cooper, said: “The camp we’re in is right underneath the mountain summit.

“I’m getting all the highs I enjoyed as a footballer - and I don’t mean because I’m at 4,000m.

“I’m absolutely loving it, as the kids might say, I’m buzzing.”

Despite the challenges the fundraising climbers have faced this week, Cooper revealed all of the trekkers have been determined to make the very most of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

He added: “This is something none of us are likely to do again but we’ve all got a cause and a goal to reach the top.

“We have been just putting our heads down and walking at a steady pace.”

Cooper’s new assistant at Pools, Craig Hignett, added: “There’s been some really tough walking up some very steep terrain.

“It’s been a slog and a massive test for all of us. If any of us turned up believing we were just here for a long walk then we have been in for a shock.”

Hignett said it’s been a struggle to put one foot in front of the other at times, but added: “We have been encouraging each other and if ever we feel like giving up we just have to remind ourselves what we are here for.

“Raising funds for sick and needy children is enough to spur us on.”

The efforts of all of the trekkers will raise thousands of pounds for the Finlay Cooper Fund, a charity set up by Colin and his wife Julie in memory of their son, Finlay, who died in a chocking accident shortly before his second birthday 11 years ago.

The trekkers spent the majority of yesterday climbing to Barafu Camp on a 4,600m ridge overlooking the mountain’s south-east valley.

l Log on to www.hartlepoolmail.co.uk to hear from the climbers.