AUDIO: Day two of Jeff Stelling, Colin Cooper and Craig Hignett’s trek up Kilimanjaro

THEY’VE already got nearly 4,000m of steep climbing behind them – but it’s not going to get any easier for the dedicated troop of Kilimanjaro trekkers.

But the peak is edging ever closer for the fundraising mountain climbers, led by the new Hartlepool United management team and Sky Sports presenter Jeff Stelling.

The team of intrepid trekkers left the Tanzania town of Moshi on Sunday and set off on their trek which starts in the rainforest and ends in the snowbound, sub-zero climate at the 5,895m summit of Africa’s highest mountain.

And the climbers got an immediate taste of exactly what the challenge was all about when they were faced with a steep ascent to 3,800 metres during seven hours of trekking yesterday.

But as tough as the climb gets as the team aims to hit the peak on Thursday, the 12 trekkers will all keep the charity they are fundraising for at the forefront of their thoughts.

New Pools boss Colin Cooper set up the Finlay Cooper Fund with the help of his wife, Julie, in memory of their son, Finlay, who died in a choking accident shortly before his second birthday 11 years ago.

Colin and his fellow fundraisers, including his new assistant at Pools, Craig Hignett, are aiming to raise thousands of pounds for the fund in aid of children’s charities as they continue their gruelling climb to the Kilimanjaro peak.

The motivated group will attempt to reach the peak during a six-hour climb in darkness on Thursday, setting off at midnight to trek by torchlight before hopefully reaching the summit in time for the morning sunlight to give them the spectacular views across the plains below.

Craig said: “It was great to get started, it’s been enjoyable so far and some of the views we have seen have been fantastic.

“It’s a tough chalenge ahead of us but we’re all ready for it and hoping to raise as much as we can for the charity.”

The Mail, in assocation with BBC Tees, will be following the boys’ progress throughout the climb, with audio links to chats with Colin, Craig and Jeff appearing on daily.

Among those joining Stelling, Cooper and Hignett are two of the Fund’s trustees, chartered accountant Nick Waites and former Middlesbrough FC commercial manager Graham Fordy.

Also climbing are Mark Simpson, the dean of Teesside University’s school of social sciences and law, the oldest climber, 68-year-old Michael Riley, and Middlesbrough fans Andy Gunn, Tony Dye, Phil Dinsdale, Chris Masterson, Stephen Ainsley, Newcastle supporter Dave Rowlands, Spain-based Sunderland fan Paul Shafto and Millwall-supporting Jason Pickering.

To sponsor the Kilimanjaro trekkers visit or to donate £5 text “coop15 £5” to 70070.

l Former Black Cats boss keeps his promise: Page 15