Mount Everest Base Camp conquered by Vispa group

Jane Witherspoon


Jane Witherspoon

A Cullybackey man has trekked to the world famous Mount Everest Base Camp, with a team from the ‘Friends of Vispa’ charity.

Richard Burnside made the long trip to the world’s highest mountain along with 19 others from Ahoghill, Ballymena and Newtownabbey.

The group climbed to an altitude of 17,594ft to the base camp, taking in many wonderful sights along the way.

Before setting off, fundraising was carried out for Friends of Vispa, which is a Christian charity based in Northern Ireland, set up to support the work of VisPa.

It provides financial, material and spiritual assistance, through child sponsorship, school building projects, clean water access and Christian literature.

VisPa is an education-focused Christian mission in western Kenya, caring for impoverished children from preschool level through to university. Founded in 2007, VisPa is run by local Kenyan staff.

The charity has an orphanage, a nursery, a primary school and a secondary school which care for and educate almost 600 children every year, as well as supporting young people through university.

The aim of the Everest trek was to raise funds for a new Primary School at Vispa Emmanuel School and Orphanage in Kisumu, Kenya, which will benefit over 300 needy children from that area.

Arriving at the base camp is no easy achievement.

Richard and the team took several days to trek and had to overcome many difficult journeys while adjusting to the ever changing altitude pressures along the way.

Their first big ascent was to 16,076ft for the stunning views of the surrounding peaks.

Getting up to this height gave their bodies the chance they needed to acclimatize to the low levels of oxygen, which helped prepare them for their destination of Everest Base Camp a few days later.

After taking some rest, the team trekked to Lobuche (16,207ft).

The trail from Tukla started steeply to climb up beside the glacier moraine. However, after a six hour trek they arrived tired, but safely at Lobuche.

Rest and recovery was key in the mission, however most days started early and included long periods of walking, often along tricky terrain.

The next main trek was to Gorak Shep which took three hours to complete. After taking a short break they were off again for a further four to five hours to reach their destination of Everest Base Camp.

Finally reaching the Everest Base Camp at 17,594ft was a huge achievement.

The team were able to get up close and personal with the highest mountain on earth and were able to go to the edge of the icefall, and see the start of the climbing route up Mount Everest and Lhotse before making their way back to Gorak Shep to stay the night.

They then started the ascent of Kala Pattar to see a beautiful sunrise view of Everest and the Khumbu icefall. They then returned to Pheriche for the night before they started their final descent.


Speaking on social media, Friends of Vispa said the achievement was: “Absolutely amazing! Praise God! So proud of every member of the team who took part in this challenge! WELL DONE!

“This great achievement by the team will change the lives of many children at Vispa School and Orphange, Kenya.”

Richard’s wife, local music teacher Sylvia Burnside, has also been involved with the Friends of Vispa charity.

Over the Summer, she travelled to Kenya and to the Emmanuel School to do music and singing with the children there.

With a big heart for the children, Sylvia said: “I’m so very proud of Richard for completing this challenge.

“He’s always been a great support to me and has stayed at home to let me go to Kenya and do music with the children.

“So now that it’s his turn, I’m so proud of what he has achieved.”

Friends of Vispa is committed to putting Christian faith into action in the provision of education, food, clothing, healthcare and spiritual guidance to highly vulnerable children and young people in Kenya .

If you would like to donate to the Everest challenge, please go to the Just Giving page:

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