A FORMER St Martin's School pupil is to climb the world's highest free-standing mountain in aid of a cause close to her heart.
Erin Johnston, 25, will scale Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania later this year in aid of Friend of EduSport, a non-government funded charity which brings sport and education to the people of Zambia.
She will start climbing the 5,895-metre peak on July 29.
Miss Johnston, of Chantry Way, Billericay, said: "It is a fantastic charity that believes that education is empowerment.
"The Government alone cannot cope with the responsibility of educating its nation's children and we have identified this very worthy cause to benefit from our efforts.
"I think everyone deserves the right to an education and I don't think poverty should prevent you from learning."
Miss Johnston will climb Africa's tallest peak alongside nine other fundraisers.
The group is hoping to raise £15,000, enough to build a school in Zambia and train enough teachers to run it.
Miss Johnston said: "Although I am not doing the climb with friends there is a group of about ten of us who will be sharing the experience.
"I didn't know anyone before I signed up, but I am sure after the experience we will all be friends for life."
The expedition will begin at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro on July 29 and the ascent will take place over the following four days.
Altitude sickness and extreme weather are among the hazards the climbers are likely to encounter.
Miss Johnston is not a regular walker or climber but plans to take trips to Ben Nevis and Mount Snowdon in order to practise.
She is, however, very active and enjoys horse riding, trampolining and kickboxing.
She said: "I am generally quite fit, but I have to do more strength training as opposed to cardiovascular exercise in order to cope with the strain of climbing for six hours a day.
"I need to be careful not to do too much cardiovascular work as it causes the blood to flow faster round my body and does not give my body time to adapt to altitude change."
She explained why she wanted to take on such a challenge: "I always try to do something that will be memorable and exciting and doing this for such a worthy cause made me very keen.
"So far I have raised £360 of a £3,500 target, after only three weeks' fundraising. During the months leading up to my big trek I shall be undertaking a number of initiatives like hosting quiz nights.
"I've never done anything as big as this before – I still can't believe it is now real."
To sponsor Erin, visit www.justgiving.com/mybigtrek