ICELAND boss Malcolm Walker is used to tackling mountainous challenges in the business world.
Now the Grange Moor-born tycoon is set to climb Everest as part of a fundraising expedition, launched and sponsored by his food retail chain.
Mr Walker, 65, and his son Richard, 30, aim to reach the North Col of Everest at 23,000ft and to raise at least £1m for Alzheimer’s Research UK.
The adventurers are being led by renowned explorer David Hempleman-Adams. Their trek will take them in the footsteps of Mallory and Irvine from the north side of the mountain. They aim to plant the Iceland Foods flag at the summit.
The expedition, which has the Duke of Edinburgh as its patron, has also been awarded the privilege of carrying the flag of The Explorers Club.
Iceland has a long record of involvement with good causes – having donated £7.5m to charity since it became a founder member of the Per Cent Club in 1986. Last year the company’s employees, customers and suppliers raised £1.5m for Iceland’s charity of the year, Help for Heroes.
Iceland’s chosen charity for 2011 is Alzheimer’s Research UK. The first £1m raised by the company has been pledged to go towards research into early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Iceland chairman Mr Walker has been granted a two-month leave of absence by his fellow directors to take part in the expedition, which got under way this week.
The Walkers have also been training for the expedition by trekking through the Alps and on Mount Kilimanjaro.
Said Mr Walker: “I’m not much of an adventurer, unless you count my adventures in business.
“But last year David Hempleman-Adams took me to the North Pole – admittedly by helicopter – and we got talking about Everest.
It’s probably the toughest challenge on earth. Many people die trying. And I realised that I just had to give it a go.
“Given my age and experience – and the fact that I’m not suicidal – I don’t rate my chances of reaching the summit.
“If I did, I’d be the same age as Sir Ranulph Fiennes when he got there, on his third attempt.
“But I do hope that Richard and I will be able to get to the North Col at 23,000ft and support the team taking the Iceland Foods flag right to the top.
“I’ll be writing a blog as we do.
“I also hope that we can make the most of this fantastic opportunity to raise some serious money for a truly outstanding cause.”
Rebecca Wood, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “We’re delighted that Alzheimer’s Research UK has been named Iceland’s charity of the year for 2011. This support – and Malcolm’s extraordinary efforts to conquer Everest – will be a major boost to research into dementia, a condition that affects over 820,000 people in the UK today.
“Research is the only answer to dementia, but it is desperately underfunded, so Iceland’s backing could not be more important.”