A SPRITELY pensioner scaled the height of Mount Everest from the comfort of his home to raise funds for military veterans in honour of his beloved son-in-law who died whilst serving in Afghanistan.

Mike Jackson climbed the 13 stairs at his Lexden home 125 times a day for 23 consecutive days, travelling a total of 29,016ft, or 8,848m.

The 71-year-old has raised almost £2,500 for Help for Heroes, a charity he has supported for almost a decade.

Over the past nine years, Mike and wife, Sue,have raised a staggering £227,000 for the military charity, following the death of Mike’s son-in-law, Colour Sergeant Kevin Fortuna, who was killed by an IED in Afghanistan in May 2011.


The couple’s fundraising efforts have been curtailed by coronavirus, but Mike was still keen to raise some desperately needed cash for the charity this year.

He came up with the idea of marching 47,151 steps at home during November as a cheaper alternative to a visit to doing the real thing in south Asia.

He said: “Training, transportation, equipment and a Sherpa would, ordinarily, cost at least £25,000 and, allowing for several sessions of base camp altitude training would take at least ten weeks.

“Added to this the difficulties imposed by various lockdown restrictions in the countries along the way meant that I decided to modify things slightly and, therefore, undertook the challenge from the comfort of my own home.”

He added: “I wanted to be the first person to climb Mount Everest wearing shorts.”

Kevin, who served with the 1st Battalion, the Rifles, died after stepping on to a roadside bomb’s pressure pad whilst on patrol in Helmand Province.

He was aged just 36-years-old and was five weeks into his second tour of duty.

Since his death his family has been determined to keep his memory alive and is still determined to raise a total of £250,000 for Help for Heroes in his honour.

Mike was helped along the way in completing his challenge by his support team at base camp, dubbed Support Under Stress Around Nepal (SUSAN) - aka his wife,Sue.

The climb went better than expected, with Mike traversing about 1,000 feet a day, or 125 steps, reaching his 47,151 stair total a week early.

He said: “In the absence of a proper base camp at home I set up the downstairs loo to house my drink bottle, towel and ascent log so that I didn’t lose track of how many times I climbed the stairs.

“It wasn’t the most scenic of views and my concentration did wander.

“I did not count my every day trips upstairs to the toilet, having a shower, looking for things, forgetting why I had gone upstairs, closing the windows before going out, turning off the central heating when the temperature went above freezing, going to bed, coming back down to check that the back door was locked etc.”

There has never been a more important time to support Help for Heroes, with the charity anticipating a 30 per cent loss of income this year due to coronavirus.

This drop is expected to continue over the coming years as the UK battles what could be the worst recession in a generation.

Demand for the charity’s services has soared, with a third more people coming forward for support in May and June compared with 2019.

Carole Groves, senior fundraising manager for Help for Heroes. said: “Mike and Sue are incredible supporters of Help for Heroes and their love for Kevin shines through with everything that they do.

“The idea of climbing my stairs 125 times in one day makes me feel dizzy, let alone for 23 days.

“We are so grateful to Mike and his team for their dedication to our cause, and for his passionate belief in helping Armed Forces personnel who are wounded as a result of their service.”

To donate to Mike’s fundraiser, go to justgiving.com/fundraising/4tuna.