A father-of-two has raised over £9,000 for a special needs school by climbing the world's highest free standing mountain.
Chris Atkinson, 35, of Devon Close, Buckhurst Hill, returned from an eight-day trek of Mountain Kilimanjaro in Tanzania on Tuesday.
He has raised £9,200 so special needs school Brookfield House in Alders Avenue, Woodford Green, can open a sensory room for the children.
Mr Atkinson’s five-year-old niece, Olivia, who has an undiagnosed disability, is a pupil at the school and she was his inspiration for the challenge.
During the climb up the 19,341ft mountain Mr Atkinson had to endure freezing temperatures of -30 degrees, thunderstorms and rainforest conditions.
He said: "We were walking 12 hours a day. We left in the dark and set up camp in the dark. I underestimated just how much hard work it would be.
“We spent three days trekking through rainforest before we even started climbing the mountain. Walking with the monkeys through the forest was just surreal.
"Trying to eat food in coats, gloves and a hat was something I wasn't used to.
“Getting to the top was a nine hour hike in the dark. We reached the summit as the sun was rising and it was just the most incredible view.
"Some of the guys were quite sick with the change in altitude, but it didn't affect me that badly. It was something that I wasn't quite prepared for though.
“I now feel like I have achieved something amazing, I don’t think I will be doing anything quite as extreme again. Although I wouldn’t mind climbing the Great Wall of China or Machu Picchu next time.
“It was definitely an experience."
Mr Atkinson hopes to take his fundraising total beyond £10,000 as donations continue to come in.
Olivia's mother, Natasha Little, 37, is the secretary of the school's PTA.
She said: "It is really humbling to think that someone could put themselves through what Chris has put himself through for us - he bought equipment out of his own money, trained for months on end and was away from his own family for ten days.
"He even came back thinner than when he left. We are all really proud of him."
The sensory room is estimated to cost £18,000 and will be used by children with a varying range of disabilities, providing them with a place to relax and provide stimulation through lights and music.
Mr Atkinson added: ““I just wanted to help the children at the school.
"The sensory room will give them a better life and a little bit more enjoyment.”
Mr Atkinson spent the last nine months training, which included 20 mile hikes and cycling in his living room using a snorkel to adjust his breathing techniques ready for the change in altitude.
To donate to Mr Atkinson visit www.justgiving.com/christopher-atkinson.