To help tackle London’s gun and knife crime epidemic, Henry Smith is going to extremes.
Entrepreneur whose brother-in-law was stabbed to death will climb Antarctica’s highest peak to raise funds to help combat gun and knife crime
The property developer, whose brother-in-law was stabbed to death, is heading far south, to Antarctica, to climb the continent’s highest peak.
For 10 days in January, the 56-year-old will climb Mount Vinson, which is as tall as Kilimanjaro - 5,000 metres - in 24-hour daylight, minus 45 degree temperatures and high speed winds, all while carrying 30-40 kilograms worth of gear.
“We’ll be going for eight to ten hours a day, burning probably 6,000 calories,” he said.
Mr Smith started Wickers Charity, based in Hackney, to help prevent young people from getting on the wrong path that could potentially lead them to violence.
His trip to Antarctica is a bid to raise £75,000 towards the cause. His JustGiving page has already raised £67,000 of his target, which he hopes to hit before he leaves on January 4th.
Aside from the weather and the gruelling physical demands of climbing in Antarctica, the one thing Mr Smith is most worried about is sweating.
“The biggest thing is being prepared and layering your clothes, because you have to be careful not to over sweat - you don’t want to be wearing wet clothes because that leads to colds or pneumonia,” he said.
Mr Smith decided to do the climb, which he will attempt with five other people as well as two guides, only four months ago and has been training for just two.
He has travelled to France and Italy to prepare for the conditions but he will also be drawing on previous experience completing similar feats in extreme places.
“I went to the North Pole, part way to the last degree, so about 60 miles over five days,” he said.
“That was pretty exciting, a polar bear came into camp looking for food and in order to get it to go away we had to fire a shotgun over its head.”
While polar bears are not a problem in Antarctica, the team will face more insidious risks such as the cold and hidden, deep crevices.
As well as the physical challenges, Mr Smith will need to overcome huge mental challenges, but he said making his charity successful is a strong motivator.
Born and bred in East London, he has witnessed the rise in knife crime and stabbings throughout the city, but particularly around where he lives.
His charity aims to intervene at an early stage in the lives of young people who may be experiencing hardship or trauma, preventing them from giving up on their ambitions and falling into a violent culture.
“They might come from a broken family, where one parent is absent and another can’t cope, and there is a lack of support for these youngsters," he said.
“They get put into a box and told: ‘you’re not going to make anything of your life’ but they need to know that they are capable,” Mr Smith said.
“It is working but it is not a quick process because you’ve got to keep repeating to them that there is hope and they can make a success of their life.”