COOPER Russell’s first overseas trip was a relaxing South Pacific cruise.
His second international adventure will be a taxing 13 day trek up the world’s highest mountain to Everest Base Camp, 5500 metres above sea level.
“I’m very nervous but also very excited,” said Cooper, 15, who is in year nine at Bishop Tyrrell Anglican College.
“I’m nervous about hiking for 13 days straight, but excited about seeing all the different cultures.
“I think it’s going to be hard, but maybe I’ll smash it out and think ‘That was easier than I was expecting’ – that’s the hope anyway.”
Cooper and his mum Justine will leave Australia on November 6 in a group of 13 trekking to raise funds for PCYC program Fit for Life.
It involves picking up young people from their home at 6am and driving them to the PCYC, where they train alongside police officers, community leaders and volunteers before having breakfast and being driven to school.
“I started going to the PCYC eight years ago and started with boxing, but that grew into archery and all these other amazing opportunities and experiences, like speaking at Youth Parliament and volunteering at Nations of Origin [a sport, cultural, education and leadership program],” he said.
“It got me out of my comfort zone.
“The people are so nice and they pushed me to achieve, which is what makes me want to give back.
“This will mean other people get to reach their goals as well.”
Cooper and his mum have been training for around 12 months, by going on regular long distance walks – sometimes in rain “so heavy the drops felt like pins” – up and down the Redhead Beach steps, to the gym for strength work once a week and recently to the Altitude Gym at Gosford on Saturday mornings.
Mrs Russell said the gym had a 12 week preparation program, which they only discovered five weeks ago.
“They have done everything in their power to prepare us, but if I could rewind 12 weeks and find it sooner I would have,” she said.
“The altitude is what we’re most nervous about – no matter how fit you are it affects people in different ways.
“My headaches were insane for the first few weeks and I had to go home and go to sleep, while my brother who is a late addition has been getting tingling and numbness in his arms and legs.
“But Cooper has been so resilient, he hasn’t known what we are talking about.”
Cooper said maintaining motivation to train had been easy.
“I don’t want to go over there and not enjoy it because I haven’t trained to the best of my ability,” he said.
“I want to get out there and have a good time while doing this hard walk.”
The pair said they would continue training and may next tackle Mount Kosciuszko.