Having received an e-mail about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro for charity with my university – Loughborough I decided I had nothing to lose by attending the information evening and by the end of the presentation had signed up for the challenge, not then realising the daunting task I had just set myself; to raise £2500 for the nominated charity, Practical Action, in just 6 months and then climb the tallest free standing mountain in the world.
After a lot of hard work, organising several fundraising events which included hours spent bag-packing at Tesco’s and running a very successful pub quiz at The Cat and Fiddle in Radlett, I finally reached, indeed, I surpassed the fundraising target and was eligible to go on the trip. All this would not have been possible without the continued support of my employer Swim-With-Me (http://www.swim-with-me.co.uk) who helped with promoting my initial fundraising efforts and helping me plan my fundraising goals. Also I must thank Phil Calnan at Goodyer (http://goodyer.co.uk) without his generous support I would undoubtedly not have reached the fundraising target.
A couple of weeks later after some painful injections and lots of last minute shopping trips to purchase items from the endless list of equipment I was given, I was ready to begin my African challenge. Arriving at the airport I was very nervous to meet my fellow trekkers and was hoping I would make friends quickly! We left Heathrow on 2nd September on our outbound journey to Nairobi airport, having arrived in the morning after our interminable 9 hour flight, we walked out expecting some fresh air but instead walked out into what I can only compare to a dusty sauna. A very bumpy journey ensued along what seemed to be the one and only road in Kenya with cars creating their own lanes! Arriving at the Tanzanian border I thought my journey was about to come to an abrupt end – my Tanzanian visa was in my ‘old’ passport, the Post Office having lost it some two months before – and my entry stamp into Kenya was in my new passport! A few bribes later, thanks to a very resourceful coach driver, I was finally allowed into Tanzania and joined my fellow trekkers for the rest of our journey to Arusha where we would spend the night before embarking on our expedition to Mount Kilimanjaro.
Four and a half days of intense climbing lay ahead, often rock climbing, whilst also having to acclimatise to rapidly decreasing oxygen levels. The mood in the camp changed on day three, altitude sickness had struck! I was one of the lucky ones and I knew if I paced myself I would be alright. After a long drag upwards to 4800m we finally descended down into a valley reaching Barranco Camp at 3950m where we ate and rested for an early start on day 4. Being woken at 5am wasn’t pleasant and then to be told at breakfast that we had to scale the Barranco wall, a 200m high rock face. Finally we reached the top of the wall and that was the best feeling so far! Then it was on to Barafu Ridge Camp at 4800 meters; exhausted, hungry and aching from every joint, we had to try and sleep, preparing for the big Summit night that lay ahead; it was so cold, minus 20 degrees and sleeping was a far off dream.
At 10pm that evening our guides came and awoke us to get ready for our long night ahead. We left camp at 11pm to attempt the climb to the summit (it’s safer doing it at night because of the dangers of melting ice that is prevalent during the day) Also by commencing the climb at night you cannot actually see the daunting task that awaits and are less likely to give up! It was without doubt the worst 9 hours of my life; the minus20 degree weather meant that I had lost feelings in my hands and toes even under 3 pairs of thick socks!
Nevertheless, I was determined that I was going to reach the summit and after what felt like an eternity we arrived at the summit on 8th Sept 2012 at 8:30 in the morning. A group of 17 students from Loughborough University had conquered the world’s tallest freestanding mountain. I immediately fell to the ground. Due to the exhaustion and de-hydration I don’t think it quite hit me at the summit what I had achieved. We arrived in time to witness the sunrise, I can honestly say that is a treasured memory that I will never forget! Was all the pain worth it; absolutely!!
If I thought climbing up was bad then the descent was horrific! With every step my toes were pushed forward to the tip of my boots! Combined with exhaustion I found myself stumbling and kept falling over and found myself sliding down the mountain on my backside. But I had overcome all the obstacles that had been thrown at me, my challenge of a lifetime was complete.
To summarise, my journey up and down Kilimanjaro was without a doubt the best experience of my life so far. It taught me that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to, and I made some great friends that I am sure we will share this great experience for many years to come.
I would like to send a message of thanks to all my friends, family and the local people who supported me in the challenge raising over £2500 for Practical Action. Special thanks too must go to my neighbor Ralph, without whose knowledge and expertise – and the loan of the majority of my kit. Special thanks also to the GB Synchro girls and their manager Adele Carlsen who took time out whilst training for the 2012 Olympics to sign my t-shirt that raised over £800 towards my fundraising.
Without their support I would undoubtedly have struggled to complete the challenge.
The question is: What will be my next challenge?
UKCC Level 2 Teaching Aquatics Certified
Games Maker 2012 Olympics