In late 2014 myself and my partner decided that we should have an adventure in 2015, for some reason we chose to climb the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free standing mountain in the world...Mount Kilimanjaro. It is actually something which I have always wanted to do, I have always loved walking in the Lake District which is only an hour up the road from us here in Preston, it turned out to be by far and away the toughest physical challenge I have ever encountered.
I had spoken to quite a number of people who had done the climb or knew someone who had done the climb, and each time I spoke to someone I was told that it was incredibly challenging. I think I kidded myself a little as I dismissed the experiences of others as no one I had spoken to had a real interest in climbing mountains as a hobby like me, I knew it would be a challenge...but "it will be fine". I took training reasonably seriously nonetheless, upping the amount of visits to the Lake District to climbs fells and started running a few times a week and running a 10k after work quite regularly. All of this gave me confidence setting off to Tanzania that I would reach my goal of standing on the "Roof of Africa".
When we arrived in Tanzania there was a slight mix up with our travel company which resulted in us setting off on the climb a day late, we were told that this was fine as we can climb the mountain in 6 days rather than the planned and recommended 7 days...not a great start! The mountain lulled us into a false sense of security for the first 4 days, the climbing was not dissimilar to the Lake District other than the altitude, we felt slightly sick at some points but generally we were finding the climb OK. This all changed on Summit Day (Day 5), this day turned out to be a struggle from start to finish and 13 hours of walking which I will never forget for many different reasons, good and bad!
Our guide with Mount Meru in the background - Quite a view!
Snow in Africa!!
he Summit day climb was the most physically challenging day of my life so far, the lack of oxygen means you have to walk at a very slow pace and even then you are struggling for air. With the lack of oxygen comes altitude sickeness, the only way to describe this is feeling constantly dizzy and nautious. The problem with getting this condition on the way to the top of the mountain is that you know every step you take is going to make you worse and this is a huge mental challenge. From base camp it is about 6 hours to Stella Point (which is about 45 minutes from Uhuru Peak), once at this point you have pretty much reached the top. As you can see from the picture below there is a sign at Stella Point as well and the look of joy on my face in this photo is very real!!
Our two guides and myself at Stella Point
After arriving at Stella Point it was just a short stroll up to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro which is called Uhuru Peak, we were lucky enough to have the whole summit to ourselves which meant we could get some great snaps. The sense of personal achievement from reaching the top was certainly one of the highlights of this trip but the money we raised for our chosen charity was even better. Thanks to everyone who donated, you raised a total of £1225 for the Lake District Calvert Trust which is fantastic. The biggest thank you has to go to the porters, cook and guides who made it possible for us to reach the summit, we would never have made it without you!!