One of the most magnificent sights in Africa, Kilimanjaro's snow capped peak is almost 6,000m high and towers above the surrounding African plains. There is no need for technical climbing skills but conquering this mountain is a real test of stamina and fitness. Standing at Uhuru peak you can be immensely proud of your achievement.
A wonderful trek into the heart of the Sahara: the second largest desert in the world and one of the last great areas of wilderness. One of the hottest, driest (and sandiest!) places on Earth, the Sahara Desert covers an area larger than the entire United States, and trekking through this vast sea of sand is a truly unique experience.
To find out more about either trek email Lucie in the events team on firstname.lastname@example.org
Want to know more about how it feels to conquer Kili?
On September 16th I set out on a trip of a lifetime to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain. Standing at 19500ft/5895M, in Northern Tanzania, it was an imposing challenge, but one which it turns out would be a life changing experience.
Our Son Ellis underwent life saving open heart surgery at 8 days old to correct an extremely rare heart condition, TAPVD. Ellis was critically ill, and against the odds the BCH performed their miracles and saved his life. He is now a healthy smiley 7 months old, receiving monthly heart scans as a BCH out patient.
It turned out Kilimanjaro was everything I needed it to be. I really wanted to be challenged and have to overcome the personal battles that a challenge like this throws at you. I wanted to do this for my family, the BCH and my special Son Ellis. During the 8 days of Trekking every emotion ran through my head whilst driving myself on through the physical, mental and emotional experience in which Kilimanjaro respects.
This is my diary for Summit Day…
We were at KIBO hut base camp, 15420ft/4700M. It was the usual sound of the Tanzanian Trek Porters, shaking the tent then softly speaking combined English and Swahili to wake us up. “Hello, Jambo”. Of course we never responded the first time as he would then go around the other 7 tents in our party stealing a precious few more minute’s sleep. The next time the shake gets harder “HELLO JAMBO”! To which I reply a strong “GOOD MORNING” as if I had been awake and getting ready from his first visit! The soft and calm reply was always “KARIBU” meaning your welcome.
I stumbled out of the tent, it was pitch black, I looked at my watch it was just after 22:00. This meant it was Summit night. Something I had thought constantly about since the day I signed up to the trek. This was the day; it is often talked about as the toughest, longest day. I caught a glimpse of the other trekkers in our group slowly appearing from the tents and immediately stopping in their tracks as the cold hits them, but instantly warmed as you glance to the heavens. A mass of stars that takes your breath away, although a gasp of freezing cold air with little oxygen at 16000ft would not have helped either!
So a Rallying call from GodListen our head Tanzanian guide and Brummie our Expedition Leader focuses the mind back to my final kit preparation. A double check of my rucksack hip pouch ensures I have my trusted bag of jelly babies to see me through the arduous 13 hours ahead.
Like a trail of glow worms with our head torches beaming we set off behind our trip pace setter, lead guide Joseph. Joseph was an incredible guy, only 25 but over 100 ascents of Kilimanjaro. He would effortlessly glide over the rocky, steep shale surface with a rhythm that was never broken. Walk too fast and you could not catch your breath from the thin freezing air, walk too slow and you would get very cold. “POLE POLE” which we were all too familiar with, now echoing from him up front, meaning slowly slowly, the perfect pace never altered.
As the hours passed by the only reference we had in the pitch black was the read outs on the GPS. Every 500 metres of ascent a cry would go up and a scrambled semi-enthused response would follow. For the first time ever you could empathise with your children’s cries on those road trips, “are we nearly there yet” of course you would silently only cry out in your head!
Occasionally you would take a little stumble as you try and lift your head and turn to the East, hoping to see a glimpse of a changing colour in the night sky. As this would signify the sun rising meaning we were in fact closing in on the summit.
Suddenly out of the darkness, I lifted my head to see many more head lamps darting around that could not be possible from just our group. A literal step up and we had left behind the steep slope and appeared to be on a rocky but fairly lateral ridge. This was to be Gilman’s point. A significant point but not the summit. Gilman’s point is18373ft/ 5600 m. It is the craters edge of Kilimanjaro’s largest Volcano, Kibo. One thing you learn very quickly on Kilimanjaro, is that no matter the point you get to on this imposing mountain, your own summit is something that you should be very proud of, where ever your summit maybe.
We all share in hugs and handshakes and try and fight the emotion that is bursting to come out. Although not yet the highest point in Africa, everyone is exhausted and fights back the tears. For me Gilman’s point was where my life changed. As the emotion came out of me so did my jelly babies!!
I used this time to reflect on where I was and why I was up here. My mind trying to piece together the reality of the pain that Ellis must of went through, when he was faced with very low oxygen levels, lying in Intensive care. A poignant moment for me, no matter how I felt I was going to the summit for my Son. He is a true hero, he battled strong and never gave in and it was a huge inspiration and honour to be able to be up here for him.
The expedition Doctor came over to me and offered me an anti sicknesses tablet. Too cold to take my gloves off I stuck out my tongue and collected it like a frog from the palm of the Docs frozen glove. Not sure if this would work but the Placebo effect could do no harm! I took a sip from the doctor’s flask to swill down the tablet. Suddenly, I just had a sense of let’s get on with this. The group set off “POLE POLE”, many were struggling and the group for the first time was splitting into smaller groups. I spoke with the Doc and said I just needed to go to the summit. I could no longer do “POLE POLE”. I needed to find my natural pace and rhythm, this I hoped would help me to feel better and get my breathing in rhythm, capturing as much of the oxygen in the air that remained.
I was allocated a Guide, I had no idea what his name was but was pleased with who it was as I had built up a good rapport with him at the base camps.
We set off like 2 men on a mission. Flying past our fragmented groups, we offered some words of encouragement and said “see you at the top”. By this time I suddenly realised that it was full day light. The sun comes up very quick near the equator. Mid way between Gilman’s point and the summit was Stella point. A quick photo opportunity and off we sprinted again. The true beauty of Kilimanjaro was now evident. The hugely impressive , all be it shrinking Glacier was crystal white gleaming in the early sun. The views across the North to Kenya and beyond were breathtaking. You were mesmerised by the over whelming array of things bouncing from all your senses. The warming sun, the bitter light breeze, the pain and emotion on people’s faces, the breath taking views.
The clean thin air suddenly did not feel so thin. Breathing seemed calm, my heart had stopped trying to leap out of my chest, I had naturally slowed as I could not see where I was walking for the tears that were blurring my vision. For the first time I could see the summit and the famous landmark at Uhuru peak.
My new friend, my guide, slipped back and let me go alone to the summit and take it all in. The emotion flooded out of me. I could think of nothing else but my family and little Ellis. I had my special moment on the top, my photos with the BCH flag and my family pictures which I had kept close by in my breast pocket.
I had done it, I could not believe it, I did not feel tired or sick just an overwhelming sense of pride that I had completed what I set out to achieve regardless of the obstacles which were put in my way.
A short time later, the rest of the group came in one by one. All 14 of us made it to the Summit of Kilimanjaro, Uhuru Point at 19340ft/5895m. We had a very special moment of strong hugs then at 08:03 on September 23rd 2011, we all shouted “Kilimanjaro” as the guide took our group picture.
Friends and memories for life, an amazing journey that started 7 months ago in Intensive care.
Thank you, Birmingham Children’s Hospital