For everyone who read my training blogs, or donated, here’s the update you’ve been waiting for... This is what I got up to when I spent two weeks in Tanzania on the side of the world’s tallest free standing mountain, alongside my walking partner Andy, and other climbers brought together by the Electrical Industries Charity to raise money for the Hendrie family.
February 4 - Day one
Our journey started comfortably. We arrived at our hotel (Moivaro Coffee Plantation Lodge) to a friendly greeting. The hotel was situated in a lush, green, coffee plantation and there were nature walks to break us in gently...
The next day, we packed up, hit the road and set off on our adventure. We completed the first part of our journey by bus, and caught sight of a herd of zebras en route. A brief pause to say hi, and we were off again. We changed bus at Londorossi Gate and, after another hour of rock and rolling on the bus, arrived at our destination.
We began our climb slowly, acclimatising to the heat of the rainforest. The sights reminded me how far we were from home - climbing vines, varying bird and animal noises, and Colobus monkeys jumping from tree to tree.
At our first stop I met Justin, the porter who will be responsible for looking after my main kit. After some rest, we had our first mountainside meal: zucchini soup, followed by fried fish, roast potatoes and veg... We were treated to great food throughout the trip!
That first night, a combination of wildlife noises and snoring kept me awake; the next day we were told that the monkeys might have spotted a predator such a leopard ... and also that the snoring would only get worse with altitude.
After another delightful morning meal, we climbed around 3400m, breaking out of the forest canopy and into the burning sun on the moorland. We trekked slowly and steadily (‘slowly slowly’, or ‘pole pole’ in Swahili, being the Kilimanjaro mantra) and kept hydrated. Blood oxygen levels began to drop as we climbed further, and a fellow climber, Joe, was suffering from altitude sickness. We slept at camp Shira 1.
The following day, we headed for Shira 2. We crossed the Ngare Nairobi river tributary and headed towards the rocky hills of the Shira Cathedral. I was in my element at this point, the magnificent views reminding me of scenes from The Hobbit and making me feel, momentarily, like Bilbo Baggins. When we arrived at Shira 2, we were at 3895m (12,779ft) and the views of the sky were stunning, unlike anything I’d seen before.
The breathtaking views continued the next night, as we arrived at Barranco Huts Camp at 3986m. As we admired the views of the valley below and Kibo (one of the three volcanic cones that makes up the mountain), our ultimate goal towered above us, with a glint in its eye.
That night was extremely cold, our water bottles froze in our tents and Andy seemed to be feeling unwell.
In the morning though, we measured our oxygen levels and Andy’s appeared fine. So we set off.
However, en route that day, Andy deteriorated. The decision was made that Andy should be taken to hospital and our guides, Musa and Howie, were fantastic help and took him straight away.
With Andy in safe hands, I set off to catch up with the others. As a result, what was set to be one of the best days of the trip had quickly become a day of immense difficulty and concern. At that point, I felt even more motivated to complete the trek.
By this point we were close to the summit, and spent the afternoon at Karanga campsite, drinking water fresh from the mountain stream and preparing for the final push. We read letters that had been written for us by the Hendrie family, and humbled, and with the feeling that we were about to put our six months training to good use, we left for Uhuru peak.
The walk through the volcanic landscape was difficult; eight hours of fake summits and promises that we had ‘just another 15 minutes’ really took their toll. Finally, we arrived at Stella Point, where we stopped as the sun began to rise.
A lot of people never go further than Stella Point, which I had not understood until the moment I sat there, with the beautiful view and the prospect of another 45 minutes of walking... We pressed on, however.
In daylight, we reached Uhuru peak – we made it! Elated and exhausted we celebrated with our guides, who sang in Swahili, and after a few hours rest, descended the mountain.
Andy remained in hospital in Tanzania for a week after our return, but is now safely home and recovering.
The experience was fantastic. At the summit, I thought of Andy, who’d been my training and climbing partner and who had promised to help me get to the top, if I could help him raise the funds. In the end I felt like I was climbing for myself, Andy, and the Hendrie family – I am so happy to have been a part of this fundraising adventure!
Thanks again to all who donated! Overall we have raised £45,342, and if you’d like to make a contribution, please click here.