So I'm back from Kilimanjaro. Which was stunning. Absolutely fantastic. Simultaneously one of the hardest and most rewarding things I've ever done in my life.

We set off on Monday 20th to fly to Nairobi and then on to Kilimanjaro airport. After arriving at our hotel, we relaxed by the pool (yes a pool!) and went to bed.

The next morning we were picked up early and set off on our route up Kilimanjaro. We had a total of 17 assisting us on our way up the mountain. We had 13 porters, a guide, an assistant guide, a cook and a head porter. They picked up our large bags, tents, food etc and set off at a tremendous rate to our first campsite. We followed them at a much slower rate, our guide constantly reminding us to go "Pole pole", or slowly slowly to ensure we didn't run out of energy for the harder later days. When we got to our first campsite, we found our tents set up, a dinner tent where popcorn and tea were waiting with dinner on the way.

The next few days continued like this, we would wake up, have breakfast (porridge, toast, fried sausages, eggs, tomatoes), pack our day packs and set off. The porters would then pack everything else up, set the huge packs on their heads and balance them as they sped past us on their way to the camp site. We would arrive at camp after an average of 5 or 6 hours walking to find our tents set up and dinner well on the way. It was truly amazing. The meals we were given were incredible given that they were cooked on a gas burner. We had chicken, meat, spaghetti, rice, sauces, even chips! We walked for the first 4 days over various different altitudes, around about 3000-4000 metres to help adjust to the altitude. I was walking with a friend from Bingham; Daniel Toole, a math teacher from Australia. We were joined by two people from London, Al and Victoria.

On Day 4, we had an early dinner and went to bed around 6pm. We woke up at midnight to begin our attempt at the summit. We faced a 6 hour "death march" up the final part of the mountain, from our camp at 4700m to the summit at 5895m. It was extremely tough. We were the last group to start in the pitch darkness, with only our headlamps to light our way up the grey gravel path. We could see the lights of the many other groups snaking their way up the mountain. We walked very slowly, half a step at a time, but as we got higher and higher we were getting less and less oxygen, becoming extremely out of breath. Al and Victoria didn't have the altitude advantage that Daniel and I had and subsequently became sicker than we did. As we climbed, Daniel and I went on head with our assistant guide and overtook most of the other groups as our guide raced us up the mountain. He sounded quite like a fitness trainer not letting us take breaks when we wanted and egging us on to reach the top without any more breaks. This would have been fine, had we been able to breathe but we were both finding it harder and harder to get enough breaths, often feeling very dizzy and taking 5 minutes to get our breath back when we stopped for a break. As the night wore on, we passed a number of groups who had turned back. "They lose" said our guide bluntly, giving us even more determination to get to the summit. After walking in the dark over identical terrain for what seemed like years, we eventually made it to the top, the peak of the main mountain but not the summit. We paused for a break and tried to take a couple of pictures of the sunrise in the background but our guide hurried us on to start the 45 minute walk to the summit, lest we freeze in the -16 degrees C environment. The last walk was bearable, given we knew that we were close, and the scenery of the clouds below us and the sunrise. We reached the summit, physically and mentally shattered, took our photos, and returned back down. Coming down was much much quicker; we took an hour or so to "ski" back down through the loose gravel. We later found out that Al and Victoria had made it to the top, just couldn't face the last 45 minute walk to the summit. A great achievement for all parties! Our last two days consisted of travelling back down the mountain, back to our hotel and then flying back to Addis.

Daniel and I both had a fantastic time and are so glad to have made it! We've begun a new term here at Bingham, despite having the least relaxing break ever! Plus, we've finally managed to get internet back at our house again. So I won't have any excuse not to blog regularly.

More pics here

Hope you are all well at home!


Posted at 29 October, 2008, 5:53pm

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