Friday Beer atop Kilimanjaro

A year in preparation, training, fund raising, buying and borrowing kit and finally departure day arrives.  Walking through Heathrow, I commented to my friend Karen that my knee was aching and tried not to think anything of it.  Landing in Nairobi very early next morning and I could hardly walk…not a good start.  Paul, our medic, thought tendonitis so I spent our transfer time walking up and down the terminal trying to loosen off my knee.  Karen – bless her – joined me in this.  A short flight to Kilimanjaro International Airport (big name : small airport!) to be greeted by a smiling young man in a white coat aiming a device at us to take our temperature - strange - forms to fill in about Ebola…so, the adventure begins…

Kilimanjaro International Airport; our group arrives

Day 2

The coach transfer to our hotel was an eye opener.  We met our head guide Charles and some of his team who effortlessly stowed our luggage as we settled in 2 rather rickety buses.  Joe – our leader - was displaying his organisational skills and we were on our way.  Dirt roads, free-for-all driving,   suffocating fumes, noise, unfinished buildings and poverty – all in an hour.  Our hotel was in a compound with a security guard as is all moneyed property.  Peaceful, lovely bungalows and mozzie nets. Fusion food: Italian and Indian buffet…  

Breakfast time in the restaurant

Day 3

Back on the buses to our starting point in Kilimanjaro National Park – it’s raining…do we care??  Not on your life…

So today we trekked through the rain forest on very slippery mud-paths AND saw our first monkeys!

Here we are snaking our way up into the rain forest on our way to Mti Mkubwa (Big Tree Camp) at 2780m.  

At the end of each day we reached camp which the porters, who have spent the day rushing passed us, have set up.  A couple of big tents for us to eat in as well as our own tents (2 in a tent), the toilet tents (VERY important) and the kitchen tent.  They also fetched and filtered our water- all this with big smiles.  Here we are at supper time.  

Day 4

Today was a big one – over 10 hour trekking gaining 700m in height.  This was when I got altitude sickness.  Nothing much to do but ride it out. We crossed the Shira plateau stopping for lunch in the middle of it – weird picnic!  Here we are packing up to start trekking again – not nice weather…

Drinking water was so important – we aimed for 4 litres a day – the porters had our water ready for us in the mornings and evenings.  All we had to do was queue with our camel bags.  

Day 5

This was the day we climbed higher then dropped lower as part of our acclimatisation.  We trekked in the shadow of Kibo across a moon-like landscape until we reached Lava Tower – 600ft of lava sticking out of the ground – awesome.

Dotted all over the mountain are these cairns.  As you climb, you add a stone and make a wish – no prizes for guessing what most of the wishes were…

Lava tower below – lunchtime... 

 Day 6

We woke up the next morning to this view – yes – we were going up there. On the right of the picture you can see Barranco Wall which we had to scramble up – everyone agreed that was probably the best bit of climbing of the whole trip – exhilarating and slightly dangerous - loved it…

Here’s me feeling pretty good after climbing the wall – sickness all gone and happy with my fabulous guides.

Day 7

This is us way above the clouds (4600m) doing the final trek up to our rest point for summit night – our porters were unbelievable – they are each carrying 15kilos on their heads…

Summit day

…started at 10pm – we were gently wakened by our guide with a hot drink and got ready – layers and lots of water down our jackets – can’t use a camel pack in your rucksack – it will freeze.  Our group trekked over night (head torches everywhere!) non-stop for 9 hours to get to Stella Point (5730m) where it was freezing.  We had minus 25 degrees, howling wind and glorious sunshine.  We had hugs, energy gels and motivation talks to get up on our feet again for the final trek to Uhuru Peak (5895m).  That was the hardest thing I have ever done and would never have made it without my guide Sam.  He walked with me to the top (and back down again) taking the most tender care of me.  I was in early stages of hypothermia so my speech was slowing and my hands had stopped working but we got to the top where he took my photo…and yes, I have a bottle of beer in my hands – thank you my sponsors The Friday Beer Company

So, I did it along with 29 other mad people.  So many thanks are due to our guide Joe – top man, our guides – especially Charles our head guide – he never stopped smiling and encouraging us and to our camp porters who took care of us all the way up and down.

Day 9

I’ve been up there – this was the view on the way back down back in the rain forest.  I met some wonderful people and heard fantastic stories.  I learned a lot about myself on this trip, things which are only now starting to make themselves known as I make sense of the whole experience. 

Would I do it again – oh yes…

I have now been bitten by the extreme trekking bug so what’s next?

The Annapurna Circuit and Everest base camp…watch this space…

P.S.  I reached my target of £2,600.00 for Worcestershire Animal Rescue Shelter.  A huge thank you to everyone who donated time, goods and money.