Jane works for Case Construction Equipment, as Dealer Development Manager UK and has just returned from a magnificent climb of Kilimanjoro to raise money for the Lighthouse Club Charity. Here’s Jane's story,
I have done lots of exciting challenges for charity in the past, raising over £25k to date for various causes, but none as big as this. We flew to Kilimanjaro, via Ethiopia, arriving on Wednesday 28 Sept. There we met the rest of our group who were a mix of old and young and male and female from all around the UK. During the climb we were split up into different paces, fast, medium and “pole, pole” (slowly, slowly in Swahili).
The next morning we set off early and arrived at Kilimanjaro National Park where we first met our team of porters and guides, some 48 crew in total. They were amazing throughout our entire trip, carrying equipment and provisions. They were always smiling and happy to help and astonishingly fit! We were to follow the Lemosho route, known for taking longer but allowing better acclimatisation for the altitude.
The first day we hiked through forest like paths for approx. four hours up to the Big Tree Camp. We saw a variety of wildlife, plants and animals, my favourite being the blue monkeys which sneaked into camp to steal left over food. We shared a mess tent for meals and had shared two ‘men’ tents for sleeping in. It was still fairly warm at this elevation and we all felt quite clean having only just set off!
The next morning we set off for Shira Camp on a much harder hike and it was very hot and dusty. We reached the first point of altitude and some of the group began to suffer altitude sickness but the singing and dancing from the team of porters and guides helped pick up our spirits that evening.
Shira Camp 2 was our next destination, this was a shorter walk than the day before but there was still an ascent. It began to drizzle with rain as we passed through moorland like area with rocks and fewer plants and animals, and importantly less mosquitos!
Day 4 was hard work, the aim was to help our acclimatisation by climbing high then descending to a camp lower down the mountain. We set off to Lava Tower where the conditions were cold and snow was thick on the ground, and after a quick lunch stop we dropped down into Barranco Camp for the evening. It was then that the heavens opened and we got soaked through. Two of our group were celebrating their wedding anniversary that night so with kit drying all around us in the mess tent we sang songs and danced again to stay warm and positive.
For the first few hours the next day we scaled the almighty Barranco Wall, Anyone scared of heights would have found this scary, not to mention physically demanding. It didn’t help that it rained and the rocks were slippery, and mini mud slides trickled through the rocks. It was another tough climb but we all made it to Karanga Camp safely.
Our next destination was Barafu Camp, where we would sleep higher than where we trekked at Lava Tower, and it was from here we would eventually summit Kilimajaro (from the South). Most people felt altitude sickness symptoms at this stage. It was quite steep in places and we were conscious no new water source would be available from Karanga onwards so we had to be careful not to waste a drop. It was important to try and rest during the day and fuel up on food as we prepared for the final ascent at 11pm.
The time arrived and with eight layers of clothing and head torches on we started the final ascent in freezing conditions. Unfortunately after a short while one of our group was taken ill and escorted back down to camp. Our water froze as we continued but as the day broke and the sun came up we began to feel less intimidated. It was a slog! My body could hardly bend with that amount of clothing on, and yet I felt so cold, especially my hands. After pushing my body to its limits to the melodic chant of our guide shouting, “push your limits, don’t give up, the pain is temporary, memories will last forever”, we reached Stella Point. It feels like it should be the top but it’s still about 30 mins to an hour away from Uhuru Peak. The air was so thin I could hardly stand let along carry on moving, but others that had reached the top already spurred us on with “almost there” and “you can do it”.
At the top I felt relieved to have made it, overwhelmed by how hot it was and yet there were large ice craters all around. Elated and proud to have reached my goal. It was an altogether amazing feeling.
The next mission was to get down safely. Lots of people fell and many needed assistance, partly because it was hard but also because of the exhaustion and having had little food or rest. I was just desperate to reach camp so I ambled on.
Back at Barafu Camp we rested for a couple of hours and then set off again for Millenium Camp which would add another 4 hours walking to the 10-11 hours already done. That night we ate well, reminisced on all the hard work and slept well.
The following morning, rested, we had more singing and dancing where the porters showed their appreciation to our group, and where we thanked everyone for getting us safely up and down this marvellous mountain. It was then 5 hours through ‘all the seasons’ back to Mweka Gate to exit the National Park.
When we reached the bottom, our passports were stamped and we grabbed a well-deserved celebratory beer. Lunch at a nearby lodge allowed us to say goodbye to the team who had supported us during our expedition, it was joyous and sad at the same time. These people had, after all, just made our dreams come true.
I would urge anyone thinking of climbing Kilimanjaro to do so whilst they can. Tanzania, Moshi and Kilimanjaro are beautiful, the people are fantastic and the experience will be with you forever. It will be one of, if not the toughest thing you will ever do, but it is so rewarding.