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Conquering Kilimanjaro for SOS Africa
23 Oct 2012
Kilimanjaro is the highest mountain in Africa, and the highest free-standing mountain in the world at 5,985m or 19,340 feet. It’s an inactive stratovolcano consisting of three volcanic cones, including Kibo, with Uhuru peak being the highest summit.
Each year around 40,000 people attempt to climb Mount Kilimanjaro (Kili). The terrain itself is easy, however the environment and altitude impact can be extremely harsh, and many people struggle to reach the summit.
Climbing Kili was a massively daunting task for me; I’d suffered at lower altitudes, I hadn’t done any hiking in months and the cost wiped my bank account clean. I also saw it as a massive opportunity. Through my pain, I could help raise funds for good causes in both the UK and in Africa. Knowing that something good was coming out of this challenge would really drive me to succeed, or at least be happier trying.
Since I was attempting Africa’s highest mountain I wanted to support an African charity. It was important to me that I could be assured that the money I raised would actually go to the cause, and I was keen to support a charity that does something different. I really value education, and seeing how SOS Africa helps underprivileged children to gain an education really resonated with me. I was also keen to support a charity where my relatively small donation could make a difference.
The trek itself was an awesome experience. I walked the Lemosho route; an eight day trek giving more opportunity for acclimatisation, and ultimately summit success. The days were mostly relatively short with less than 6 hours walking, the scenery was stunning and we were supremely lucky with the weather. The terrain was mostly gentle; however I enjoyed the Barranco Wall which gave us an opportunity to use our hands as well as our feet, and afforded us a breathtaking view of Kilimanjaro when we reached the top.
As expected I did struggle with the altitude as well as other health issues thanks to poor hygiene, but I overcame these and was fit to tackle the summit trek. At 12:15 in the morning we started our summit ascent; around 1,200m up a steep scree slope, which fortunately was covered in snow. This not only made it beautiful (when the sun rose), but also made the climb slightly easier. It was quite magical – a snake of headtorches lighting up the mountain as far as the eye could see, though there was also a sense of foreboding, like we were prisoners of war marching to our doom. For some people this was kind of the case. Despite the lack of sleep, headache, lethargy and breathing difficulties I reached the crater rim (Stella Point) after about 8 hours, and at around 9am I made it to the summit, Uhuru Peak at 5,985m above sea level.
Comatose bodies were scattered about the crater rim and many needed assistance to walk back down. So even when you make it to the summit, you wonder if you’ll also make it down! It’s a strong encouragement to get off the summit ASAP and a reminder that perhaps humans just aren’t designed to be hanging around at these altitudes.
After some celebrating, and making sure I got some photos of the SOS Africa t-shirt, I set off to descend to base camp, which only took 2 hours compared to the 9 hour ascent.
Climbing Kilimanjaro was an emotional, tiring and awesome experience. When I felt at my worst it gave me huge encouragement to reflect on the money I was raising for such a worthy cause as SOS Africa. When I questioned my sanity, I found my answer in the fund-raising, and that others would be benefiting thanks to my attempt to stand on top of Africa.
Thank you to everyone who supported and sponsored me, you really helped to make it worthwhile and an even more valuable experience for me.
If you have been inspired by Anouska's Kilimanjaro Adventure and are interested in fundraising for SOS Africa, click here.
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