Summiting Mount Kilimanjaro was one of the greatest challenges I have ever undertaken. Standing at 5,895m, it was no small feat especially with the challenges brought about by altitude, lack of sleep and drastic temperature changes.
We climbed, accompanied by local guides as well as porters, who were our superheroes. The guides directed us to take the right path to successfully reach each camp and eventually the summit, while the porters carried our tents, chairs for the mess tent, our large 60L bags and all the food we needed for our 6-day adventure. Although most of them were carrying 90kg or more, they would walk up about as twice as fast as us to make sure everything was prepared when we reached camp. Without our amazing support team, this adventure would have not been possible.
The day before undertaking this challenge, we went to visit the school we were helping to fund through the donations we collected. The children we met there were street children given the opportunity to attain higher education but of their own choice. They weren’t "rescued" from the streets because this was a place where they stayed their whole life. If they wanted to go to school they were given the opportunity but were also allowed to leave whenever they wanted to (most didn’t). Once they had finished primary school they could go to secondary school and subsequently university which was all funded by the organisation Armani associated with Hope for Children. Once they left the school to get higher forms of education, the organisation aims to integrate them back into their family so they can live with them and push future generations to go to school as well.
The morning of 29 August, we departed from Machame Gate at around 1,800m where we walked 5 hours through the rainforest to reach our first camp. We chose our tents before ‘washing’ (sponge, water and soap bowl) and having dinner in the mess tent while watching the sunset. Most meals consisted of soup, rice, meat, and/or vegetables and fruits for desert, prepared by the cooks who ascended with us. The first day was one of the most challenging purely because of the acclimatisation to the length of our treks, the walking pace and altitude. After the first trek the subsequent days (except the summit day) felt much easier.
Throughout the 6 days, our treks became longer: from 5 hours to 16 hours on ascent day, steeper, and more challenging. But the higher we ascended, the more spectacular the views became. We were above the clouds once we cleared the forest on the first day where the weather became colder and colder down to -15ºC on ascent night.
Ascent night was the toughest part of the entire climb. We summited at 11:30pm on the same day we had just trekked 10 hours to base camp. With only 3.5 hours of sleep, we ascended for 6 hours before we stopped to watch the sunrise. The entire way up we were in the freezing cold and in darkness, only wearing head torches, waiting for the sun to pop out from under the clouds and warm us up. I sleepwalked the entire way up, my eyes shutting within two minutes of sitting down. I was at a point of exhaustion that I had never experienced before and that made the ascent that much more difficult, but it was definitely worth it. The views at the summit were unbelievable but what made the whole experience that much better were the people. 19 out of 21 of us made it to the top but only by supporting and motivating each other to achieve what we had set out to do.
I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to visit such a protected part of the world with such unbelievable views, all while meeting new people and sharing this experience with them. 6 days of more than 47 hours or trekking, countless sleepless nights, breathtaking sunsets, but most of all new friends who share a once in a lifetime experience.