25th June 2013
Our Mount Kilimanjaro adventure was a challenge of contrasts. We followed the Rongai Route, which is considered the most beautiful ascent of this extinct volcano. Our trek began in lush forest on the Kenya/Tanzania border with temperatures hovering around the mid 20C's. Acting like little solar panels, we used the sun to boost our energy levels as we played hide and seek with the Colobus monkeys. We'd been advised that the temperature drops at night to a “cool, crisp air". This is not true - the nights are freezing with the sub-zero temperatures impeding visits to the chemical loos!
As we ascended the world's highest free-standing mountain the environment gradually changed, becoming rockier and more barren the higher we climbed. Some people began to suffer with altitude sickness from the very first day of the trip, experiencing headaches, nausea, tiredness, lack of appetite and nose bleeds. The mantra of our guides was "poly-poly", meaning "slowly, slowly" - the slower you walk and the more water you drink the better you will fare.
Our first experience of being above the clouds was magical, they really do look like cotton wool balls which the Cushelle koala could bounce on. By the time we reached the base camp of Kibo, by trekking across the lunar desert, the majority of our group were affected by altitude sickness, but there was no time for thinking as we're now at "summit day" which began at midnight. It was pitch black; -10C; most of us were wearing up to 7 layers of clothes; hands, feet and our water bottles were frozen and we had at least 13 hours of walking ahead. All 5 of the Thorpe Molloy Trekkers made it to the highest point of Uhuru (5,895m) which involved walking up the scree slopes to Gillman's Point, continuing round the crater rim past Stella Point and onwards to Uhuru. First light came at 5.30am and that really did lift the spirits but there's nothing that can sugar coat this day, it was horrendous, climbing 1,200m and descending 2,200m.
Now that we are back in Aberdeen the extent of our challenge is gradually sinking in and we are feeling exhilaration, when previously it was only exhaustion! All of us, even Cammy, believe that this was the most physically demanding experience of our lives, so much more gruelling than we expected. Kilimanjaro turned out to be awful and awesome at the same time.
Your support and faith in us provided the determination we needed to complete this challenge and we hope to push on to a final grand total of £30,000 for this amazing charity, Maggie's.