Climbing Kilimanjaro

Climbing Kilimanjaro – A personal triumph

by Vanessa Ford

I reached Stella Point and sat out of the wind while I changed my frozen camera battery and while I sat there one of the guides came and gave me a hot, sweet cup of tea. These guys are unbelievable.

Within 15 minutes most of the team had arrived. I then found out that poor Lynn had collapsed with hypothermia 2 hours in and been rushed back to camp, John had had breathing difficulties and gone back to camp and Sherrill had decided after 3 hours that she did not have the energy to go on. Such a shame.

Doc and Dave were hurrying us on for the hour ish walk from Stella Point to Uhuru Peak, the true summit. Now the sun was up and I could see the glaciers and ice fields, it didn’t seem nearly as hard.

Wow – Can’t believe I made it

Reaching the summit was the most amazing feeling in my life. Just the sense of awe at the scenery and the sense of achievement at getting there filled me with emotion.

We were allowed to stay only for about 15 minutes as the combination of -15 winds and 50% less oxygen to breathe could prove dangerous. I wish I could have stayed longer. Fraser was asked for a philosophical quote now that we had arrived – his quote was “get me off this f***** mountain”, he was so exhausted. Bikram had been bragging that he would do a moonie on top and, despite the cold winds, he did. Much to our amusement and the bemusement of other groups.

After having our pictures taken and taking pictures of the view, Benny started shepherding me off the mountain. That walk/run down has got to be the most punishing bit. The porters hold on to you and ‘scree surf’ you down the first 400m which basically means you ski on your heels. Not easy when you are absolutely exhausted. It took ages to reach the camp and, although you could see it, it never seemed to get any closer. I was the first to the summit but half the group reached camp before me, I just couldn’t walk any faster.

We arrived back at camp at 10.45 and had 2 hours until lunch in which to fit in a sleep and to pack all our gear ready for trekking to Millennium Camp where we would spend the night. It was hardly worth sleeping so I packed my gear and propped myself up on a rock to read.

After a quick lunch we set off for the long and slow walk to Millennium Camp. It was really hard on the knees and legs and took us 3 hours instead of the 2 we had been told. Most of barely attempted tea before getting off to bed around 6 p.m.

Read the experience here The Ford Family Journal.

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