Climbing Kilimanjaro For Charity – My Diary
By Steve Hyde
Irvine Beat FM Presenter
In the year of my big Five-Ohhhhhhh! I decided to take some time off to climb Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for the Ayrshire Hospice.
Mount Kilimanjaro ‘The Roof of Africa’ is the world’s highest free standing mountain, standing at 5896m (19,340ft). The challenge took me along the beautiful Machame Route that approaches Kilimanjaro from the south through dense tropical rain-forest and all the way up to the magnificent snow capped summit. This was a tough but rewarding route and on reaching the summit you definitely feel a sense of unbelievable achievement.
After a good breakfast, made the road transfer to the Machame Gate to sign in and register. Finally it was here – the moment I had waited for, this was what the training was all for! This first day was 6 hours trekking up to the Machame Camp at 3000m (9840ft). The group began the trek through the lush vegetation of humid rainforest with its fascinating range of bird life, wild flowers, and trees. After the long first day trek, we reached our camp in the afternoon. I then settled down for my first night in the tent. I didn’t sleep a wink.
This was a long a day of 7 hours trekking. The route took me through the most beautiful scenery as we made the steep ascent up through heather and moorland before crossing the amazing Shira Plateau and on to the Shira Camp at 3840m (12595ft), a surreal place of outstanding beauty.
This 3rd day we trekked east across beautiful barren moon like landscape and around craters that litter the earth until we reached the Lava Tower. We then made our way through the surrounding ravines, with their wonderful micro climates (mostly rain!) and beautiful birdlife and plants. After around 7 hours of trekking, we eventually reached The Barranco Camp at 3950m (15010ft) camp late in the afternoon.
We left the Barranco Camp early on Day 4 and the first challenge was a tricky climb and scramble over the volcanic rock of the Barranco Wall. For those with vertigo, this was the worst part by far. Once past that, we made the steady climb to our camp positioned on a ridge overlooking the South East valley. The Barafu Camp at 4600m (15,088ft) was reached in the afternoon after 7 hours trekking. After a good meal, I went to bed early, zipped up into my sleeping bag and tried to get some sleep in preparation for the very early morning bid for the summit.
DAY 5 ….and this was it……
So to summit day and the toughest challenge yet! We were woken up just after midnight and after a hot drink and snack, began our summit climb. It was pitch black. It was also extremely cold, windy and snowing. The air was thin. For the next 6 hours we trekked the steepest and most demanding part of the route by torch light and in blizzard conditions, taking each step at a time. As the sun rose, the bad weather receded, the skies were blue and it looked incredible and I made the final long and gruelling trek through scree to reach Stella point at the crater rim.
After a short rest with a drink and a biscuit, I made the final traverse to Uhuru Peak, the highest point on the mountain and the African continent at 5896m (19340ft). The feeling on the top was like nothing else. It was emotional. The morning sunlight ensured we had a spectacular view across the plains of Africa below and Mount Meru in the distance. I felt on top of the world!
After some photos it was time to head back down the mountain. Not as easy as it sounds, I was exhausted already. It was a tough descent back down to Barafu camp where I stopped for a rest and some food before continuing on to Mweka camp. After a long 12 hours of trekking, I was glad to see my tent, and was ready for a good night’s sleep.
DAY 6 ……..the final descent back to base……..
After breakfast we continued our 4 hour descent back down through the rainforest to Mweka Gate, where it all started, and a bottle of beer to celebrate!
What was the accommodation like?
On the trek we stayed in 3 man tents with 2 persons to a tent plus all of our kit, so it was cosy but uncomfortable. There was a dining tent. Toilets were in the form of small toilet huts within the camping areas. At night these toilet tents were see through so there was no privacy doing your stuff! No washing facilities at all but none of us cared.
What was the food like?
A typical breakfast on trekking days consisted of a hot drink, toast, fruit and porridge, eggs and some kind of meat. Lunch on trekking days was a packed lunch and dinner was served in the dining tent. Typical meals consisted of meat such as chicken or beef, or fish with rice, pasta, potatoes and other vegetables. I took my own stash of mars bars so I had a couple in my bag each day.
What did we drink?
Whilst on the trek each day I filled my platypus/camelback water carrier tucked into my daysack, enough for 3 litres of water every day. Due to freezing temperatures on summit day, the tube of the water carrier is prone to freezing and so I made sure I had a carrier with good insulation.
At the end of all this………..I raised £4,500 for the Ayrshire Hospice myself and between the 12 of us raised a whopping £70,000.
So that was the diary of my Kilimanjaro climb. For me this was the biggest achievement of my life. A fantastic experience and very rewarding.
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Cheerio for just now…………Next time……………“sail ‘n’ cycle” around Northern Ireland…………
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