Climbing Kilimanjaro for Marie Curie Cancer Care: We did it!

on top francesWe did it! We’ve now been back from Tanzania for a few days –  the experience went so quickly that it hasn’t quite sunk in yet that we made it to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.
I can’t believe it was two weeks ago that we nervously arrived at London Heathrow Airport and met the rest of the group we would be walking with.
There were 37 people in our group, including our guide, assistant guide and a doctor. It was such a big group and we were like a group of children on the first day of school – everyone seemed to stick by their friends and didn’t mix so I genuinely didn’t think we’d get the chance to get to know everyone. But that all changed the minute we reached the mountain. Without putting too fine a point on it, I’ll just say that you get to see a LOT of one another, so you very quickly become acquainted with your fellow trekkers.
And what a fantastic group of walkers it was. From a 17-year-old taking part on her own, to a 58-year-old father trekking with his son and daughter, each person had their own reasons for taking part but was also willing the rest of the group on and keen to see everyone make it to the summit. The local guides and porters were also a great support, teaching us Swahili as we walked, singing and dancing when we arrived at camp each night and continually telling us that climbing Kili was “hakuna matata”.
gang kilimanjaroQuite a few people experienced altitude sickness within the first couple of days and they had a rough time of it but the rest of the group tried to keep their spirits up. It was very surreal having a karaoke session at 4,800 metres, with songs appropriately chosen including The Carpenters ‘Top of the World’ and Queen’s ‘We are the champions’….
Sharon and I were lucky enough to escape the sickness for most of the trip but every so often our bodies gave us a subtle reminder to slow down. In our tents at night, the simple effort of turning over in our sleep would wake us up and we’d find ourselves panting for breath.
But that was nothing compared with summit night when the altitude sickness really kicked in. We set off at 12.30am and after a couple of hours of walking, around 5,300 metres, my head felt like it was going to explode, I felt sick, my heart was pounding in my chest with the effort of trying to get enough oxygen round my body. I was trying to convince myself that I wasn’t in fact having a heart attack and telling myself to stay calm but that was a bit of a mental challenge!
mount kilimanjaroQuite a few people in our group collapsed and not everyone made it to the summit but somehow my body continued to work overtime and mentally I refused to give up. Knowing that everyone was rooting for us to make it to the summit and thinking about the people we were walking in memory of, really helped me to dig deep and keep going until I reached Uhuru Point where there were a few tears, hugs, photos and then I collapsed on the nearest rock.  
But knowing we have raised almost £9,500 for Marie Curie makes the traumatic experience of summit night worth it. We cannot thank our friends and family enough for their generosity and support, everyone has been amazing and helped us feel Nguvu kama simba* so that we reached that summit! Thank you.
*meaning ‘strong like a lion’ in Swahili

The road to Kilimanjaro, Frances Anne Ridge and Sharon Currie:Gallery
Frances Anne Ridge and Sharon Currie - setting off to Kilimanjaro

This section: Kilimanjaro Climb for Marie Curie

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Avatar of PatByrne Publisher of Pat's Guide to Glasgow West End; the community guide to the West End of Glasgow. Fiction and non-fiction writer.

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