Frances Anne Ridge: Preparing to climb Kilimanjaro

Around 10 months ago my friend, Sharon contacted me saying that she was biting the bullet and climbing Kilimanjaro for charity. We had spoken about it before but I couldn’t believe she was actually going for it. I’m not one to let a challenge pass me by so I jumped at the chance to join her.

I excitedly booked up thinking that I’d be in peak condition by the time the trip came round and that I’d spend the coming months evolving into the female equivalent of Bear Grylls. Small woman vs Wild.


But with only two weeks to go until the climb, I’ve realised that no matter what I do I’ll NEVER feel prepared to climb above the clouds, or for desperately trying to sook in what little oxygen is available, for sleeping in a drafty tent on a hill for a week…..and let’s not forget the dreaded toilet situation.

I’m still not sure whether my decision to take part is something I’ll live to regret or whether it will be the life-changing event that many claim it to be. I’ll give you my view on that when I (hopefully) make it back in one piece.

So you may ask, why am I doing it? Trust me, I keep asking myself that question and having to remind myself of the answer.

At the time my friend decided to climb Kilimanjaro, her aunt Debbie was undergoing treatment for cancer and as Sharon watched her battle the disease she wanted to do something to raise money and show her that she wasn’t alone in her fight.

Debbie was thrilled when she heard and made us both ‘survival kits’ for our climb. Sadly she lost her battle with cancer, a fortnight after celebrating her 53rd birthday and before she could see us off on our trip.

Cancer has also hit my own family. My dad couldn’t even say the C-word when he told me test results proved positive and the relief was incredible when he was given the all-clear.

I also watched my aunt Eileen give her all to fighting cancer. She lived for being outdoors, loved nothing more than running or doing anything that involved keeping fit. I remember my mum saying that she had to fight back tears when my aunt looked outside at the sunshine and said she’d give anything to be healthy enough to go running again. She passed away a few weeks later aged 49.

Like me, she would also  have loved a challenge like climbing Kilimanjaro and the opportunity to raise money for charity.

marie curieSo Sharon and I pledged to raise funds for Marie Curie Cancer Care , bought some walking gear and headed for The Cobbler in Arrochar with a flask of tea between us and no idea what we were doing. We ended up crashing through snow and landed in water, getting blown off our feet and finally huddled under a massive boulder afraid to face the elements again.

Thankfully we’re now looking a lot less like amateurs – we both made it to the top of Nevis and feel quite smug about that – but we’re under no illusion that what we’re about to do will be nothing like what we’ve being doing in training. It will be one of the most challenging things we’ve ever done in our lives.

It’s physically and emotionally demanding and we’ve heard it puts the strongest of friendships to the test. This weekend will be our last walk together – we’re heading back to The Cobbler where it all started – and we’ll both quietly be hoping that we’re still talking in a few weeks when we return from our attempt to reach the roof of Africa.

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Frances Anne Ridge: Kilimanjaro Climb, one week to go

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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