(Imagery by: Lydia Thomas Photography)
6:00am, a tap on the canvas and a morning call wakes me from the deepest of sleeps. Adjusting myself and stretching my legs only to find the tight cocoon of my sleeping bag, I am reminded of exactly where I am.
Opening my eyes, the tent canvas is glowing in the morning sunlight as my breath condenses in the morning air. I lay there for a minute or two trying to build up the courage to break from the warmth of my sleeping bag and get dressed; my thoughts only confirmed by the groans of others echoing around the camp.
So why am I here? It all started back in November when I decided to take on the challenge of climbing Mt Kilimanjaro for Dig Deep. I have always loved nature and spending time outside but never imagined myself climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.
As the World’s tallest free standing Mountain, at 5895m above sea level, many people believe that climbing Kilimanjaro takes months of hard physical training and mental preparation to climb. The truth… If you have good overall fitness, a strong mental attitude and a good support team, then anything is possible!
“Pole! …Pole!” can be heard anywhere on the mountain side, translating from Swahili into “Slowly! …Slowly!”. The climb does not require speed, but stamina and willpower. Nevertheless, I can guarantee that you will question placing one foot in front of the other, as I did after 7 hours of doing exactly that.
Although the task seems daunting at first, the support from porters, cooks and tour guides really does make the climb easier. However, this does not mean that everyone reaches the summit.
During this climb, all negative personal circumstances were completely engulfed by the camaraderie built and shared between the team. It only made this experience even more astounding. Each one of us having our own reasons for being here, determined to reach the top.
The landscapes were breathtaking, walking through four climate zones over 6 days offered many opportunities to take a break and take your camera out. Our final break of the day came when we reached camp. The day’s endeavors were celebrated each evening with us joining the porters to sing and dance as the sun set below the horizon.
2:00am and I am walking deliriously through the darkness, using my head torch to track the feet in front of me. Telling myself that the zigzagging movements above me were just stars rather than people made me feel a little better. Moving up the mountain inch by inch, slipping on scree and falling asleep at every rest point is all I can remember from that night.
My camel bag froze around 3:30am leaving me without water until the most glorious sunrise at 5:00am. A few hours later I reached Stella point (5,685m) with Uhuru Peak (Kilimanjaro’s summit) being only a 45-minute walk away. That’s when reality hit me. The goal was just around the corner.
By this point, walking around the rim of the crater, each slope of the gentle topography felt like mountains themselves. My feet appeared to be moving in slow motion as I took in the incredible landscape around me. The remaining glaciers split apart the rugged, dry landscape and reminded me of just how far above the biodiverse safari planes I was.
The final 100 meter climb seemed to take hours rather than minutes. As the peak finally came into view. Waves of both elation and exhaustion immediately take over now. The next 20 minutes still feel like a dream to this day, many mixed emotions passed through the group as we took photos in front of the sign, thanked our porters and opened letters from the charity we had supported.
Personally, reaching the peak was more than just a physical challenge for me. It was a moment to prove my own mental strength and also reflect on the people I had helped through fundraising for Dig deep.
Only a week before flying to Tanzania I also chose to support the Brooke charity, In honor of my Dad, who had passed away only three weeks prior to my summit day. Reaching the peak also symbolised the amazing opportunities and experiences that you can have in life, if you just give yourself the chance, just as he did.
As the wave of emotions passed, I was faced with reality again. I was on top of a mountain and it was time to descend back down to base camp, reflect on my achievements and plan the next challenge.
So what’s stopping you from ticking an adventure off your bucket list for your next holiday?