Sarah climbs Kilimanjaro for AMMF

After Sarah completed her fundraising climb of Kilimanjaro, she sent us this report on her amazing adventure:

My time climbing Kilimanjaro

My name is Sarah Smith and I have just turned 25. I wanted to thank everyone who has been kind enough to sponsor me on my recent adventure.

My close friend and colleague Kathryn Swain was diagnosed with bile duct cancer whilst I was travelling across the United States in 2013. On my return I researched this type of cancer and found a charity AMMF which is a charity who raise money to research and raise awareness, for early diagnosis of this devastating decease. This is when I decided I wanted to achieve a personal goal and raise money for such an important charity. Climbing Kilimanjaro is something that I have looked at doing since I discovered a love for the outdoors and I felt this was the right time for me to go to Tanzania. I self funded my trip and have great pride in knowing that all money donated has gone to the charity.

Although I enjoy walking and have already been lucky enough to venture to some national parks in America, I have never climbed anything nearly as tall as Kilimanjaro….all have been day hikes at best! My training for this consisted on my usual hobbies of mountain walking across the UK, rock climbing and running. Unfortunately on a trip to Scotland, I caused a lot of pain in my back which resulted on 10weeks of Physiotherapy up to the date I flew out to Africa (very much hindering my training at this crucial time).

I began my journey across to Tanzania on the 16th October 2014 travelling on my own to meet the other ‘hikers’ at London Heathrow. Although I have wanted this to be a personal challenge and was very happy to travel alone, I was thrilled with my group and met some fantastic people who I hope will turn in to life friends. All my apprehension left me at this point and I felt ready for the challenge ahead.

A bumpy flight, a quiet night and an early start, we are set to walk for the next seven days – the Lemosho route.

Day 1

Starting in the forest to walk our way up at a nice steady continual pace, we reach our first campsite to be greeted by such a welcome. Our team of porters, camp team and local guides singing and dancing for our arrival. After the first hurdle of beginning this journey it was one of the most remember able moments of the trip for me.

Walking time – 6hours – 2780metres ASL

Day 2

Another day of walking through the remainder of the forest and glades to reach land starting to look sparse and dry. This was a long day estimated to walk for around 10hours to Shira camp, where the cold is starting to set in. I remember looking out at camp and thinking ‘ I feel on top of the world here’ to then realise this is only day 2!

Walking time- 9 hours ( we had a fast group) – camping at 3505metres ASL

Day 3

If at all possible, this was quite a leisurely day, or at least until we were close to Lava Tower. Some of the group were starting to feel the altitude and sickness was making an appearance. This day is purposely for acclimatisation so we walk much higher than where we will camp. We make our way up to Lava tower, one of the landmarks of this route, which sits at 4630metres ASL to then descend back to Barranco camp at 3976metres ASL. The terrain is very vast here, and we saw the only tree that can grow at this height, called Giant groundsel (or senecio kilimanjari) and some quite beautiful plants, which were faw and few between I must admit.

Walking time- 8hours – camping at 3976metres ASL

Day 4

Of course reaching the top is going to be the best feeling, but this was possibly my favourite day. We start by scrambling up Barranco wall, which with the leader from the UK knowing some of the group were rock climbers, he let us take an alternative route up the rock face rather than taking the narrow route around the wall in certain spots. It is also known as ‘breakfast wall’ for the sheer height gain in a short period of time… I will let you work out why. We then travel across Karranga valley also including a lot of ups and downs! This was where for me, my appetite was struggling, which for anyone who knows me is never an issue, and eating was becoming more of a challenge than the walking. I would still feel hungry and want to eat the amazing and extremely tasty food prepared for us, but altitude had other ideas and made it difficult to swallow and eat the amount you normally would.

Walking time- 6hours – camping at Barafu camp with a small elevation gain up to 4002metres ASL

Day 5

We start the main event, day five which will roll into day 6. Today is the day that we make the big climb to the summit. We have a further camp to reach before, Barafu camp, which is at 4600metres ASL. Arriving here early afternoon led us into a false sense of security that we would get some rest time. Although to you reading this, eating three 3course meals between 3.00pm and 10.00pm may not seem like such a difficult task, to us, this seemed like an impossible challenge. We do manage to eat whatever we can and have 3hours sleep before beginning the push to the top.

Walking time- 6hours (so far)- Barafu camp 4600metres ASL

We begin the summit hike at 11.00pm at night. It is pitch black with so many stars in the sky, freezing cold and deadly silent. You could barely see the person in front of you for this part, and it reached -17 degrees, a temperature I do not want to experience again in any hurry. I was sick, very cold and exhausted by this point, and you could not see a finishing line. It really felt like every step was in slow motion and you were almost walking on the spot. As the sun started to rise, we see we are at Stella Point, a landmark of its own, but knowing we are only 200metres away from the roof of Africa, Uhuru point.

I made it to Uhuru at 6.20 am on day 6- the 23rd October 2014

Reaching this point was a very emotional moment for me, a huge achievement to which I hope I get to experience across other parts of the world.

To return to Moshi we continued to walk back down the summit path, past Barafu camp and a further two hours walking to Millennium camp. The final day returned us back to reality and into the local town after 6 hours descent.

I want to thank you all again for the support and kind donations to the charity. AMMF has a brilliant website and newsletter that I urge you all to take time to look at and see what the charity does, and further events they may be a part of.

Sarah Smith, October 2014

Comment from AMMF:

We are incredibly grateful to Sarah for taking on this arduous fundraising challenge for AMMF, and working as hard at her fundraising as she did at her training.  To see Sarah’s Justgiving page, click here

December 2014