This blog was written by Edward Oswald who climbed Kilimanjaro in August 2019.
A question I was asked countless times by my friends & family. Pre-climb I responded with the following – “I’m keen to challenge myself and do something completely different, all while supporting a great charity”. While this statement holds true post-climb, there’s so much more to it… as you’re about to find out.
The climb – what does it entail?
Kilimanjaro is a beast, and climbing it isn’t easy, but it is possible and will definitely register as one of the most memorable experiences in your life.
6 days, 40km walked and 4100m gained – while this may seem like a lot, the climb itself is very manageable. The climb requires relatively little training or technical ability. Some records for you: Youngest climber – 7-year-old; Oldest climber – 86 year old; Fastest ascent – 4 hours 56 mins. With these records in place, you should feel very comfortable about your chances of summitting.
The scenery is truly jaw-dropping. During your six-day trek, you get to experience over 5 different types of terrain including rainforest, moorlands, alpine deserts and glaciers. These terrains all provide perfect backdrops for a portfolio of photos and videos. I honestly have enough photos to fill my Insta for the next year!!
Completing this challenge on your own would be special, but doing it with a whole team makes the experience so much more enjoyable.
Freshers take 2 – right from the start you where you first meet your team you begin building lifelong friendships. Trust me, after an intense week climbing a mountain, with little separation and extreme oversharing (bowel movements were a reoccurring topic of conversation) you soon become best mates. Everyone is super-friendly, like-minded and in it together – ONE TEAM; ONE DREAM.
Arguably the most important parts of your trek are the crew. These people are honestly another breed. For every trekker, there are approx 3 support members. This team is made up of guides, cooks and porters. The team carry your main pack for you, have camp set up ready for your arrival, cook for you, dance for you, sing for you…… they’re basically your life support and will do anything for you.
They don’t complain (that’s our job), they’re always smiling and so very accommodating. Everything they do for you, just to make our lives easier, is truly humbling and makes us realise how privileged our lives are here in the UK!!
Reaching the top!
The infamous summit night is the hardest part of your trek. After 8 hours of walking on day 4 you get a few hours sleep and then at around midnight you start your ascent up to the summit. The pace is slow, temperatures are low and all you can see is a slight glow from your headtorch.
Dig Deep partner with the best tour operators going, this means we had the luxury of our day packs also being carried for us and a porter to trekker ratio of 1:1. This meant you always had someone by your side to take care of you and support you.
For all the hardships though, you are definitely rewarded. I saw 10 shooting stars, saw every constellation I knew and watched the sunrise beneath my feet all before reaching the glacier-covered summit.
The summit is truly an incredible experience. Standing above the clouds, looking down over the whole of Africa, you get a sense of overriding achievement and euphoria.
Within the group there’s a huge variation in physical and mental health. While fitness helps, the one thing you can’t truly prepare for is altitude sickness. It can leave you feeling exhausted but don’t fear though, just tell your guides and they advise the best solution and help you continue. Most of the time the symptoms disappear, especially with the acclimatisation days. Even if you do get it, you can still make it to the top!!
The whole experience
While the trek/ climb is the highlight, the whole experience is equally special. Fundraising is another challenge in itself, it tests your creativity and resilience while being extremely rewarding and wholesome. Yes £3k seems like a lot of money to raise, however, for the experience you’re getting its great value (the cost of climbing Kili varies between $1k and $4k, with most $1k operators offering an extremely sub-par experience that massively exploits the porters, something Dig Deep actively avoids).
You can instead be proud that half of your fundraising goes straight to supporting an amazing charity that’s led by a team of selfless, enthusiastic and inclusive individuals. The work they do is amazing and is trying to mitigate a poverty gap that you get to see first-hand when driving through the rural parts of Tanzania.
If you choose to stay in Tanzania/ Zanzibar afterwards your experience just keeps getting better. Safari is an unforgettable experience, and something you may never get to do again. We saw lions, elephants, leopards, zebras, wildebeests, ostriches, monkeys and many other animals. If you were missing your home comforts on your trip, Zanzibar will satisfy that absence. We got to stay in an incredible beach resort that had all you can eat food and a late-night bar that let us celebrate our achievement in style. We even found a nearby bar where we danced with the locals.
Time to wrap it up…
I could honestly go on forever, that’s how amazing it was and how much happened in the space of 16 days… but I need to end. Whether you’re 100% keen to do it or completely undecided, it doesn’t matter, JUST DO IT. You will not regret it.
If you have any specific questions feel free to email me – Edward.firstname.lastname@example.org
To find out more or to sign up for this challenge head to www.climbforcleanwater.org/kilimanjarochallenge