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Tessa Climbs Kili

“In November 2009 I travelled to Mumias to visit Hezron and Patrick Were, two brothers whom I had sponsored through Nasio for more than two years. It was wonderful getting to meet the boys and see first-hand what fantastic support they were receiving at the St Irene’s day care centre in Musanda. When talking about my trip to Kenya, a friend challenged me to do a sponsored climb of Kilimanjaro. Once I’d stopped laughing and reminded her that I used to skive PE at school with a note from the asthma nurse, I decided to look into it further. The more I found out the more I was bitten by the Kili bug and by New Year 2009/10 I’d accepted the challenge and started a health kick of diet and exercise.

Eighteen months later, I was waiting for my flight at Heathrow airport. A lone traveller, because the date of Nasio’s group climb was now impossible for me, I’d recently discovered too that others who had booked with the same trekking company had cancelled for family reasons. So this really would be a solo trek – just me, my guide and porters. I arrived in Moshi (via Nairobi) on a Saturday afternoon. On Sunday, my guide Mathias checked through my kit to make sure I had everything I needed and he returned on Monday morning with a minibus full of porters and equipment.

We drove to Londrossi Gate where we signed in and had all the equipment weighed and checked by the park authorities. Then the adventure began! Each day we trekked for 3-5 hours through forest, open heath, volcanic desert and one day even climbed a wall for 90 minutes! Trekking solo each day was actually brilliant, Mathias was great company and at camp each evening I chatted with a family from the US who were on a similar route and timetable to me. The Lemosho route was good – it’s further to walk than some of the routes and there was that dastardly Barranco Wall to climb but the undulating route meant that I acclimatised well to the altitude and didn’t suffer at all from AMS. By Saturday lunchtime we’d reached camp six – Barafu Hut – and all that laid between me and the summit was an afternoon power nap and 1400 metres.

Leaving at midnight equipped with head torch, I followed Mathias closely and joined the caravan of climbers who’d already begun their ascent. As I looked up all I could see were lights in the distance – a motivation that lasted about four hours at which point I started to feel a bit exasperated. It wasn’t so much the difficultly of the climb but more the relentlessness of it – we still had at least three hours to go. As the sun came up and my body started to thaw, I had a new burst of energy (also fuelled by half a bag of Jelly Babies!) and made it to Stella Point by 6.30am. During the night we’d ascended to 5,756 metres but this wasn’t the end. According to Mathias, Uhuru Peak was “just around the corner” and he wasn’t going to let me give up. Slowly but surely I carried on and made it to Africa’s highest point by 7.30am – so that was pretty much a whole workday climbing continuously uphill!

But, it was all worth it. It’s an experience and achievement I’ll never forget and every minute of that final ascent was worth enduring for the Nasio kids. I was quietly confident that I would reach the fundraising target of £2,750. Most of the people in my life were astonished to hear that I was even considering the climb so gave generously – my favourite pledge coming from friends Geir and Alex for £58.95 or 1p per metre! On my return to the UK the donations kept coming in until, much to my excitement, the £5,000 barrier was shattered. Current score, £5,284.95 – not bad for a chocoholic asthmatic! I can’t wait to hear what Nasio has planned for the funds and to see the results for myself next time I visit the Noah’s Ark and St Irene’s day care centres.”

This post is listed in Climb Stories

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