Kilimanjaro Challenge 2011

At 5,895m, Kili is Africa’s tallest mountain and the world’s highest walkable mountain.In March 2011, a group of 20 of us ranging from 18 to 60+ decided to climb Africa’s tallest mountain and raise funds for BEHT’s Hospital project. Behind the scenes, a lot of hard work had gone to ensure everyone was well prepared, well kitted and raising lots of money for a great cause.

We had decided to take the Marangu route as it meant staying in huts rather than camping and we also had an extra day of acclimatisation to give ourselves the best possible chance of success. We took 4 days to climb up and 2 days to descend. We had a team of 40 porters, 7 guides, and 2 cooks who carried our luggage, cooked vegetarian food and encouraged us along. All we had to carry was our own backpacks with some snacks, 3 litres of water and rain wear.

The first 2 days was easy walking, around 5-6 hours slowly ascending all the time. We started off walking in the rainforests, then moorland, and then alpine desert, the temperature becoming colder each day. By the time we got to Horombo, where we would spend an extra night, a few had started feeling the effects of altitude- headaches, nausea, fatigue etc. The next morning (Day 4) was an early start – a long hot dusty walk to Kibo and took us about 7 hours due to the thinning air. This camp has no running water and water carried by the porters is strictly for drinking and cooking, not to be wasted on luxuries like washing. We left for the final ascent (Day 5) that night at 11.45pm and started off in a single file carefully taking a single step at a time It was really difficult to walk on the scree, you had to really plant your poles and pull yourself up. It was exhausting work. We’d been climbing for over 6 hours and now the sun was about to rise. Amani, our head guide, pointed out Gilman’s – it still looked a fair way up but now the scree had given way to huge boulders. We finally got to Gilman’s point – we had climbed Kilimanjaro!

But the peak is higher! A few minutes of rest and Amani shouted ‘Uhuru’! We obliged by trudging along like zombies, on autopilot- when your body is tired, your legs feel like jelly, and your eyes ready to drop off to sleep , each step is a mammoth undertaking. The views from Gilman’s onwards were becoming more spectacular as you started seeing the icecaps, almost 2 storey high blocks of thick ice. We finally got to Uhuru – most of us totally exhausted and ready to drop. We all hugged each other and took some photos. Finally, we set off back down again to Kibo, a steep gruelling walk down, only to be told when we reached Kibo that we had 10 minutes to eat and pack our bags and then get down to Horombo – another 3 hours walk down! We got to Horombo at about 5.30pm – 18 hours after we’d started our night climb! The next day (Final – Day 6) we walked back to the gate (over 6 days we had walked over 100km!).15 of us had made it to Uhuru, 3 to Gilman’s and 2 had got to around 5,200m. It was an astounding success rate.

The next day we had a celebratory breakfast – jalebis, gathias and parathas, after which we all parted our different ways – It was barely a week since we had all met but in that time we had bonded, encouraged each other, gone through tough times and pulled through. So if you are thinking about undertaking such a challenge – think no more – just do it!

BEHT would like to thank the following people who undertook the above challenge and in the process raised over £ 90,000 towards the equipment for the hospital project: Ajay Gudka, Hitesh Shah, Shaila Lambert, Hasmita Shah, David Lambert, Bakul Patani, Kishor Shah, Babu Shah, Satish Shah, Shirley Briars, Jyoti Gudka, Kiran Malde, TM Lee , Roopa Malde, Bene Loy, Jaymal Gudka, Himesh Naik, Bhavik Shah, Sahil Shah, Sam Briars.

Article written by Hasmita Shah