David B
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Bridge to the Top of Africa

David B
Posted by
23 Oct 2013

This September my son Michael and I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro which is the highest mountain in Africa, and the highest free-standing mountain in the world at 5,895 meters above sea level.

This September my son Michael and I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro which is the highest mountain in Tanzania, the highest mountain in Africa, and the highest free-standing mountain in the world at 5,895 meters or 19,341 feet above sea level. We chose to fundraise for two charities so that others could benefit from our exertions. 

The wife of a friend of mine passed away this year after a 2 year fight against leukaemia and my mother also passed away after a long fight against the disease. We also raised money for a charity called The Amani Children's Home, which is committed to reducing the number of children living on the streets in Tanzania by providing a nurturing place for homeless children to heal, grow, and learn. In addition to providing long-term care, Amani aims to reunite children with their relatives when possible and to equip their families with the tools they need to be self-sustainable.

Waking up at 10:45 PM for a night ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro in freezing temperatures isn't your typical African retreat just south of the equator, but here we were at 4750 metres above sea level, in our tents attempting to finish packing before 'breakfast' at 11:30 PM. Just past midnight with a full moon lighting our trail up the mountain we set off from Kibo Hut camp hoping to make it to the rim of the crater a full vertical kilometre above us by sunrise.

Six days previously, we began our walk on the Shira Plateau at 3200m and slowly (polè-polè) made our way around Kibo, Kilimanjaro's highest volcanic cone, via the Northern Circuit staying between 3500 and 4200m until the last camp before the long awaited summit day. Even 2000m below Uhuru Peak, the effects of the altitude and lack of oxygen were affecting us, breathlessness getting changed and heart rates soaring during steep sections. Nevertheless, we soldiered on without any major problems and after six beautiful sunsets we were both feeling good before attempting to summit.

We started our ascent at an extra polè polè pace in the bright moonlight without our headlamps and after what seemed like an eternity were told we had reached 5000m. One of the nine people had fallen off the back of the group. We couldn't stop to wait for him as we were all freezing even whilst walking. With every glance up the mountain, the same view. Hours went by and we felt no closer to the summit. With each step becoming slower and slower, we finally saw a glimmer of light on the horizon but the rim didn't seem any closer. Suddenly, almost surprisingly, we popped out through the rock face and past the Gilman's Point sign with the sun just about to come over the horizon behind us. We had just climbed to 5685m and supposedly the hardest part was behind us.

Mike was feeling weak at Gilman's Point and somehow managed a smile in front of the sign but we couldn't stop for long as the temperature was still well below freezing. It was 6AM and the sunrise was imminent. We made our way along a welcome flatter section of the crater rim to Stella Point at 5785m, from where we saw Uhuru Peak for the first time. It didn't seem far but still took us close to an hour, including a break that allowed Mike to summon enough energy to reach the top of Africa. The path had a drop down into the crater on one side with glaciers lining the other.

At 7:40AM we made it to Uhuru Peak with all but one of our original group who subsequently reached the top.

After about half an hour at the summit, we began our descent back to Stella Point and then down the scree to Barafu and eventually on to Millenium camp. Fatigue really started take hold with David feeling worse off. We were told it was an hour and a half to 'camp' so we assumed our guides meant our camp, however after walking through said camp we were promptly told it was another hour and a half to our actual camp. With this crushing news, all our false hope and mental preparations for arriving back at our tents had to be erased as we continued our 2000 vertical metre journey from the peak.

Thirteen hours after we set off, we arrived at camp and crashed in our tents before lunch. We were both well and truly shattered. Having perked up a bit after a sleep and some food, our accomplishment started to properly set in. We congratulated ourselves for deciding not to camp at the next camp down, a further two hour walk, in favour of not sleeping in the next morning. After more rest and more food we finally went to bed.

Leaving camp at 6:00AM the next day we made our way to Mweka gate in time for lunch where we saw the first cars we had seen for over a week. We had our last meal on the mountain, excellent as always, and said our final farewells to the 45 strong crew without who we would never have even come close to reaching the summit.

Our time at the top of Africa was over. We made it!

This blog was written by Mike, David's son. 

Thanks for reading our story of our challenge to trek to the top of Africa! Finally we would like to thank everyone for their very generous sponsorship. So far we have raised over £2000 for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, and over £1000 for the Amani Children's Home.

For anyone reading this who would like to sponsor us and help Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research to beat blood cancer please visit our Just Giving page.