Jonney climbs Kilimanjaro
After our Digital Branding Consultant, Jonney, climbed Kilimanjaro last week sponsored by Clicky in aid of four local charities, we’re excited to have him back in the office to tell us all about his climb.
On Monday 25th September, he and a group of 12 fellow climbers with ages ranging from 20 to 65 were joined by group leader Liz Southall and started their ascent, reaching the summit on 29th September after a long journey.
We asked Jonney to keep a diary throughout his trip, so here’s what he had to say!
DAY 1 – Monday 25th
So the day has come after a year of training and preparing – I still can’t believe I’m doing this. It’s so beautiful here in Moshi.
The bus is packed with all our gear, all the food for 6 days and we’re leaving to head up to Marangu Gate, the entrance to the Kilimanjaro National Park at 1800m. Once there, we’ll be starting the trek and heading up through the rainforest. Our team consists of 7 guides, 13 of us, 25 porters and a cook! It’s like a small army.
So we’re at 2770m – at the Mandara Huts. Incredible day walking through the rainforest. We met a troop of Blue Monkeys and their babies, some Columbus Monkeys and a Hiku tree rat which was amazing. After we’d dropped the bags we went on an acclimatisation walk up to the Maundi Crater at 3000m before heading back down for dinner. The human body adjusts and sleeps better when it sleeps below the highest altitude achieved that day so these evening walks are really important.
The altitude is weird, I started feeling it at about 2600m, takes more energy to breathe and we’ve noticeably slowed the walking pace down. On our arrival here, Nixon, our cook, had made fresh popcorn and custard creams to go with pots of tea – what a snack! Dinner of chicken soup and beef stew were delicious.
DAY 2 – Tuesday 26th
Arrived at Horombo Hut, 3720m. What a long, hard day, walked 15km and ascended 1km! I’m suffering from a constant headache from the altitude, even after already drinking 5 litres of fluid today. These huts will be our base for the next 2 nights and we’re doing an acclimatisation walk up to Zebra Ridge tomorrow.
Held a chameleon lizard today, it was hanging from a branch over the path – it was tiny! We also met mountain crows at lunchtime – they are huge, like eagles! Not much else lives where we are now.
The food is amazing, just had vegetable curry, rice and braised cabbage. We have gorgeous soup every night too with lots of tea as the temperature is dramatically colder at night.
DAY 3 – Wednesday 27th
I’ve just woken up on Day 3, only a 3-hour training walk today, heading up to 4050m, the highest I will have ever been in my life, to a place called Zebra Ridge. I peeked my head out of the hut (6.30am) and I can see the top of Kilimanjaro, stunning. We are above a sea of clouds across the Serengeti which is breathtaking.
Emotions rising… so, got to say it, had my first welling up moment today. It’s been coming, the trip is so emotional with a lot of time for thinking about family and friends back home. We walked up to 4050m today and took in our first view of the route for the next two days, incredible. Our trek leader, Dave Pickles, asked us if we wanted to add to the stone pyramid he’s been building for years with his previous trek groups. Each stone represents a loved one or family so I placed a stone there for Lindsay and the boys. This proved to be a real focal point for me when things got really tough during the summit attempt.
Food for thought… More on the food. We arrived with the mantra that food = fuel and we should eat everything no matter our food preferences. For a fussy eater like me, this has been so hard but it’s essential to maintain fuel levels as we build ourselves up for Thursday and Friday. I can’t stomach eggs and avocado but I’ve managed omelettes every day and lots of avocado… it better be worth it in the end!
So tomorrow we leave for Kibo Hut at 4720m. It’ll take until 4pm, then we have dinner and a rest until 11.30pm when we leave for the summit at 5980m, arriving after sunrise before coming back to 4900m for a rest then to 3770m where I am now on Friday afternoon. Pretty epic 30+ hours. So excited, just preparing the kit and getting some sleep before dinner later.
DAY 4 – Thursday 28th
Here goes! We get up in 5 mins at 6am. We trek from 3770m to 4720m. It’s super cold this morning! The view this morning across the plains is spectacular, a cloud blanket at 2700m. Now for porridge, omelettes and toast, plus LOTS of tea.
Hydration – the water of life…. I’m drinking 6 litres a day, mainly filtered water from my backpack bladder (3lts) but also a litre before breakfast of berocca, a litre of lemon energy tablet water and then the rest is tea (lots) and mango juice. Never thought I’d manage that!
Lunch at 14,500ft, in the Saddle – we’re now in alpine desert terrain, dusty, rocky and little vegetation.
What an afternoon – I had my first real run in with Altitude Sickness, just below Kibo Huts, where I am lying now… my only recollection is one of the guides asking for my bag – I was walking like I’d just left the pub apparently! Once I’d handed it over I continued to drink more water, eat more and went to sleep as soon as I hit the bunks! Now feeling better and looking forward to dinner.
Just woken after 4 hours sleep – we’re about to go through final preparations for the summit attempt as we leave at midnight… I’m beginning to feel really apprehensive but we’re being reassured we’ve done the training and performed well so far so as long as we stick to our hydration/fuel plans we should all be fine.
The kit today is also different to the other days – I am wearing 7 layers including my down ski jacket, a down insulated jacket, a micro fleece and 4 thermal layers – and a fleece hat with two hoods up and a head torch on.
We’ll be heading off in single file, a torch every 3 walkers, a lead guide who will control the very slow pace and we’re expected to drink fluid and eat snacks every 15 minutes of the climb. It’s going to be a tough start to the day underneath the most spectacular night sky I have ever seen!
DAY 5 – Friday 29th – SUMMIT DAY
I’ve just got into bed and can’t wait to close my eyes on what has been the most insanely difficult day of my life – I’m sure I will enjoy looking back on today over time, but at the moment I’m glad it’s over.
So we set off at midnight and slowly climbed, zigzagging the scree fields up to Hann Meyer’s cave, heavy gravel underfoot making progress slippery.
We have been doing lots of training on how we would start to feel as we used all our physical and mental energy and how we would have to rely on an emotional and spiritual state to take us through the experience. The teachings proved right as at 3.30am I was hallucinating, telling Dave that I was being supported by hundreds of people on the side of the mountain who were high fiving me and giving me more water – obviously, nobody was there, but “they” did help me move forward. I thought a lot about the stone representing my family back at Zebra Ridge and also all of the support I’d had from my friends.
At 6.30am we witnessed sunrise of the east coast of Africa – a bright orange line breaking up the darkness followed by the warming glow of the sun above Mt. Mawenzi below (Africas 3rd highest peak). We then reached to the crater rim at Gilman’s Point (5685m) at 7am before having a much needed cup of tea and snack before starting the final push to the summit.
This was so hard – it was now daylight and the sun was beaming down even though it well below zero. We could see the summit around the crater rim but now had three “hills” to climb – about 300m ascending over about 1km. I had no energy and was totally drained.
We reached the summit at about 10am – I don’t really remember much about it as I was being unwell, took my team photos then promptly fell asleep on the floor!!
The descent was tough as I couldn’t walk unaided – I was administered oxygen but it became apparent I didn’t need it – I was helped by Dave who was aided by Chris, Martin and Jon before eventually meeting two of the porter team at 5200m who carried me down to Kibo Huts at 4720m. And to sleep at about 1.30pm!
At 4pm we left Kibo Huts for Horombo Huts at 3720m – a downhill 10km walk with the air becoming richer in oxygen with every step.
DAY 6 – Saturday 30th
After a cracking sleep we’re packed and ready for the 25km trek back to Marangu Gate at 1800m from here at 3720m. The air will be great and it should be hot so looking forward to our final day on the mountain.
DONE! Successfully completed our trek and looking forward to a few beers to celebrate tonight back at the hotel. We’ve successfully walked 92km in 6 days, ascending and descending approximately 8000m!
A few Swahili phrases our guides taught us whilst on the trek:
Polepole – slowly – how we are told to walk when at altitude
Jambo! – hello/goodbye – when passing people on the mountain!
Hakuna Matata – no worries