The Climb: Summit night

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As it is almost a year since I took on the challenge of a life time, I thought it was about time I got round to finishing my blog about climbing Kilimanjaro. I did actually type this in full the other day, but of course the computer froze when I was scheduling it to post and I lost the whole lot – so this post is definitely not as good as the original, but hopefully it is appropriate enough to summarise what the final climb was really like.

We were woken up at 11pm and told to dress quickly and meet in the mess tent for breakfast. After 5 days on a mountain we were all shattered but really looking forward to reaching the summit. The mood was quite different in the tent to previous days, no one really wanted to eat anything, and the realisation that although for the last 4 days in my head this had been the final hurdle, it was in fact not technically true, after all what goes up must come down, and once the challenge of summiting the world’s tallest free standing mountain was over, the challenge of getting back down in one piece was about to start.

Our mood all seemed to pick up as soon as we noticed the plate stacked high with ginger nut biscuits and we all eagerly began filling our coffee and tea cups with hot water, ready to dunk our biscuits in. Of course, it was all going too well and no sooner had I managed a spoonful or 2 of porridge, did I manage to vomit in my hands. Nice, I know.

I ran outside the tent, trying not to put anyone else off their breakfast and desperately tried to stop the tears from flooding down my face. This was the last thing I needed, being sick was not cool! A few seconds later, whilst I was hurling into a bush, I felt a hand on by back. One of the guides had followed me outside to check that I was ok. When I felt like I was going to be ok, I went back inside the tent and sat back down. One of my camp mates had filled my cup with hot water, another was pouring a re-hydration sachet into said cup, and my ‘porridge’ (if you could call it that) had been replaced by a plate of ginger biscuits. I immediately felt much better, and I knew with the support of my new friends I would make it to the summit. Just try and stop me.

We set off not long after and I noticed that the pace of the group was much quicker than usual (well, it certainly felt that way to me.) After about half an hour we naturally fell into a couple of groups and I felt much more comfortable going at my own pace. I had read a number of blogs before leaving the UK and I knew that this was the hardest part. I had purposely kept mu iPod for summit night, so I turned in onto shuffle and kept in playing quietly in my ear. If I’m being completely honest, I spent the first 4 hours looking pretty much at the ground. I mean, it was pitch black anyway so there wasn’t really much to see, but on the occasions that I did glance up, the sight was spectacular. We were one of the last groups to leave camp, so there were quite a few people ahead of us. This part of the climb was like a winding road, so all I could see was torch lights, floating in the sky like fireflies. It was truly amazing.
Although the journey seemed to take forever, given the amount of time we were actually walking for, it did go quite quick. The guides wouldn’t tell us how far we had to goo, but they did keep saying, you’ve been walking for 3 hours, 4 hours, 5 hours now, so we knew there really wasn’t much further to go.

The sun began to rise about 5 or 6 hours into the climb, and I still have another 2 hours until we reached the top. Although I didn’t make it for sunrise, I didn’t care, I knew I was going to get to the summit; it was literally just a matter of time.
I remember asking the guide how long we had now until we reached the top. We could see the top for quite a while and surely we must nearly be there. About half an hour he told me. If I’d had more energy, I’d have been giddy, but seems as I didn’t, I just replied with ‘good.’ By this point it was about 7am (I think) and some of the earlier groups were starting to make their way back down. One woman coming towards me (as I was in the front of our trio at the time) offered me some words of encouragement. You can do it, she told me, and you’re nearly there. You look in a much better place than I was when I was at this point, I was crying and you’re not. You’ve only got about an hour to go. Go on girl, you can do it. I smiled at her and said that you, but I really wanted to say 2 things: 1. I am crying inside, believe me and 2. AN HOUR, A BLOODY HOUR, MY GUIDE TOLD ME 30 MINUTES, 15 MINUTES AGO. FOR GOODNESS SAKE. (Or another more appropriate expletive)

Eventually (about an hour and a half later – turns out they all lied!!) I made it to the summit. I couldn’t believe it. I literally had no words; I just stood staring out at the edge. I was here. I had done it. The head guide was with our group at the time and he asked me where my camera was. Erm, I don’t know, was all I could reply. I don’t really know who was more confused, him or me. I mean, you can’t go all the way to Africa, climb Kilimanjaro and not have a picture. Where’s your phone he asked me. I gave it to him and made my way over to the sign. ‘Say cheese’ he said. Snap, that was it. I had my memento, an iPhone picture of someone who resembled my former self. I was broken, but I didn’t care, I had made it to the peak. Now, all that was left was probably the greatest challenge of them all, getting down from the highest free standing mountain in the world. Should be a doddle eh!

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The climb: day 1

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Considering all the drama with flights and airport closures I was really happy to reach day one of the climb but absolutely bloody petrified about what was to come. I had done my research, so I knew that day one wasn’t anywhere near as hard as the remaining days. I had a friend who had climbed with his family a few years ago, and although we weren’t doing the same route, he assured me that day one was just like walking up Snowdon and nothing at all to worry about.  So I was feeling positive about the day ahead and was ready and rearing to go.

The coach took us to the start point and we arrived ready to sign in mid-morning. A quick toilet stop and water collection, we gathered together for a couple of last photos and said goodbye to life as we know it (well at least for the next 6 days) The first part of the climb was pretty ok, we walk walking at quite a steady pace, up a hill, all chatting a way about our interests, books we had read and music we liked. We had a toilet stop after about an hour and a half and then were told we would be stopping for lunch shortly. When we arrived at our lunch stop, I expected to be handed a butty and maybe some crisps. What we were actually greeted with was a long picnic table, complete with a cloth, a carton drink laid out for each of us and camping chairs. This was totally not what I was expecting, but boy was I pleased. We really were going to be looked after on this trip.

After lunch we carried on with our journey and the route became steeper. Not unmanageable but it wasn’t always the easier to have a full scale conversation with people whom you had only really known for a day or 2. It was a good opportunity to have a chat and walk alongside some of the guys I hadn’t spoken to that much and find out a bit about them. Unfortunately, doing that meant that I found myself towards the back of the group, meaning that if I did have to stop for a minute, I didn’t really have anyone to fall back with. This became problematic about an hour away from our first nights camp.

Left in my own thoughts, I began to doubt what I was doing and if in fact I could do it. One of the other girls must have been thinking the same as me and I could see she had a few tears in her eyes. Less than 5 minutes later, I could feel them starting to fill up in mine too. Frantically I tried to stop myself, particularly as I was very near to the rest of the group and the last thing I wanted them to see was me crying when we hadn’t even finished the first day. What a wimp! It was all too late though, even though I turned myself away, I knew I’d been seen and then it was my turn to set someone else off, as I could see their eyes filling up too.  Thankfully we all managed to pull ourselves together and continue on with the journey.

Unbeknown to us, we actually were very near to the first nights camp, and once we have arrived, we were allocated a tent and all met in the mess tent to trays of popcorn, and steaming flasks of tea and coffee. An evening meal soon followed, and despite the dark and unknown area, I found myself enjoying my evening and really confident about the next day. Following a briefing by our head guide, Herman, we made our way back to our tents, ready for an early night and an early start the next day.

That day I overcame my fear of long drop toilets, peeing in a bush and well, y’know, going the toilet on a mountain. Oh and I’d survived the climb: day one.

Mountain Motivation: brought to you by Marc Jacobs

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I have just 2 more sleeps to go until i leave the UK for lands afar, and i have to admit, that i am getting very nervous about it all. An excited-nervousness i will admit, but butterflies in my stomach all the same…

I’m not the most adventurous person in the world, i like my home comforts and i am really worried about how i am going to cope for 10 days without any of them. I say all this, but i am not actually doing anything to prepare myself any better. For example, i havent charged my ipod or spare iphone charger, (the little comforts i can take with me!) and i dont have everything that i have been recommended to get on my kit list, my bag is not packed and i can’t pick up my money until after 2pm on Friday…oh yeah, and i have plans for tonight. Last minute prep the night before i go it is then! 🙂

One of the things i am really looking forward to though, is visiting one of the schools that the charity supports. Getting to see exactly where all the money i have raised goes and how it is impacting on the lives of those children will give me all the motivation i need to get to the summit…and boy am i going to need it!

I can be quite stubborn at times (for quite read very!) and i have way too much pride to quit before i reach the top – but just in case i do get close, i have promised myself, that if i make it to the top, I will treat myself to the Marc Jacobs handbag that I have wanted for AGES! (The one i should have bought in New York but decided to spend my money on my lovely family and their Christmas presents because i am so nice to you all! 🙂 )

So yeah, as time draws near, I think that this is probably the right time to thank every single person who has supported me throughout the run up to this adventure, to everyone who has helped fundraise and to every single penny that my family and friends have donated in sponsorship to the cause. It really is appreciated, by myself, the Charity and the children whose lives will benefit from the investment in their country.

I would also like to say a huge thank you to Marc Jacobs for producing such lovely bags, without whom, i would definitely be more productive in the office and at home, and spend a lot less time daydreaming about how beautiful one would look on my arm!

So, i guess all that’s left for me to say, is THANK YOU to you all, and i will see you in 2 weeks! 🙂

Do Bears Sh*t in the woods?

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Most people who know me are well aware that one of my biggest fears for climbing Kilimanjaro is having to go to the toilet on a mountain.

Laughable, i know. But its true. I already had an irrational fear of public toilets, so being faced with the concept of no toilet, well, it made me want to cry. What made it even worse, was finding out that there are in fact, toilets on Kili, (of a sort) but they are ‘long drop’ toilets and this fills me with dread.

I was explaining this to a colleague the other day, and she asked me, ‘what is it exactly you don’t like about public toilets’ Little did she know, this was the start of a 30 minute conversation about toilets and poo. I definitely crossed a line. Probably more than one if i’m being completely honest.

My response was this:

Firstly,  public toilets stink (apart from the ones in Tiffany’s, New York – now those toilets sparkled and smelled amazing!!)

Secondly, its bad enough hearing someone else doing their business, let alone thinking about them hearing you.

Thirdly, its just wrong!

Now i know that we all poo, and although on occassion i have been known to mention it, it is not something i really enjoy thinking about, especially not in a public place.  To be honest, i’m the type of girl who would hold a wee in for 8 hours, rather than use some horrid public loo.

Anways, 30 minutes in to this conversation we reached to conclusion that, no-one actually enjoyed going the toilet in public, but when it has to be done, its best to make the most of it.

So, now i am armed with tips on how to go, when you’re on a mountain…

1. Take lots of loo roll in a water resistant bag

2. Roll your trouser leg up, or take them off to avoid contamination.

3. Perfume a scarf and breathe in as much as possible before entering.

4. Practice a good squatting stance prior to the trip – you don’t wanna fall halfway through the act.

5. Get over it, everybody poo’s. Fact.

With this i mind, i have adopted a new mantra… “I am a bear.” If it’s good enough for them, then it’ll have to be good enough for me…

Why i decided to climb Kili…

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So, reality has started to sink in now, and i am fully aware of what is going to happen in the next 2 weeks. I am going to climb the world’s tallest, free-standing mountain, by myself, in Africa, with no phone signal, no bed, no shower, no toilet and no sky plus. WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING…

It seemed like a really good idea at the time. A fantastic charity, and adventure of a lifetime and Steve will definitely give in and come with me…HMMM DIDNT QUITE WORK AS I’D PLANNED.

It’s all Disney Pixar’s fault.

I didnt want to be like that old couple who wanted to do something all their life, only to find that when they finally got round to doing it, it was too late.

So without much* hesitation (*any) i booked it.

I thought fundraising £2450 was going to be the hard part. WHAT WAS I EVEN THINKING!!  Ive not even made it out of the country yet and im already realising, that for me, the hardest part is going to be my mental attitude. Overcoming the cold, the tiredness and the aching legs and having the willingness to continue to the top. I know i can do it, i just need to make sure i have that belief when i am there..

I thought that reading other people’s blogs and videos would help. In some ways it is comforting, in others, it most definitely is not.

but here i am, with 2 weeks to go, i am frantically trying to do everything i possibly can to prepare myself for what i am going to endure.

will it be good enough – definitely not. will i hate almost every minute of it – definitely yes. Will i try and sign up for another challenge the following year? Try stopping me…

It’ll be alright on the night (and day – i hope!!!)

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So, it turns out that inbetween working full time, planning a hen night and a wedding, attending various parties (I am after all a social butterfly!) and trying to spend some quality time with my husband to be, there isnt much time to blog. This proved problematic considering my plan was to blog through the run up to the wedding. It is very clear to see that this plan was very short lived…

But now it is now official, I am married, and i have worn my manolos. ❤ they are beautiful but they hurt my feet. (for hurt read killed.)

I have to say though, the wedding day was awesome, and went way too quickly. 😦  I know that i am biased, as it was my wedding, but it was just perfect – partly due to the people invited, but also due to all my hard work before hand (i joke – well a little; it was definitely NOT steve’s as it took him forever to order the suits!!)

I have to say a massive thank you to my family and friends who all worked their ass’ off planning and making things for the day. It really was appreciated, and all came together perfectly.

So now thats all over, the only thing left for me to conquer is the mountain….

Well, isnt this going to be fun.

I like to pretend im prepared, but im not. I dont like camping and i hate public toilets, never mind being faced with no toilet. I like to shower in private and i love my tempur mattress. So i can see now, exactly how my 10 days up a mountain are going to go.

Putting all that to one side (it pains me to do so) i am mega excited. Not only do i get to see a beautiful landscape, and meet a whole now bunch of people; i get the opportunity to go to a school that has received funding from the charity i am climbing for and see exactly how the fundraising money is spent and how much it means to the staff and children at the school.

I think for me this is going to be an adventure of a lifetime and hopefully it will make me a better person because of it.

So, with 3 weeks to go, i am doing exactly what you would expect someone to do who is taking on the world’s largest free standing mountain – eating a pile of takeaway and unheatlhy food, and doing no exercise what so ever…

OOPS.

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