‘Tackling Kilimanjaro made me stronger’
PUBLISHED: 09:55 27 January 2014 | UPDATED: 13:49 28 January 2014
Devon recruitment manager Amy Mann describes the testing challenge she faced when attempting to conquer Mount Kilimanjaro
Born in Ermington, Amy Mann spent most of her youth growing up by the River Yealm in Noss Mayo. Since graduating from Plymouth University in 2006, she has worked as a Recruitment Manager. During her Nan’s fight with terminal cancer in 2011, Marie Curie Cancer Care provided a lot of support for her family. Amy decided that she wanted to give something back in appreciation for the help they offered during the emotional time. After paying the full fee of the trip, she then set up a fundraising page to raise money for Marie Curie, raising just shy of £1000. Here is her account of her adventure in Africa:
This time last year, a friend posted details of a trek to Mount Kilimanjaro that she was doing to raise money for charity on Facebook. Rather than sponsor her, I decided to get my walking boots on and join her.
I had just 5 weeks to prepare for the trek, a trek I had dreamt of after I followed the celebrities tackling the accent for Comic Relief in 2009.
Soon enough, the departure date had arrived and it was on the plane that the realisation hit me. I was about to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.
The tallest mountain in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world. As we approached Kilimanjaro Airport, there it was. Towering above the landscape, and protruding into the clouds, Kibo stood tall at a massive 5895 m above sea level.
Our journey began at the shanty village of Naremoru (1950m) where we met our team from the African Walking Company. Our party consisted of a father and son from Australia, Jen and her friend Andrea both from London and myself. We were set and ready to tackle the Rongai route, the only trail to approach Kibo from the North. We walked through lush plantations, then into dense rainforest where we were lucky enough to get a glimpse of a colobus monkey high up in the canopy. After a stop for lunch, the landscape changed, the trees thinned out making way for moorland and heath and we soon arrived at our campsite for the night.
After a restless night due to the altitude, the going was tough. The open baron landscape provided no shelter from the sweltering sun and rocky steep sections challenged us all. There is no real training you can do to prepare you for the stress that altitude puts on the human body. The Kilimanjaro National Park authorities say that one in four people who climb Kilimanjaro fail to reach the crater. They also say there are 2 deaths per year; although independent statistics put the figure nearer ten.
From our base camp at Kikelewa (3675m) we took a steep path ascending to spectacular views across the Kenyan Plains settling at Mawenzi Tarn Camp (4350m). After a brief rest, we then tackled an acclimatisation trek up Mawenzi to around 4500m which was a relief as we all made it up with relative ease. Was this the calm before the storm? Tomorrow would see us trek across to Kibo base camp where the real challenge would begin…
I slept very little due to my heart racing all night. Your body has to work harder to get the same amount of oxygen into your body due to the drop in atmospheric pressure. Each time you breathe you are getting about half as much oxygen as you would in Plymouth so your breathing naturally deepens and your heart rate increases. This made the trek across the ‘saddle’ between Kibo and Mawenzi a real challenge to say the least. A pounding headache with the heat of the African sun made the climb across the desert to Kibo base camp (4700m) a long one. It would be here that we would then make our final ascent at 11:30pm later that night.
I can honestly say that the trek up Kibo was one of the most testing tasks I have ever assigned myself to in the name of fun. It made me reflect on who I am, what I have achieved and most of all, it showed me that Kibo is a mountain not to be trifled with. I and most of our party had taken Diamox, a prescriptive drug that helps the body acclimatise to the altitude by acidifying the blood, stimulating breathing which allows a greater amount of oxygen to enter the blood stream. Yet we all seemed to suffer at the hands of Kilimanjaro. You are joined by a plethora of other trekking parties, hundreds of like-minded tourists wanting to conquer the summit. It was mentally challenging to think that the comforts of civilisation were so far from my grasp and that I would have to tackle the peak in order to be able to begin the descent. I, much to my disappointment, struggled physically and had to separate from the rest of the party. I would consider myself physically fit and have several half marathons under my belt yet I felt beaten by the mountain. Whilst I did still make it to Gillman’s Point (5685m) I do feel I met my match. The Masai call the mountain the ‘House of God’ which now seems entirely appropriate. Thankfully, whilst I was not one of the unlucky people who meet their Maker whilst tackling Kili, it certainly has made me stronger and the person I am today.