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A Year Ago…

Me and Tommys at Uhuru Peak

A year ago today I was elated, exhausted and overcome with many, many emotions.

Why?

I had just reached the summit of Kilimanjaro after a gruelling hike through the night in freezing temperatures where all my body wanted to do was sleep!

A year ago.

Seems a little unbelievable if I’m honest. As I sit here in the comfort of my chair with the familiar background noise of children playing, it feels a little like it never happened. Just a brief encounter with a distant memory. But then the memories of the trip come flooding back in a rainbow of dazzling colour! I remember the nervous excitement in the run up to the trip. The laughter, tears and games played out with the group I climbed with. The effort of training to try and prepare for what I was going to do. The self inflicted pressure of trying to reach my fundraising target. The tribulations of snapping an achilles a few short months before!

But most importantly the biggest memory I have is of standing at the summit, breathing in the surroundings, the view, the achievement and the feeling of standing on top of the world.

Would I do it again?

Absolutely! Without hesitation. In fact I quite often think about my time climbing Kilimanjaro and in some ways wish I was there right now climbing again, experiencing everything the mountain throws at you.

Will I do it again? I hope so, but I don’t know. Maybe when my girls are older. Who’s know’s maybe Beth will do it with me?!

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Fundraising Update

I finally got around to sorting out the fundraising donations from the Bake Off and individuals that have been sat on my desk since before the trip! They have now been added to my Just Giving Page and the running total is currently a massive £1771.85!

Absolutely amazing! A huge thank you to everyone that has contributed.

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/tommystrek

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Kili Conquered

 Kili Conquered

This time two weeks ago I had just conquered the hike up to Uhuru peak and endured the scree surf back down to camp.

Now pretty much fully recovered – although the tips of my big toes still lack full feeling! – I can look back on that day and the entire trip with a feeling of elation and a sense of true achievement.

I’ve regaled stories to friends and family many times, gazed with wonder at my photos and photos from others in the group, bored colleagues by using words like “amazing”, “challenging” and “brilliant” over and over again, and I’m dumbfounded at the genoristy of everyone who has helped me raise money for Tommys; while I haven’t yet reached my target, what has been raised is fantastic and will help enormously.

And so I guess this is where “Crutches to Kili” comes to an end. The trip is done. I managed to go from crutches and a boot to the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro all in a space of 7 months. The journey has taken me to some amazing (there’s that word again!) places around the the country – the Brecon Beacons and Snowdon to name a couple. Now I can sit back and relax until the next challenge…

The Next Challenge?

I have been asked by quite a few people what the next challenge might be. Some have suggested Everest Base Camp – Kilimanjaro’s Uhuru Peak is actually a higher elevation than base camp by 515m, so what’s the point?! 😄 I’m not entirely sure if there will be another challenge (or if I’ll be allowed to do one!), time will tell…although White Water Rafting trip down the Colorado river in the Grand Canyon does sound like fun!

If you would like to donate and help me raise money for Tommy’s (and maybe reach my target!) there is still time. Just visit my JustGiving page here.

The “proof” photo!

If you look carefully you’ll spot me…behind the sign, to the left and below the ‘Congratulations’. No idea why I decided to hide!

Summit Group Shot

 

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Flights Home

Kilimanjaro in the clouds

Days 9 & 10 – Flights home

Woke up around 06:30 for wee and it took a few seconds for me to work out that I wasn’t in a tent and didn’t have struggle with the stupid zip on a sleeping bag! Instead I once again fight with the mosquito netting, cursing it while I dance on the spot as I’m about to burst.

Woke up properly around 07:15 and had a very leisurely shower, dressing in shorts and t-shirt (no more layers for me!) before meandering down for breakfast. Turns out I’m the first to appear so indulge in some muesili with milk, fruit, a full fried breakfast and then some pastries. Absolutely brilliant!

Eventually others arrive and general chatter and banter start up ending when we realise we don’t have long to pack up and check out.

With the check out process done, we all mill around anding up on some comfy sofas on the veranda wasting time. A pack of cards appear and we whittle an hour or so away playing card games; I’m sure Andy was a “technique” when it comes to splitting the pack for a high card!

Time for lunch arrived and most of us opted for a big fat juicy burger with chips. As we finished licking our fingers from this fantastic meal our bus turned up to take us to the airport.

An hour later we were there. Some goodbyes to Sheena and Julie and then into the airport to clear security and customs and finally on to the plane.

The trip from Kilimanjaro to Addis Ababa for plane sailing, however the time spent at Addis Ababa…well, all I’ll say is if you ever plan a trip and see that you have to spend some time in Addis Ababa, do all that you can to avoid it!

With little sleep and tired legs we get through Heathrow to be surprised by family waiting for us! As I see my girls standing there holding up a sign welcoming me home, tears creep out and much hugging begins.

And then that’s it. Back to reality with the thought of standing on the roof of Africa feeling a bit like a dream.

 

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Day 8 – To Mweke Gate: End of the Climb!

Mweka gate

Day 8 – To Mweke Gate: End of the Climb!

Wake up call and washy washy at 06:00.

Breakfast at 06:30 – porridge, toast, sausage, egg and watermelon. Quite a few moans and groans from the 20+ hour day yesterday; lots of excitement about returning to Moivaro Coffee Plantation and the thought of a shower and a proper bed!

Tipping ceremony started just after 07:00. John very kindly stepped forward and said a few words for the group and then a nominated person (porter, helping porter, chef assistant, chef and assistant guide) stepped forward to receive the tips for their group.

Much happiness amongst the porters as I think Makeke said something about the maximum amount being given?!

A few songs from the support crew and much enjoyment from all and then we were off.

Down from 3287m to Mweke gate at 1633m which took around 4 hours. Sign out at the bottom and then a 15 minute walk to where the bus is.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the small children, no older than Marlee still in school uniform, who run out to see you with big brown eyes, faces of pure innocence and amazing smiles shouting “Jambo” and then utter one word that almost broke my heart…”chocolate”. Yep, the single greatest thing or treat they know of is chocolate. 😮 Unfortunately I didn’t have any but luckily Sarah did and turned their unhappy faces into happy smiley faces again.

Get to where the bus is and it’s chaos! The rest of our group are there but we’re surrounded by locals trying to flog their wares – t-shirts, music CDs, crafted ornaments and one particularly dodgy chap offered me a baton with a 12″ blade hidden inside?! Also more children here asking for chocolate and when offered any it was literally snatched from the hand at light speed! I’m pretty sure one of those kids is stashing it all and using it as some sort of black market currency!

After our final lunchbox lunch courtesy of Spidey – egg bap, meat samosa, cake, banana and a carton of juice, we handed in our hired kit, our bags were loaded onto the bus and off we set to the hotel! 😊

Arrive back at the lodge at 16:30 ish. Shown to my lodge where I promptly take a shower. Only my OCD kicked in and instead I emptied my clothes on the floor, arranged and folded into piles and then packed into my suitcase!

As soon as I had satisfied the OCD tendencies, I took a shower and it was amazing!

Clean, smelling nice and in comfy clothes, I trotted off to the main lodge to get some wifi (and a Kili beer!) and send some messages out letting everyone that I was alive and had made it to the summit.

Dinner followed (a set menu from which I chose – Avocado & Papaya starter, soup (no more soup for a very long time!), grilled beef fillet and a passion fruit panacotta to finish) with everyone laughing, joking and generally very happy albeit very tired! (Restaurant staff danced and sang while bringing a cake out for Andy’s 50th)

Makeke arrived and handed out certificates to ‘prove’ we reached the summit 😄

As the evening drew on members of the group retired to bed and some final goodbyes were said; another emotional bit of the trip as we all bonded well and without the dynamics of the group the trip wouldn’t have been anything like it has been. A final goodbye was said to Makeke (the big potato!); without his personality, his…everything, I’m not sure how many of us would’ve made it!

Todays totals –

Steps – 32658
Floors – 6 (seems descending some 1600m doesn’t count?!)
Miles – 15.67
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Day 7 – Summit night and descend to Millennium camp

Me and Tommys at Uhuru Peak

Day 7 – Summit night and descend to Millennium camp

An emotional day.

We did it! We reached the summit of tallest free standing mountain in the world! Bring on the tears; Sarah, Margaret and I all had to stop and have a little tear (I’m welling up now!). I think it was a culmination of tiredness, the most challenging thing we’ve ever done and, for me, missing my little family.

Anyway, quite enough of that nonsense 😳

The wake up call came at 23:00 (still day 6 really!), we dress quickly in multiple layers – too many I think but Makeke has spoken and I’d rather be hot than cold! Check my headlight again (I replaced batteries the night before)…nothing?! Bugger. Check/replace batteries again; nothing except a green light with a padlock next to it? Bugger. Luckily Margaret had a spare and lent me that. Phew! (When I’m home a Google will provide an explanation!)

Breakfast at 23:30 (😳) of porridge while our extra water containers are filled with hot water

Set off at midnight; 15 minutes in and we had to stop for people to remove layers!

Not much to say really other than it was dark, cold and flipping hard! As we were about half way through the relentless and endless switchbacks up to Stella Point I hit the wall. I tried various things – eating chocolate, drinking water etc – but my legs just did not want to take another step!

So 4 hours in and I’m walking slower than a snail! I sat at a break stop and if I’d closed my eyes I would’ve been in Neverland in seconds! Thankfully one of the guides (Dale) took my rucksack and encouraged me along the rest of the way. Had it not been for him I probably would’ve just called it a day and regretted it for ever more.

At just before 07:00 on 25th August 2016, we reached Stella Point (5745m) and were treated with an amazing sunrise.

A short, but hard, 45 minute walk up to Uhuru (5985m) saw us standing on top of Africa basking in glorious sunshine and not a cloud in site!

Lots of photos ensued and then we started back down again – 30-40 minutes at 50% less oxygen is plenty for anyone.

Oh! I should add that apart from having no energy, and believing my time on Kili was up, I reached the summit with no symptoms of altitude sickness at all! 😊

The descent back down from Stella Point to Barafu was quick and punishing on the knees and upper legs; scree surfing sounds like fun and is fun, but after several hundred meters of doing it I can assure you it’s not! 😐

Got back to camp around 11:00 with Sarah and Margaret shortly after; Sarah I think was struggling with a headache brought on by altitude…or a lack of sleep?!

Brunch of soup, veg spaghetti and watermelon before getting ready to move on to Millennium Camp (3950m) for the night; and a washy washy session, the first since Karanga! 😄 😷

Walk to camp took about 2.5 hours of steady descent arriving at 15:30. Now where’s my Washy washy bowl?!

Afternoon tea of popcorn and then back to the tent for a rest. We’re all still trying to process the fact that we all made it to the summit. Still, after days of walking up, not quite believing it’s all done and all that is left is to walk down.

Dinner consisted of potato, beef and banana stew with pineapple for desert. I treated myself to the Snickers bar that I bought for summit night but forgot to eat…amazing!

Now to bed after being up for nearly 24 hours! Hopefully a good night sleep ready for our 4-or-so hour walk to Mweke gate and the end of our journey.

Todays totals –

Steps – 26,617
Floors – 115
Miles – 12.75
(Sodding watch ran out of power at some point between leaving for the summit and arriving back at camp!)
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Day 6 – To Barafu Camp

Barafu Camp - next stop summit

Day 6 – To Barafu Camp

Not a great nights sleep tonight. Hearing Emily falling into toilet tent didn’t help!

Normal wake up routine of wake up call, dress, pack, fill water containers and then meander to the mess tent.

Breakfast – porridge, toast, eggs, sausage, tomato and pineapple

Leave camp around 08:30 and set off up a relentless up hill trail for an hour until we break – approx 4200m. Steady pace (led by Makeke) with one more break at the foot of a climb up to Barafu.

A 45 min hike up the last leg of the trail and through a crowded camp to our tents – Allan (my porter) has picked out a great spot again!

Barafu Camp is an elevation of 4673m

Quick rest before lunch – soup, chips (😊), sausage kofta thing and water melon. Then a briefing about tonight and words from other guides.

Back to my tent to sort out clothes for tonight and then try to sleep (poo first!)

An early dinner (17:30) of potato stew and rice.

Back to my tent again to lay clothes out underneath sleeping bag and to try and sleep (it’s 18:40!) before the wake up call at 23:00 for the big day.

Todays totals –

Steps – 15336
Floors – 197
Miles – 7.36
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Day 5 – Over Baranco Wall to Karanga Camp

Baranco Camp!

Day 5 – Over Baranco Wall to Karanga Camp

Slept okay; seemed to be much warmer than the previous nights even though nothing has changed? Still up at 01:30 for wee though

Apparently I was the “beacon” (snoring!) for Matt and Susie to find their tent again after getting up for the loo 😳

Normal routine of wake up call, washy washy, dress and pack bags.

Breakfast – porridge, toast, eggs and bacon

Quick clean of teeth and photo at the sign, then we set off around 08:30

Barranco wall – looming over us as we start to climb…scramble really…although there are porters passing us at lightning speed carrying and balancing equipment on their heads! Crazy fools.

It takes nearly two hours to get to the top – 4219m – after a couple of stops and a couple of false summits! Here we take some photos, enjoy the views and have a couple of snacks.

We descend from the top to start the trail to Karanga; a couple of hours later we’re descending into the valley (3946m) and stop for an “email” break at the bottom. A quick 30 minute-or-so climb back out of the valley to camp – 4034m – arriving at 13:30.

Lunch – soup, vegetable pasta (two helpings for me! 😊), cake, pineapple and watermelon

Short rest before our acclimatisation walk up to 4200m at 15:30.

Washy washy! One more wash in the morning and then that’s it until Millennium camp after we’ve hopefully summited! 😮

Dinner – soup, bread, peppered steak (!!), rice, cabbage and veg stew followed by bananas

Cleaning teeth while looking out over a sea of stars and, surprisingly, civilisation! Several towns light up the night floor while the stars and milky way light the sky.

I thought I was lucky seeing a shooting star last night to wish on, but tonight I caught the most amazing shooting star! It literally stopped me in my tracks as it streaked down the west side of Kibo! It seemed so close…not your normal shooting star!

Todays totals –

Steps – 25022
Miles – 12
Floors – 167 (some scepticism about this as I climbed a freaking 230+m wall this morning!)
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Day 4 – To Baranco Camp

Baranco Camp!

Day 4 – To Baranco Camp

Went to bed more or less straight after dinner last night – read a little about the next day whilst listening to some music. Not the best nights sleep; cold despite wearing thermals

Breakfast – porridge, eggs, bacon, bread (not toast, just bread)

Set off for todays walk around 08:30

Tough-ish walk over the ridge and then through Shira plateau and on to Lava Tower (4650m); very tough and cold with a little snow and hail falling from the clouds.

Walking taken up by playing games with Saffron, Emily, Alison and Andy; amusing and helped distract and pass the time

Another Yummy packed lunch at Lava Tower before a fairly rapid and tricky descent.

Arrive at camp 15:30 – 3900m. Take another giant poo that I didn’t have time to take at the last camp (plus it was freezing)

Washy washy time! That bowl of hot water is fast becoming a welcome sight thanks to the dust that just wont disappear…I wonder if the summit is more dust, just forzen in place?

Popcorn for afternoon tea and is devoured by all 😄

Impressively, my phone has made it to this point without needing a charge! It’s now at 17% so on charge it goes.

Back to my tent to update the notes, sort my bags out and rest (it’s become a ritual of mine it seems) before…

Dinner – soup, bread, buttered boiled pots, beef stew, spaghetti followed by pineapple for those that wanted it

After dinner watched/looked at stars and milky way for 10-15 mins; found the rough direction of home and waited for a shooting star to wish on for my girls at home (Beth included!); didn’t take long for one to streak across the night sky

Tucked up in “bed” with thermals on and music playing…it’s 20:14

Todays totals –

Steps – 26,772
Miles – 12.84
Floors – 240
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Day 3 – To Shira 2 Camp

The sunset and me

Day 3 – To Shira 2 Camp

We receive our normal wake up calls at 06:30…trouble is I’m already awake and its blinking cold! (ice on my tent)

Slept okay apart from being amazing clear and just below freezing outside! Woke up a couple of times; once thanks to a spider crawling across my face, the other thanks to my face (mainly my eyes and nose!) feeling like ice. Simple solution was to put my down jacket over my head. Sorted.

Set off around 08:45 after the normal breakfast routines for a fairly easy walk across the Shira plateau; we stopped at Boulder and messed around taking photos of the group! (Makeke was not particularly happy as we were falling behind schedule!)

Very, very clear with sun and a cool breeze; amazing views of Kibo and the glaciers atop of it.

Our route today led us to Shira cathedral. After a short but slightly challenging climb, we left our packs at the base and scrambled to the top for some amazing views – Mt Mawenza just about visible. Right now we’re at an approx elevation of 3862m.

A couple of hours more walking on to Shira 2 camp past very odd boulder formations and the emergency helipad.

Arrive at camp 14:15 ish; an elevation of 3895m according to the sign.

Late lunch (14:30) of soup, corn something or other, eggy bread and cake. All very welcome and eaten promptly!

As part of our acclimatisation we had an afternoon walk up to 4000m; everyone felt good with no altitude sickness symptoms. 45 mins up, 15-20 mins at 4000m and 20 mins or so down.

Now time for washy washy before tea! 😂 (Nose blowing is not a pleasant experience; jet black bogeys!)

Dinner – soup, spaghetti bolognaise, fruit salad

Straight to bed for some music and to get warm! Blinking cold – wore thermal top, pants and socks.

Todays Totals

Steps – 28,886
Miles – 13.86
Floors – 203