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What I learned climbing Kilimanjaro…

It has taken me a while to write this post because how on earth do you put into words the experience of climbing 5895 meters to the top of the world’s highest freestanding mountain? It was at once the best and worst experience of my life. Horrendous altitude sickness, physical and mental exhaustion all faded away at the sheer exhilaration of reaching the summit and watching the sunrise on the world. It is something that I will never ever forget and it’s impact on me will be a permanent one. Here is what I discovered whilst climbing to the rooftop of Africa…

  1. The body is incredible, it can achieve things you never think it could. On summit night we set off at midnight on 2 hours sleep in -15C and we ascended over 1000 meters. 2 hours in and 5000 meters up I sat down and threw up. I had no energy I couldn’t even raise my arms to lift my water bottle to my mouth but somehow I dragged myself up the next 800 meters determined not to give up. And I survived. I may have come back down with a killer headache, numb legs and completely exhausted but my god my body is resilient. I now (and to those who know me this will come as a shock) go running for fun! Because after climbing a mountain a little run through the park is child’s play! 
  2. Running showers and working toliets are the best luxury and I will never ever take them for granted again. After 7 days of washing in a small bowl of lukewarm water and going to the toilet either behind a rock or in a toilet tent I cannot emphasise enough how much I love my shower and toilet!
  3. I am strong. This feeling comes and goes, but whenever I’m having a down moment I have to tell myself I climbed a giant ass mountain I can deal with a silly boy taking advantage of me or a horrible customer at work yelling at me that I ruined their day with cold food. I can achieve incredible things if I want and that’s what I need to hold on to. 
  4. The human spirit is incredible. Our group were climbing with charity challenge we all had stories, had all faced struggles in life and been broken, and we were all dragging ourselves up this mountain for a reason. We were all massively unprepared, a little undertrained and all hit with altitude sickness and other ailments along the way. But we never let it get us down we sang we danced and my god did we laugh. It turns out you can get through pretty much anything with a bit of laughter.  
  5. Never give up on your dreams. (The big one!) I’ve dreamt about climbing Kilimanjaro for so many years now and had the whole trip planned for a good 5 years before I took any steps to booking it, and whilst it may have been horribly tough and at times I wondered what the hell I was doing I cannot describe how happy I am that I did it. I am an expert at wanting to do something or wanting something and not having the courage to chase it, the biggest lesson I learnt is simply to be brave. Go after what you want, life is short and it might not work out but it might just and it could be amazing!