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Mount Kilimanjaro: charity climb

Inspiration is a truly beautiful concept in life; it can help us learn, develop and grow. One of the most powerful ways to be inspired, I believe, is witnessing the true strength of others. Human beings are incredible.

I have been truly inspired, amazed and awe-struck by a close friend, Vicki Trust. She endured different challenges, both physically and mentally, as she climbed Mount Kilimanjaro on 23rd July 2012. To put the challenge into context: Mount Kilimanjaro is not only the highest peak on the African continent but it is also the tallest free-standing mountain in the world!

It is estimated that around 25,000 people attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro every year. However, only two-thirds of these people are ever successful. This is usually due to altitude-related problems. Vicki triumphed and completed the climb in eight days while raising a fantastic amount of money for Down’s Syndrome Association. Read her challenge here…

What was the driving force behind climbing Mount Kilimanjaro?

It was always something I had wanted to do, so when I saw the poster advertising the trip, I thought why not. (She pauses momentarily) to be completely honest I also did it on a bit of a whim as well!

Which charity did your raise money for?

After looking into the climb in further detail I chose a cause very close to my heart. I chose the Down’s Syndrome Association and have raised around the £1000 mark to date. Extract from Vicki’s donation page:

“I will be raising money for the Down’s Syndrome Association, a charity very close to my heart as my younger brother Andy has Down Syndrome. The association has been incredibly supportive over the years and I would love to be able to raise money to enable them to help others the same way in which they have helped my family.

I have always found it difficult to describe Andy to people and trying to avoid the phrase ‘not normal’ is really hard but I once read in the Down’s Syndrome Journal that everyone else is ordinary and people with Downs are EXTRAordinary and that is so true! Andy is one of a kind and unique to the core. I am a true believer in that everything happens for a reason and Andy being Andy has taught me an awful lot about myself and everything around me, and I am positive that anyone who has come into contact with him would say the same. Having said this Andy would not be the person he is nor be achieving what he is without the tremendous support we as a family have received, because no matter how much happiness Andy gives us he definitely brings his challenges! So I have set this challenge of my own which I want to do on behalf of the best brother in the world so I can make him as proud of me as I am of him every day!”

Visit Vicki’s donation page here.

How long did it take you to climb Mount Kilimanjaro?

It took eight days in total, six to climb up and two to climb back down, it felt like forever! We were in Tanzania for twelve days in total. The travelling time amounted to thirty hours each end…a twelve-hour bus transfer was almost as gruelling as the climb!

How did the atmosphere change during the climb? How did this affect you and others?

The air got thinner the higher we climbed and the temperature was absolutely freezing! But it was the altitude that really got to you; one of our team was evacuated down the mountain on day three due to swelling of the brain, known as high altitude cerebral edema (HACE) and that was horrible.

You also experience ‘vice crushing’ throughout the climb, which means plenty of: headaches, nose bleeds, dizziness, nausea and tremendous tiredness. On our summit climb we all experienced illness. This may not be the most fitting description, but it can only be described as a Mexican wave of projectile vomiting! A beautiful image you have now, I’m sure! Unfortunately, the medication we were on also made us hallucinate and we had some very interesting dreams. These were the main topic of conversation most mornings.

Pins and needles were also caused by the altitude tablets and at one point I got them in my chin, which was certainly interesting! The malaria tablets also gave us dodgy stomachs; on the plus side we all got to know each other very quickly, which gave us, again, a sense of togetherness!

What was the scariest experience of the whole trip?

Having one of our team members sent down the mountain mid-climb made the severity of what we were doing all very real! It was really hard leaving a team member behind, but at the same time a huge motivation to get us to the top on his behalf!

Did you suffer any illness/injury during your climb?

Other than the effects of the altitude and the medication, the worst thing I suffered with was horrible cramp. On the final assent to the summit I collapsed and was rolling around on the floor screaming in agony. The porters pulled up my trousers and you could see the muscle in my calf had completely twisted. They then took it in turns to rub my leg until it was warm enough so that the muscle could twist back. I have no idea what had caused it. I think it was a combination of things but as we were doing the summit climb at night it was extremely cold and we had not slept since the night before. Plus we had already been walking for five hours in that time; on top of the nine hours it took to do the final part. A very long thirty-six hours in total.

If there is one thing you will take away from this experience what will it be?

The knowledge that I can do anything, a sense of self belief that I have never felt before! When you’ve sat on a rock in the dark in the cold and closed your eyes and just wished you could be home, to then keep putting one foot in front of the other until you look up and see that summit sign. There is just nothing like it. All the anxiety, stress, tiredness, pain and doubt all falls away and a wave of happiness takes over. It is an amazing feeling and one that is really hard to put into words. But now anytime I find anything difficult, I just think, well I’ve climbed the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, I can do this!

What advice would you give someone else who was embarking upon this experience?

Take baby wipes! Life savers! And get ready to overcome any inhibitions of peeing outside…a very proud moment of mine! Also plenty of layers and watch out for the wind burn! Anybody who is thinking of doing it, drop me an email and I’ll give you some tips and answer any questions you may have.

What was your greatest achievement during the trip?

Just getting to the summit, was truly the best feeling in the world. I think knowing that you are one of very few people enjoying this view is brilliant!

Mount Kilimanjaro, what is next?

Well our group has already lined up Machu Picchu in July 2013, and the ‘to do list’ is getting longer and longer every day. The Himalayas and the Amazon is talked about a lot in our chat room so watch this space there will definitely be more adventures to follow this one!

To donate or read more about Vicki’s story, visit her donation page. Carrying on the inspirational tone, this quote from Mark Twain is perfect:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

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