Over the summer break one of our fellow students, Emily Badham, did something incredible. She climbed Mount Kilimanjaro – dormant volcano, highest mountain in Africa and highest free-standing mountain in the world. She made this journey with the charity Dig Deep to provide aid to communities in rural Kenya. Talk about achieving goals! Read on to find out about the challenges, the tears, the wonder and the success.  

These are excerpts from an article that was first published on Emily’s blog alittlebitofeverything, with minor editorial amendments.  

standing on the summit
Taking in the view above the clouds at the top of Barranco Wall. © Emily Badham

So I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro Excerpt 1:
The Beginning

You might be wondering how I ended up there: nearly 7,000 miles from home and climbing the highest free-standing mountain in the world with twenty-five strangers from all over the UK and sixty guides and porters. I couldn’t believe it either, I don’t even think that it had fully sunk in until I reached Uhuru Peak, the summit. So, here’s the story of how I overcame my demons and conquered Mount Kilimanjaro.

It all began with a Facebook post looking for people to fundraise for a charity and then fly to East Africa to climb this insane mountain. I joined on a whim! I just thought to myself, “if I don’t take this opportunity now, then I may never do it. So I may as well just go for it.” Little did I know that this would be the beginning of a huge adventure.

The charity is Dig Deep: they provide communities in rural Kenya with clean running water, safe toilet facilities and hygiene training. These three things alone hugely reduce water-based illnesses, and therefore improves attendance in schools, which we call the ‘ripple effect’.

After nine months of fundraising I found myself racing through Heathrow Airport to meet my fellow climbers. It was a stressful start to the journey: my coach arrived late, I rushed through Heathrow to check-in for my flight and I fell down the escalator with my rucksack and two suitcases! Despite all this, the rest of the journey to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania was relatively stress-free as we all arrived there safely.

After staying in a hostel just outside of the capital for a night, we commenced our 13 hour bus journey to Moshi, the city at the foot of Kilimanjaro. Split between two buses, we spent this time sleeping, singing, laughing and chatting: it was the perfect opportunity to get to know each other before beginning our climb along the Machame Route the following day.

climbing
The group emerge from the clouds on day two. © Emily Badham

***

So I climbed Mount Kilimanjaro Excerpt 2:
Summit Day

We were awoken at 2am to make our final ascent to Uhuru Peak, the summit of Kilimanjaro. We were all exhausted, yet excited, as we struggled to make sense of what was happening. We had all worked so hard to reach this point and now it was time push ourselves beyond our limits and finally reach the summit.

We left camp at 3am, wrapped up in our thermals and several other layers, equipped with our head torches and poles, and began our last steep ascent.

The altitude hit me hard, there’s no denying it. Each step I took felt like 100 and I didn’t feel like I was making any progress. I felt sick, tired and lightheaded. My energy had depleted so quickly that I was beginning to doubt whether I would reach the top.

After just half an hour of climbing, one of the guides noticed how much I was struggling and he took my pack from me, carrying his own on his back and mine on his front, all the way to the summit. Without him I never would have made it. He walked beside me the whole way: motivating me, not letting me stop, and even taking my hand and dragging me up the steepest part just before the first summit at Stella Point.

At 6am we stopped for a rest and we were met with the most beautiful sight: the sun rise. It was absolutely extraordinary. The orange glow appeared above the clouds, the first sign of light that we had seen that day, and we could finally see how far from camp we had actually come. We stood in silence, tears in our eyes, watching the day begin. We reminisced over the journey we had taken, and what was yet to come.

sunrise
The sunrise 3 hours into the climb on the day of reaching the summit. © Emily Badham

The sunrise gave us all a burst of energy and the motivation to continue. We staggered onwards and upwards, pushing each other to carry on, singing to lift our spirits, the guides shouting at us and not letting us stop: these are the reasons that I reached the summit.

I even had to give myself a little talking to, verbally telling myself not to give up with each step. The guides must have thought I was mad, chatting away to myself, but I needed to say it and I needed to hear it. I needed to make it real, to force myself forwards.

To make the final ascent to Stella Point, I was dragged by my guide and then collapsed on a rock as soon as I got there. I still had the crater to walk around to reach the final summit, but it was still a small victory.

As soon as I sat down, the head guide came to me and said, “you have to decide right now: are you going to keep going or turn around and go back down.” I looked at him, looked towards Uhuru Peak and back at him, then told him that I couldn’t turn back now. So, I popped a couple of paracetamols and started walking again. My guide looked at me as if he couldn’t believe what I was going to attempt to do, but he didn’t argue with me: he could see my determination.

sign
Celebrating reaching the summit at 5,895 metres on day five. © Emily Badham

We trudged on, and eventually reached Uhuru Peak at 11am. I cannot describe the feeling of walking up to that sign and seeing all my team mates there together. We cried and hugged, and cried some more. I thanked my guide and took a second to myself.

I stood there, at 5,895 metres high, just taking in my surroundings: the view of the clouds and the glaciers, my team mates glowing with pride, other climbers from all over world who, at that moment, became our greatest friends as we all congratulated each other and mirrored each other’s grins. No words could fully convey the feelings that I experienced in that moment, on the roof of Africa.

Words by Emily Badham

Featured Image: Mount Kilimanjaro. Photo credit: David Clode. 

Emily Badham is a third year English Literature/Philosophy and Ethics undergraduate. She has a passion for writing and adventures with the aspiration to be a travel writer and started her own blog blogalittlebitofeverything.wordpress.com to document and share her adventures. 

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