Mountains Moved: Conquering Kilimanjaro

Let me make one thing clear from the very beginning; I am not built to climb mountains. As a chubby, city-born Indian, on a scale of one to Bear Grylls, I fall somewhere between a failed Boy Scout and Kim Kardashian when it comes to coping with the outdoors. In every sense of the word, I am a Boarginner.

However I took on the challenge of climbing the world’s tallest free standing mountain early in my first year, with the intention of raising a boatload of money for charity and pushing myself to the limit. Fortunately, I managed to do both.


Trek, Fat Boy, Trek! Campaign image

Taking an extra year to do the fundraising, I spent a lot of time thinking of innovative ways to get students to part with their hard earned overdraft capital. The highlight of which was a Facebook event entitled, “Trek, Fat Boy, Trek” parodying the famous Simon Pegg film, swapping the marathon trainers for walking boots. It managed to raise over £600 on its own and took me over my £3,000 target. It just goes to show you that if you can make people laugh, then they are much more likely to make a much needed donation.

The trek itself required a lot of preparation, both kit wise and physically. Whilst fully on top of the things I needed to bring, I was a bit lax on the exercise. I managed to walk in my boots, but my passion for burgers did not cease during the weeks leading up to the trek. Whilst delicious, it didn’t help carrying the extra weight up the mountain.

The first thing to say about Tanzania is that whilst a relatively poor country, it is a wonderfully friendly place with a lot of livelihoods dependent on Kili. From travel to water companies, it is a huge employer in the region. And the porters and staff are stunning. Providing any equipment, all meals, tents, medications and carrying baggage, they catered for everyone.

The trek itself was six days long with each day consisting of between 8-10 hours of walking uphill with the summit day consisting of 19 hours in total. No, seriously. I might have underestimated it a little bit.

Nevertheless, it wasn’t the burgers, but altitude sickness that got me and quite early on. On the first day, I could feel the tightness in my chest and the shooting pains of a thumping headache. Most trekkers suffer from some form of altitude sickness when climbing but I was unfortunate to have a more severe version. As if climbing a mountain wasn’t tough enough! Luckily, soups and smelling salts were enough to keep it at bay.

Moreover, there were a few bits of kit that saved me. Walking poles which I got for less than a tenner in Sports Direct took serious pressure off my knees and were an absolute God-send. A seriously warm 4 season sleeping bag made sure that I got a decent enough night’s sleep and was able to walk the next morning. And finally, having a GoPro Hero 4 camera kept me occupied and was really easy to use. These were three things that I would recommend for any long distance and high stamina trek to keep you going and make sure you are motivated.

Having said that though, I would be lying if I said that I enjoyed every second of it, because it really pushed me mentally. Of course, I was suffering physically, but the challenge was keeping my head straight even when I had severe fatigue to make sure that the peak was only a footstep or two away.

The closer we got, the more difficult it became. Colder conditions, more treacherous paths and the constant niggle of altitude sickness made some points unbearable. However, the closeness of the team made me determined to get to the top and get that famous picture.

I had already planned well in advance to wear the suit – the outcome of a £100 donation/bet that I am waiting to cash in on. Yet, when I got to the tent at Base Camp waiting to climb to the summit, it was more a question of warmth than style.

The last day was gruelling. After walking for 10 hours on the penultimate day, we had 3 hours to rest before midnight struck and we started our ascent in the pitch dark. It started at -5 degrees and didn’t warm up much until sunrise…7 hours later. It nearly broke me as we climbed having absolutely no idea where we were or how close it was to being over.

But we made it. After nearly collapsing with fatigue, being severely dehydrated and wildly devoid of oxygen, at approximately 9:40 in the morning, I was the last person to reach the Uhuru Peak at 5,959m above sea-level, completing a 100% success rate for our group. I unashamedly wept as I touched the planks of the peak which told me that it was done. Six days of battling everything (including myself) had culminated in a photo that could almost rival a Swatch advert in GQ magazine. I just wish I had taken the time to do my top button up.

Overall, Kilimanjaro was an experience. Not always a pleasant one, but I am bloody glad I did it! Having been the last one to be picked in football at school, and then systematically put in goal, I feel like climbing a mountain has made me feel more confident with endurance challenges.

hiran 2

Looking like one of the Blues Brothers at the summit … though that might just be the altitude sickness.

By the time you have read this, I will have completed another trek in the Himalayas and so with two mountains under my belt in a month, I feel like this the might be the Boar-ginning of something beautiful.


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