Written by our expedition leader Ann Fitzpatrick, who led our Kilimanjaro Climb in February 2017.
I knew our Kilimanjaro trip had been a success when I walked back into the bar of the restaurant to find all the gang sitting interlocked on the floor swaying to “Rock the Boat”, followed by the conga around the room. 15 happy “Summiteers” and 8 Tanzanian guides danced the night away in celebration of what they had achieved early the previous morning. We were back in Arusha celebrating, not only our successful climb, but also the engagement of Ruth and Conor, two of our team. The champagne was flowing and spirits were high.
The previous morning at 7.50 am, all 15 Irish Climbers made it to Uhuru peak, the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro. For most, the highest point in their climbing endeavours to date. We had started preparing for our summit push the night before. As I sent the first group off in a snow storm with thunder rolling in the distant hills, I was slightly nervous, hoping they wouldn’t be put off. Summit night on Kilimanjaro is tough. It’s a long haul up, a climb of over 1,400 metres to the summit. Walking through the night in the dark and the cold can be challenging but once the sun begins to rise over Mawenzi in the distance and you see your first objective, Stella Point, determination kicks in and the taste of success becomes tangible and real. As it transpired, our crew weren’t put off one bit. As if climbing a 5, 986m mountain wasn’t hard enough, some proceeded to propose marriage, do handstands (yes literally!) and perform other gymnastics and theatrics on the summit.
Coming into high camp the previous morning, we had the good fortune to see a lammergeier, a rare enough sight but an omen of good luck we were assured. Of course, our 6-day trek had acclimatised us and prepared us well for this day. The beauty of the Machame route offered by Earth’s Edge, is that it allows adequate time for people to acclimatise. Additionally, the amazing staff we have on Kilimanjaro – our porters, guides and cooks support us in every step we take. The inimitable Edison, Emmanuelle and Joseph, who brought us our food and drink and served it with a style befitting the finest Parisian dining room. All elements combined perfectly to make an enjoyable and memorable trip. Key to this of course, was the group themselves – a fantastic mix of fun loving individuals with great generosity of spirit and care for each other. From the outset to the final morning they were a joy to be with – from the rounds of 25, bananagrams championships, the word games to the culmination –performing the Hokey Pokey for the Tanzanian staff. We were entertained each morning in camp to dancing and singing by our local crew so on the final morning our gang reciprocated. It provided some great laughs when everyone in camp got to “shake it all about”.
Kilimanjaro truly is an amazing place to visit and climb. Each day’s trekking is different, bringing you through distinct ecological zones of rainforest, alpine desert, to a high arctic plateau – each zone with its own endemic plant life. The volcanic cone and residual ash pit is intriguing, the glaciers stunning, but more than anything it’s the people who leave the lasting memories.
Our Tanzanian crew are the key to our success on this mountain –their spirit, their enthusiasm, their love of life; their songs enthuse and inspire us the whole way up and down. Nothing is a problem – “Hakuna Matata” and it really is just a matter of taking it slowly, one step at a time – “Tembea pole pole”.
So, thanks a thousand times over to them and to our team for being such good fun to be around – the Doc and I really didn’t feel like it was work at all – Asante Sana.