Back in February of this year, the Charity were contacted by four courageous friends from Reading and informed our Berkshire Fundraising Manager, Kate Whelpdale, that they had decided to embark on a journey to reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in aid of the Thames Valley and Chiltern Air Ambulance!
So inspired were they by the work of their local air ambulance, Darren Smith, Harry Turner, Dan Ronan and James Spencer climbed the 5,895m on Sunday 22nd June with the goal of raising £20,000. The team had hoped to complete this feat last September but unfortunately it had to be postponed due to injury.
The team had not been deterred however and we were delighted to catch up with them last week having conquered their challenge of reaching the summit on the highest freestanding mountain in the world. The quartet have very kindly shared their story with us below:
“It had been nearly 2 years since the four of us began preparing for the climb. In that time we have been fundraising for an amazing charity, the Thames Valley Air Ambulance, and on the 14th June the day the time had finally come for us to take on the challenge and give something back to the Charity.
“It was the moment we had been waiting for and had worked so hard to get to - we were going to climb the tallest free standing mountain in the world, Mount Kilimanjaro!
“This was something that none of us have ever done before; the closest perhaps being to walk to our local for a beer… “When we finally arrived in Nairobi we were flown by a small propeller plane to the foot of Kilimanjaro. For Harry, who hates flying, this proved a tougher challenge than actually climbing the mountain itself!
“About 45 minutes into the flight we were told by the Captain to look outside where on the left hand side we could now see Mount Kilimanjaro. This is when the reality of our challenge really began to hit home. I remember the silence as we gazed out of the window and took in the wonder and sheer size of this famous mountain. Anxiety certainly started to creep in ever so slightly!
“We checked into our hotel on Friday 13th (we weren’t suspicious in the slightest!) and had our final bag check and conference with the doctor. This was also before what would be our last decent meal and shower for 10 days. On Saturday 14th June we made for Kili and for what was, to us, heading into the unknown.
“After 5 days of trekking, albeit very tiring and demanding both physically and mentally, the four of us, tired and sleep deprived, found ourselves quite comfortably at the summit camp, 4700 metres above sea level!
“It was what followed next that would prove to be possibly the hardest thing any of us have ever done. On the night of Wednesday 18th June, we woke up at 23:00 to have breakfast and at around midnight, when the temperatures would drop to around -30 degrees, we set off to reach the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. We were told that it’s impossible to make the climb and carry the amount of water our body would need, so we had to make do and drink what we can in the first two hours of the climb. Within 1 hour all of our water had frozen.
“With basically no water, 1200 metres to climb and very oxygen deprived we all felt very alone and completely up against it, with altitude sickness starting to hit a couple of us. We all really had to dig in and work as a team to get us through these really tough and demanding times.
“Finally though at around 07:15 am African time, the moment had arrived, our dreams and prayers were answered, there we were standing at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.
“To say the moment became a bit emotional is very much an understatement! I felt so proud that the boys and I had made it, having been something that we actually never thought would happen.
“There in front of the summit sign, the 4 of us together held our Thames Valley & Chiltern Air Ambulance banner high, proud and gripped it very tightly.
“The KiliClimbers 2014!”
Darren, Harry, Dan and James’s fundraising currently stands at a whopping £17,230!