In 2012 as part of a group, I embarked on a sponsored charity climb up Mount Kilimanjaro. Prior to this I had absolutely no trekking experience and I hadn’t even trained for the climb; my fitness was practically zero.
As we ascended the mountain, the trek became increasingly difficult due to the altitude and the lack of oxygen; but nothing could prepare us for the final summit day.
At base camp we were up to leave at midnight. I would liken the camp to some military huts in the Arctic; extremely cold and pretty depressing. A final team talk and we were away in the darkness with just our head torches to guide the way. Every so often we would get a chill from the Arctic winds and it was so cold that our water had completely frozen. This part of the climb just happened to be the steepest and most treacherous. The slopes were made of scree with narrow paths; one bad move and you were gone.
We zigzagged at a painfully slow rate but we physically could not go any quicker because of the altitude and terrain. As we climbed higher the trek became increasingly difficult and members of the team were returning with porters back to base camp, as they just could not cope. Just when you think there was not long to go, you look up and realise you are nowhere near the top; it was the very definition of a never ending nightmare.
Eight hours on and I am nearing the top; some of the team members have made it ahead and others back at the camp. I was so tired that every time I closed my eyes I would fall asleep. My body was not coping with the altitude and I was vomiting bile. It was in this state I neared the top and at this point somehow climbed over the steep boulders to eventually get to the top and pass out.
I was completely out of it and was physically exhausted but I had made it to the top; so I had thought. This place was known as Gilman’s point and the actual summit was another two hours away. The conditions of the team members was so bad that some had to even be stretchered all the way back to base camp. I was in no position to continue whatsoever.
I was collapsed and passed out on the floor, when I slowly opened my eyes to the voice of our guide. I can’t remember exactly what he said but he was asking about reaching the summit. It was at this very moment I caught the eyes of one of my team members who was also collapsed on the floor. Although no words were exchanged, we made a decision to push forward. Looking back, it was extremely dangerous for me to have continued. I was so physically exhausted, that I was in and out of a state of consciousness – there were many perilous areas at home top where I could have died. Somehow, I was one of the few that had made it to Uhuru Peak.
I had pushed myself completely beyond my physical capacity. I found mental strength and determination that I’d never knew had existed. I had dug so far within that I found the true essence of who I was; I had found my roar.
I always look back to this and know that with my faith in God and belief in myself I can overcome any obstacle life throws at me.