Kilimanjaro - We made it!
We did it! All of the cast and crew involved with Comic Relief’s Kilimanjaro Challenge 2019 made it to the summit and back, raising over £2.2 million for projects in the process. It was a real team effort as 30 crew including celebrities, medics, mountain guides, TV production team and support staff all undertook the 8 day climb whilst filming a documentary and undertaking the live fundraising challenge.
The 2019 route was the Northern Circuit. Although longer and more remote than any of the other routes, it offered 360 degree views on the mountain before the summit. After Day 2, we didn’t encounter any other groups until summit night which meant we had 4 days on our own to taking in the beautiful scenery – eating breakfast above the clouds and sleeping underneath a blanket of stunning stars.
With as the physical challenge of walking for 6-7 hours a day, also came the altitude sickness; the cold weather, lack of sleep and camping (a first for me). Certainly makes you draw on those mental reserves. None more so than on summit night, which I have to say no amount of training had prepared me for.
As if it is not enough to have climbed to 4800 meters above sea level over 5 days, you then have to climb another 1,095 meters over 6 hours on a steep incline, at night with temperatures around -10oc having only had 3 hours sleep. As you look up into the night sky, it seems a near impossible task. With no summit in view and end point in sight, this is when you need to be at the top of your game. Your grit and determination - or in my case stubbornness - takes hold. One step slowly in front of the other, in an almost rhythmic meditation until the sun starts to rise. Reaching Gilman’s Point, you know you are on the home straight as you see Uhuru Peak on the horizon – the final goal and highest point in all of Africa.
After grabbing the victory photo, we then began our descent (the part you forget about in your quest to reach the top). But by then that oasis motivation of a long hot shower spurred us onto the park gate.
Our celebrities were wonderful – great people with even greater spirits. Without WiFi or 4G, they all had chance to talk and get to know one another. The social media detox focused minds on the climb but also connected the group much quicker than it would have done otherwise. With only one another to lean on for support, a slick team began to form who were on hand to help whether it be carrying their kit or sharing much needed sugary snacks to keep energy levels up. Different people from different walks of life who ordinarily might not have connected. Yet in this extreme environment formed a bond that will last well beyond the challenge.
By far and away, this project was the hardest thing I have ever done both personally and professionally but equally one of the most rewarding. Never say never but no plans to be climbing any mountains again soon but immensely proud of what we achieved.