Mount Kilimanjaro - I feel like a new man

Guest Blog -  Liam Welch (Kilimanjaro Challenger 2016) 

Day 1 of the climb

6:30am rise. Shower done, hair unbelievably soft, thanks mum. 7:00am breakfast with Sam, we’re up and started before anyone else. Cheese omelette accompanied by 3 slices of toast covered in their jam, which I must say is a speciality – it’s unreal, 2 cups of coffee & breakfast is done.

Morning unfolded, no dramas from my side but a number of dramas from the others, not surprised… Everyone’s worrying, last minute rentals, fools. I had time to kill, so I did my final checks and noticed my water bottles leaked, not ideal, however, I complained to reception and managed to get another thrown in for free as they quickly realised all the bottles they had in stock and were trying to sell leaked, 3 litres in total now… Jheeze. Did I mention my hair was soft?

Ginger nuts. They said ginger nut biscuits help with altitude sickness so the first supermarket we stop at on route Kili and everyone’s sprinting towards the biscuit aisle, Usain bolt, Mo Farah, athletes everywhere no prisoners taken, ginger nut biscuits were needed! At the checkout everyone’s gassed, buzzing, we aren’t going to get sick, we’re going to breeze this!! ‘Sorry we don’t accept dollars.’ Heart-breaking to say the least, but it happens dun’ it! Exiting the shop to BREAKING NEWS, we’ve had our first victim, Ben, he’s chundered. Nerves? maybe… Or potentially the grey yolks they served at breakfast… Grey… Yes, grey. Who knows, at least I wasn’t first. We got back on the road no ginger nuts but my hair was soft so I’m a winner.

Stopped off again, second supermarket and ginger nut biscuits are secured. Altitude sickness come at me bro. So, Tanzania has many men/women doing what they can to get by, they attempt to make ends meet by selling things to tourists in bus windows… I was lured in as I waited outside the supermarket for the rest of the squad. 2 dollars later and I’m the happy owner of a Tanzania flag, my new bandana for the climb. Margo was approached as she had a window seat and I think this guy likes what he sees, he started selling, not doing too bad of a job, I thought she was going to be played. Then out of nowhere like an RKO he goes ‘You want to see how crazy I am?’ I was confused, what was he doing, it seemed as if he was leaving the sale and moving the conversation onto something new. She was intrigued so agreed, he gave a subtle yet cheeky wink and proceeded to undo his trousers… I think we now know what he meant by this, legend. This guy knows how to move to women, no fucking around, straight to the point, my type of guy.

On route to Kili we saw school children kicking ball but with an empty bottle, a very powerful image, very touching. I just wanted to buy them a real ball to play with, I haven’t been here long but from what I’ve seen so far they’re so grateful for anything they have and make best of a bad situation in all cases, something I will be taking home with me that’s for sure. We got to the gates, emotions running high, everyone was buzzing! Here it was clear that I had acquired a powerful squad for the climb, mango (Margot, pronounced Margo) and Sam, a strong team full of youth, ambition, banter and talent… Pictures were taken, massive selfies were captured on my go pro! Unreal shots secured!

Mango had never tried a ginger nut biscuit… Like wtf is that?!? So we made her try one and it became quickly apparent she was not impressed, I was shocked, everyone loves a ginger nut.

Just before we left to begin the climb we saw the porters, they’re carrying everything and when I say everything I mean our bags, the food, the tents, every single damn thing. Not on their backs like normal people but on their heads, yes their heads, they’re superhuman, I have picture proof and it’s actually quite unbelievable! 100-dollar tip was recommended before when we signed, fully deserved.

We set off @ 10 past 12, 5 hours of hiking ahead I for one could not have been happier than I was at this exact moment, it was finally here everything I had worked for in this last year had begun!! Myself, Sam and Mango started off at the front, exchanging stories, shared interests, conversation was following, times were good. Felix, the guide leader was setting pace, a slow pace but they’re the experts they know their shit. The terrain was tough, steep uneven but enjoyable. The squaaaa (Me, Sam and Mango) quickly realised that being amongst the group at the front wasn’t the best place. We moved to the back of the pack and broke away, turned out to be the best decision of the day. We walked slower and actually appreciated the surroundings, it was truly sensational, we were walking through a rain forest, a first for me and I was loving it. Trees, vines, plants all interlinking perfectly, colours complimenting each other, everywhere I looked had something different to offer, and the sounds, wow! The sounds, music to our ears. In the pack we heard many disjointed conversations, just noise, horrible noise, something that reminded me of the hustle and bustle of LDN, not pleasant. Being @ the back with these two was perfect. Waterfall sounds, birds singing, the wind in the trees and silence, silence had never sounded so great, so peaceful, I didn’t want to be anywhere else.

We stopped for lunch, a nice location overlooking the higher parts of Kili, best place I’ve had lunch for a while. Mango took her bag off and it seemed as if her camel back had leaked all over her back… Not ideal. As I took my bag off it also seemed that my camel back had leaked, yet I don’t remember ever bringing one…

Hakuna Matata, I was to learn this in French, it was my goal, I had to learn it. I wanted to learn it so bad that Mango had it pencilled onto my arm, ‘ce mot signifie que tu viveras ta vie. Sans acun soucis philosophie’ believe me it’s hard, language is not my forte bit I’m not a quitter I will try!

We carried on waking as a three some collecting pics and appreciating the nature, in fact the next thing we saw was nature in all its glory, a waterfall, sounding ever so beautiful, very therapeutic. We witnessed the guides at the back trek down to collect water for themselves, these guys are machines, they make it look so easy. Constantly asking questions about the nature around us, our new home for the week, we had to find learn more about it whilst there. Taking it in, walking slow, it was a good tactic, slow and steady wins all day in a situation like this. Nothing dramatic happened from then until camp but the views just got better as we got higher, the mist started to become thicker, we were on cloud 9 baby.

Booooom!! Camp was reached, first day done and what a day it was. Camp was already set up and ready for us, our tents set up, dining tents set up, food on the go, the porters are too much, again fully warranting the 100-dollar tip! Sharing with Sam as the tents are two man only, Mango was with some girl, I dunno her name, blonde though that’s all I know that, oh and she had a cold. It was overcast, nothing could be seen, but then as we came out of our tent after unpacking we could see it, the peak of Kili! What a sight, unbelievable, all the hard work I have put in was all worth it for that one moment! The excitement of seeing the peak began to settle so we also got settled and got ready for dinner. So at dinner today we saw Mango fly off her chair backwards. She was too excited when she saw the mountain of spaghetti, she’s meant to be French FFS but she fell back in excitement like an over excited Italian. Mamma Mia. Dinner was done, we were full, time for bed. But, just before the 3 off us shared a moment as we attempted to capture the milky way on our cameras, I failed miserably being a camera rookie, however, Sam managed a decent shot. First time seeing the milk way and all I can say is what a way to finish a brilliant day, happy, very happy. Oh. How could I forget. Sam forgot his tooth brush so he managed to craft a make shift one out of a twig… All night he spent carving! Under the milk way was me Sam and Mango as we brushed our teeth, yep, he did, he used the twig. Bear Grylls eat your heart out!

Group hug finished a great day, day 1 done. Camped at Machame. Roll on tomorrow. This is going to be one hell of an experience! My hair btw, still soft.

You do what you can with what you have – Mango 2016 August 30th.

Day 2 of the Climb

Cold. First morning and it was a massive shock, it was cold, Cold cold cold very cold, didn’t expect it to be this cold this early, it was only going to get worse! The joys.

Breakfast at 7:30am on the dot, sat next to my main homies, obviously. Started with Instant oats, can’t lie, they looked disgusting… Snot, Browny yellow colour, but it wasn’t going to hold me back! The specialty Kili jam was added slowly followed by the oh so goooeey honey with just a touch a sugar… Can’t be too sweet as that’s just silly right? Toast, egg and sausage was to follow, strong breakfast, carbs, fats and protein in perfect proportion. 3 heaped spoonsful of the finest Kili coffee, and that was it, there we were, me, Sam & Mango sharing the first of many breakfasts in Kili. Despite it being cold and having goose bumps everywhere life was good, no it wasn’t good, it was great. Breakfast completed, carbs loaded, energy ready to be used but before we set off me and Mango stayed back in the breakfast tent for a second coffee, come on its coffee, give us a break I love my coffee. As we sat there the porters entered to eat what was our left overs, I was slightly touched, got a bit emotional tbh, we just feasted on what they had cooked for us and they’ve come to eat what’s left after all the work they had just done, they even re-used tea bags. Mango and I helped clear up, we shared some jokes and shared our hobnobs, lol they weren’t ours they were Mo’s but fuck him he owes me 50 dollars, the porters/guides deserved them!

3800 metres is the highest we will hit today and 1000 metres is what we’re climbing today, pretty tough aye? Not for us though we’re units, a strong squad, unbeatable… I hope. You’ve got to be optimistic. 2 min countdown until we were to start, shit was getting real. Let me explain it for you. Mango first, bag went on, her face told a story, she wasn’t to be fucked with, hair tied back, boots tied, OH DAMN we had our very own Lara Croft on our hands. Sam next, I caught him by the steps as he had one foot up doing his shoe lace, but this wasn’t just a normal tie, it was perfection, the shoe tightened around his ankle, but it didn’t tell me his boot was tighter, this showed me how he was tacking to this adventure, with ease, grasping his hands round Kili, my man had this. Up he got looked over to the peak, balaclava went on, beanie next and as he stood up right I couldn’t help but admire the view, a man below a mountain he was going to conquer. Me? Well on went my 2 dolla bandana, I was ready, born ready. The bandana though was to be key today, I wasn’t to yet know this but it was to play a vital role in a couple hours… You’ll see. Oh yeah, my hair not so soft now. We left, feeling good feeling fresh, I hadn’t felt so confident I was going to complete something, but I put that down to the partners I have, they wouldn’t let me not complete it.

Deep in the walk now, proper steep, like really steep, practically walking vertical. Obviously this had its negatives but my sweet Jesus this had its positives, the fucking views were sensational, I’m not talking chilli sensation crisps I’m talking creme de leeee fucking creme, I hope you can understand. At the back again, appreciating it taking it, I know I’ve said it but you have to be slow to actually admire where you are, being a part of the group wasn’t for me, it isn’t nice walking fast, too much looking down, maybe the group are struggling more and just concentrating… They didn’t have a squad as strong as mine.

1 hour in and we’ve recruited an apprentice, Chris his name. Okay not an apprentice. This fella knows his shit when it comes to cameras and taking the perfect picture, so he was a valuable addition to our team. He wasn’t classed as an original but he was more than welcome.

So this one part of the climb, this rock over looked the clouds, right on the edge. Right on the edge, literally. My mother would not be pleased with what went down. We got onto this rock, dangled our legs over, all 4 of us and looked over into the distance which was filled with fluffy marshmallows, a part of me wanted to just swan dive off this rock as I was certain they’d catch me, ok, obviously not but you get my drift. Just before we left we thought let’s play with our adrenalin a little more so we stood on the rock, fucking great idea, in came a guide and there we had it, as of writing this that right there was the picture of the holiday, perfection wrapped up in one shot.

The food we ate had to come out of use somehow… Some were reluctant to go which is understandable, a hole in the middle of the mountain… Squatting, no sink no taps, hmmm not the most appealing is it? Me, I wasn’t to fussed, so as we hit one part of the mountain I had to go, nature called. Can’t lie though what a view I had as nature did its thing, overlooking Tanzania covered in a sheet of white with tips of nearby mountains trying to break through.

Innocent, our guide, stopped the team for a quick break. This guys a g, proper legend, geezer, lad everything rolled up into one as well as being nice, this guy deserved credit. His hat was worn half off his head, my man setting trends from Kili, say nothing he’s a g.

Oh no… BREAKING NEWS! Chunder monkey number 2 and its…. Hollie!! Poor girl, I saw it all it wasn’t nice, she opened her mouth and out it came like gushing water from a tap, we supported her, instantly out came my tissues, walking poles handed to Mango and Sam with the moral support supplying word of wisdom that Rocky Balboa would be proud of, they went to the same Uni so he was a familiar face, something she needed at a time like this. She recovered and we got to the top of that part of the climb, a power pose was thrown she was fine. After this I did feel weird… Maybe the altitude? Nah come on ffs man up kid you got this. I’m going to put this down to witnessing the sick, polle polle from now on though.

On some rocks overlooking a spectacular view, yes another one… We are on Kili, everywhere we look is amazing. Sam, he was buzzing, he saw a million-dollar shot and it was needed to be taken ASAP before the lighting became a factor or the clouds covered up it up, he rested his walking pole on a rock. ‘Noooo’ That’s all I heard from behind me, Sam just lost his pole and watched it fall down the side of Kili! RIP pole. He didn’t worry too much as this natural mountaineer picked up a stick and created a new pole, tooth brush now pole. Who is this guy?

This one part of the climb, particularly dangerous, a very narrow path accompanied by extremely uneven rocks, so what did I try to do? Video myself completing it so I could show people it’s not easy and it is actually dangerous! Sorry, mum, I am being sensible I promise.

Hakuna matata, in French, completed it mate. Ok… Not yet but with the help from teacher Mango I could sing it all through, it was a proud moment for me I can’t lie, only a few French words but it felt good. I was going to get this alone and without referencing my arm! Mango will be proud you’ll see.

That Tanzania bandana I told you about, I just took it off. A line on my fore head, not even straight… Slanted like my hairline, I was burnt it was sore, well done Liam! Worst thing is that I did wear sun cream ffs! Being this high was a silent killer, I was cooking like a succulent chicken breast on a barbyyyyy! I wasn’t the only victim of the red flower, Mango wasn’t so fresh, her shoulders, bright red. Lucky we aren’t on ground level as if she walked into the road she’s stopping traffic! Sam, slightly red but you could tell it was going to go brown by the morning… Bastard. My hair now, not so soft. Where’s my shampoo!

Bissshhhhhh bassshhh bosssssh. 2nd camp reached, Liam and Sam powered on ahead for a strong finish to register first! We wanted first dibs on the tents as last night being on a hill had me waking up all up in Sam’s space! I couldn’t help it I was rolling, that’s gravity for you. 

Ready for lunch, inside the tent and my god it was hot… Edge of the mountain, no clouds, sun beaming into the side of the tent, I felt like piece of meat that had been placed in an oven by the gods! Lunch was okay, pretty nice considering our location. I had a spare cake so offered it out and shobknob called for it, no please though? I let that slide as he may be feeling it with the altitude but as I gave it to him, he snatched it from me like a vulture, like a man that hasn’t eaten for years not even thankful, wanker. ‘You’re welcome’ I said letting him know he’s a rude prick. I wasn’t a fan of this fella. As you can tell. Manners cost nothing. Simple.

We had 2 hours to kill until the acclimatisation climb. The three of us wandered off to the edge and perched on a rock, Sam and Mango had books, I had my iPhone as I wanted to document my day. Music went on and we were silent. We did our thing, the music was playing the sun was warm I was content, I was happy, the happiest I had ever been, as I wrote about my adventure I had to break the silence, I let my new pals know how happy I was at that exact moment, being with them on Kili listening to music without worry in the world, the best feeling there is. Who needs materialistic things? Cars, clothes, gadgets? Fuck all that, this is where it’s at, experiences of a lifetime with great people.

Mango and I went back a little after Sam, as I got there this cave man, Indiana Jones I’m going to call him now was carving yet another stick… What could it be now? A Go Pro holder… He was carving a stick to make a Go Pro holder, wow unreal. But it turns out he is human and he does, in fact, make mistakes, he sliced his finger, looked bad. Shock horror he was prepared. First aid kit to hand, he didn't need any medical attention he just fixed himself up and carried on. Fair play mate fair play.

Just got back from the acclimatisation walk, I can’t lie, nothing impressive to talk about here, we saw a cave and a beautiful sunset on the walk back, but I think it was more to get us in the mood for tomorrow as tomorrow shits going down, we went to 3900, but tonight we are camping at 3800. I marched back ASAP as I heard nature calling.

Sitting here now with our tent open, and the view is sickkkkkk! Clouds are high and thick, colours of yellow red-orange and even pink were seen, we are sitting here watching the sun set from our tent on Kili, it doesn’t feel real. I see pictures on insta where I see this exact view from a tent and have always wanted to experience it and I have it right now, I actually feel like I’m dreaming, I don’t see anything topping this ever.

Dinner was unreal tonight, sticky rice with a vegetable sauce compliments to the chef for producing this madness on the side of Kili! The quantity was the only thing to criticise, not as much as yesterday, slightly disappointed but that’s the fat kid in me. Innocent gave his daily debrief and it was apparent that tomorrow shit got real, I was nervous yet excited. 2 more days then it’s summit day, lessssss AV it then!

Leaving the tent to brush my teeth and oh my jeezzzzz I’ve never seen anything so beautiful, the stars, the milk way wow oh my wow! I have never seen stars like it! Mango Sam and I had another group hug, what a moment what a moment to share, turns out I’m sharing the best moments of my life with these two g’s, so happy, words can’t explain, you need to experience this to understand it! Sam got some absolute gems of the milk way, producing some beautiful shots, photography is an art so complicated so much for me to learn. Sam tried to assist me in capturing this memorable moment on my new top of the range DSLR that I purchased thinking I’m big time, but without proper knowledge of how it works or the necessary equipment it was a tough task, hay ho it’s a life lesson and I’ll learn how to use it properly in the future to capture moments like this, for now, it’s in my mind and I know now it’s there and that it’ll never leave.

Day 2 done. Another day closer to the summit. Camping at Shira tonight. Hairs hanging in there, quite soft not too soft but it’s soft. It’ll do.

In the tent now with Mango and Sam, shared a lush piece of chocolate as I’m about to read chapter 2 to them. Night.

Sam – fuck the fuck boys August 2016, Kilimanjaro adventure.

Day 3 of the climb

They said an early start, 6:00 o’clock rise and out hiking by 7:00 that’s what they said, however, what I wasn’t expecting was to be woken up @3:38am. Aurghhhhhh, vomit, vomit, vomit and there we had our 3rd victim to altitude sickness, good ole’ lanky Mo Mo! Obviously the caring side of me got up out of my tent to see if he was okay…. NAAAT, man like L dizzle took note of the time to ensure I had an accurate blog, priorities, it’s fucking freezing out there, like 7 layers freezing, not for me. Poor kid though, bastard still owes me $50. Woke up not on the mat, and a sharp pain in my head, please don’t be altitude sickness, please. I’m putting it down to my perfectly around head being close neighbours with the perfectly flat rock hard ground. Curse that bitch who took my sleeping matt karma will get you! As I said that I thought, karma had just hit me? No please no… I’m a nice guy what have I done! My camera battery flap was missing! Luckily after an extensive 23 seconds searching I found it alive and well in my bag, I couldn’t fix, it was over, life was fucked, my battery was going to get dusty it was over. Not until Sam got hold of it, yep, you guessed it he fixed it, again.

I know I had a weird dream that night but I cannot remember for the life of me what it was, I know it involved Sam n Mango… If it comes back, I’ll add it here. Mango told us she had a dream, an unreal dream in fact she said. She asked us to guess, I had no clue, far too early for my brain to function what’s she thinking asking questions where it requires me to think! But Sam was on the ball, he goes, sex with Innocent?? To which eyeballs were placed on her ready for a reaction! She claims only half was true… PFFFFT, yeah ok m8, it was all over her face, my man Innocent Mango and Vaseline.

I don’t know what it is with my squad and toothbrushes but something wasn’t right, Sam first now Mango, her tooth brush fucked. Covered in dust where she left it the night before when she went for a lady like slash. RIP Mangos toothbrush RIP. Was this another job for Indiana Jones? Only time will tell.

Breakfast was served, and my favourite! Snot and Dry toast, love it. Okay, the snot today wasn’t too bad, added the specialty and booooom it was as close to heaven I was going to get this morning. I have to bring this up but I noticed this girl at breakfast today… Hadn’t seen her the whole trip, even when in spring-lands hotel, where did she come from! Slightly scared, maybe she’s the ghost of Kili! Nature called for Sam, finally, after many failed attempts he found himself and managed to speak with nature and let it do its thing, he was a new man, I could tell.

Shobknob called my name, wtf did this gooooon want? Vaseline. Can I have the Vaseline he asked, Please? No of course not. Twat. Innocents team talk the night before at dinner doing its thing today, everyone, all 33 of us walking as a squad, no silos all together. I still found myself at the back and oh dammmm I managed to put all the skills I had into taking an unreal shot of the team walking up the mountain with Kili in the distance, great shot if I say so myself. The caring side of me was out today, Mango, again not eating enough at breakfast had me in her ear every 5 mins to make sure she finished the power bar she decided to eat instead. She needed to eat, we were hitting 4600 metres today, needed her to be on top form, that’s what mates do thought, right? She did it, she finished that power bar, eventually.

Conversations of previous jobs in retail where we dealt with dickhead customers was the topic today, Mangos stories top it though not because they were far greater but just because they were completely outrageous. So, this one time she’s bending over at work and some old creepy freaky old man, probably with a weird French moustache, comes over and says, ‘if I was your dad I would make you wear high heals and short shorts’ ohhhhh my. What kind of a fetish is that? It’s disgusting, that’s the creepy French for you.

Hakuna Matata in French, done dusted, completed, smashed it, got the t-shirt. Absolutely nailed it today, well, not alone but with teacher Mangos assistance, even without looking, check me out. Can class me as fluent in French now.

Porters were going in at the back today, coming out with absolute bangers, another bonus of being at the back. Busta rhymes, yes. Obviously he had that blasting out on the side of Kili, what a G. Despite the altitude lack of good quality sleep the squaaa still managed to throw a couple dance moves or two, porters and us throwing shapes like we had popped a pill in fabric @5am. We were doing bits. Altitude wasn’t affecting us, this proper lifted our mood, just in time too. The dance and music couldn’t have come at a better time, as much as I hate to admit it, it was getting tougher, walking became harder, breathing became difficult and my belly felt like a washing machine, it was doing funky bits… I was paranoid it was erupting ready to say hey to the group. No thanks. Not today fella.

You can probably tell there were less photos today, it had its reasons, there wasn’t much around today, just the peak of Kili which I captured and the blanket of clouds, so today we spent more time talking and cracking bant like the top jokers we are! Go Pro was utilised and some cracking videos of us dancing cliff side were taken. I couldn’t help feel us 3 dancing wasn’t helping the people struggling, but come on, we have to have a good time too, plus we’re the first there to offer help when it’s needed.

New fact learnt today, Mango the supplier. She asked for Vaseline to which it was accompanied with a fact. Apparently, Vaseline in France is only ever used in sexual terms… Jheeze. These French people, licking lips at girls while holding cash, and now using Vaseline for god knows what? Mango care to explain?

Adam has nailed the perfect British voice, came out today with ‘Bloody ragga muffins’ yeah it’s more of a be there thing, but it was funny, ok? So just go with it, he deserved credit hence the feature.

Tanzania music now being blasted out Kili side, dancing back in full force with more of the 33 team getting involved! Life is good. Then I stacked, 180 spin and a hand twist and dab and I think I styled it out, nobody saw. They just thought this was a routine I had mastered as I noticed many notepad and pens out, taking notes.

Lunch today at 4600 metres! Now how many can say they’ve done that? Lava tower was the location. Great spot with unreal views. So, at lunch Sam loved the eggs so much he tries pocketing some, oh that cheeky swine what’s he like, bloody Rafa muffins. Post lunch I wandered off with Sam, captured some gems on the camera as well as marking a stone with our names. Let’s hope that’s there for years to come. Sam n Liam waz ere blud.

Mango wasn’t feeling tip top, we needed her back, and she was post lunch, Mango back on top form and the three of took off together after lunch feeling fresh. A couple hundred meters into the walk post lunch and I heard something, what was it?! No one else said anything or brought it up, it was nature, fuck that not again I ignored that prick. I noticed after lunch something that kills me to say but I have to. I brought it up in my last entry so have to comment on it. Sam, obviously looking brown as I predicted but Mango… Damn. Her face was looking golden. Bitch. Coming out looking all Greek goddess like and here’s me still with a line tanned on my forehead! Don’t worry, I brown, golden some say. Un named Greek god I’ve heard, but that’s just rumors, but you’ll see post Zanzibar. But yeah, ok mango was brown there I said it.

Middle of Kili, around 4000ft high and there was a waterfall splashing through the rocks. The sounds, the way it moved amongst them dodging them at every bend, it was one of nature’s pleasures, beautiful. We were actually walking in the clouds, it looked like smoke you see from a bonfire but it wasn’t, that’s what it compared too with how misty it was. Today we actually were in cloud 9.

Today was a musically inspired day with half the group singing songs and I can’t lie it started well I even got involved and broke the veto against me and sung ‘I wish it could be Christmas everyday!!’ Mango n Sam were ahead and their heads turned simultaneously, they were livid, fuming! So the singing carried on, 5 mins, 10 mins 40 fucking mins. Slightly irritating now, starting to sound like a drowning rat being electrocuted whilst beaten to death… Awful. Really awful, please please stop it’s driving me nuts.

We were getting closer to camp so in style I tried to ditch Mango, it worked for a moment! I zoomed off and caught the front pack, I was expecting flowing conversation, laughs and banter, is that what I saw? No I didn’t, nothing but pure silence. I attempted to bring the life and soul into the party with my hilarious jokes and witty banter. Nothing. Regretted ditching Mango instantly… But Mango caught up, thank god she did. They knew we were there that’s for sure, breaking the silence, big time. Our conversation was jokes, we were just chatting shit, flowing perfectly. They must have loved it. Fuck it we didn’t care, who wants to walk in silence anyway. It consisted of abusing her country! They don’t have slang… What is, he speaks English like a Spanish cow. Ha! Made me laugh, it’s just banter though, l love the French really.

Back at camp now and many people starting to feel the effects, Sam had a quick nap but was in top shape post nap, Mango was quiet, I remember her saying she goes quiet when she’s not feeling 100%, similar to me and Sam. Maybe it was the effects of altitude maybe she’s just tired but I’m sure she’ll be fine she’s basically Lara Croft after all. As long as my teams good I’m good. We will summit together, mark my words.

At dinner, people feeling worse kind of worn out, nevertheless people were still cracking jokes. Mango first. Stevie went and said ‘these nuts are the best ever’ Mango dropped ‘that’s what she said’ brilliant. Adam (AJ) said hello, wearing a hair net which he got for a yogurt factory. Madness. They make great yogurt though, the best I’ve heard. Red onion soup, best of the trip so far for me, delicieux. Just felt my hair btw, still soft, high altitude, great conditioner. Cross table nut throw from Ben and it nearly got jammed in my nostril, second attempt and it’s a swish, tekkerz all over the gaff at dinner tonight. Sam can’t whistle!!! Jesus Christ another fact tonight. Something he can’t do, tried blaming on the altitude, yeah yeah yeah, ok bro ok.

Mood was okay at dinner tonight but Innocent always managed to improve it, this guys the definition of a hero! He said ‘you can bone again’ a few chuckles from the tent, I don’t think he realised as he meant born, you will be born again once you hit summit is what he was trying to say. He explained he’s splitting us into two groups for summit, I just hope I got these two with me, need to cross the finish line with them, started with them will only feel right to end it with them, I’m sure he will put us together. I’ll make sure in fact I’ll have a word if it sees us apart. So he said -20 on the summit night. Damn. Going to be cold, can’t wait though, this is going to be one hell of an accomplishment, what makes it better is having people you actually want to complete it with rather than yourself. I love it.

So in the tent now finishing this passage off, 5am rise for a 6am start. Minor. Easy peasy. Let’s just hope we can sleep, nothing that a couple coffees can’t sort out. Anyway going to finish up early now and attempt an early night as the next couple of days will see minimal rest. Liam Sam Mango clocking out at just before 8pm, another sick day, I just don’t want this journey to end, going to miss these conversations late at night in the tent freezing with the squad.

Camping at Barranco tonight. Hairs hanging in there, still soft…ish.

That’s what she said – Liam 1st September 2016. Quote of the day that caught on.

Day 4 of the climb

4:45, I’m up, ahead of schedule. Sam followed quickly. Cold, very very cold, you’ve probably gathered that by now. The first sounds of the day were not the birds tweeting nor the stream flowing but our man Innocent getting things sorted, ‘Usain. breakfast!’ That’s what we heard, he was getting the team in shape to cook us food.

Breakfast was served. We were out, no jam, no peanut butter, no spread nothing, it was safe to say eating the dry toast today was going to be tough. Yet again Mango didn’t eat much! She had her coffee so she was content and feeling fresh. So today was the big day, tonight was the summit climb, everything we have worked for is here, it’s actually here, I cannot believe how quickly it’s gone. I’m loving every moment, best times of my life being lived right now.

The groups grown close, real close, so close that we are encouraging each other to be one with nature and shit! This morning everyone routing for Mo for his first shit whilst we eat breakfast, that shows how tight we are, boys and girls exchanging shit stories. Never is that acceptable, but on the side of Kili anything goes.

Barranco wall was the climb today, it looked steep but that excited me, I love a challenge, the harder it is the more I enjoy it. Innocent advised no poles for this part and I can see why, we were literally climbing vertically having to use our hands and feet, one wrong step and its night night. Well, it’s either that or you’re badly injured and getting help is going to be tough at this altitude so everyone was extra cautious. It began, I was gassed, loving it and so was the team, I felt like a superhero felt like someone off of avengers, spider man, batman and cat women the 3 of us scrambling with ease. Strong, that’s what we were classed as by the guide, making us wait whilst helping the others. Then when it’s our turn to go I look up to see the ever so helpful guide, nothing. They had faith that in us, we didn’t need the help. That was satisfying, made me feel good gave me that extra confidence we needed. Gave me the reassurance he wouldn’t split us three up. A couple of us struggled, a few tears were shed and bags were left for the guides. It was understandable, it was a sheer drop behind us, all that was keeping you safe was your grip and if you’re scared of heights this is you worse nightmare. Believe me.

We had our set backs on the way up, but we did it. All of us. The whole group. Some overcame fears and you could see it was a proud moment for them, very admirable. The views from the top, where ever you looked were remarkable. The shine from the peak of Kili with the glaciers giving that beautiful sparkle from the powerful sunshine, it was utterly amazing. Clear skies with the peak of Kili, stunning. Then I turn and look the other way, a bed of clouds, looking more comfortable then any mattress I’ve seen, and there was mount Mary. The tip bursting through the sky, we were literally higher than the clouds, higher than mount Mary. Pictures on the edge of the cliff overlooking the clouds made for a priceless picture, one that we got. Obviously, you guessed it, me Sam and Mango sharing a picture again. At the top of the of Barranco wall.

Sunglasses broken for the summit walk, well they were until Indiana Jones got his hands on them, little bit of tape and they’re brand new. The man can fix anything.

Mo Mo, managed to bring up the Connor Maynard reference, not ideal, he’s a ugly fuck boy. Thanks Mo.

Playing some tunes walking right next to the peak of Kili, attempted a staged walking shot, failed miserably. Mango managed to snap a natural one though, yes it’s natural I swear, not like them staged Instagram pics you see where girls have been snapped mid joke, jokers. Mango stacked, brilliant. She went down with force, looked painful so I went for the camera but missed it, priorities, I’d like to think she’d do the same. Luckily Sam managed to capture the whole thing on the Go Pro, buzzing to see that in slow mo.

We could see camp, but between us and camp was a vertical drop and a vertical rise. Out came the Go Pro, I was hoping for some footage, I’m caring I swear it just makes for a good video! The porters were a joke. Legging it down with baskets on their head, here we are struggling with 2kg bags and poles for assistance. You can’t actually explain how unreal these guys are unless you see it, I’ve got some pics and footage but it does not do them justice.

Stopping for a break in what I can only describe as a valley, with the camp site on one side and the previous trail on the other. Laying down in the valley and we were being over look by the Kili peak. Views were good, life was good.

Mango needed the loo, she was in pain, pain that I was all too familiar with, the same pain I was in the other day on the bus, I can’t lie it was quite amusing not being the person with a bladder about to burst. She galloped up the mountain past the mandem to open the flood gates. When we caught up with her I could tell she felt like a new girl.

Oi oi, chicken and chips for dinner, did someone say Kili does Nandos? I think so! The excitement was too much, chicken and chips surely meant Nandos esc right? But the disappointment was clear when the smallest bit of chicken and recycled chips were placed on the plate, I had seen more meat in a vegan cafe. Give the chef his due he did have the chicken tasting buff, so compliments to him yet again.

Innocent gave the team talk pre-summit, the team was buzzing. Teams A&B had been decided and there were no shocks. Innocents team talk followed the annoying blonde, boss, doctor, expert whatever she called herself. Sam and I shared the same feeling towards her, she was jarring. Not a single word from her mouth was listened too. Innocent knows, I trust innocent.

Riddles, riddles on the mountain. Not ideal, already struggling for oxygen and people are throwing in stupid riddles to fuck with my head. One was Mangos, it goes something like: ‘there’s a sealed room with a lightbulb in it, there are 3 light switches outside, you can only open the door once, how do you find out which light switch turns on the light bulb?’ This left me bamboozled for a while, the answer, quite simple. It was: ‘you turn on the far left switch leave it on for 30-60 mins, turn it off then turn on the middle switch, open the door, if the light switch is on its the middle one, if it’s off but warm it’s the far left one, if it’s off but cold it’s the far right switch!’ Bishhhh basshhhhh bosshhhh easy peasie.

Summit night was tonight, we needed to get back to rest but the team was struggling, every break we had was eating out our rest time. It was clear that no more than 2 hours were going to be secured, we were to pin our hopes on adrenaline to get us through the night. If the walk is to follow suit than I expect this walk to be enjoyable and easy.

The camp we were staying at tonight had a toilet that was voted within the top 100 toilets in the world. Obviously I had to check this out. Mango was also intrigued. We went and shared an experience in this incredible toilet, well she did her business I did mine. The view was the reason this loo was voted within the top 100, jaw dropping. I couldn’t ask for a better view when dropping the kids off at school.

We were in bed ready for the summit hike, ready to kick start at 11pm. The dream team, Liam and Sam (sorry Mango you weren’t in the tent) shared biscuits pre-summit, perfect fuel for an average mountain. 2 hours slept and it was here.

Day 5 Summit

Minimal sleep and its summit night. 1 hour consumed, a power nap, a re-charge of our damaged batteries and we’re ready. 19:30 and pre-summit tunes are going down in our tent, fire coming from the headphones. Signal from Sam’s device managed to capture a local radio station, cliff side Kili FM, sounds like it could be a suitable name or maybe Moshi Magic or even Innocent, that name could work.

Already partially awake when we heard Sadie was doing his normal errands, but making mistakes, I’ll let him off as he’s been up two days straight. ‘Group A Group A’ this was the call he screamed into our tent, this was for the slower walkers who were leaving an hour early to make sure they made summit. I politely made him aware he was in fact barking orders at the wrong tent as no group A mandem was present. He apologised, it was accepted, we moved on. What happened next wasn’t expected, ‘Group A Group A, come on get up’. Ok ok I know I’m up but I’m resting I don’t need no qualms, but Sadie was having a western this morning. As this guys a living legend I again politely informed him he was at the wrong tent, to which a more apologetic sorry was provided. They genuinely feel so bad whenever a mistake is made, I’ve never seen such passionate and really down to earth people, they are an inspiration, people I’ll always look up to; because of this you couldn’t be mad, it was impossible to be mad at them, so I dropped a cheeky African phrase ‘Hakuana Matata’ he loved it. Not as much as Mango loves ginger nuts though.

Summit night would see 1295 metres climbed in 8 hours. Tough to say the least, but an over confidence me wasn’t shook, easy mate, easy. Despite being confidence when I was waiting for breakfast, well dinner, I did feel nervous, don’t know why but I was, maybe because it had something to do with climbing the tallest free standing mountain in the world on literally no sleep… YEAHHHH BABYYYYY.

Food was served, dinner breakfast whatever you want to call it. Spaghetti and vegetable sauce, not bad pre-summit gains to be honest, was looking forward to digging in. Oh wait, I didn’t. Table one pouring enough sauce to serve a small army on each of their plates… This did wind me up as it was a consistent theme at feeding time, certain people would completely ignore that fact others needed food and would just think about themselves, they’d take too much or they’d just not pass the plates on to the other end of the tent in the fear of missing out or having less, selfish, I dislike that a lot. So unfortunately because of this I enjoyed a plate full of spaghetti, yes just spaghetti no sauce, thanks guys. I don’t hold grudges but some people are bellends.

100 miles per hour is how fast it went post dinner, I literally just took the last bite into my flavour filled, succulent spaghetti and Innocents was going on a mad one. ‘LETS GOOOOO’ Jheeze wtf, I’ve been in the tent longer than anyone waiting for food and now he’s saying let’s go, I still had 3 layers to add and laces to tie. Stress. Stress. Stress. I was rushing, layers thrown on and I was 9 layers deep feeling like the Michelin man. I was nervous, felt like I was forgetting something, I was still half in my tent and I could see the faint headlights of Group B, my group, begging to leave, stressing out big time! I never stress and I can see why I hate that stress feeling. I threw on my bag, hadn’t adjusted it for the multiple layers I added so this was disgusting, I was proper uncomfortable. I just firmed it, had to catch up. Innocent telling us to calm down he could see people getting over worked, but come on what did he expect, delay of dinner and unexpected start to the biggest climb of your life would stress anyone out. I caught up the group and noticed it was still missing members. Sam being one. He was also running around camp stressing as he was in the same boat as me. We were both worried about forgetting our cameras and gadgets, sad I know but this is an experience of a lifetime which I wanted to document for myself, not to show off, fuck that that’s not me. Luckily despite the hectic start nothing was forgotten.

We started climbing and the excitement was too much, it felt like the novelty was never going to wear off, adrenaline was at an all-time high. The rocks at the start were steep, constantly felt like we were going up stairs. Legs were taking a bartering at the early hours of this long hike. It was dark, pitch black. The stars were massive, the milky way was out of this world, the feeling was surreal. I managed to capture some Go Pro footage of the train headlights behind me. That was all you could see, other people’s head lights and 1 meter ahead of you that was lit up by the head torch. It was dark.

The guides were massively inspirational today, they could sense the group were excited yet tired, some also struggling more than others. Helping others definitely gave yourself a boost but was nothing compared to what these guides were doing. So, considering they were in the same boat as us on minimal sleep they managed to get a song and dance going all the way up the mountain, it wasn’t in English but the lyrics were easy to understand. The jist of the song was as follows, listing the camps of the mountain as well as the mountain itself followed by the words Hakuna Matata, no problem. The perfect song for the moment, these guys were really something else, the reason for a high success rate for Kili is 110% down to these guys. They kept everyone’s spirits high.

I was prepared for the cold, I had 9 layers, I felt good. Long sleeve thermal, short sleeve thermal, a t-shirt x2, turtle neck thermal, asos hoodie, north face fleece, another jumper and a rain coat, safe to say I was prepared, the minus -20, degrees up top wasn’t going to affect me. The spare layers I had went to mango, she was short a few so giving her my extras made me feel good knowing she was more prepared, she was going to cross that summit with us whether she liked it or not.

Instantly it became obvious that this climb wasn’t going to be as easy as the first couple of days. The first couple of days was luxurious, a walk in the park made a lot better as it was spent with Sam and mango, enjoying every minute. Whereas this climb everyone was a bit more focused in keeping conscious and alive, silence was present, looking down became the norm and the nature was ignored. We lost two early on at around the 5000 meters’ mark. One had back pain and the other was rather Ill, they done their best so they should be proud, but it just showed straight away this climb to summit wasn’t easy, was tough and we needed to come together.

The higher we got the more the altitude effected everyone, I think it was effecting mood swings as for some reason Matts Simba pissed me off, more than anything I have ever encountered. It was there. In front. Smiling. It was the only thing my flash light lit up and his smiling patronising cuddly furry face was so happy, and here I was with my team struggling. Nope, I wanted to smash its little furry head in, I couldn’t hack it. I had to move away, a little over take and that stupid toy was gone.

My close team was my main priority, I wanted them to make it with me to the top, I built a bond so strong in these 6 days, one that I value highly, it’s something money can’t buy. So seeing Mango down, in tears was hard for me. She asked me to get Innocent so I did, she was crying. It hit her, everything was getting a little too much, the no sleep, the lack of water, everything was getting to her at once. I went over and gave her a hug, and a little head rub with some words of encouragement, told her she’ll do it she’ll be fine. I then gave her some space, she didn’t want me there when struggling, she was a proud girl and I knew she’d recover, she’s a warrior, I’d like to think I helped. A few moments later she was back, back walking. Ready to smash it again, that’s Mango for you. Seeing her back gave me that extra push I needed as I was also struggling, I stuck on the tunes and kept going, Marvin Gaye eat your heart out.

Damn, another victim to the mountain, this time it was only a chunder monkey, no body returned. Matt, ex-army mandem threw up all over the side of Kili. These army folk aye, tough they say, but that aren’t no Lara Croft or Indiana Jones.

It was getting harder, my two litres in my day pack frozen, only one litre down with access to 0 more. I wasn’t prepared for this; I was struggling, I was thirsty, I was becoming dehydrated. This mixed with the altitude wasn’t going to be good. The first group were on the horizon, we caught them up. Mo, he was smashing it, my guy. You could see he was in pure discomfort but he carried on going carried on sticking one foot in front of the other, I was proud of this guy, really wanted him to do it for himself. What an achievement that would be.

I was thirsty. Very thirsty.

Lack of water but I had food, I had protein bars, maybe this would help me with energy levels, I needed something as water was inaccessible, I ate it. You guessed it, awful. Worst decision I made. The fat kid in me saw it off and didn’t I know about it. Hard to chew and to digest and there we were again over 5000 meters up and I heard it, no one else did but I did. It was nature. Again. I tried to hold out I really did, but it was an impossible task, I had to give in, over 5000 meters in the sky and I’m becoming a cave man, I’m doing one with nature. That’s one for the memory books, becoming one with nature at that high. Impressive achievement I must say. Slightly proud I can’t lie. This episode saw me lose my glove, my pals glove, I was going to have to buy him some more, nightmare.

The sun was trying it, it was trying to beat us, it wanted to wake up before we got to Stella. We needed to up the pace otherwise the once in a life time sunrise may be missed. Don’t worry though, we did it we got there. Deep red, glowing yellows, bright oranges all coming together to form the perfect cocktail of colours. The sun was just waking up, the first orange hued rays of sunrise kissed the still dust burdened path beneath us, it peered up over the horizon to see who was awake, gradually it rose, a defined circle in a vibrant backdrop, as she rose we rose in happiness and in altitude, perfect timing. I marvelled at the glistening reflection of the sun on the mountain glaciers around me and a thrilling feeling of awe swept over me, I felt so full of life. The sun out powered the darkness, it was strong, symbolising the perfect message. No matter how dark times may be there’s always going to be light, you’ll always be able to get through it. The sun gets knocked down, but it climbs higher again, it gets put out but it regains strength to light us up again, it gets defeated daily but never fails to be born again, this for me was perfectly aligned with our recent days. Times get tough, things get hard, you may have little resources, you may have nothing left but you can still come out the other side bright, as long as you believe things will work out, they always do. If you’ve got good people around you anything is possible. This one moment showed me the important things in life which are people, they are what make the world tick, good people can get you through anything, I had that there with Sam and Mango, it was a truly unreal scene. I was there at Stella, watching the most beautiful thing a man can see with the best of friends a man could have. The hairs on my body stood up, my heart sunk, it all got a bit too much, I couldn’t hold back the emotion, I had done it I had managed to summit Kili for the sunrise with my new mates. I never had emotion like it, the bond I created with Sam and Mango was tripled in strength at this moment. What we had, was priceless. I was proud of myself and of these two troopers, a tear or two may have been shed but obviously I couldn’t show anyone the emotion, so I took myself away, had a moment then came back, I can’t be seen crying come on, I’m a macho man you know that.

After this moment it sunk in, we had another 45-minute walk to actually peak the mountain. The sign was visible from Stella, just over the other side, an easy walk surely, just around the corner. It wasn’t, it was miles. It turned out this was the hardest 45-minute walk of my life, the dehydration was catching me up, I felt faint, everything was blurry, yes my contacts were in. The only way to describe how I was feeling was to compare it to being drunk, I couldn’t walk straight, my legs were giving up swaying from side to side, one foot in front of the other was not happening. Side to side, crossing feet, stumbling, I was all over the gaff. My man Sam was there though, this guys a hero a unit an inspiration to me. He held me up, helped me in walking, I managed to recover and sorted my head out just before we reached the peak, thanks Sam couldn’t have done that without you. You’re the man.

We did it. The three of us got there together, this made my trip. There was emotion obviously as I reached the top but the way I felt, the way we all felt after that 45 min extra burst, no one was really in a good condition. I managed to get my head together bring the team together for a classic selfie, my smile was great, ear to ear, Mango and Sam, well meh they tried, but they were cream crackered. I got a selfie with the rest of the squad, a half-hearted cheer after 3 but it was there, I got the cheer, everyone scrapping the barrel for them final bits of energy. We done it, Mount Kilimanjaro? Completed it mate.

We stayed at the peak for a little while, it was safe to say everyone was fucked, the task of walking back to camp hadn’t quite hit me yet. The effort to even throw a smile was becoming the most difficult of tasks. To try lift the mood I needed to do something, then I remembered I saved myself Sam and Mango a piece of chocolate for the peak, a little celebratory chocolate. This unfortunately didn’t manage to remove the horrendous feelings however it did taste marvellous. We began the almost impossible task that was to hike back to camp. It didn’t start well for me; in fact, it couldn’t have started worse. Dehydration and exhaustion had come all at once, I don’t believe it was altitude sickness however I’m sure it played a massive impact. I couldn’t walk straight, one leg wasn’t going in front of the other, they had a mind of their own. I managed to battle through and keep the walk consistent but it just got worse, my eyesight was getting worse, things in the distance became blurry, my head became light and for the first time in my life I thought I was going to pass out. The break at Stella was needed, we got there eventually, I had fully lost the concept of time at this point, everything was merging into one, I couldn’t tell you how long it took, or how I did it, I just got there. That was it, the break here at Stella nearly ended me there and then, I sat down, oh my sweet goodness gracious I wish I didn’t, I regretted it instantly. I didn’t think I was going to get up, my body was close to shut down, my eye lids became 30kg heavier my head and body became light I just couldn’t hold it up. My eyes closed, the sun kissed sky disappearing, I was gone, sleeping for a couple of minutes on top of Stella. Turned out I was joined by a few others, it was a normal feeling, but that doesn’t take away how bad it was.

I was thirsty, it was becoming clear to not just myself and my team but the to the guides as well, I was struggling. I have a lot of pride, I like to do things without help, I like to prove myself wrong and push myself to its limits, it’s just a personal thing so this moment when the guide had me hand over my bag is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, very demoralising, my pride took a beating, big time. Being a proud person I shy away from help, however, maybe I needed it this time, I knew I was struggling I could tell from what I could see, blurriness, but that’s me I just like to do things alone, everything I’ve done in my life to date I’ve done alone, it’s just how I do things. Work hard and good things will happen. The guides were pros as you’ve established by now and maybe sometimes help is good, I think this is something I’ll be taking away from this experience. I in fact am breakable I am in fact human and I also do need help from time to time, we all do. I’d like to think going forward I’ll take that away, take away the fact being helped isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength, you know your body, you know it’s limits and knowing where they are is key, killing yourself to just hold onto your pride isn’t worth it, who cares what people think at the end of the day, I do me and that’s all that matters. Finishing is a sign of strength, no matter how you get there.

This took me a moment to get my head around, the fact I was being helped, but I accepted it and eventually recovered. Just before the guides allowed me to move on and continue to walk on my own I received a juice n bourbon, I shared this with mango as Sam had already marched off, the guys a beast. Let me tell you now that this juice box and biscuit had never tasted so nice! The sweet tastes reignited my energy, I felt good, I felt normal. I just wanted to get back to camp. So I was gone, back on top form walking with pace back to camp, could I catch Sam that was the question. I left Mango as I felt I needed to walk quick as walking slow for me was worse, the dust oh my the dust it was everywhere and I hated it. I didn’t catch Sam, but I got back just after, all my 9 layers still on, a bit stupid as it was warm, heat stroke was there to be caught but the effort required to take the layers of during the walk was just too much.

We all got back, me Sam and Mango, we had just done it, we fucking smashed it, Kili was done dusted competed, it hadn’t sunk in yet but when it does it’ll be the best feeling ever. The three of us were crashed out in my tent, we composed an interview of the current affairs and feelings on the Go Pro, I can’t wait to watch my delirious self-back! Sam was gone, post interview he was asleep within seconds, me and Mango we stayed up a little longer. Just chatting in the tent, what about? Just bullshit as per. That’s what I love, I haven’t known her long but we can chat for hours about anything in any situation, she’s hilarious.

We crashed out after the extensive walk to summit, it was only for 1 hour, we were then woken for lunch with the news another 4-hour hike to our next camp was required before any real rest could be obtained. The pain I was in when I woke was indescribable, the worst headache a man could have, it felt like a hangover on steroids. White noise. Hazy sounds, beneath hearing, the growl and whoosh of blood imposing its way through tight passages. A two beat rhythm occurred continually, the drummer’s drumsticks rising and falling extensively as an exhausted muscle trireme heaved across my head. A heart, pumping hot, gasping for oxygen. My cells were starving; in fact, they were dying. What a terrible sensation, the sensation of having no normal sensation was scary. Then, awareness, the awareness I had to get up nearly broke me, I couldn’t do it. I popped some tablets but I wasn’t confident they would work; it was incurable I’m sure. I wasn’t the only one feeling this bad, turns out everyone, every single one of us was in the worst shape of their life. The lunch we shared at this camp was probably the worst of the trip. Everyone miserable, hurting and tired with the reality of the 4-hour hike to next camp hitting us hard. I wasn’t sure if it was possible to complete this walk. Looking around the tent at some of the faces it looked like an almost impossible task. Broken people everywhere. Just so it comes across clearly, this was the worst I have ever felt, ever.

The walk began, 1 hour passed then 2 hour passed and I was starting to feel better than I did when I first awoke. My head had calmed down a lot and I felt almost human again. However, my eyes, they were burning, this was down to being tired, they had been open and exposed to a shit load of dust for a considerable amount of time now. Despite how I felt the walk was surprisingly nice. The scenery was second to none, in fact some compared the trail similar to that of a walk to a nice beach, I agreed. It felt like we were going to be greeted with an ice cold corona with lime on a peaceful white beach with a calm ocean at any moment. If only. This walk did strike up some great conversations, I managed to speak to near everyone on this walk back, everyone still friendly and happy, great group.

We finally hit camp, everyone was shattered, dinner wasn’t really wanted but it was necessary. Mood was still high despite the exhaustion. Dinner was eaten and bed was hit. I crashed out instantly, I was gone and there was no going back, rest was needed.

I just smashed Kili, unbelievable, what a day. A day I’ll never forget, the best day of my life so far.

Mount Kilimanjaro completed.

Day 6 of the climb

The first proper morning since completing Kili. I woke up naturally, not waking up once during the night, a first for me. I slept like a baby all the way through, just shows how shattered I was. Sam was the same, he crashed out to only wake when needed, again exhausted, a well needed rest.

We woke up late, Innocent said we were to be woken up early to get back to the gates before lunch but we never received the wakeup call. Turns out our main man Sadie woke up late, this guy cooks, sets the tents up, guided us to the summit and was a porter. He had no sleep in two days and over slept, if anyone ever had an acceptable excuse for sleeping in, he did. This turned out to be a blessing, normally with early rises the whole camp seems rushed seems stressed to get everything done dusted ASAP so we can set off early. Today though, everyone was chilled, we had extra time in the tent and no rushing was done, I think Innocent accepted that his team was also fucked just like us, they’re human after all so the relaxed morning was well earned.

Breakfast was good today, must have been the re-stock they had. This instantly increased the spirits of the camp. It was starting to sink in that we had just climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, what an accomplishment. OHHH YHHHH WE DONEEEE IT, LESSS AVV IT!!!

The guides were taking pictures with us and of us, Facebooks were being jotted down, the mood was great, perfect start to the morning. Sadie explained why breakfast was late but we weren’t bothered, in fact we all started clapping and cheering for him, saying thanks for all the hard work he had put in for us. This hit him hard as he had to leave the tent to have a little cry, he could feel how grateful we were, his efforts over the 6 days had been appreciated and I hope we were able to show that. It was an emotional morning, he told us he was going to miss us, miss our banter, miss our jokes. He was right, I was going to miss it too. I was going to miss sharing a tent with Sam, miss breakfast lunch and dinner with the team, miss conversations on Kili with Mango and Sam, miss the views, miss the laughs, the jokes, miss the guides and their banter, even the dirt, I was going to miss being dirty. I began to accept it and it wasn’t an issue anymore. It was all going to be missed, the best experience anyone could have, I just feel lucky to have met some great people along the way, especially Sam and Mango.

There were other camps at the site, one of which broke out into song and dance, amazing. The Kilimanjaro song, we watched and admired. Everyone was just so happy, it was great to see. We threw the question at Innocent, when are we getting sung too, he just said in good time. In good time. He must have had something planned.

We set off to actually finish the challenge. 4 hours between us and the bottom of the mountain. It started off with a story from Adam, about a moth. The previous night when he went to loo. He tried going but couldn’t. Why? Because of a moth, a moth was present in the loo and he was scared, scared of a moth. It’s a moth pal, come on!

The whole trip Indiana Jones had been using a stick he collected at the begging of the challenge, it replaced his walking pole, it grew with him, the stick became a part of him. Through thick and thin the stick was always there! The plan was to cut off a part of it when he got down so he could take it back in his luggage as a Kili memory. However, fate, nature whatever you call it had other plans. The walk back was slippery; the mud was proving a difficult task already taking a few victims. Then it took Sam, his stick. It snapped. He slipped and his stick got wedged into the ground and as the weight of his body propelled forward, the stick wasn’t strong enough to hold him, it collapsed. It snapped just over half way. Initial reaction was heart break. The stick had gone through harder terrains to be snapped on the simple walk home, how was it possible. After the initial reaction of disappointment, we began to realise it was a blessing in disguise. It was now small enough to go in his luggage back to England. The stick was snapped on Kili, it had now become more authentic, it wasn’t snapped by us, but by Kili. Turned out to be a winner!

I didn’t realise at the time but my ears were blocked, you know that feeling when on a plane and you’re struggling to hear properly, I had that. Randomly my ears just popped and thank god they did, I didn’t realise what I was missing out on. The sounds of the rainforest, beautiful. The waterfall, the birds, the wind bouncing around the trees, it was amazing how peaceful and therapeutic a place can be, this one moment where my ears popped was definitely a highlight of this walk back, the sounds of nature, can’t beat it.

The group kind of split up into two, the front runners and the back. I was at the back but felt a need for a change, so myself a Chris decided to up the pace and attempt to catch the group. Didn’t realise how slow we were originally walking as around 20-30 mins later of a fast walk we eventually caught them. The walk did see us get cut up by what I think was a duck, it was quick too quick to allow us to snap a pic as it literally ran out straight past us. That showed we were close to home as animals were now amongst us.

A few of us attempted to play a quiz to kill some time on the way down, my general knowledge was highlighted here as being below average. Fuck general knowledge who needs that’s shit anyway. 

Mo Mo is a character, a great character at that. One of the funnier members of the team that’s for sure. The things he comes out with are priceless. This walk back, he claims to remember this path and continues to say we’re close to home, but hang on mate, we have come down a different route to what we went up so that’s impossible. That’s Mo for you, remembering a path we never took.

We did it, we got there. The bottom of Kili was reached and we were now official Kili conquerors. Cheesy but fuck it. A number of selfies were taken with the congratulations sign. Trademark selfie with my team, Mango and Sam. As well as this I got some decent Go Pro footage of the team the whole team, guides as well, all in front of the sign cheering Mount Kilimanjaro, Hakuna Matata.

After the signing out was done and more selfies were taken and we were then taken to the souvenir shop, but just before that Sam was tempted by Innocent to have a swig of his beer! Surely not. We had planned it from day 1, back at spring lands with our new mount Kili tops and an ice cold Kili beer, he wasn’t going to do it was he? He wasn’t going to give in to this sip? He didn’t, he stayed strong. He was buzzing more than anyone for that first sip and wanted it to be just as we planned as it was going to be the best sip of a beer ever.

We got back to the hotel and first thing first, shower. I got in ASAP, so did Sam and Mango, everything else wasn’t important. All that was needed was to be clean. Once clean on went my Mount Kilimanjaro top and to garden bar I went. I was then greeted by Mango and Sam and DJ. BEERS BEERS BEERS. That’s all that was on our minds, Mango did the honours and got in the first round. Out she came. Beers in hand, grin from cheek to cheek. I’d never seen a French girl so happy! The excitement was too much; my mouth was watering I couldn’t help but smile as the beer was handed. There it was just as we planned, we toasted to completing Kili, and took that ever so needed first sip, followed by a joint ‘ahhhh’. Writing this now gives me Goosebumps just thinking back to that sip, it was the best sip of a beer, ever. I shared my first Kili beer with my two new pals. I had just gone through so much with these two and sharing a beer with them was a perfect way to sign off a perfect trip. Unbelievable. Just when you think it couldn’t get any better it did. Innocent and his guides came over, we got them a beer and toasted again. Sharing a beer with these guys just topped it off. What a feeling what a moment. It felt like fate again, the three of us, the main part of our team if you ask me, the life and soul of the party sharing a beer alone with the main guides, couldn’t have planned it if we tried.

The ceremony next. As any ceremony goes your names get called out you get a cheer you collect your certificate. There was 3,5000ft certificate, Stella point certificate and an Uhuru peak certificate. They were the 3 categories we had within our team. Post ceremony Innocent grabs an envelope and says we have a gift for you, everyone instantly became intrigued, what was it what was our gift. Just before he placed the envelope down he ensured we would love it. There it was. Everything we wanted. The Mount Kilimanjaro song was initiated. The guides and Innocent all got up started singing and dancing, in the middle of the hotel! Then we got up, we got involved. Everyone together one last time, in union singing and dancing with no care in the world. All I could see were smiles, smiles everywhere, everyone genuinely enjoyed the out of tune singing and robot like dancing. Who cared, we didn’t. We just completed Mount Kilimanjaro, we were buzzing. This just topped it all off, the togetherness of our group was truly amazing. As it ended a few got teary, it was emotional I can’t lie. An unforgettable moment.

More beers were had, I was enjoying my last evening with Sam and Mango especially. 5/6 beers down and I was feeling great, not wanting to think about goodbyes as I didn’t need that emotion right now so I left it at the back of my head and enjoyed the moment I was in. Something I should do more, less worrying and thinking about what’s next and just live for the moment, that’s something I can say Sam and Mango have taught me from the stories they shared with me on that mountain. Could this night get any better? No surely not, I didn’t think so, but it did, it was ended in the perfect way.

 The friendship and bond that I’ve built in this last week with these two, I don’t need to mention names now you’ll just know who I’m referring to, is priceless. I wouldn’t swap it for the world. I do hope I continue to stay in contact with them post Kili and we meet up in England as a well as potentially doing other adventures together, Mount Blanc next? I’d like to think we will, I for one will do all I can to maintain this friendship, despite it being short lived, it’s valued highly, very highly indeed.

My hair still soft, and Mango now likes ginger nut biscuits, who’d have guessed it.

There we have it, Mount Kilimanjaro done, completed it mate, I feel like a new man.

Caitlin GrahamComment