The days before this meant nothing, if I didn’t make it up the mountain it had all been in vain. Failure was not an option.
The alarm went off at 11.15pm then a quick breakfast before setting off at 12.10am. It was unbelievably cold. Thankfully the four layers I was wearing on my bottom half, five on top plus gloves, a balaclava and hat kept me warm. In other words; dressed and resembling The Michelin Man, Dulla and I began the final ascent.
It was a steep start and at 4800 metres was hard to catch your breath despite walking at an incredibly slow pace. After a short time the heart rate settled and I found a steady rhythm. About an hour in and I felt very sick and began to worry. Another hour passed and temperatures were dropping to minus 10 but fortunately the nausea subsided. Relief!
As the next few hours passed the route to the summit resembled a war zone; collapsed bodies, people being carried, on emergency oxygen and vomiting but I kept going.
However, four hours in and I was starting to hit the wall and hallucinate; things were appearing in the sky and on the rocks that hadn’t been there before. There was about an hour to go until Stellar Point – a key landmark on the summit – but I wasn’t sure I’d get there.
Calling upon all my reserves; physical and mental, I was within five minutes of reaching Stellar Point. When Dulla told me that he knew I was going to make it and got a second wind.
They were the longest five minutes of my life but I reached the landmark. I broke down, utterly exhausted I couldn’t control my emotions. I’d pushed myself to the limit.
And even though there was still 45 minutes to go, I’d overcome the hardest part. I knew I was going to make it now. Dulla and I had made such good time that I reached Uhuru Peak – the highest point in Africa – first and in darkness.
It was so cold – my trousers had frozen by this point – we spent five minutes there for a few quick photo with my Pancreatic Cancer UK t-shirt before marching down the mountain with the biggest spring in my step. I’d bloody done it!
Would I recommend the trip? In a heartbeat!
But to say it was a life changing experience is too cliché, however it was the most memorable, incredible, inspiring, challenging, stunning (insert any joyful adjective here) 10 days of my life.
What I do hope, though, is the £5k plus money I’ve raised (donations are still coming in) can in some way help the fight against Pancreatic Cancer and there are more people celebrating their five year anniversary like Lynne.
Simon Lush took on Kilimanjaro to raise funds for Pancreatic Cancer UK .