On Top of the World

Published by Neil
On 20-Aug-20

I would like to share my knowledge of the ability to achieve two goals at the same time. Both very big and significant. 1st is self-control and endurance training. 2nd is helping people who really needs it.

Snowdon, although a fair hike, is no preparation for tackling the “mountain of whiteness”, as the local Chagga tribe, custodians of the majestic mount, call it.

But there is also a theory that Kilimanjaro is the European mis-pronunciation of a KiChagga phrase meaning "we failed to climb it." This is doubtful but, admittedly, many fail to reach the peak (mainly due to how their bodies cope with altitude) and a few die.

I had dreamed of being at the summit since I worked in Nairobi in 1988 and saw the glorious white peak in the distance whilst travelling to Mombasa.

At last in 2012, I chose to tackle my life-long ambition as part of a Nasio Trust (thenasiotrust.org) climb. The HIV Orphan charity, based in Western Kenya, has a remarkable record of getting 100% of climbers up and down safely (https://www.climbkilimanjaroforcharity.com/).

At 5,895m Kilimanjaro is the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. This volcanic massif stands in splendid isolation above the surrounding plains, with its snowy peaks looming over the savannah below.

It has three volcanic cones, Mawenzi (in my mind, having a strong resemblance to Bart Simpson’s haircut), Shira and Kibo. The first two are extinct but Kibo, the highest peak, is dormant and could erupt again.

A climb typically starts on the plains near Arusha (on the Tanzanian/Kenyan border) but for some time on our drive to the gate of the national park, we could not spot the giant - as it is often “hiding in the clouds”. Then suddenly there it was!

It is, in a way, “Africa in a nutshell” as a climber ascends through “layers of a cake” - from the savannah to rainforest to lunar landscape to snow & ice. I was pretty fit but I must admit that the 6-day climb was a struggle at times (especially the final night ascent of Kibo crater in a howling blizzard) - but it was so worth it.

It was on top of the Kibo crater that I have some of my favourite memories, despite being allowed to stay at that altitude for two hours only.

Alas, tourism and climate change has taken its toll on the peak. Standing next to the glacier at the top made me feel incredibly small but sadly it is shrinking fast. And in some places, tourism is also obvious so I would recommend taking one of the longer quieter routes – after all, this adventure is one to savour and, if only to maximise your chances of safely reaching the summit, you really should take the advice of the porters, “Pole pole” (slowly slowly).

Groups from a range of backgrounds have shared my achievement - in aid of the Nasio Trust - including schools, youth clubs, scout troops, executives, a few celebrities and even a BBC reporter.

https://youtu.be/8YdFmKwWY7c (BBC reporter climb)

Besides founding a successful international cyber business (gardpasscyber.com) and witnessing the birth of my children, scaling this iconic mountain was certainly a major highlight of my life and I would recommend it.

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Website: https://www.gardpasscyber.com/

LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/company/gardpass-cyber/

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