Whether it is a spontaneous ‘why not’ or a particular person or purpose in mind to motivate you every step of the way, often there is a driving force that leads someone to sign up to Kilimanjaro. What inspired you to take the plunge and trek Kilimanjaro?
Marian: I went to Kang Yatse 2 in September with 360 but I didn’t make it to the summit and felt I had unfinished business. I’d been browsing Facebook when I stumbled upon a post about Kilimanjaro. I wanted to have another crack at a summit and it fitted with my remaining annual leave, so that was that.
Scott: My inspiration for climbing Kilimanjaro came from several years of hiking various parts of the UK alongside feeling that I wanted to push myself further and see how I would cope with a high altitude hike. I felt Kilimanjaro was a good place to start as it isn’t a technical mountain to climb and it’s in a part of the world I’ve never visited, so I knew it would push me out of my comfort zone. My hope once I have completed Kilimanjaro is that I’ll be able to push myself further.
Ali: I have always wanted to climb Kilimanjaro, it’s been a long-time dream. When my dad became ill with Dementia it gave me the motivation to do it and fundraise for the Alzheimer’s Research UK charity. My friend Sharon knew of someone who had already climbed Kili successfully with 360 Expeditions and recommended the company wholeheartedly. We decided to sign up together with three other friends and this was the first exciting step in the journey.
Were there any surprises throughout your experience?
Marian: Even though the mountain was busy, the 360 crew always found us our own spot at the campsites with plenty of space so it didn’t feel that busy. The trek down from the lava tower was long and much tougher than I expected and even with 6 layers on, summit night was fresh!
Scott: My biggest surprise of the trip was how well planned, friendly, professional and approachable the 360 team were, both in the UK and on the mountain. From start to finish everything was taken care of. Being a solo traveller and never having done anything like this before it was a big step for me. I was also surprised at the various landscapes and zones that you pass through while hiking: everything from rainforest to desert plains and seeing the glacier from the top was something you cannot put into words. It was truly spectacular.
Ali: I was so surprised by how beautifully smooth everything was in terms of the organisation and support from 360 Expeditions. It really helped with taking out any stress around the expedition. There was a kit list, training and weight restrictions on bags to consider, but we had all the details we needed to make the trip successful. From the moment we arrived we were met with the joy and warmth of the Tanzanian people. The singing began immediately! It was joyous from the outset.
Did you have any preconceptions before heading on the trip?
Scott: Before the trip I was very nervous and apprehensive. I had never taken on a challenge like this on my own, let alone half way around the world to a country I had never visited. I was fortunate to speak to someone who had recently climbed Kilimanjaro a few months before myself, which put me at ease a little. However I still had all the usual fears: what if I don’t make it? What if I’m sick? What if I don’t like it? Once I landed in Tanzania and I meet the rest of the group a lot of the worries went and I started to relax and enjoy the trip as it should be. I think it’s natural to have preconceptions if you’ve never done anything like this before, however 360 were a massive help as all the questions were answered and help was given straight away. The whole trip was professionally planned and well thought out right down to the little things like getting the best camp spots, the amazing food and setting up a coffee table with snack and drinks at 4000+m.
Ali: I had reservations about whether I was fit enough and how the altitude would affect me. Signing up for the trip helped kickstart my fitness and the altitude I knew I’d have to deal with in situ. I wasn’t sure what to expect about the toilets on the trip, in fact I expected to be using a hole in the ground but we actually had a tent with a portaloo in it!! It was luxury compared to what I was expecting!
What were your favourite moments from the expedition?
Marian: Barranco Wall was brilliant, in fact the best part of the trek as I do love a bit of scrambling – especially being greeted by the tea table at the top! Of course highlights were also reaching the summit and the amazing team spirit, not just of the trekking team but the entire local crew, singing and dancing with them throughout the trek. It was an amazing experience.
Scott: My favourite moments of the trip without writing a book! Firstly just being in Tanzania was unforgettable, the country is beautiful and the people were so friendly. The local guides and team were amazing, without them the trip wouldn’t have been the same, they catered for every need and took time to chat to you and looked after you like a friend would. The views are out of this world and something words nor pictures will ever do justice. Trying to explain and show family and friends has been difficult because seeing it with your own eyes is the only way to experience the beauty and variation of landscapes you see on the trek.
The Barranco wall was a highlight of the route. As you looked up from the camp below it looked like a shear rock face that you would have to climb. However as you approach, you realise there is a clear path up and it’s a fairly easy scramble up to the top. It added an element of fun to the route and everyone enjoyed it. The guides helped you up every step of the way and once at the top the views stretched down to the rainforest and the Tanzanian plains below.
The summit night was a memory I’ll never forget. Setting off at midnight in the pitch black and freezing cold may not seem ideal, however the support you get from the guides was unbelievable and it really helps you push for the summit. After the long hike up, seeing the sun rising and knowing you’ve reached the top was like no other feeling I’ve experienced. The sense of relief, happiness and knowing you’ve achieved your goal is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
Ali: I had so many favourite moments…sharing food and company with fellow trekkers, we became one big family, along with the guides and porters: “one team, one dream”. The food was delicious – compliments to the chef. It’s still a mystery to me how it’s possible to cook chicken and chips and to bake pizza at 4,000m+!
Climbing the iconic Barranco wall was another one of the highlights of the trip. As we left camp that morning at 7.30am, we looked up at the scale and height of it….it was an awe inspiring climb. Not as technically challenging as some climbs, but enough to force you to use hands to grip and feet to bear down for stability. Rocky and irregular, it required physicality and focus but it was exhilarating. The vista was incredible. Arriving at the top of the Barranco wall was so rewarding! What a view! It made me want to jump for joy and we were also greeted with a beautifully laid table with tea, coffee and snacks, complete with table cloth. What an experience!
I would definitely say arriving at Ururhu point was the highlight. We left at midnight wearing head torches and lots of warm layers for the last trek to the summit. It was a tough climb, the altitude affected us all but we managed it with the support of our incredible guide Ben and the Tanzanian guides. I loved the singing and encouragement from the guides to raise morale, our spirits were high throughout. We were affected in different ways, from nausea to my legs feeling like lead then turning to jelly, but it was so worth it.
To summit the momentous Mount Kilimanjaro was epic! We arrived as the sun emerged through the clouds giving the most stunning orange glow. The glaciers are just beautiful, it was a privilege to see. I managed to capture the moment with photos and film footage and managed a tribute to my parents. I was standing on the roof of Africa and I felt on top of the world. Words can’t really describe how this felt but all I can say is that it has been an unforgettable and life-changing experience.
Any advice you would share for people considering Kilimanjaro?
Marian: Don’t worry about the little things, train and bring the kit list – speak to the lovely ladies in the 360 office pre trip if you need anything. On the trek, go with the flow, enjoy the experience, listen to what the guides tell you and to your body – you can do this! In addition, a number of people on our trek hired gear which is a great idea if this will be a one-off adventure.
Scott: My best advice would be just to relax and enjoy every minute of the trip. Don’t let anything worry you as everything you worry about will be taken care of. I learnt a lot from the local guides as they were so relaxed and laid back and made you appreciate time a lot more. On a practical side make sure you cover up well as the sun is very strong and the trek is very open at times. Take plenty of treats there’s nothing better than enjoying one of your favourite treats from home when you stop for a break.
Ali: Go with 360 Expeditions. Their insights and experience are clearly evident in the support materials to prepare correctly for an expedition as mammoth as climbing Kilimanjaro. I used every item in the kit list, so don’t think you can get away with less, it will hinder your success. Take snacks which are easy to eat, especially for the summit night. For example, my chocolate bar froze and nuts made my mouth dry but jelly babies were great. Put your water bottle inside your coat for the final summit climb so that it doesn’t freeze. Keep phones warm and close to body so you can take epic photos at the top. It was -17 when we summited!
Crocs are great for sliding on in camp and at the end of a long climb and also good if you need the loo in middle of the night so you don’t have to put boots on. Listen to the 360 advice, like sipping water to avoid dehydration and help with altitude sickness (although this did make me wee constantly!). And try not to worry too much about altitude sickness as it affects everyone differently and at different points during the trek, just know your expedition leader will keep their eye on you all. I placed my trust fully in mine Ben. He was just superb and his relaxed and good humoured approach put us all at ease. His experience clearly shone through and he led us all to successfully summit Mount Kilimanjaro!
And voilà! Huge thanks to Ali, Scott and Marian for sharing their tales from Kilimanjaro. Who’s got itchy feet!?