BLOG: Adam and Neil’s epic 5-day trek up Mount Kilimanjaro
Adam Coar and Neil Forshaw have been friends for 40 years, and after countless conversations about tackling an epic 5-day trekking challenge up Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, they embarked on the trip of a lifetime in September – raising an astonishing £24,000 for St Catherine’s Hospice and the North West Ambulance Service.
Here, the friends from Longridge tell all about the gruelling training and the amazing experience.
We’d been talking about doing some sort of challenge for a while – we didn’t really know how big or small, so we hadn’t considered something like Kilimanjaro originally. But we’d seen it on TV a lot through things like Comic Relief and Children in Need, and thought that if some of those celebs could handle it, we were sure we could too!
We kept talking about it every now and again in the pub, and eventually decided that as we’re not getting any younger, and it was now or never.
We also thought it would be a good opportunity to support some local charities, where you know that funds raised stay local and are used to help local people, so we chose St Catherine’s Hospice and the North West Ambulance Service.
We booked the trip in December last year for September this year, and started training in January with local fell walks, progressing to the Lake District to take on all the main peaks.
In June we did the Yorkshire Three Peaks on the hottest day of the year, which was great, and then in the final few weeks we simply went up and down Parlick Fell in the Forest of Bowland – two to three times each time, once or twice a week.
We also kept our fitness up by road cycling every week, around 25 to 30 miles, from December through to August.
The trek itself was everything we expected and more. When you do something like this it tends to absorb you a little; it’s all you think about in your spare time, so we’d done so much research and we knew what was coming.
What we couldn’t predict though was the weather or the guides we had from the tour company, G-Adventures, which were brilliant. Everything went as good, if not better, than planned!
There are several routes up Kilimanjaro ranging from five to 14 days. The longer you take the more chance of success in reaching the summit due to acclimatisation/altitude sickness. However, all the routes except the 5-day one involve sleeping in tents. We chose the 5-day trek because you sleep in Shepherd’s Huts, wooden ‘A’ frame huts with tin roofs – we didn’t want to be sleep deprived in a tent on a windy mountain, and took the gamble with altitude. Thankfully it paid off!
We would start each day by being woken by our guides at 6am, we would have a communal breakfast of porridge or pancakes, and they would give us our packed lunch and water for the day. After breakfast we would go back to our hut and pack our sleeping bags away, and pack our day pack. We then set of walking at 8am.
We covered around six to eight miles a day, climbing 1000m altitude. Once we reached our next camp we would sort our kit out in our next hut, be given a bowl of warm water to have a wash, and then be ready for an evening meal of rice or pasta with chicken or ground beef, and some fruit.
The first three days were similar to what you would experience in the Lake District, wearing shorts and t-shirts and slowly getting cooler on the third day.
The last day/climb was the main challenge. Starting at midnight on Day 4, we set off with temperatures hitting -5 degrees, and basically climbed a steep incline for six hours under moonlight with head torches.
We hit the first peak (Gilman’s point/5685m) just before sunrise, then had another 90-minute hike up and around the crater mouth to Uhuru Peak (5895m) reaching the summit at around 7am.
It was an amazing feeling finally being at the top of the tallest free-standing mountain in the world! We had our pictures taken and took in the view standing above the clouds looking down on glaciers on a clear sunny morning.
You are only permitted to stay at the summit for 20 minutes due to altitude, so we soon had to start heading back down. We did stop and have a light snack at Gilman’s point, before heading back down to base camp. We then had a quick sleep, packed up our hut, and then walked for about four hours to the next camp for the night.
The amount we raised has blown us away, and we are extremely grateful to all our family, friends, colleagues and strangers who have donated – thank you!
The problem now is, we have got the bug to do something else in 2024 – so watch this space!
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