The day we have all been building up to has finally arrived and we were packed into our tents at 6pm to get the vital rest needed for going to the summit that was scheduled to start around midnight. All the teams have their own individual starting times to try and co-ordinate us all arriving at the summit at the same time. The team Kilimanjaro guides have been studying the groups over the last few days with this in mind.
I think the guides had been suitably disgusted by our signing over the previous days so before we had a chance to sing they entertained us with Swahili songs most of the way up to keep us entertained. Whenever they felt the group was in a low patch the signing and even dancing would start.
We learnt that only 3 climbers were not well enough to make the summit which meant that 38 of the 41 members of the AWC had made it. Whilst each individual has to be praised for their determination and spirit the guides and organisers of team Kilimanjaro deserve a lot of credit.
Whilst everyone put in an amazing effort to walk through the night at high altitude there are a couple who deserve special mention.
Andy Blyth not only climbed to the top, for the majority of the time he set our groups pace. He took a few falls as his legs buckled on the steep ground but he just carried on. On the approach to the summit he still had enough in him to power to the front of the group. Not one person in the AWC has not been in awe of Andy and what he has achieved. It is a true inspiration to all of us but Andy, being Andy wants no fuss and has actually been praising other members of the team.
There is also a lady in the group who has unfortunately suffered with altitude sickness from the second day. Every day we have expected her to leave the AWC. She was vomiting and not eating most days, however she amazed us every day by appearing in the camp.
At 12:15am she felt that she had nothing left and returned to camp unable to climb the mountain. At 1:15 she called out in the night and persuaded her guide that she had to give it another go. Setting off on her own with her guide she climbed through the night and appeared at the crater rim as we were coming down. She literally crawled over the top then insisting she walked the last few kilometres to the top. She made it all the way. The mental toughness that was required to achieve such a feat is unbelievable.
After summitting there was a long walk down. Many people had focused so much on making the top that the trek down was long and hard. The day started at midnight but it was not till 5-6pm that the final members arrived in the low camp. There are some absolutely exhausted members of AWC here but hopefully we have a good night’s sleep at the relatively low altitude of 3800m then back to the hotel for the first wash in 7 days.
It’s fair to say we definitely do stink.
Thank you to everyone who has supported the Axa Wealth Climb and its three associated charities: The RPA Benevolent Fund, Help for Heroes and the RFU Injured Players’ Foundation.