Mar 2, 2016

SUMMIT SUCCESS! Kilimanjaro Climb raises over 25,000 GBP to support research into the health and wellbeing of women and babies

As I type the final members of our team are making their way back to the UK from the heights of Tanzania. We left just over 8 days ago as colleagues, bound together by a common ambition to reach the Roof of Africa. We return to sea-level bound by new friendships and memories that will last a lifetime – friendships built through shared laughs, fears, experiences, and a shared sense of team as we plodded our way to the 5,895m summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.

As individuals we pushed ourselves to our personal limits, to the nth degree and beyond, putting one heavy altitude weighted foot in front of the other whilst being spurred on the journey by our collective sense of team and sights on the ultimate objective.

One thing that I have learned from this adventure is the importance of celebrating success in the progress toward a goal. The goals of this 4th PwC Wellbeing of WomenKilimanjaro Climb were to (1) reach and surpass our 20K target and (2) challenge ourselves our journey to the summit of Kilimanjaro (3) have fun!

‘Fresh’ off the plane last Saturday evening, our PwC team sat down for our very first dinner together in our hotel in Arusha, Tanzania. Anticipation was running high. It was here that I realised just how much we’d achieved already – not only had we put together a strong, connected team with a common vision and common goals, we’d also actually made the preparations to say ‘Yes, let’s do this..!’  Shiny new kit had been purchased, flights had been taken via cities who’s names we could hardly pronounce, Tanzanian visas had been sorted, overflowing bags had arrived, hotels had been booked, new boots had been broken in… and nearly £10,000 had already been raised for Wellbeing of Women through the hard work, creativity, passion and commitment of the team.

So much achieved, so much to celebrate - and we hadn’t even set foot on the mountain yet!

The trip continued to be jam-packed with successes. At the end of our first day we crammed into our mess-tent, bundled into our warm jackets and hugging hot cups of tea we raised a toast to the days achievements. Everyone was smiling. Everyone was laughing. The team had made tremendous progress already – Camp 1 reached – and it was only a matter of ‘onward and upward’ to reach the following day’s objective.

The days on the trail passed quickly, broken up through ‘sippy-sippy’ water drinking stops, eating stops, photo-stops, sunscreen application stops… all the while conversations flowed, learning more about each other and the environments we were passing through.

When the team reached our ‘base camp’, 'Kibo Hut' at 4,750m (almost as high as the summit of Mont Blanc!) in the early afternoon before our ‘summit push’ the effects of altitude were starting to show. We walked across the saddle between Mawenzi peak and Kibo, with laborious breaths, our packs suddenly feeling heavier and every step harder than the last. This did little to dampen team spirit as we settled in for the afternoon and began mentally preparing for the challenge ahead. We would be leaving camp at 11.30pm for our ascent.
Heads down, our Kilimanjaro conga-line snaked its way through the seemingly endless switchbacks and zig-zags over the volcanic scree. We stopped every hour for no more than 5 minutes to refuel and reassess our progress. It wasn’t until I looked up to see the familiar rocky final section that I realised that we’d reached the  first of the three summits – Gillmans Point (5685m) – in record time and in the dark..!

We then continued on with a further 3-hour round trip to the summit, Uhuru Peak - the highest point of all Africa. The route took us through a moonscape of volcanic rock and remnant glaciers with their impressive ice cliffs.

I can safely say that I’ve rarely seen such an incredible sunrise. The conditions were clear and there were panoramic views over the crater, to Mawenzi and Mount Meru looking very small below us. The view from the final summit was quite literally ‘breathtaking’.

Despite our cold fingers, desperate gasps of rarefied air, throbbing heads, and rosy cheeks, we were laughing as the dawn broke over the summit crater in spectacular fashion and we celebrated our combined successes. A ‘journey’ that had started with an email saying ‘Yes! Sign me up!’ led to these happy (tired!) faces, new friendships and memories to last a lifetime. Additionally, we succeeded in our challenge to surpass our fundraising target, raising over £21,000 for Wellbeing of Women – money that will go toward funding research to improve the health of women and babies – and leave a legacy that will long outlast aching feet, sore muscles and throbbing heads..!

Climbing Kilimanjaro (or any mountain for that matter!) is no different from any other major challenges that we face in our lives. Whether we want to start a new career, have a healthier lifestyle or mend a broken relationship - we’re all climbing mountains of sorts. These experiences require us to be stronger than we think we are, endure more than we think we can, and become more than we dreamed possible.

Nearly £100,000 has been raised for the Wellbeing of Women through these PwC led Kilimanjaro climbs thanks to the hard work, dedication, determination, creativity and fortitude of some of the most amazing people that I’ve ever shared a mountain with. Once again it highlights why I love climbing - not only for the breathtaking views, the physical challenge, and the personal sense of achievement, but also for the inspiration gained and insights shared by the people you meet along the way

It's not too late to donate if you'd still like to show your support. All proceeds go to Wellbeing of Women and can be made via the link below:

 Thank you to the amazing team – Andrea, Alexandra, Larice, Lucy, Maisie, Patrick, Saxon, Urszula, Victoria - and our amazing team of porters and guides - for the wonderful trip memories; your humour, honesty, commitment, and enthusiasm through thick and thin (air) will never be forgotten and I can't wait to share another mountain with you again soon.

Huge thanks also to our sponsors - Thalgo for their wonderful suncream and spa products; Meatsnacks for the delicious beef jerky and Sherpa Adventure Gear for the donation of prizes for our pub quiz fundraiser.


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