Going sky high for girls

Kilimanjaro climb raises funds for SAMA

Could 2014 be your year to get really high? We mean a 5,895 metre kind of high…to the roof top of Africa! And why might you do it? For the personal challenge of pushing yourself beyond your usual limits? To get more girls into school? Because it’s there?

Well the answer for Intrepid employees Amy Bolger and Ronnie Albanis and two groups of Intrepid travellers who recently conquered Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, was all of the above! And what an experience it was! They tell us more about the whys, the highs and the preparation needed to get there:

Amy: “Climbing up to the roof of Africa is not a challenge to be taken lightly. It required a lot training and preparation, but my goodness – was it worth it! Seeing that sun rise as we summited the mighty mountain is something that is emblazoned in my memory. It’s not often you get to see the sunrise over the plains of Africa from such great heights, and even though I didn’t have the energy to take my camera from my pack and snap that moment, it’s stored safely in that part of my mind reserved for magical travel moments!

I knew this was going to be an amazing and rewarding experience, and it was in fact a challenge I have wanted to take on for a long time. What I hadn’t anticipated was just how special it would be to share the experience with a group of people passionate about the same issues. Every person in the group was determined to challenge themselves in the name of promoting gender equality, and had fund-raised for Project SAMA’s work in Uganda, which focuses on getting more girls into school. Knowing every step we took up that mountain (and some of those steps were very, very slow) was for such a worthy cause, is what helped us keep putting one foot in front of the other during those moments when things got tough.

Some beautiful singing from our amazing crew of guides also provided the lift we needed to get up the mountain, especially at the times when I caught myself wondering ‘what on earth have I signed up to?’ It was as if the crew could read my mind at these moments, and there was many a time I found myself singing along with them and then the challenge ahead didn’t feel quite so daunting any more! But as tough as it was, I would do it all again!”

SAMA fundraising group climb Kilimanjaro

Ronnie: “When signing up to climb Mt Kilimanjaro I really didn’t know what to expect. I had heard that it would be tough – in fact probably the greatest physical challenge that I have ever attempted. I also heard that the accommodation was basic and the food very simple. It turned out to be the most amazing experience to walk ‘slowly,  slowly’ to the top of Africa and all the help along the way made it surprisingly enjoyable.

My reason for choosing this as my trip for 2013 was to support Intrepid’s project SAMA and raise much needed funds for Plan International’s Early Education Project in Uganda. Having a reason to climb helped me push myself to the top! Project SAMA is doing great things in raising awareness for gender equality and I strongly support Plan’s education projects. Raising awareness and money for this cause also added to helping me train hard and prepare as best I could.

I had signed up to climb the Marangu Route which uses huts along the way and gave myself two months to train. The huts were very simple, but kept the worst of the weather out and I was grateful to be sleeping in them instead of a tent, particularly when it started to snow. There was a shared bathroom and shower block, however it was far too cold to shower.

SAMA fundraising group climb Kilimanjaro

Each climbing group has an amazing team of climbing guides, porters and cooks. On arrival at the huts after a day’s walk, our team would bring a bowl of warm water to each of us to freshen up, before a feast of popcorn, cake and tea. In the morning, we again received a bowl of warm water, along with a cup of tea to start the day as best as possible. This amazing team of people are known on the mountain as ‘Tea Angels’. The climb was cold and tiring, but our ‘Tea Angels’ helped us reach the top smiling!

The food was great. Breakfasts consisted of porridge, maize, toast, fruit and eggs. We carried packed lunches consisting of sandwiches, fruit, cake and a fruit drink. And for a couple of coeliac’s (on a gluten-free diet) the sandwich was replaced with rice and either a vegetable sauce or boiled eggs. Dinners were usually rice and/or pasta with a choice of meat or vegetable stews and there were of course the aforementioned snacks of popcorn and tea. It was all simple but very tasty and no-one went hungry.

As a group, we formed a strong bond to help each other through the toughest moments. On the final climb night it was great to have a team climbing alongside you pushing you through the fatigue and muscle ache. Six out of our group of seven made it to the summit and everyone was impressed and happy with their efforts. There are no words that can explain the feeling of reaching Uhuru Peak.The journey to the top, my climbing buddies and the moment we reached the top of Africa are things I will cherish forever!”

Intrepid and Project SAMA’s Kili Climbs this year are scheduled:
Kili Climb 1: 8 August – 16 August 2014
Kili Climb 2: 5 September – 12 September 2014

For information on SAMA’s Kili Climbs and to register, check here.

For more information on Project SAMA

Photo top © Amy Bolger. Amy’s group on the way up Mt Kilimanjaro.

Photos © Ronnie Albanis. Ronnie (in black beanie and scarf) and her group at the Uhuru Peak summit. And ‘Tea Angels’ Joey and Fataeli at work.

About the author

Jane Crouch - Jane is a responsible business guru who writes about all aspects of how travel can bring positive environmental, social and economic benefits. Informed through travel on seven continents, leading Intrepid trips through SE Asia, work in outdoor education, energy conservation, international development, philanthropy and climate change action, plus a big love of walking, mountains and world music.

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