So how did this trip come about? How did it happen?
It started really two years ago when my friend and personal trainer, Lee Steggles, sent me some options for goals to work towards in my fitness regime. One of them was a link to the UK’s Three-Peaks Challenge. While that particular adventure didn’t appeal, on the same website the company was advertising treks to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa. That caught my eye as a real challenge, and the more I read about it, the more it became clear that it could be done without extraordinary resources; you didn’t have to be an experienced mountaineer, or have lots of specialised equipment.
I suppose I decided I wanted to do it there and then and floated the idea with a few friends to see if they’d want to come with me. The trip was put back by a year because one of the original team was going to be away on a gap-year project. In the end he didn’t come with us at all, but that’s why it took two years to come about.
Eventually the team resolved to four of us; myself (Liam), an IT Manager from London who’s been trying to get himself fit and likes foreign travel and cultural exploration, Lee, my friend and personal trainer – a bit of a fitness fanatic, a former colleague of mine, Chris, who spends all his spare time hiking up mountains and, Huw, a lecturer friend and colleague of Lee’s who is also a serious outdoorsman, often disappearing off to do crazy things in remote settings.
By reading through literally hundreds of reviews of Kilimanjaro hikes on TripAdvisor, I’d already identified Team Kilimanjaro as a good company to work with in Tanzania and over the second year, we met as a group from time to time, emailed each other and liaised with Team Kili to pull the expedition together.
For most of that time, it seemed almost like an academic logistical exercise; I was busy with other things in my life and Kili was just one more thing to deal with.
It wasn’t until virtually the last week before we departed that it suddenly became real.
The first time I had all my gear laid out on the dining room table (so that I could see whether it would fit into my bag and decide if I’d missed anything) that was when it suddenly settled into my mind that I was about to do something big; we were flying to sub-Saharan Africa, to climb from Tropical Rainforest all the way to Arctic Tundra, some three times higher than the highest altitude you can reach in the UK.
It was a bit scary. It was a big step into the unknown, but I stuck with the thought that nothing truly worth doing is ever easy. I knew we’d planned well and were putting ourselves in experienced hands.
And this is how it went…