6 regular attendees of The Gathering climbed Kilimanjaro along with some family. Read David’s account below.
Plus look out for the free download of Graham Kendrick’s song, ‘Give me this Mountain’, at the end.
This was what we silently prayed as ten of us set out on 14th October 2013 to climb Mt Kilimanjaro; the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free standing mountain in the world. As the oldest member of the group I was somewhat apprehensive of what lay ahead and did not want to let everyone down. Somehow I felt that it was important for all of us to make the summit because we were climbing in aid of SANDS (Stillbirth And Neonatal Death Society) a charity whose support our family has sadly needed recently.
The first day of the climb takes you through lush tropical rain forest and we had perfect weather as we set off on the Machame route up the mountain. It was a long day and we arrived at the first camp as dusk was falling, but we were in good spirits.
Day two was shorter in length but with a very steep climb to a plateau towards the end of the day which I found quite hard . By the third day the altitude was taking its toll and a number of the group were feeling the effects, with nausea and headaches etc. In fact the low point of the expedition was this day as we climbed to the Lava Tower at over 15000 ‘ and then descended to our third campsite at 13000’ not much higher than we started in the morning! A very long day. The campsite was, however, a lovely place to stop for the night. A beautiful valley looking down to the plains below. During the night there were tremendous intermittent gusts of wind which left one unfortunate member of the party stranded in the moonlight, when the loo tent decided to blow away!
The fourth day started with a near vertical scramble up the Barranco Wall, a welcome change from the relentless ‘pole pole’ (slowly,slowly) trek of the previous day. Peter, our guide for the day, offered to carry my daypack as I had been struggling previously . I protested that there was no need ‘I could do this, I was having to climb this mountain’. My prayer had been ‘please God give me/us this mountain, for your glory.’ Here was God answering my prayer. My pride was getting in the way. No one was going to climb Kili without health, strength, fitness etc. which are all gifts from God – even the very air we breathe (which was getting very thin). So Peter took my bag and climbing the wall was such good fun, it was great (with no bag)!
Our guides and porters were amazing, giving encouragement and support and saying ‘Keep positive,you can all do this’. The porters transported all the supplies, tents, food, water etc and carried incredible loads up the mountain. Each day the scenery was constantly changing and on days five and six it became a very barren desolate and wild landscape as we climbed ever higher and higher to the Barafu campsite, the final camp before the summit.We arrived at camp for a late lunch and then tried to catch some rest/sleep ready to commence, before midnight, the climb for the top. In fact we set off at 11pm with a full moon to light the way and with little wind.
This was probably the hardest thing, physically, that I have ever done. The atmosphere was so thin that each step left me struggling for air. It was a question of one foot in front of the other for hour after hour. We were well wrapped up against the freezing temperature and for several of us, our water supply froze. At one point during the night I was really struggling to breathe and keep my balance. Our guide Ibrahaim took one of my walking poles and said to me. ‘Just hold on to my rucksack’ and so we progressed through the night to the ridge. Just before dawn, the sky in the east turned to pink/orange from horizon to horizon outlining the clearly visible curve of the earth, a truly awesome vista. As we reached the crater ridge at Stella point the sun appeared over the horizon to herald the new day and light up the amazing luna landscape with the heads of several glaciers. There was then nearly another hour to trek around the crater rim to Uhuru peak , the summit of Kibo at 19,341ft, or 5895 metres. We have the certificate and the photo (and I have the beard !) to prove it. We even have a photo holding our ‘Sorted ‘ magazines.
The week is one I am sure we will always remember. We became a close knit group, together sharing and supporting each other. It was a physical, emotional and spiritual experience and there was a real sense of God’s presence and provision, wonder at His amazing creation and gratitude for our guides and helpers. We praise the Lord for giving us this mountain, may it be for His glory.