For some years I have wanted to climb Kilimanjaro. Being the highest point in Africa and the highest stand alone mountain in the world has its attraction, but for me it's just the challenge. At first I had the time but didn't have the money, then when I had the money I didn't have the time, now that I have neither I must make the time and find the money.

Richard Mulvey

I was delighted to be able to persuade Sheila my wife and later my close friend John van der Horst to join me. We are doing this climb to raise funds for The Reach for a Dream Foundation ( and hope to raise R100,000, and with your help we should make it.

************* To see a larger version of any picture, click on it ****************

Monday, February 4, 2008

10th Day after Climbing Kilimanjaro

It has now been 10 days since we left the mountain and it is time to finish this blog and post the last of the pictures. This is a harder task than I thought it would be.

The mountain has consumed me. For the last 6 months we have talked about nothing else, we have been preparing, training, purchasing equipment, asking “what if” questions and considering every eventuality. Before we left we were ready. We were fit and had all possibilities covered.

Then came the day and we left with excitement in our hearts and just a little trepidation in our minds. What would we find when we get there?

Well… it was nothing like our expectations. We had enjoyed the training and were expecting to enjoy the walk up the mountain but after the first day it was less enjoyment and more just hard work. Each day we pushed ourselves harder than we ever thought possible, reaching and surpassing personal boundaries. We experienced every possible weather condition from hot sun through rain, biting cold, sleet, high winds and deep snow.

Altitude sickness affected us all and despite the Diamox tablets that we debated prior to trip, in the end it was the altitude that stopped me from getting right to the top. I lived with the nausea for 4 days, coming in waves especially at meal times, but it was my inability to get enough oxygen into my lungs that was the most disabling. Sheila got an infection that slowed her down considerably. Pam (our hitchhiker) got fed up with throwing up all the time but John, although he had some of the symptoms of altitude sickness, seemed to be less affected than the rest of us.

So Sheila and John summitted at Gilman’s Point (a fantastic achievement at 5681m) and my personal achievement was 5081m which got me to Indian Rock on the last morning, 600 meters lower before my body gave in to the altitude and I passed out.

So what have we learnt? My first reaction was that I have failed. I set out to climb a mountain and despite 6 months of training and preparation, I wasn’t able to do it. The next reaction was to think of all the reasons I was not able to make it. I needed to forgive myself for this failure (I am not used to failure and am not comfortable handling it) but everything I thought of just sounded like an excuse.

Now I see it differently. With the benefit of hindsight, I can see that each of us succeeded. Climbing Kilimanjaro is not just about getting to the top. Once you have been there you know how arbitrarily the mountain chooses who should reach the top and who shouldn’t. If there is a prize at all it should go to the guides who climb the mountain 20 times a year with less equipment and far less effort than the tourists.

Climbing Kilimanjaro is all about breaking personal barriers. Each one of us walked harder and climbed higher than we ever have before. Each one of us pushed ourselves further than we thought possible. Each one of us faced the real possibility of dieing on the mountain (that may sound dramatic at sea level but up there it is in your mind). Each one of us came back with a greater understanding of ourselves. And, of course, each one of us helped to raise over R60,000 for Reach for a Dream. Sounds like a success to me.

Finally before I wind this whole thing up and get on with my life, I would like to place on record how much we all appreciated the contribution made by our Guide Juma and his assistant Rashedi. Juma in particular was an exceptional and caring guide who went well beyond the call of duty to help us reach our goals.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

6th Day on the Mountain

I have just re-read the blog entry for yesterday and hope that my daughter was able to translate it into English! [Cherri: I think I managed ok!] I will ask my daughter to save it and later next week publish it in its entirety. One of the things about altitude sickness is that your mind goes to mush [Cherri: So with me being pregnant with a preggie mush brain we're doing well!!!].

One thing I left from the day's activities yesterday is that once Sheila and John arrived back at the hut at Kibo (4700m) from their exhausting but successful summit at Gillman's Point they had only one hour to rest before we all made our way back to Horombo (3700m). So, they have done the most amazing, but draining thing in their entire life - sleep for just one hour then walk another 11Kms before the Sun went down.

Sheila and I were wasted. John on the other hand was fine (John is such a strong person both physically and mentally). We arrived at Horombo just as the Sun was going down.

So, once we got up this morning, we all readied ourselves for the last downward trek.

Today was a very tough day. In many ways going down hill is harder than going up... and we never practised going down so I have really stretched muscles I didn't know I had.

I am still breathing heavily even though I am down at a reasonable altitude, but for the rest...a few days in Zanzibar will do the trick.

This will be the last blog entry for about 10 days. I intend to put up lots of photographs and a summary of what we have achieved. So pop back after about 10 days or so. Don't forget that it is not too late to make a pledge, and if you feel lick it, click on the "comments" button below and say a few words.

One last thing, well done to John and Sheila for summiting at Gillman's, I am very proud of you.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Day 5 on the Mountain

Just to let you know that all are safe and well. We are half way back down the mountain and sleeping, looking forward to the race tomorrow back down to the Marangu gate...but I am getting ahead of myself...

At about 10.30PM lasst night, we were woken to get ready for the final push up the mountain to Uhuru Peak, which is right at the top of the mountain and the ultimate target for all climbers.

The day was clear with a full moon so we didn't need our headlights on.

As soon as we were out of camp we started to walk through thick snow. We weren't really prepared for this as we didn't have crampons, ironic really as I had had the idea to climb the mountain as Al Gore had recognised that the snow will be gone in 10 years - next time Al, take on the mountain yourself! For us, tackling the mountain has always been about the significance of the journey - firstly of course seeing it still laden with snow, the personal journey, but later on it also became about a journey to assisting others to fulfill their dreams, by using our journey to raise funds for the Reach for a Dream Foundation.

The snow was beautiful of course, but every step forward, was a step sidewards.

We were all very tired, but the first casualty was Pam, she had nausea (didn't we!) but hers was very severe, so she asked to go back. Then we were down to three. The climb was getting interesting until the next thing that happened - I went from standing straight, to straight up with my face in the snow! Jamu and all had no problem with me going back, I was proud that the others went on, but I achieved Inbian Rock at 5000m above sea level and no-one can take that away...sure, it isn't Uhuru Peak (5895m above sea level), only three of our troop got there today as the weather was so bad. I cannot tell you how Sheila and John performed, but I am very proud of them, summitting at Gillman's Point 5680m above sea level before they were also sent back.

That's the end of the message I received from my Dad.

I just received a telephone call from very good family friends Geoff and Sue Stephens in England who rang to check that our travellers are safe and healthy and to say how proud they are of our travellers achievements and to send love to them.

Mum, Dad, John we are all so proud of you for your extraordinary accomplishments, and I have to tell you, I was inundated with phone calls, sms's and emails yesterday from family and friends enquiring after your wellbeing. You guys have all done remarkably well.

Wish I were there to give you all huge hugs, I'm sure Linda will oblige though when she meets up with you all in Zanzibar.


Monday, January 21, 2008

Evening of Day 3 on the Mountain - Horombo Camp

We are all resting in the hut now, waiting for dinner. It is just too cold to do anything other than get in your sleeping bag fully clothed. I am wearing fleece trousers, thermal underwear, 2 pairs of socks, a t-shirt, fleece jacket and a rain jacket.

[There seems to be some text missing from the sms from my Dad, so I shall update when I receive the rest].

Day 3 on the Mountain continued...

To raise funds for Reach for a Dream...

At least the Sun is now out, so we can dry our clothes.

Sheila is also suffering this morning, but John and Pam seem to be managing better. The Diamox probably helps, but nobody is going to stop taking it to find out...Not a chance! I am also wearing wrist straps that are meant to reduce nausea. They were my Mother's. She didn't believe that they worked, but she wore them just in case, now I know how she felt.

It is just amazing how many people we have seen here in Horombo Camp who didn't make it to the top. I certainly don't blame them.

So this is a rest day. Just as the rain starts we walk to Zebra's Rock, which is just over 3 hours our guide, Juma tells us. But, they were the hardest 3 hours of the trip so far. My mind wandered constantly to how I could go back now without losing face...maybe I could just give Reach for a Dream the money, then I could give up.

Back at Horombo Camp 3 hours later and all thoughts of giving up are gone. Having been to Zebra's Rock at 4050m, the camp is at 3750m, which is much easier to cope with.

Tomorrow is the big day - we'll be up early for an 11km walk and 1km up. We'll arrive at around 4PM for a rest and then the final summit from 11PM. I can't wait.

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Day 3 on the Mountain

Just got word in from my Mum that they are back down from Zebra's Rock, which is at 4050m, to acclimatise, she says that it is raining, very cold and she's very nauseous. She says they're taking what they can, but she and my Dad have been incredibly ill, she says she can breathe, but she'd rather throw up or sleep! She says that this is the most difficult thing she has ever done in her life. Mum says their guide, Juma, is amazing!

Next text came in from my Dad, he says: Today is a rest day... yeah right! When I woke up I felt worse than ever!

Remember, the travellers summit tomorrow night... keep them in your thoughts and send them strength.

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End of Day 2 (Sunday) on the Mountain continued...

News just in from the travellers about the end of Day 2 on the Mountain...

It has rained all day today and we are all very tired and wet. Our duffle bags that the porters carry are not waterproof, so we all have wet gear. We are praying for warm weather tomorrow.

Altitude sickness has really grabbed me (Richard) and I am feeling nauseous all the time. In addition, I just can't get enough oxygen and this is only the second day. I slept badly last night, so I shall take a sleeping pill tonight.

Despite the weather and lack of oxygen, this mountain is spectacular, she occasionally peaks through the clouds, tempting us to go on. The peak is covered with snow, which will be great for pictures, but not so good for the cold.

I am off to sleep now, sleeping is the only time I don't feel like throwing up!

We have a rest day tomorrow, I can't wait!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

End of Day 2 on the Mountain

I just had an sms from my Mum, to say that it is really cold where they are...they're currently at 3720m above sea level. She said that they've found today rather difficult and that it had rained all day today, so they're cold...and wet - hopefully the rest at the end of this long day will give them an opportunity to have something warm to eat and drink to warm them up a bit and keep them strong.
Mum said that my Dad's cellphone is rather swimmingpool-like at the moment and Mum's camera appears to have suffered a similar fate!
I hope the travellers will be able to have a better night's sleep tonight, ready for their day tomorrow.
You will see above that I have included a weather report, this is so that you can get an idea of the conditions that Mum, Dad, John and Pam are walking keep them in your thoughts and send them strength. Remember, they summit on Tuesday night.
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Day 2 on the Mountain

We are up early this morning, this is probably due, in part, to an early night, but mostly, that most of us didn't sleep so well. I probably only slept 4 hours out of the 9 we were in bed. Altitude sickness has given me a hangover and we are going to take Diamox this morning.

Today we walk out of the rain forest and into our second climate - Moreland. It is wet and cold, but we are told that it will brighten up.

The food last night was not special, but ok...lots of Potatoes. We have to eat lots now as we will have no appetite as we climb higher.

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

Day One on the Mountain Continued...

We arrived at the first camp, to find that it is considerably better than we had expected.

Today's walk was steep and brisk. The tropical rain forest is almost prehistoric with ferns and lichen hanging from every branch. The local superstition here suggests that he who sees Kili before you climb it will not get to summit, on the basis that you have seen it already, so you don't have to bother getting to the top!

The mountain was draped in clouds when we approached, so the gods are with us!

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4 Days to the Summit

We're now at Marangu gating filling in the required forms and have picked up a new member of our group...Pam, who didn't want to travel alone. So, we now have someone to take genius shots like this one!

This is our first day on the mountain and the weather is perfect for walking. We are all itching to get going. The porters have to weigh their load as they are not allowed to carry more than 15kgs. And...we're off!

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Leaving Johannesburg

I have just dropped my folks and John off at the airport, having managed to get there in very comfortable timing, despite the majority of the robots on the way being out thanks to load-shedding!

On the left is a pic of the troop taken this morning in our little garden with all their hiking gear, fired up and ready to go.

Hopefully I'll have a further update for you this evening when the troop arrives at the Springlands Hotel...until then...feel free to add your comments by clicking on the word "comments" below.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

5 Days to the Summit

We all had a long and difficult night last night. We were in bed early as it was bl***dy cold and misty. I woke at midnight and had great difficulty sleeping for more than an hour without waking up. I certainly had the headache and nausea that goes with the altitude. Good thing really. At least I know what to expect, only more so.....

The drive down Sani Pass was much more fun than driving up. They are laying tarmac on the road so it will be an easy drive soon. Good for the tourist trade but not so good for the 4x4 clubs.
Ten and a half hours later we are in Johannesburg staying with my daughter and her husband for a night and then off to Tanzania tomorrow.

No time yet to feel any apprehension. I guess that will click in as we start the climb. As I type this John is unpacking and repacking his gear on the floor in the lounge. Mark, my son-in-law, is worried that we are moving in and not, in fact, climbing the mountain.

The gear on the floor is very impressive. If you are thinking about doing the trip you need to put asside R15,000 for the gear in addition to the price of the airfare and climb. This is not a cheep holiday, I will let you know if it is worth it next week.
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6 Days to the Summit

Okay.... So here we are at the top of Sani Pass 2874m up in the mist. It is cold and wet but the drive was wonderful.

We left Durban at 09:45 after packing John's Hyundai 4x4 with all the gear for the three of us. There was much hilarity when John admitted to packing 3.5 kilograms of snacks for the climb. Now we are encouraged to take energy bars and snacks but 3.5 kg?

The drive up to Sani is most definitely for 4x4 drivers. I found it exciting but hard work however John found it harder as he has some difficulty with heights. (and he is climbing to the highest point in Africa?) The mist came down just as we got to the part where the best pictures can be taken. Tomorrow the weather will be better..... I hope.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Bright Blessings on Your Journey

As my Dad has mentioned, I will be updating the blog whilst my folks and John are climbing Kili...

At the moment, the three of them are on their way to Sani Pass for the night. They'll then make their way up here to Johannesburg tomorrow to spend the night with Mark and I before embarking on their trip to Kili on Friday.

My Dad has wanted to do the Kili trip for many years now, and I am so glad that he finally has not only the opportunity, but the perfect climbing partners too.

All three of them are very strong willed mentally, and by that, I mean nothing other than that when they set their minds on achieving a particular goal, they will stop at nothing to reach that goal. I know that they will have the same resolve for summitting Kili and wish them Brightest Blessings on their journey.

I thought I'd take this opportunity to say how proud I am to have such special parents and John of course, being a very dear family friend whom I have known since I was rather young, who are all doing something so remarkable and for such a worthy cause. Mum, Dad, John... Namasté.