Routing for Success

3-will-certIn the last blog post, I said I’d take you through the details of what route I will be taking up Kilimanjaro. At the end of July I’ll be climbing Kilimanjaro to raise funds for the STEPS Charity, who have, and continue to support my family during the treatment of our youngest child William.

Firstly, an update on Will’s progress. In February we visited his consultant who advised his right foot was tightening. We went back for a follow up visit at the start of May and it seems his foot hasn’t improved and unfortunately he will need to have an operation later this year. This isn’t a failure of his treatment so far, but another step to ensure his feet stay correctly positioned. It’s particularly frustrating as he’s just started football training and he was thrilled to score nine goals in two matches recently. It was a proud moment having known and seen everything that he’s had to endure to get to this stage, but also sad as he will have to take a break from it for nearly half a year as he recovers from his operation.

The operation will include a tibialis anterior tendon transfer, which involves moving a muscle tendon from the inside of the ankle towards the outside of the foot. At the same time his consultant will be lengthening his achilles tendon by completing a tenotomy. He’ll be in plaster for six weeks and then a splint for up to three months afterwards. His consultant is looking around September time to complete the operation and we’re hoping he’ll be scoring hat tricks again very soon.

The fundraising campaign is still going strong, having reached over £1,000 so far. We’ve also had some great support from Liverpool Football Club, with help from STEPS, who have sent us a large signed Steven Gerrard photo for us to raffle. For those of you who don’t know, Steven Gerrard was born with bilateral talipes the same as Will, and has managed to forge a very successful football career. I’m hoping to raffle the photo before we leave for Kilimanjaro.

July 24th we will be flying out to Kilimanjaro International in Tanzania via Istanbul to start my ascent of the largest free standing mountain in the world. I’ll be completing an 8 day trek up the Lemosho Route, 6 days to reach the summit, 2 days to descend. My old school friend who is completing the route with me, Matthew Challans, and I decided on the Lemosho Route for it’s higher summit success rate, and it tends to be one of the less busy routes. We’re booked with a company called Private Expeditions who have been highly recommended by previous climbers.

3-kilimanjaroDay 1 starts with a drive up to the Londorossi Park Gate where we need to register with park officials. At this point we are already at 2,360m altitude, over twice the height of Mount Snowdon. It involves a nice 3-4 hour walk along the forest trail to the first campsite at Mti Mkubwa (Big Tree) at 2,895m. The realisation of not showering for seven days, lack of toilets, and cold and uncomfortable nights at altitude will start to kick in. Thankfully I have over eight years of experience with baby wipes, which have been highly recommended to take.

Day 2 involves a long day, with over 9 hours and a 16km trek through Moorland eastwards across the Shira Plateau. This day can be split into two, however we decided to tackle this in one day. At this point the Western Breach of the mountain is visible, and night time temperatures drop below zero. We reach 3,810m, at the Shira 2 camp for the night. One of the advantages of this route is the ability to climb high, sleep low, which aids in acclimatisation.

Day 3 involves climbing to 4,610m, and then back down to 3,950m. At the highest point of the day, we’ll have reached over four times the height of Snowdon. This will be the toughest day so far and we will start to feel the altitude. The day involves 6-7 hours trekking over 12km, but with fantastic views of the sunset at the campsite while waiting for dinner.

Day 4 starts with a short, fun scramble over the Barranco Wall. This is the only time that we’ll be using all fours. The wall is commonly known as the Breakfast Wall due to traversing it first thing in the morning. A nice short day walking through Alpine Desert, with a 4 hours trek continuing at around 4,000m to aid acclimatisation.

Day 5 includes a shorter day too, to prepare for summit night. This involves ascending back up to 4,600m within 3 hours and with views of the summit, an early night is needed as we’ll be woken at midnight to tackle the summit.

Summit night and up before midnight to have some tea and biscuits, energy and warmth for the climb in the dark. The trek to the summit takes in the view of a number of glaciers, unfortunately these are disappearing at an alarming rate due to global warming. Ascending from a north-westerly direction in a zig zag pattern over heavy scree towards Stella Point on the crater rim. This will be mentally and physically challenging.

On arrival at Stella Point (5,732m), there is a stop for short rest and to watch the sunrise. Onward then to Uhuru Peak (5,895m), which is the highest point on Kilimanjaro and in Africa. At this point we’ll have made it, and really hope the camera batteries still work in the low temperatures. From the Roof of Africa we take the same route down to Barafu for lunch. A hearty lunch will be needed as this is only half way into the days trek, however it will get warmer and its down hill from here. For the last part of the days descent, trekking poles are needed for the loose gravel going down to Mweka Camp at 3,100m. All in all, in one day we’ll have trekked 30km, ascending 7km, descending 23km in over 15 hours. That evening, is the last dinner on the Kilimanjaro with the crew.

The following day involves a 10km trek through the forest down to the Mweka Gate, walking through the forest with flowers, birdsong and the occasional Colobus Monkey to receive summit certificates, back to the hotel for probably the best shower ever, and then back to the airport for the well deserved flight home.

For more information on the route we’re taking, visit the Climbsteps route page, You can donate at