“Resilience, endurance and a challenge that I couldn’t say no to would see me take the Kingsway Tyres flag to the highest peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro. My first attempt at climbing the mountain was in 2014 when I made it up 5,000 meters only to succumb to altitude sickness along the way. This time round, I wasn’t going to let anything stop me from making it to the very top.”
Sometime last year, I had a conversation with Kingsway Tyres’ Managing Director, Manoj Shah. We talked about the plight of the less fortunate children in Kenya. The fact that these children lack basic needs, health care and education has always been as issue that is very close to my heart.
The conversation then drifted to my hiking expeditions and my unsuccessful attempt some years back to get to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Though I conquered Mt. Kenya over the Easter weekend of 2016, Kilimanjaro remained both a disappointing memory and an elusive dream. With that in mind, Mr Shah, gave me a stirring challenge and opportunity: “Go back to Kilimanjaro and make it all the way to the top. I am confident of your success and on behalf of Kingsway Foundation, I pledge KES 2.5 million to assist the needy children in Kenya.”
The mighty Kilimanjaro had taunted me once before and I hadn’t yet mustered the courage to face her again. Now the fate of many children supported by various charities became my second motivation and signature cause to ascend the highest mountain in Africa. There was only one thing to do. Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro!
Nairobi – 1,795m
I began training immediately for a period of four months. Alongside my usual 8-to-5 job, I would walk 5 kilometers daily, eat well and keep hydrated. During the weekends, I would scale the heights of the many hills and mountains that can be found outside Nairobi. Finally, on 26th February 2017, together with 15 other eager hikers, I set off for Tanzania.
I was both nervous and anxious the entire drive there, but I wasn’t the only one. I could see my fellow hiking mates calming their churning tummies, struggling to wolf down the mandazi and chai we stopped to have enroute to Oloitoktok. As we edged closer, we all raised our heads to trace the silhouette of the magnificent Kilimanjaro, enchanting and intimidating even from a distance.
Marangu Gate – 1,879 meters
After registering our presence at the border, we arrived at Marangu gate at noon. I immediately offloaded my back packs and day bag and started making final preparations for the climb. A group of porters, cooks and guides were on standby with hot meals. By this time, I had stopped worrying about the climb and had calmed the butterflies that had been fluttering in my stomach. My mind was focused on one thing alone; the 6-day excursion that would lead me to the top of Africa’s tallest mountain. An effort that would ultimately go towards assisting the less fortunate.
Mandara Hut – 2,720 meters
After a short registration process and a hearty prayer, I took my first steps towards camp number one – Mandara Hut. Along the way was a dense, beautiful rainforest. As luck would have it, it began to rain. My protective rain gear proved useful as it kept my bag as dry as possible. But on reaching Mandara Hut, my clothes and shoes were soaking wet. At the camp, I changed into some warm clothes, had a bowl of hot soup and a good meal, before retiring for the night. I was exhausted and cold.
Horombo Hut – 3,730 meters
Day 2 of the hike began with breakfast and stretching exercises. We set off with some packed lunch that the cooks had prepared for us to eat later in the day. The sun did its best to keep us warm but it wasn’t long before it started raining again. Our guides were immensely helpful, often reminding us to pace ourselves and drink lots of water. I was wet and cold by the time we got to Horombo. That night, I went to sleep with the mantra of the mountain, ringing in my ears “pole pole”
Zebra Rocks – 4,500 meters
We arose to the sight of the snow peaked mountain, peering in the distance. Water bottles filled, camel bags on the back, we forged on. Day 3 was set aside for acclimatization. The idea is to climb up to a high altitude then descend back down. By doing so, your body begins to adapt to the sudden change in elevation further increasing one’s chances of getting to the highest peak. It isn’t as easy as it sounds, which is why I had failed to reach the very top in my first attempt. But I was much more prepared this time round. However, some of the hikers in my group suffered headaches and nausea. In spite of this, we trudged on, following the drill – walk slow, drink lots of water, layer up on warm clothes. We soon chanced upon a group of hikers on their way back from the peak – some triumphant, some dismayed. On the descent back to Horombo, I noticed my hydration bag leaking. Every attempt to repair it turned futile. Luckily, the porters and team of hikers had some extra water bottles which I made do with for the rest of the expedition.
Kibo Hut – 4,720 meters
On Day 4, we made it past Alpine Desert on our way to Kibo Hut. The rain was relentless, pouring down in hailstones. My breathing was visibly laboured and we all walked at an even slower pace. We struggled with fatigue, some puked while others complained of headaches. Resiliently, we inched slowly upwards. The last of the group arrived at 4pm in the afternoon. We had some tea and snacks and readied our gear for the next leg of the journey. That night, we were to start the main ascent to the peak and were only allowed two hours of sleep. After dinner at 8pm, we had a short nap. By 11.30pm we were back on our feet, marching onwards to the apex.
Gilman’s Point – 5,685 meters
Any hiker will tell you that it is difficult to sleep in high altitudes. What’s even harder is to keep hiking on only two hours of sleep. There in the cold, wet and dark night, layered in warm clothing, we put on our headlamps and walked in single file following our guides. We trekked all night and arrived at Gilman’s Point at 6.30am just as the sun was rising above the clouds behind us. Cold, tired and hungry, we gathered whatever energy we had left and trudged on towards Uhuru Peak. We slogged about like zombies, our movement hampered by the thin air. At every turn, we longed to hear that we were finally there. Our guides spurred us on, making every effort to ensure we didn’t give up.
Uhuru Peak – 5,895 meters
And finally, we made it! Tears filled my eyes as the guides announced our arrival at the summit. I was overwhelmed with joy standing at the highest point in Africa. This indeed was a very special moment in my life – one I will cherish for many years to come. With lots of pride and joy, I raised the Kingsway Tyres flag on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro as a symbol of my success and the company’s commitment towards assisting the less fortunate children in Kenya.
My sincere appreciation goes to the Kingsway Tyres family for the support and motivation that encouraged me to accomplish this great feat. I also wish to acknowledge and appreciate the Kingsway Foundation, for their generous contribution of KES 2.5 million to support the activities of Amrita Children’s Home in Athi River, the Ananda Marga Children’s Home, and the vision screening program for children among other programs.