Congratulations to PPP Partners Dan Coe, Chris Tapp and George Daldry who have recently returned from their epic Kilimanjaro climb in aid of RED International. 

Congratulations to PPP Partners Dan Coe, Chris Tapp and George Daldry who have recently returned from their epic Kilimanjaro climb in aid of RED International.

Joined by eight other trekkers, the three raised more than £25,000 for the charity, which is currently building a Good Shepherd School at Usilampatti in Southern India to help offer Dalit children a different path in life.

Here, Dan Coe tells their story.

“Not only is Kilimanjaro the highest peak on the African continent, it is also the tallest free-standing mountain in the world, rising in breathtaking isolation from the surrounding coastal scrubland to an elevation of 5,895 metres (19,336 feet).

Though the climb is not technically difficult, the high elevation, low temperatures, and occasional high winds make reaching the summit a difficult and dangerous trek. Acclimatisation is essential, and most trekkers suffer some degree of altitude sickness, typically shortage of breath, headaches and dizziness.

George Daldry has been raising money for Usilampatti School since 2010, and was joined in 2013 by Chris Tapp to climb The Three Peaks. In need of some young blood, I was persuaded to join the 2014 Kilimanjaro Climb along with George, Chris and eight others to raise more funds.

There’s a Swahili word that describes how the climb should be conducted. Pole-Pole translates as slowly or gently and that’s what you do. Walk at snail’s pace for four days to reach the base camp at 4,700m whist your body adjusts to the elevation. Drinking at least five litres of water a day helps overcome the effects of altitude as does taking a diuretic drug called Diamox. The side effects are a four hourly visit to the camp toilet and fingers that arbitrarily tingle. Familiar territory to anyone who’s given birth but new ground to the all male team, and of course it only takes six days to climb the mountain, not nine months!

The final trek to the summit involves first climbing a 1,000m wall of scree. During the day the scree is loose and so the climb is done at night whilst it’s frozen by the sub zero temperatures. Breakfast is served at 11pm and walking begins at midnight. Guided by only a head torch and the backside of the climber in front, it takes six hours to reach the lip of the volcanic crater that surrounds the summit. There’s a short breathless pause as the sunrise begins to illuminate the glaciers that cling to the crater and then the walking continues. The summit is less than a mile away, but with half the normal amount of oxygen available it takes another hour and a half to reach, so difficult is it to draw in enough breath to power your legs. Despite the sun’s best efforts the temperature is minus twenty Celsius.

Reaching the summit was an emotional moment for everyone - a mixture of laughter, tears, hunger, tiredness and thoughts of the Dalit children we’d come together to help. Take a look at this brief video taken at the summit which gives a sense of what the Roof of Africa feels like.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WD4IZpwPgyQ

If you’re descending then Pole-Pole is forgotten immediately. We walked for another seven and half hours on summit day. Half of that to get us back to base camp and the same again to a lower altitude camp at 3,700m. Total walking time was fifteen hours - ascent 1,200m and descent 2,200m. On the final day we descended another 2,000m and covered 20km to meet our transport. As you pass through a small gate marking the end of the climb, a small kiosk sells cold drinks and t shirts. Just as the label says, a Kilimanjaro Beer really does quench a Tanzanian thirst.

I couldn’t have managed without the amazing team of porters who raced past us every day in walking gear left behind by previous trips carrying our tents, spare clothes and food. Nor would the climb have been possible without the guides who led us safely to the summit and back again with a smile and kind word for everyone.

Chris was voted “Best Dressed Man on the Mountain” and deservedly so. His Tardis like rucksack containing an outfit for every eventuality was invaluable.

And finally to George. He couldn’t live without his builder and dentist and so he brought them with him. Really! If that’s not surprising enough, he chose to share a tent with his dentist, check out that lovely white smile next time you see George.

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