When he first started hiking his goal was to reach the top of the highest mountain in each province in Ireland. Having done that twice this year he set his sights further afield. He chose Kilimanjaro which, at 5895mts, is the world’s highest free-standing mountain.
He booked the trip with a company called Pat Falvey Irish Worldwide Adventures, which is based in Kerry and run by full time adventurer Pat Falvey. There were 15 on the trip covering all ages, including an 80-year old man, Kevin Gormley, who was climbing with his two sons to mark his 80th birthday. He was an inspiration to everybody, complaining least and setting the pace for the entire group. In fact, he became the oldest Irish person to reach the summit of Kilimanjaro.
The party flew out from Dublin to Tanzania from where they began their trek using the Machame Route where the usual schedule involves five days to the summit and two to descend. The early pace was surprisingly slow. The locals catchphrase was “poley poley”, which means slowly slowly. It would later become very obvious that acclimatisation was the key to reaching the top.
On the third day David began to experience a degree of mild altitude sickness. It’s something that you can’t really legislate for in advance but when it hits it’s not very pleasant. A thundering headache and exhaustion are the leading symptoms. Again acclimatisation is the key and thankfully, the next day, he was over it.
The party made good progress over the next few days, stopping at camps every evening which were set up by the porters who went ahead each morning to prepare for their arrival and overnight stop. As they progressed they encountered different climatic zones which were reflected by the plant growth – the coffee and banana plantations; a beautiful tropical rain forest; a spectacular moorland/alpine meadow; an amazing lunar landscape; and finally, the depleting glaziers of a summit ice field on Summit Night.
The Summit Night (day five) was really what the trip was about. It was visible from day two onwards and looking up at it from early on it looked insurmountable. The summit attempt began at 11pm the night before and the plan was to arrive at the summit for sunrise at 6am.
As it happened they arrived at the summit of Kilimanjaro (“UHURU” – Peak of Freedom) at around 7am on 27 June. The sense of achievement was huge and thankfully everybody in the group got to the summit and back down again safely.
Based on the strength of this experience David plans to tackle the Himalayas next year.