Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is the highest moun­tain in Africa at 5,896 metres (or 19,341 feet in old money) and the tallest single freest­and­ing moun­tain in the world.

We wel­comed Anne Jones as our speaker who was the Head Teacher of the Infant and Junior School of Sheffield Girls High School for four­teen years until her retire­ment some four years ago. She became an ambas­sador for Sheffield Children’s Hospital, volun­teer­ing at the Charity Hub in the new outpatient’s depart­ment of the hos­pital.

Whilst at the Children’s Anne decided to take part in the hospital’s first over­seas fun­drais­ing chal­lenge to climb Kilimanjaro. What were the reas­ons for taking up the chal­lenge?

One to raise money for the ‘Build It Better’ cam­paign which aims to extend and ren­ov­ate the Oncology ward, to renew the Emergency depart­ment and to build a helipad on the hospital’s roof.

Secondly Anne wanted to test her­self by embra­cing new oppor­tun­it­ies and taking risks. She had never done any­thing like this before.

Preparation involved fund rais­ing via appeals to the public, talks to the girls at the High School and Tapas even­ings. A total of over £4,000 was raised in this way. Anne also had to assemble the neces­sary equip­ment with a weight limit of 15 kilos for the week. Finally, she wanted to make sure she was phys­ic­ally pre­pared and this involved many hours of walks and climbs in the Peak District and on the north coast of Menorca, yoga ses­sions and trips to the gym.

In September 2019 the party of twenty four arrived at the foot of the moun­tain ready for the task ahead.

The group took the Machame Route which is the longest approach with a total ascent of 7,130 metres and a dis­tance of 62 kilo­metres but is the most effect­ive for avoid­ing alti­tude sick­ness. The climb took five and a half days going up and one and a half days coming down. At the foot of the moun­tain there is rain forest so shorts and T shirts were the order of the day. At night they had sharp frosts so that everything in the tents was frozen. They were accom­pan­ied by an English guide, a Tanzanian doctor, who mon­itored oxygen levels daily, and a team of Rafiki. All their bags, tents and cook­ing equip­ment were trans­por­ted from one camp to the next.

By day three the reduced oxygen levels were notice­able, all phys­ical exer­tions took longer and tem­per­at­ures had fallen con­sid­er­ably. In addi­tion, the ter­rain became more dif­fi­cult. However, Anne said that all the things she wor­ried about before her trip such as the toilet facil­it­ies, the shar­ing a tent, the not shower­ing paled into insig­ni­fic­ance once you were on the moun­tain.

The last camp was at 4,663 metres on rocky sur­faces and with low oxygen levels. They were only able to cover 4 kilo­metres that day. They pre­pared for the final ascent with more cloth­ing layers, extra snacks and water. They left camp at 10.30 at night. It was a tough quiet climb although Anne had Rod Stewart on her head­phones to help! Twenty three of the group made it to the summit although they could only stay there for half an hour because of the thin air.

The des­cent from the top took one and a half days and was very hard — it rained all the way down and the sur­faces were steep and slip­pery.

Anne reflec­ted on the factors that kept the team motiv­ated – food they con­sumed 10,000 cal­or­ies a day so it was essen­tial to have a high carb diet and lots of sweets. The sup­port of the Rafiki (port­ers and sup­port team) who were fant­astic and the unfor­get­table views. Finally, there was the reason for the chal­lenge – the hos­pital. In the end the group man­aged to raise over £125,000.

This was a fas­cin­at­ing present­a­tion which was thor­oughly enjoyed by our mem­bers.

Any dona­tions to the hos­pital would be grate­fully received:

(All photos cour­tesy of Anne Jones)