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)