Summit Seekers conquer peak

At the top of Kilimanajaro.
At the top of Kilimanajaro.

In October, six brave and determined Aberdeenshire Council employees in support of a terminally ill friend and colleague conquered the daunting task of the world’s highest free standing mountain – Mount Kilimanjaro.

PE and guidance teacher Roddy Hall and Active School co-ordinators Stuart Glennie, Derek Atkinson, Abigail Hay, Kerry Massie and Susan Mackintosh have been fundraising for the Anchor Unit in Aberdeen since February in honour of their friend and colleague Paul Robinson who was diagnosed as terminally ill last year.

Paul worked as an Active School Coordinator for Highland Council before taking up the same role for the Fraserburgh network where he was in post for about two and a half years. He moved across to the Aboyne network in the summer of 2009 prior to falling ill. Paul has now retired from service.

Paul said: “We would like to thank family, friends and colleagues for pulling together and supporting ‘Friends of Anchor’ with their generous donations and attending the many organised fund-raising events over the past nine months.”

Marion, Paul’s wife, said: “ We want too thank in particular Paul’s six colleagues who completed the challenge and have worked very hard throughout.”

So far the team have raised a very impressive £30,000.

On Thursday, October 7, the journey began – the team flew from Aberdeen to Heathrow, Heathrow to Niarobi and then Niarobi on to Kilimanjaro International Airport.

Susan Mackintosh said: “Day one saw us trekking slowly up through the thick rainforest; we caught intermittent glimpses of Kili’s summit which served as inspiration and dread in equal measure.”

Roddy Hall said: “The conditions at the foot of the mountain was very humid which made the first leg of the climb rather hot and sticky, but spirits were high and energy levels were good so we made it to the first camp at 3000m (Machame) with plenty of laughs.”

Day two began with roll call at 6pm and a quick breakfast of porridge before the team were on their way. The steeper trail took them out of the rainforest and into the brush and dust.

Stuart Glennie said: “The view both above and behind us was a wonderful reward as we continued to plod up through the thin clouds. Kilimanjaro was looming above us and the beautiful landscape of Tanzania was sprawled out below.”

Abigail Hay said: “We made it to camp two, Shira, which is at 3,843m. We quickly settled into camp routine, arranging our kit and preparing for bed before a quick dinner of soup and some kind of stew.”

Day three saw the team wake up to frozen tents; dressing at record speed and preparing for the day’s trek was the morning warm up. The temperature would fluctuate continuously throughout the day, and there was a constant need to add and remove layers to ensure that body temperatures were properly regulated.

Derek Atkinson said: “By lunchtime we had reached the Lava Tower, which sits just below 4,600m. Headaches and sickness was the order of the day, but we were determined to persevere. However, to add insult to injury we were told that we had to climb back down to 3,965m to camp Barranco.”

Day four again saw the team greeted by ice, but the real wake up call was ‘The Barranco Wall’ – an almost vertical climb with a trail cut narrowly into the wall. The climb took the team to Camp Barafu which sits 4,630m and required them to set up camp on a ridge at a 30 degree angle.

Four hours later, it was time to attempt the summit.

Kerry Massie said: “Day five actually started at 10.30pm on day four, we set off into the pitch black of the night but remarkably our spirits were still high and the knowledge that this was the last push was like shot in the arm. However, as the night went on, it turned out we needed two or three more.”

As the clock struck 4am the temperature plummeted once more, and the lack of oxygen and frozen drinks began to take their toll. Stories were floating about of people who had made it this far but had to turn back, and despite their determination to succeed doubt began to creep in as to whether or not they could make it.

Susan said: “We kept going and finally the slope began to flatten out. We had arrived at Stella Point and the rim of the crater. The sun began to rise and the light was creeping through the clouds to offer spectacular and stirring views of the African plain below and Mount Meru in the distance.”

The team allowed a quick rest for photos and then made the final traverse to reach Uhuru Peak at 5,896m – Africa’s highest point.

Roddy said: “We had made it – we were both exhausted and exhilarated but we had made it. We spent 20 emotional minutes at the summit allowing our achievement to sink in and then began the journey back.”

The following afternoon the team reached the Millenium camp at the foot of the mountain and had a very well earned rest, and a celebratory beer or two.