JR: First off, welcome back.
GB: Thank you so much, it’s great to be back at sea level!
JR: Can you set the scene for the first day?
GB: I met the rest of my team at a hotel at the foot of Mt Kilimanjaro the night before we set off. We were introduced the Charles, our Head Guide from Summits Africa who would be leading us on the climb, and he talked us through the week and checked we had the kit required. I’m not sure any of us slept particularly well; we were excited and nervous and really just ready to get started. We travelled the short distance to the base of the mountain where we met the crew who would be looking after us. We registered and having been informed of the various rules of the mountain, at last, set off!
JR: What were your team like?
GB: Well, we’ve all known each other since we were 7, so we know each other very well. We were all at boarding school together, so were already aware of each other’s idiosyncrasies. Various people warned us it could be make or break but I’m relieved to say we're still very good friends!
JR: What were your porters and camp crew like?
GB: Charles was our Head Guide and had climbed the mountain over 200 times! He was very experienced. He was a huge support to us all. He monitored our oxygen levels twice a day, and kept an eye on any altitude symptoms we suffered throughout the climb. He built moral and gauged our moods perfectly and how to get the best from each of us. The rest of the crew and porters were amazing too, and really took care of us. They work incredibly hard, running ahead with tents and bags etc and preparing our water and very well thought out nutritional and energy boosting menus for our meals which were really delicious. After a long day walking they even sang us into camp with beautiful uplifting African welcome songs. We were very lucky to have them.
JR: What was the hardest part?
GB: The hardest part of the climb was summit night. We set off at midnight, we’d had about 2 hours sleep before we set off. We walked for 7 hours, fighting against a gale force arctic wind, whilst struggling for breath as oxygen levels were so low. It was so incredibly cold our water froze and we were unable to stop for more than a few minutes at a time to catch our breath. Each of us suffered various symptoms of mild acute altitude sickness. Another day, involved climbing the Barranco Wall, a 1,000 foot wall, which required the most actual climbing of the week and in parts necessary to cling to the rock face to pass. This was also hard but also probably one of the most enjoyable days too!
JR: Was there a point when you didn't think you'd make it?
GB: There were a couple of moments when I thought I wouldn’t make it to the summit but I felt so determined, not just because of my father but also because of all the support we’d been give back home.
JR: What was the best part of the experience?
GB: Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro was undoubtedly one of the hardest thing I’ve done, yet at the same time it was one of the most exhilarating. We pushed ourselves to extremes we never thought possible. Whilst I wouldn’t repeat it, I will never forget it and am thrilled to have done it.
JR: So did you meet your fundraising target?
GB: We have in fact exeeded the target. We had hoped to raise £5,895 between the two charities (Pancreatic Cancer UK and PSP); the total to date stands at £22,627.58, which is 288% more. A breakdown of Pancreatic Cancer UK at around £7,500 and PSP at around £15,200.
JR: Well that's incredible!
GB: Yes, we are enormously touched and grateful to everybody who has supported us all both financially, and otherwise. It really is overwhelming. Although this money is sadly too late for my father it will hopefully go some way to help others suffering from pancreatic cancer in the future.
JR: Thank you so much for talking to us today.
GB: Thank you and could I also send out huge thanks the Salisbury Cathedral School Community, pupils, parents and staff alike for the overwhelming support given to me. It has been a wonderful experience in so many ways, greatly enhanced by the generosity and warm words of encouragement from so many. I am enormously grateful to you all. Thank you.