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My Kilimanjaro summit

Updated: Jan 3, 2023

On the 1st of October, I set out on a journey that I have been waiting to do since 2019.

Three years ago, I saw a post on The Good Grief Project's Facebook page, a charity that has supported me through the loss of both my brothers. They were advertising a once-in-a-lifetime experience to raise £6,300 for the charity to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in October of 2020. I jumped at this opportunity as when I  signed up, I wasn't in great mental health, and my physical health and overall health wasn't in the best place either. I needed something to focus on and something to give me the drive to get fitter and stronger both physically and mentally. This challenge did exactly that! Within the first six months of signing up to climb, I had lost almost half of my body fat and was growing muscle and building body confidence. It also helped me get to into cold exposure, which has probably been one of the most impactful things to help me improve my mental health. So my training increased as the 1st of October 2020 was getting closer. I started running and learning new things about my body. Unfortunately because Covid 19 had hit the world, and everyday life ceased to continue. People had to stay at home to protect each other's health which meant staying away from family and no travelling. Unfortunately, this meant hiking Kilimanjaro in 2020 was not going to happen and was pushed back to 2021. I now had an extra year to get prepared, and get more gear for the trip but Covid was still around, sadly taking thousands of peoples lives, and we were hit with another lockdown. The reality of getting to the top of Kilimanjaro was getting further and further away since October 2021 was uncertain too. So, as we were learning to live in a world where face masks and gloves and staying 2m apart from other humans outside of your family could help save your life and keep you healthy. Being human we need social interaction to keep motivated and keep going, but all we had was ZOOM calls and usually texting, and calls to fill this space. Sadly thousands of people lost their lives to an invisible force. I found lockdown hard, but I still had Kilimanjaro in my hopes and dreams as I had raised all of the money within 3 months. I had all of my gear and had now had 2 years of training and the highs and lows of my trip being on and then off. However, the 1st of October 2022 was a date to be hopeful for. Every day life was slowly coming back to normal and Covid cases were dropping. I had got back in to education to complete a two year countryside and wildlife conservation course so things where looking very hopeful. From the beginning of May to the end of April I was out working in the Abruzzo mountains in Italy helping preserving the habitat for the bears out there. This was a fantastic experience for me and as we were hiking most days working at over 3000m above sea level it was very beneficial to my training for Kilimanjaro. I hadn't had any experience walking in altitude let alone working in it. After getting back from Italy I didn't have much time left to train for Kilimanjaro but my body and mind were in the best place they have ever been in, so maybe having the extra few years to prepare and train and get ready really helped me. The day came when we got on the plane to Tanzania and I was ready to go both mentally and physically We flew out on Saturday and didn't start hiking till Monday, so this gave us time to meet and get used to being around the eight other people hiking with us. Some of us knew each other, so that helped. We got to meet our main guide and a few of the 35 porters who were to carry our bags, set up our tents and make food for us along the way. This was to give us the best chance of summiting to the peak. It would take 8 days to get to the top and back down again. We had 6 hours of hiking each day, up and down in altitude so that our bodies could acclimate and gave us time to get used to our gear and our new eating and sleeping routine. During the last few days of our hiking before we submitted, (a day where we hiked for 13 hours in total), I was walking in only my shorts! Naturally, I was the only one on the mountain doing this so I got a few strange looks!!! Some of the porters would fist pump me and say 'strong man' or 'Simba', (for lion)., This made me feel even more powerful than I already did. One of the main things I loved on the mountain was the time when we where hiking and you didn't have anything else on your mind. Just thinking about the summit and looking down at the ground to make sure you didn't fall over. This meant you had your own space and all you could do was breathe. I loved this. Learning to use it plus the cold exposure from having my t-shirt off actually made my body and mind work better because it was both mentally and physically challenging and I was preparing my mind and body to try and hike to the summit in only a thermal shirt. On the 6th day we had a 3-hour hike in the morning and then went tobed at 6 pm to wake up at 11 pm to start hiking at midnight. We would be hiking though the night to summit at 7AM. 6 hours of hiking with head torches, going from an altitude of 4800m to 6000m above sea level. The start if the hike was hard going as there was no daylight so we where lighting our own paths with our head touches. I was in my element out in nature. Striving for a goal that I set 3 years ago and to complete that journey I was powering up the mountain while everyone else were in 4 or 5 layers. We finally reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro at 7am the morning of the 7th day. The feeling I felt on top of that Mountain was undescribable. It was one of the hardest physical and mental things I've ever been through. Your feet are sore, your body is aching, your muscles are hurting coupled with headaches and  shortness of breath, however, that's where learning to use my breath really helped me along the journey. I got a picture at the top with my shirt off infront of the glacier. we then had two days of hiking back down. This experience and journey changed my life, and I will remember it as a great achievement in my life,

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2 Comments


Well done Matty, an excellent experience and achievement. Glad you re doing well. Kind regards

Mr Smith

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matthew horkan
matthew horkan
Dec 29, 2022
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Hey thank you so much do I know you?

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