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Six Puffin Magic Musketeers climb Mount Kilimanjaro
 

The quest for Mount Kilimanjaro by the Six Puffin Musketeers
by Toby Warren HBS Singapore


On 27 February 2010, we took on the ultimate challenge of conquering Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa, in an effort to help raise money for James.

The Team
Toby Warren
Bass (Simon Bassett)
Luva (Jonathan Burton)
Dizzie (Lizzie Young)
Hugh (Emma Galland)
Zara (Zara Hearn)

The intrepid Puffin Musketeers embarked on a journey to scale the world’s highest freestanding mountain where, over the course of seven consecutive days, we took on this physically grueling endeavor that not only pushes the body to its limit, but also challenges one’s mental stamina. 

To prepare for this expedition, the team undertook a strict two-month fitness regime, including  a dedicated routine of running and gym work.  We enjoyed carbohydrate-rich diets filled with  pasta and, yes, lots of Mars chocolate!  Although it was tough coping with the demands of work and training, we handled it well with proper time management - two hours of training starting at 6am every day and finishing at 8am, just in time to start a fresh new day at the office! 

The following was recounted by Toby on his Mount Kilimanjaro conquest:

Kilimanjaro, Pre-Trip
After 37 hours of intense back-to-back flights from Bangkok - Singapore - Dubai - Dar es Salaam, we finally arrive in Tanzania. Dar es Salaam is a typical rundown African town, but as it lies right at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro, it is where most climbs begin. We roll into town close to nightfall and can’t wait to get the rest we badly need. Despite the serious jet lag, our spirits are high which comes with the realization that the conquest we have been planning for over a year for James is about to come true.

Kilimanjaro, Day 1 -Altitude: 2,500m
After six hours of intense hiking, battling turbulent weather through rainforest, rugged terrain and high valleys, we finally make it up to 2,500m. Already, I am on the verge of giving up, overcome with extreme fatigue and altitude sickness.  It has been an intense six hours of acclimatization hikes where, in order to allow the body to adapt to the decrease in oxygen concentration at higher altitude, we make repeated climbs to substantially higher altitudes, only to descend to lower altitudes thereafter. This will leave us well-adapted to the altitude and strong for the summit attempt.  I know I have to push on for James.

Kilimanjaro, Day 2-5 -Altitude: 4,700m
Up and up we climb through the mountain, surrounded by stunningly beautiful but challenging terrains.  Slowly the trees grow smaller as we gain altitude. Blankets of wispy white clouds swirl around the summit, clearing from time to time to reveal a glimpse of the diminishing snowcap on the towering peak. It is sad to see that, due to global warming, Mount Kilimanjaro’s famous white peak may soon shine no more.  After progressing for five long days, often at ‘old man with a stick’ pace, we arrive at the Alpine Desert Zone, a desert-like area with minimal life due to low temperatures, drought conditions and intense sun.  We are at an altitude of 4,700m and just a stone’s throw away from our base camp. While each of us has five porters in tow to assist us in carrying our backpacks, tents, food and toilet buckets, it’s still the toughest climb we’ve experienced, enduring acute altitude sickness, constant headaches and nausea.  Still, we force ourselves to eat and drink as much fluid as we can to keep our energy levels high and our bodies hydrated.  Other climbers are not so lucky and are compelled to descend to a lower altitude due to pulmonary edema (fluid accumulation in the lungs) which can be fatal.  It’s a constant battle braving through five different climatic zones in our quest to the summit.  It doesn’t help that I’m all decked out in my ski jacket and English hat in the -15 degree Celsius freezing cold!

Kilimanjaro, Day 6 –The Summit -Altitude: 5,681m
On Day Six, we set off at 11.00pm for our final ascent to the summit - the ultimate quest of  human endurance!  At this stage, the hike becomes more difficult, with the lack of oxygen actually impairing our senses.  We have to concentrate on our feet and follow our guides, Florence and Damos, very closely, as the edge of the crater is extremely rocky and icy and we don’t want to risk injuring ourselves especially since we’re so close to achieving our goal!  After more than seven hours of extreme cold coupled with excruciating physical and mental pain, we finally reach the summit at 6.00am.  Also known as Gillman’s Point, it stands at an altitude of 5,681m and the reward of watching the sunrise from the top of Africa's highest mountain is simply breathtaking!  Our emotions are as high as the majestic peak on which we stand, with shouts of joy echoing through the air.  Finally, we the Six Puffin Musketeers have accomplished our mission!  We made it!!  We anticipated this challenge would be every bit as difficult as running a marathon (if not more); that same determination and mental toughness are essential in completing the climb to the summit.  We’ve overcome the challenge and made it through.  Most importantly, we know that James would be most proud of us - supporting James at this most trying time in his life is a small way of returning the warmth, generosity and consideration he extends to all the people in his life.

While we dream of lying on a beach with beers in our hands, we know we still have a long way ahead of us.  After exchanging hugs and high-fives with broad grins that stretch from ear to ear, we make our descent down below base camp which is a good 22 hours away. From there, it is  another eight hours of agonizing hike down to the bottom.  While we’re all exhausted, our spirits are high and the adrenaline rush of imagining James’ ecstatic face beckons us to push forward.

Kwaheri Kilima Njaro (Goodbye Kilimanjaro).  Thank you for the wonderful experience.
Your captivating and enigmatic beauty will etch in our memory forever.



 



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