WE spent almost a year fundraising, planning and preparations for our trek up Kilimanjaro.
But when it was finally time to start on our epic adventure I don’t think any of us really had any idea what we were letting ourselves in for.
On our way to the 5,895-metre summit we battled – in varying degrees – with six days of long walks and scrambling up the cliff-face which makes up Barranco Wall, and sickness, both from the altitude and missing home.
For camping novices like me, the walking was only part of the challenge.
Helen Gough and I realised we were stuck in our tent on numerous occasions – usually while desperate for the chemical loo – because we couldn’t figure out how to open the zip.
And then there was the summit trek, which involved leaving base camp at midnight armed with a head torch and enough snacks to last me a week, and finally arriving at Uhuru Peak just under nine hours later. In many ways, I wish I could remember more about the final push.
I remember the trail of lights of other walkers’ head torches impossibly high in the sky.
And I remember thinking I was going to have a heart attack about an hour into the walk, before realising it was actually my shoulder that was hurting – probably from the weight of the chocolate.
And that’s about it, until we were privileged enough to witness the most beautiful and spirit-lifting sunrise.
For me, the end of the seemingly eternal darkness and with it, the realisation the top was near and achievable, was better than actually summiting.
That came and went in a bit of a blur because, having lost the ability to balance by myself, I was whisked back down again before having time to admire the view.
All this was only possible thanks to the hard work, kindness and support of our Charity Challenge trek leader Rhiannon and the army of African Walking Company porters, cooks and guides who were such an inspiration.
They shared much about their culture and helped us in every way possible, from singing to lift our spirits, to baking a last-minute birthday cake for Sue Biggart.
So far we have raised more than £41,000 for Breakthrough Breast Cancer, with more money still to be collected.
Breakthrough events fundraising manager Nicola Saunders said: ‘Congratulations to everyone from the Isle of Man who took part in the trek up Kilimanjaro.
‘We were delighted to hear of the trek’s success and we are incredibly grateful to all the trekkers, and everyone in the island, who have helped to raise more than £41,000 for Breakthrough Breast Cancer.
‘This money raised will have a real impact on our work to change the lives of those affected by breast cancer, through research, campaigning and education.’
Andy Lodge said: ‘The trip was full of so many good memories – and the achievement of climbing Kilimanjaro should not be underestimated.
‘But for me the trip was made memorable by the people.
‘The interactions with everyone throughout the week made the journey very special.
‘There were so many interesting conversations, moments of humour and laughter and times when we could see each other out of our comfort zones. But a real memory for me was the impromptu service on Sunday morning.
‘Rita Norrey delivered thoughtful and inspirational offerings in a calm manner on a rocky campsite with a surreal background of Kilimanjaro mountain.
‘Cossie, with his wonderful voice filled the air with a hymn and when the guides and porters joined in perfect harmony there was not a dry eye in the house.
‘The whole party was engaged in the service. A real “God Moment”.
‘A close second was the beer (at $4 per can!) at Millennium Camp!’
Colby farmer Paul Costain, who summited in his wellies, said: ‘One memory was on the second day when in my mind I was plotting to play a mischievous trick on the girls.
‘Apparently I can only do one thing at a time, so Jackie’s comments of “You’re very quiet today, Paul” were short-lived, with her screams echoing down the valleys, with me having lain laughing in the bush waiting to scare her with my mask.’
Helen Gough said: ‘One of the highlights of my trip was the climb to Shira Cathedral on day three.
‘This peak is at 3,880m and stands in the Shira Plateau.
‘On the plateau we saw buffalo tracks along the way (but thank goodness, no buffalo). Once at Shira Catherdral we were aided by our ever so helpful guides to the top because it was ever so steep and sheer!
‘The highlight though was to find at the top that we suddenly acquired a phone signal.
‘We had been out of touch with the outside world for days and I was overjoyed to be able to call my wonderful, charming, exceptionally clever husband Alan. The views were good too! (I have to say that because he bought me 50 red roses on my return.)’
Richard Skinner, who had to leave the trek on the morning of day five due to worsening altitude sickness, said: ‘I thought the way the whole team pulled together, not just those from the island, showed how important teamwork is.
‘Having not made it to the summit I have to say the biggest downside for me was having to trek nine hours back down the mountain and leave the rest of the team to continue – although a couple of days by the pool was not a bad way to recover!’
The team was made up of Angie Aire, Kim Makin, Helen Gough, Irene Taggart, Rita Norrey, Sue Biggart, Jackie Turley, Chris Swales, Nick Swales, Andy Lodge, Paul Costain, Richard Skinner, Phil Shimmin and John Oates.