Balfour+Manson Employment team successfully summit Kilimanjaro

Partner Robert Holland, Associate Johanna Millar and Trainee Mark Boni were part of a group from Aberdeen who successfully summited all 19,341 feet of Mount Kilimanjaro last week for the new Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centre in Aberdeen. Robert tells us about the trials and tribulations of their trip. 

Mark Jo Robert Summit Kilimanjaro

“So we made it! And we even remembered the b+m t-shirt for the top of the mountain. But it was a real struggle, and far harder than any of us imagined when we first volunteered 6 months ago.

For starters, we had the longest route on the mountain, starting near the Kenyan Border. We initially had to walk about 15km each day just to get to the bottom of the main part of Kilimanjaro for the summit bid. As you were above the clouds (hard to imagine), the weather was roasting hot in the day, and bitterly cold at night, so you never had the right amount of clothes on. You also had to walk ”Pole Pole” (slowly, slowly) to acclimatize to the altitude, which surprisingly was tiring in itself. Even if you tried to climb up some rocks, or increase your pace, you were left gasping for breath.

We also were camping in tents for 7 days, with no facilities, and just a basin of lukewarm water for your daily ablutions. Trying to wash your hair in the open air when it is still -5 degrees outside is not the best fun ever. Suffice to say, “washey washey” time, as the locals called it, was not the most popular event in the daily routine, and I think abandoned by some judging by the state of us at the end!

Most people also were taking tablets for Malaria, and also anti-altitude pills, and Paracetomol to combat the high altitude headaches. So you can imagine that you were not feeling in tip top condition to climb almost 20,000 ft with all those pills rattling about inside you.

The summit night was, by common consent, the hardest thing any of us had done. We had a 10 hour march during the day, and then were sent to our tents for a few hours to sleep, and change into our cold weather gear. Some people had 9 layers on! At Midnight, we set off in the pitch black to climb the final 4,000 ft to the summit. As the air was so thin, it was painstakingly cold, and we shuffled up the mountain like zombies. Only Mark Boni seemed to have any energy, complaining that he wanted to “get a move on”. The -15 degree temperatures meant your water froze solid, and you felt dehydrated and sick. I developed a form of altitude sickness, which led to me toppling over on the summit ridge, narrowly avoiding a slide into the crater.

We finally got to the highest point in Africa about 8am, where we took some quick pictures, and then tried to run down as fast as possible! Your body just wants to get back to normal. However, the sense of achievement did finally sink in the next day, and what as a group we had achieved. With almost £130,000 between the group of 28 of us raised for Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centre’s, it really is a corporate challenge that has contributed to the firms support for charity and wider social responsibility, and something to be proud of. And finally, all of us taking part would like to extend a special thank you for everyone who has supported the expedition, and your generous donations.”

STV Reporter Anne Smith was part of the group attempting to make it to the summit. Anne produced a video during the 5 day climb which aired last night on STV.