Day 2 greeted us with bright blue skies and after a hearty breakfast we set on our way to Shira Hut. One of the highlights of the climb was the stunning scenery we witnessed with everyday bringing new terrain. So after conquering the rainforest on day 1 we trekked through rocks and waterfalls on day 2. We reached camp slowly but successfully and the first effects of how exhausting the daily treks could be were starting to be felt. After reaching camp we slept for a few hours before sitting down to dinner where the mood was jovial. We were upbeat, 2 days completed with minimum fuss. We went to bed feeling confident. Day 3 would see that this was short lived.
Day 5 we made another short trek to our final base, Barafu camp (4600m). We reached camp early afternoon, had lunch and were advised to rest before dinner. At midnight we would begin our final climb to the summit. I went into my tent with the intention of sleeping, but thoughts of the final climb mixed with the howling wind which rattled the tent chased any rest away. We had dinner and were given a final briefing of how the summit climb would work. We would all be given individual guides, we needed to wear all of our warm clothes and we needed to try and get some sleep before the midnight hour approached. Barafu in Swahili means ice and the camp really did live up to its name with conditions becoming bitingly cold and hail stones assaulting our tents.
At midnight we lined up, the seven of us with a guide each and slowly began our ascent in the darkness. The climb was surreal, the head torch we all wore illuminates the feet of the person before you and that is all you see, so although you climb in a group the final ascent is a lonely affair. The conditions were becoming more inhospitable with every step. The cold penetrated our gloves and numbed our fingers. After two hours the water in our camelbaks and bottles had accepted defeat and frozen. The hours of 2am to 430am were especially difficult for me. I remember being frozen to the core and trying to occupy my mind with whatever thoughts would help me escape from the conditions. In my head I kept repeating 'just keep walking'. At 5am the first wisps of sunlight could be seen on the horizon and with them my spirits lifted enormously. I knew at that point that we could not be far from the peak and as the sun rose over the mountain it was a sight that I felt privileged to have witnessed.
After a steep climb through snow we reached Stella point under clear blue skies. We started our final push to Uhuru peak during which the mountain threw its final challenge to us in the form of a blizzard. We battled through and reached the summit where we unfolded the Yash Gandhi Foundation banner and put Yash's Elmo in the memory box. The rush of emotion at reaching the summit was amplified by the knowledge that I had achieved this with my family and for a cause that was so close to all of our hearts. Kili you have been conquered!