Conquering Kilimanjaro For Cystic Fibrosis - Part 2
For most people, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro - the world's tallest free-standing mountain at 5,895 metres above sea level - would be a once in a lifetime experience. For Meg Draffin and Nath Roye, it was an opportunity they never imagined would come across their table. Meg, who suffers from the genetic condition Cystic Fibrosis (CF), never thought as a child such a feat was something her body would allow her to do. However, dedication to her treatment, exercise and medication, and a positive can-do attitude, allows her to live life to the fullest. And with that, she set herself the goal of becoming the first Australian with CF to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Meg and Nath were also motivated to do the climb as a charity fundraiser for the CF Clinic at the Children's Hospital at Westmead, and together they raised almost $55,000.
Gearing Up For Kilimanjaro
Preparing yourself to reach the top requires more than just training your body - you need to be mentally ready and have all the right gear. Thankfully Mountain Designs, who caught wind of our adventure, decided to come on board for the cause by not only providing all the essential equipment and apparel needed to get to the top, but also by making an incredibly generous donation of $2,500 to the CF Clinic. Nath, who is a radio broadcaster in Hobart, Tasmania on HIT100.9, found this news out live on air when professional mountaineer and Mountain Designs ambassador Alyssa Azar decided to surprise him! Nath could not hold back his emotion having been caught so off guard.
The climb that we had chosen - the Machame Route - would take seven days to complete. It is one of the longest and most popular routes to the summit, which gives your body the best chance to acclimatise but also means you experience five different climates. To prepare for these varying environments, you need to pack the right apparel and equipment for each part of the mountain.
All smiles as Meg and Nath embark on the epic expedition to the top of Africa.
Day 1: Machame Gate - Machame Camp
Elevation: 3,021m above sea level
Hiking Distance: 10.9km
Time Taken: 6hrs
After resting at the hotel before an early wakeup, the day finally came for us to set off for the summit. Climate one is a dense rainforest with thick vegetation, and includes a winding trail up a ridge. Because of this, it is important that footwear is durable with plenty of grip, so it can withstand muddy and slippery surfaces that cover the entirety of the first leg. Nath's Merrell Moab 2 hiking boots provided the support and comfort needed for the terrain on the mountain, particularly for this first leg where the rainforest traps the damp Tanzanian heat in the air. The boots are breathable and not to mention lightweight, which made the back end of each trek that much more bearable.
A dense rainforest with thick vegetation provided the backdrop for most of day one.
Day 2: Machame Camp - Shira Camp
Elevation: 3,839m above sea level
Hiking Distance: 5km
Time Taken: 5hrs
Day two, although shorter in distance, was not any easier. The day started with an ascending path through a low alpine zone, characterised by moorlands and grasslands. With the altitude slowly draining your body, you have to work harder, which means you're losing much more water. Mountain Designs had provided both of us with a Flip 1000 water bottle which kept our water cold and secure on the rough inclines of the walk. The bottle is lightweight and isn't a burden to carry. At this part of the trek, we moved out of the forest into a dusty, steep landscape. The dust wasn't ideal for Meg's lungs, which are already working 10 times harder trying to ensure enough oxygen flows through her body. Appropriate rest stops and frequent hydration were key here as there was still a long way to go. The views from day two were stellar, although as the vegetation became more and more scarce, the temperature dropped rapidly.
The incredible scenery along the way more than made up for the tough physical effort required.
Day 3: Shira Camp - Barranco Camp
Elevation: 3,986m above sea level
Hiking Distance: 10km
Time Taken: 8hrs
Day three was easily the hardest day by far and would prove to be the hardest of the trek both mentally and physically. We departed early in the morning led by our guide through a dry and boulder-stricken path, towards the western slopes of the Kibo Peak. As we headed towards Lava Tower (also known as Sharks Tooth), it became increasingly difficult with few places to rest and the dusty landscape putting strain on our bodies and lungs. The lightweight Escape Multi 30L day packs provided comfort and practicality for smooth travel, with each compartment being conveniently accessible. Facing rain, sleet, hail and wind, the pack had to be durable and robust enough to protect our gear.
Nath on top of the world…almost!
Day 4 & 5: Barranco Camp - Karanga Camp - Kosovo Camp
Elevation: 4,876m above sea level
Hiking Distance: 6.7km
Time Taken: 11hrs
Today's trek was the most intimidating of the adventure so far. As the sun rose, a huge shadow was cast by the Barranco Wall, which from a distance stares at you with all its steep and jagged glory. With serious guidance from the porters this part of the climb required balance and rock-climbing abilities to ensure we got to the top of some pretty sketchy patches. With the fog beginning to cover the camp we had just left and everything below our path, we weren't sure if this made it comforting not seeing the potential fall or worse that everything was vanishing. After camp in Karanga, it was clear we were entering the arctic zone of the climb, which meant temperatures were dropping dramatically and Meg and I were facing various amounts of wind, sleet and rain on a rotation! Fortunately we had our Cumulus GORE-TEX® rain jackets to protect us from the mountain's conditions.
Day 6 & 7: Kosovo - Summit - Mweka Camp - Base
Elevation: 5,895m above sea level
Hiking Distance: a lot…
Time Taken: 18hrs
Today was the day, or rather tonight was the night, as we woke up at 11pm to begin the summit and the final leg to the roof of Africa. To ensure we were ready for summit night and the harsh conditions that lay ahead, we put on every layer we had, starting with the Merino Blend long sleeve top and bottom thermals followed by our Mountain Designs jackets, pants and outer layers. This part of the climb is considered the steepest as you ascend to Stella Peak to watch the sunrise and then on to Uhuru Peak for a successful summit. A series of ridges and switchbacks lead us right through multiple glaciers such as the Rebmann Glacier, meaning temperatures plummeted to below -20°C.
Nath and I were told that to make it to Stellar Peak for sunrise, we would have to keep a pace that would not match the ability of the group. As getting to the top was the objective, we accepted the fact we wouldn't make it in time. However, because everyone pushed their bodies more than ever, one hour before the peak the guide informed us that we were now going to make it - we would be able to watch the Tanzanian sunrise at the top, which is one of the most beautiful and inspiring sunrises you could ever see. We just needed to tackle the remaining hour - and steep ascent - of the mountain's crater to make summit. Slowly but surely, putting one foot in front of the other, the finish approached and would be something we will never forget. It seemed to happen in slow motion, but at the same time it all seemed to be over too fast. Leading the way as I had tried to do for the last seven days, I touched the sign and became the first Australian with Cystic Fibrosis to summit Mount Kilimanjaro. It is safe to say there wasn't a dry eye on the mountain!
The incredible Tanzanian sunrise - moments after summiting - provided an awesome end to an awesome effort by the pair.
The climb was easily one of the most incredible feats both Nath and I have ever achieved. Although at times it almost beat us, the incredible support from people back home, and the team at Mountain Designs, helped get us to the top!
All images supplied by Meg Draffin & Nathan Roye.
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