THE BRITISH LIBRARY

In through the outfield blog

21 July 2011

Pole-pole to the roof of Africa

Kilimnanjaro 2011 - Uhuru PeakHaving tried all kinds of different training methods in preparation for my Kilimanjaro Climb, (Will falling forward get me to the top of Kilimanjaro?), the one technique I had not thought about, turned out to be the most important.

To get to the top of the highest free-standing mountain in the world you need to go really slowly, or ‘pole-pole’, to use the Swahili term.

Making forward progress at 19,341 feet or 5,895 metres above sea level, where the oxygen levels are fifty percent less than normal, requires minimum physical effort.

Our very conscientious mountain guide was always keeping an eye on our speed, our ability to cope with the conditions, and for onset of the feared acute mountain sickness or AMS.

Walking the fifty mile climb, at times as slowly as one mile an hour, gave plenty of thinking time. And my thoughts turned to the Aesop’s Fable of the Hare and the Tortoise. In the case of climbing Kilimanjaro, it is not that the tortoise arrives first, it more about arriving at all. According to one company, the success rate for those on the quick three days up climb is less than fifty percent.

In fact our five days of training to plod slowly up the mountain were so successful that one of our our party made it to the summit on automatic pilot, despite suffering from altitude hallucinations. She had to be shown a photo to prove she had actually been there, in body, if not in mind.

Knowing that generous supporters had already donated to my JustGiving page gave me the extra motivation to keep going when I felt like giving up. The page is going be up for a few more weeks if you want to make a contribution.

My reward for getting to the top was a nine day safari in northern Tanzania where I saw some wonderful sights.

Tanzania_2011_leapard

Tanzania_2011_lion

Tanzania_2011_hippo

Tanzania_2011_sunset

More photos on Flick.com and videos on YouTube.com.

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