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Paul's Latest Blog - On Top of the World

iCAN experiences founder Paul Nicol embarks on his own personal blog, taking the readers on his journey from diagnosis of a sight losing disease through to the present day as he makes iCAN experiences a success in the midst of tough economic times.

Good morning to you all. This week I am going to write about the final slog of my journey up Mount Kilimanjaro.

We are now on Day 5 and trekking up to Kibo camp which is base camp for our Summit 
attempt. Kibo camp is 4700 meters above sea level, so the air was incredibly thin, making altitude sickness a real danger for everyone.

The climb up to Kibo camp was across a glorious desert style land, flat, vast open areas of fine dirt, stone and shale. the terrain was like heaven to me, having been pretty much hooked single file behind Ulrmi (Pronounced Yu Lumi) for the duration of the climb, I was able to walk side by side and walk at a normal pace, stretching my legs and in fact making quite a good pace. In all, we walked for about 5 hours arriving at Kibo camp at around 14:00.

When we arrived at Kibo, once again, the porters had already put the tents up and we were able to unpack. The plan was to have a short walk in the late afternoon before dinner, as it happens, I was suffering from a Nose bleed that just didn't want to stop! I had a little headache that was not shifting even with Nurofen, so I decided to remain in my tent whilst the rest of the team went for a walk.

There had been mention of a hut that sold Mars bars at Kibo camp. For obvious reasons, I was a little sceptical as to whether or not this was true or someone’s idea of a joke! Unbelievably, there really was, a hut selling Snickers, Mars bars and other such goodies. Needless to say, having not had the benefit of such goodies for many days, we all indulged!

Wwe ate dinner, had a briefing and it was off to bed at 19:00. We had to be up at 22:00 to be ready to leave at 23:00.

I'm not sure how much sleep I actually got, but I can tell you that at 4700m above sea level at 22:00 at night, it is very, very, COLD! I like most did not want to get out of my sleeping bag! I wrapped myself up in my Thick Thermal base layer, and multiple other layers, topped off with a thick warm summit coat.

Everyone had their head torches lighting the way ahead, but as I couldn't see anything anyway, Ulrmi had a head torch and I didn't bother. Our water bottles were tucked into our Jackets to keep them from Freezing and then at 23:00 we set off to summit the tallest free standing mountain in the world!

As I said, Kibo camp is at 4700m, the peak of Kilimanjaro is at 5895m, so as you can imagine, it was a big slog to get up to the summit! The journey up the mountain as up a very steep shale ascent, we had to zig zag our way up the mountain side, due to it being so cold, the ground under foot was hard, which made it easier than had it been soft unfrozen shale! A couple of times on my way up the mountain, I felt that I was not going to make it. I had to give myself some serious talking to, reminding myself that everyone would be feeling the same. I did stop and take a seat at one point, I had some energy gels, water and really didn't want to get up. The walk leader however told me that I couldn't rest any longer, it was so cold that I either had to keep moving upwards or go back down. I had no choice, onwards and upwards!

For the last hour or so as we were climbing to a point called Gilman’s point, the terrain became big boulders, this was a welcome change in the terrain, it meant that I was using different muscles in my legs and it was also more technical giving my mind something to focus on!

There was one point on this terrain that I did lose my balance and I mean really lost my balance, I fell, both feet off the floor and falling! Luckily, there was a porter (Martin) behind me and he actually caught me and stopped me from falling down the mountain! Martin I am sure saved me from getting quite badly injured and it still beggars belief that he was able to take 11.5 stone of man and baggage without falling himself! I had a lot to thank Martin for, needless to say, he was tipped generously at the end of the trip! The slip had actually given me an adrenalin rush and much needed boost to get to Gilman’s point!

I had said to myself on the way up the mountain that I would get to Gilman’s Point (5695m) and then that would be it, I would go back down! However, when we got to Gilman’s point, we had a quick cup of tea, I like others shed some tears of joy at having made it that far and before I knew it, Ulrmi was leading me off to Uhuru Peak, the very top of Mount Kilimanjaro at 5895m!

Unbelievably, I made it to Uhuru Peak before anyone else in the group, I think this was a generous gesture by the rest of the team and the guides, but it felt amazing when we got there at 07:30 in the morning! I was clearly unable to see the surrounding area, but what I can tell you is that there was snow all around and by all accounts that is what you get to see for miles around! The view beyond that is indescribable, looking out across Africa, there were no clouds and beautiful sunshine! Whilst I was unable to take in the view, I was able to take in the atmosphere. I once again shed tears of joy having made it, an incredible sense of achievement, a sense of pride and a longing to give my wife and daughter a big hug and a kiss! Needless to say, within the group there were many hugs and an overwhelming sense of exhilaration from everyone! We had about 20 minutes to Basque in our glory, take photos, get some food in and then it was back to Gilman’s point and down the mountain!

We got back to Kibo camp for lunch and everyone was feeling thoroughly tired, there was not a lot of enthusiasm at the prospect of doing some more walking, but there was no choice, we had to continue on down the mountain!

Now, if you can try and imagine how tired you'd be having walked for 12 hours, on 3 hours sleep, I have to mention our Doctor, Roger Schofield. A member of the team had contracted Pneumonia whilst climbing. Dr Rog had to run, yes, RUN, down the mountain to the emergency gate whilst some porters pushed the ill man down on a one wheel stretcher! Now Dr Rog admits that he is no runner and I take my hat off to the man! I don't think there is any way on earth that I could have done what he did, run some 13 miles in hiking boots having just walked for some 12 hours!

The way down was trouble free and we all made it with only the odd blister! Unsure what the hotel was going to be like for our night of partying, it was an incredible surprise! The rooms were massive, the beds were massive and comfortable and the showers were spot on! Oh the food was also excellent as was the alcohol! We all partied well into the night and then passed out to get the best night’s sleep I had had for a week!

It's strange, throughout the climb, despite restless nights and walking every day, I had felt surprisingly un-achy, I had expected to feel knackered by day 2 or 3 and in fact I didn't feel too bad at all. However, one good night’s sleep on a full stomach and the following day all the aches and pains seen to come to the surface. I think throughout the journey my body had remained tense without much opportunity to relax, both physically and mentally. At the end, knowing it was over, I was able to relax and so my body did to and so I began to ache!

I have to say, it was an EPIC challenge, physically, mentally and emotionally. I found a sense of confidence and independence that I never knew I would, I had achieved something that many could not and I hope that in some small way I can be an inspiration to you, my readers. Most of all, I have I hope given my wife and daughter something that they can be proud of!

If you want to read my blog that covers my training and prep for the journey, please go and visit http://paulsepicclimb.blogspot.com.

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All the Best,

Paul
Founder - iCAN experiences
Where possibility can become reality!