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Summiting ‘the Roof of Africa’

Over the summer a group of LSE students took part in Raising and Giving’s (RAG) trip (partnered with Choose a Challenge) to trek Mount Kilimanjaro in order to raise money for Hope for Children. RAG’s fundraising challenges for charities this year include reaching Everest Base Camp, cycling from London to Paris, and trekking Kilimanjaro and many other adventures. Current LSE student Polina Andreeva explains what it’s like to take part.

Imagine pushing your body and mind beyond anything that you had previously thought you were capable of – placing one leg in front of the other, until finally reaching Uhuru peak of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, at a height of 5895 metres. At the top you’re overlooking an ocean of clouds, the ashy terrain of Mount Kilimanjaro surrounded by massive glaciers, and as you stand there you’re overwhelmed with feelings of awe, relief and sheer pride.

This is what a group of 21 LSE and UCL students, including myself, experienced by deciding to take on the challenge to raise money for the charity Hope for Children by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. The entire 2018/2019 academic year we raised money for the charity to achieve our respective fundraising goals, and then on 29 August we embarked upon our adventure down Mount Kilimanjaro’s Machame route.

The Machame route is a 6 to 7 day trek, which we completed in 6 days. Throughout these 6 days we were supported by local porters who guided us, helped us with our bags and tents, made sure we were eating enough, and ensured that we were acclimatising to the altitude – which was probably the biggest challenge for most people. The route weaves through various climates and terrains, from jungles, to low and high alpine zones, and finally the glacial zone. It was fascinating to see the habitat around you change as the altitude got higher, and the temperatures drop.

We’d usually wake up at 6am, and were fed with a hearty breakfast to prepare us for the long day of trekking. Throughout the day we had regular breaks to adjust to the altitude. Upon reaching camp, dinner was always delicious.

Breathing became more difficult on day 3 as we approached Lava Tower, at around 4,600 metres high. However, this was nothing that couldn’t be managed by simply slowing down your pace and focusing on each breath. Music helped a lot to focus on your own body, and your movement up the mountain.

On ‘summit day’ we were woken up at 11pm, yes 11pm – the time that most of us are still out at Tuns in London, and we started ascending towards Stella Point and Uhuru Peak at 12am. This was both mentally and physically draining, as the ascent took around 8 hours, the altitude made it difficult to breathe, and the 2 hours of sleep did little to energise us. However, during that time the sun rose above Tanzania, leaving us in awe. When we finally reached Uhuru peak the views were indescribable – the glaciers, the clouds, and the sky – something that you will hopefully one day see for yourselves.

Descending was one of the most relieving things that I have ever done – feeling the oxygen enter my body, was a feeling I had missed on the peak. But don’t let the difficulty of the ascent put you off this challenge. This trek and experience, with a group of incredible, like-minded people is something I hope everyone one day will experience and I am not only speaking for myself. For Kara Jessup, a first year at LSE, “Kilimanjaro was an incredible experience! We got to push ourselves mentally and meet really funny people in a beautiful setting. I highly recommend it.” Likewise, Calum Naish, a recently graduated Masters student, also had an incredible experience: “I absolutely loved it!!!!!! It was amazing, particularly getting to meet a bunch of amazing people from LSE, other universities and from Tanzania. The hardest bit was the lack of sleep! I definitely recommend it but remember to bring extra layers as it was much colder than I expected!” 

This is a challenge for everyone, just remember to come prepared!

Ultimately, this is an unforgettable challenge that is undoubtedly worth doing during your time at university. If you long for adventure – trekking Kilimanjaro is the way to go, but you need to remember to muster the mental strength and willpower to push through the cold, the exhaustion and the altitude. I will forever remember the feeling of pride and unity which I had both for myself and the group when we summited Uhuru Peak at around 9 am on September 3, 2019.

Interested in getting involved in upcoming RAG challenges such as trekking Kilimanjaro? Check out LSESU RAG on Facebook and @lsesu_rag on Instagram, and come along to our upcoming challenges info sessions!

Written by Polina Andreeva

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