Swimming Soc Conquers Kilimanjaro

This summer the Royal Holloway Swimming Club took to the sky, flying all the way out to Africa to take on the challenge of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro.

The dormant volcano in Tanzania reaches a staggering height of 5895m, as the highest mountain in Africa it has become a popular climb since it was first ascended in 1889. Kilimanjaro is the world’s highest free standing mountain, to climb it is physically and mentally gruelling, it really is an incredible feat.

I spoke with Swimming Club President, Isaac Kenyon about their incredible achievement, the journey they made and how it felt to reach the highest peak of Kilimanjaro.

“In September, we just decided off the beat, lets do something as a club. We worked with Challenges Abroad and the FutureSense Foundation. There were 10 of us that did it, we raised £1,350 for the trek and then each of us raised £1,800 for the charity.”

Fundraising is never an easy task, the swimming society gathered their funds through various cake sales, a pub quiz, a car wash, they sold water on SU nights and accepted donations, of which there were around 750 donors.

“We also had sponsorship from family companies, the Monkeys Forehead and I received a travel grant from the city of London and Royal Holloway.”

There was a lot of training involved leading up to the climb however that in itself was an achievement as the climbers completed the 3 Peak Challenge. This challenge involved climbing the three largest mountains in the UK – Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis in 24 hours. The society had undertaken the challenge last year completing it in 22 hours, this year the climb itself was on time, but the driving took the total time up to 25 hours. We’ve all experienced the exhaustion of walking up the Egham hill, particularly when laden with shopping bags, but as part of their training the swimming soc found themselves running up the hill as well as focusing on swimming to increase and maintain good lung capacity.

For the actual climb, “We headed to Moshi in Kilimanjaro, where we stayed for 3 nights. We took some time to rest before the trek, visiting hot springs and waterfalls. Then, the trek. We took the Machame route, which was the fastest and steepest route. It took us 5 days to reach the summit, and we got back down on the 6th day.”

The Nyange Adventures company sent from the FutureSense Foundation was led by Davis Nyange who provided them with 38 porters who would carry tents, duffle bags and equipment allowing our climbers to trek with their day packs. On day 1 the group drove to 1800m elevation and climbed until 2900m, day two they climbed to 3800m and then climbed an extra 500m up and back down to give their bodies a chance to acclimatize. Day 3 saw them reach 4600m, then head back down to 3900m where they baked a cake for climber Jessica McKenna’s birthday.By day 4 altitude sickness was beginning to affect members of the group, they reached 4600m and, on only 4 hours sleep, they left for the summit at 1am.

On the 5th day, the members of the Royal Holloway Swimming Society finally reached the Uhuru Peak, the highest part of the crater. Engulfed by a mixture of exhaustion and adrenaline the team celebrated with champagne and took in the breathtaking view.

“It really pushes your limits, overcoming altitude sickness alone is a huge challenge. The week before our climb somebody actually died with our leaders, we’ve achieved this for all of those who helped to get us there -it was very much a team effort. There was such a build up and then you kind of explode at the top. And coming down, it’s like a comedown.”

The whole team; Clare Mack, Nicholas Day, Ben Ajayi-Obe, Elle Kershaw Jervis, Jessica McKenna, Luke Dunlea, Sophia Monrose, Issac Kenyon, Zak Derler and Callum Holmes who took on one of the biggest challenges of a lifetime and managed to raise a staggering £20,000 for the FutureSense Foundation.