Student Blog: Climbing Kilimanjaro

Mt KiliBy Jess Freedman (Second Year Maths and Stats student)

"In October 2013 I attended a presentation by Student Adventures and Meningitis Research Foundation (MRF) representatives, held in Brasenose, after seeing a poster promoting a trip to climb Mt Kilimanjaro – the world’s tallest freestanding mountain. I loved the idea, but during the meeting the full extent of the hard work and the commitment this trip would entail began to set in. Regardless, Beatrice McGuire (Second Year Historian at Brasenose) and I signed up.

Throughout the year we organised a charity raffle; beverage sales at Summers VIIIs, the rowing event; a pub quiz; a charity formal hall and much more. Between the two of us we raised just under £6000 for MRF. However, we still had to raise funds for the actual trip. Brasenose has a number of a travel funds that both undergraduates and graduates can apply for, and after christmas we applied for Michael Woods Travel Grant, and we received a contribution to the cost of the flights to Tanzania and some of the equipment we would need.

We took full advantage of our first trip to Tanzania. The trek up and down the mountain was predicted to take 6 days, and so we planned a 2-day safari and 4 nights in Zanzibar for an amazing week in Tanzania, post-mountain. The trek itself was a whirlwind of highs and lows; breath-taking views and inescapable fog; euphoria and pain. I found that climbing Kilimanjaro was like walking from the equator to the North Pole in a week. It was such a surreal experience. There were dramatic changes in vegetation and animal life day by day. Its high altitudes, the peak is at 5895m, have created habitat for strange and unique life forms found only on a few other peaks on the planet, such as the delicate elephant flower and the bizarre Kilimanjaro tree.

On the morning of the 5th day of the trek, we were woken at 2am for breakfast and then began trekking just before 3am to attempt the summit. The line of blurry shapes and head-torches winded its way up the mountain in the dark. Around 6am the sun rose over the clouds. The clarity, the colours, the warmth, the sun pulled everyone’s moods up as it rose higher and higher. Briefly. This is when the altitude sickness really began to affect me with headaches, vomiting, nausea and shortness of breath. The rest of the climb was a blur until that magical moment when the wooden sign of Stella Point (5756m) and we knew we only had 200m more to go. We reached Uhuru Peak around 11am. It was one of the best achievements of my life.

The Safari was a completely new experience for me and I was absolutely amazed by how many animals we saw: Elephants, Giraffes, Buffalo, Rhino, Wilder beasts, Zebras, and so much more. Gerry, the local who was driving our jeep, explained the dynamics between the animals and the food chain as well as the relationship between the animals and local Masaii tribes. Zanzibar was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. It was the perfect way to end the trip – relaxing on the beach! We are so grateful that college helped us facilitate our trip."

Jess has just been elected as the JCR Access and Admissions Representative, and will be helping the College in its mission to attract and support the very best undergraduate applicants, regardless of background.

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