Slowly slowly

Tuesday 4th October 2011 - Posted in People
By Geoff Shepherd, Founder of The Yorkshire Mafia

So, why Kilimanjaro?

Being the highest point in Africa and the highest stand-alone mountain in the world made Kilimanjaro an attraction in terms of a personal challenge. Combine that with the prospect of doing something meaningful for a charity and it was a pretty tempting mix. It’s this kind of initiative that The Guardian wrote about in reference to Geoff Major and The Yorkshire Mafia in their article Is social media changing the way we contribute to charity?

A team of 11 from The Test People, iSource Group and The Yorkshire Mafia undertook the adventure. We paid for all expenses ourselves and all funds raised will go to Candlelighters

We set off from Leeds Bradford International Airport’s swanky Yorkshire Premier Lounge, which LBIA had very kindly let us use, and it was brilliant to avoid the hustle and bustle of the airport before we boarded.

During the ascent we walked and climbed (nothing technical) through a range of weather conditions from hot sun to rain, biting cold and sleet.

Acute Mountain Sickness affected many of us and we continued to climb despite nausea, crashing headaches and breathing difficulties. But for me it was the inability to get enough oxygen into my lungs that was the most crippling and which almost stopped me from getting to the top.

We set off for the summit on midnight of day 5 and about 30 minutes later I was done for. My guide had no oxygen and he kept telling me to turn around and go back down. Now, having needlessly flaunted my unfounded bravado for months beforehand (“I don’t need to train”, “it’s just a long walk” etc) I couldn’t stand the embarrassment of returning back home eating my words. So “pole pole” (slowly slowly in Swahili) as they say on the mountain and, one foot at a time, with some very theatrical gasping for air mixed in, I managed to reach the summit. I missed the sunrise but was past caring. To be honest I was glad it was over and was dreaming of lower altitudes.

At the end of the trip I gave my boots and walking poles away, clearly signifying my enduring commitment to not scaling any other mountains.

I’m delighted to say that all of us found many a ray of sunshine along the way and some really good friendships were made.

What did I love about the trip?

The fact that although the oxygen was in short supply, people’s legs were giving way, it was -15 C, we’d been going for 5 days and we were about to set off for the summit… and everyone was smiling and determined. That’s the stuff this country was built on. Brilliant.

So what did I learn?

  • Don’t listen when people tell you that you can’t, that you shouldn’t or mustn’t. If you believe in it then get on with it and get it done. There will always be critics stood on the sidelines achieving nothing and hoping to stop you achieving your goals.
  • There’s nothing wrong with expecting good things from others. It’s entirely healthy.
  • Climbing Kilimanjaro isn’t about getting to the top, as the mountain seems to randomly choose who will or won’t make it. It’s about rising to the challenge of the whole experience and how you respond to the adversity of it.
  • KLM in-flight catering is pretty good.

We’re raised over £25000 so far. It’s not too late to donate

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The Yorkshire Mafia Blog is a collection of posts from some of Yorkshire’s leading sons and daughters.

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