Recently, I had the pleasure of reaching out to Caitlin Faulds and Ben Walden, two of our students who are braving the tough trek to the summit of Kilimanjaro. Climbing the tallest freestanding mountain in the world is no easy feat, however with around 40,000 rising to the challenge every year, there must be something extraordinary about this natural wonder! Raising money for Worldwide Cancer Research, Caitlin and Ben are searching for a team of 40 students bold enough to sign up for what will most definitely be the trip of a lifetime and not one to miss out on! Below, Caitlin and Ben give great insight and detail on what to look forward to when partaking in such a thrilling and adventurous experience, from the breathtaking views of the East African plains to the real thrill of the team trek to the summit, this expedition is most definitely invaluable and will make for the most incredible memories!
Caitlin: We’re doing the trek to raise money for Worldwide Cancer Research. They are a great, far-reaching charity that is actually based right here in St Andrews on South Street, which not many people know. They work with a non-profit tour company, Choose A Challenge, that runs charity treks all over the world. We were also given the options of Machu Picchu, the Great Wall of China, Everest Base Camp, the Moroccan Atlas Mountains, and Kilimanjaro. I have always wanted to go to that part of Africa and, like Ben, we thought Kilimanjaro would be the right amount of adventure, challenge, exploration, and fun for the whole group.
Ben: Cancer affects one in three people at some stage in their life, and without research we’re condemning future generations to today’s treatments. Worldwide Cancer Research funds a huge selection of promising research into any and every type of cancer, chosen by a panel of experts in the field. We think it’s a truly worthwhile cause, which is why we’re supporting it.
Caitlin: Currently they are funding over 150 projects in 36 countries. And these are some pretty amazing projects, from tracking down the genes that cause brain tumours to finding ways to use shark antibodies to treat breast cancer. But there is still plenty more research to be done. So by the end of the year, we hope to fundraise over £60,000 to help fund a new research project and help in the long process of curing cancer.
Ben: We’ll start the hike at the Machame gate, set deep in the cloud forest that surrounds Kilimanjaro, making our way up the ridge to the Shira Plateau to the base of the famous Baranco Wall over the first three days. Then we’ll slowly wind our way up the wall to Stella Point, before finally working our way to Uhuru Point, the ‘roof of Africa’. We’re taking the route that will give us the best variety of views and terrain, while still achievable. We’ll reach the summit early on the fifth day of the trek, halfway through our longest day of walking. It’s all downhill from there.
Caitlin: The Machame Route is also one of the more forgiving routes in terms of altitude acclimatisation. We’ll be able to use a method called ‘climb high, sleep low’ where we hike higher than our campsite, then return to a lower elevation to sleep. This should help us get used to the high elevations without getting altitude sickness.
Ben: The hike itself is going to be tough – six to seven days of solid walking, with altitude taking its toll. That being said, the mountain itself is known for its moderate difficulty, and we’ve spaced the days to give us a little more time to the peak. We’ll be training the whole team up over the spring term, with cardio and light weights to get you in shape for the mountain. Robert Wheeler scaled the peak in 2014, aged 85, so we’ll get you to the top safe and sound!
Caitlin: We’ll also try to make sure everyone has at least a little bit of hiking experience. So we’ll be leading some great team walks and runs around St Andrews, down the Coastal Path, and hopefully doing some excursions into the highlands. It is a totally doable mountain, and we’ve got a good nine months to prepare, so any beginners out there should not be put off by the physical challenge!
Ben: Caitlin and I are both big hikers, but what I’m most looking forward to is to sitting in the crisp morning on Stella point, and watching a sun rise over a continent. Personally, I’m a little scared about the altitude! There’s nothing we can do to predict how well you’ll cope, and altitude sickness can take you out for a day or so!
Caitlin: We will be heading out on 1st July next summer. Hopefully we will have a great team of 40 St Andrews students with us at the summit – that’s the goal!
Ben: As one of the most stable countries in central Africa, Tanzania provides an opportunity to see a unique landscape and culture, first-hand. From the huge wildlife reserves to the west, to iridescent Zanzibar and its rich history on the Indian ocean, the country provides a melting point of people, religion and and geography. Not something you should miss!
Caitlin: Agreed. Gorgeous beaches, the Serengeti Plain, the Great Rift Valley, and the world’s second largest lake. And it’s got amazing diversity in wildlife and culture. The trip should be great!
If you are interested in looking further into the expedition, Caitlin and Ben were kind enough to pass on some links to some extremely useful sites, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with either of them!
Our Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1658092551102742/
The Charity: http://www.worldwidecancerresearch.org/
Research Projects: http://www.worldwidecancerresearch.org/research/projects
Trekking Guides: http://www.chooseachallenge.com/trek-kilimanjaro/
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