Doha College's Ms Gomaa conquers Kilimanjaro
We are all climbing our own mountains at the moment, some as individuals and some as a community. Unwavering in spirit, Ms Gomaa, Head of Music at Doha College, conquered one of the most enthralling mountaineering challenges out there. On the first day of 2022, she got to watch the sunrise from the world’s tallest free-standing mountain. She did this in support of the Marie Curie charity (link at the end). Let her journey inspire us in taking on our own challenges.
At midnight on 31st January, Day 6, we counted down to the New Year and began our trek from an icy Barafu Base Camp at 4,673m, towards the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. With eight layers of clothing - four base layers and four jackets on my top half, three on my legs, two pairs of gloves, handwarmers, two pairs of socks, footwarmers, a merino beanie, balaclava, buff, neck gaiter, woollen hat, heat patches and backpack (yes, I looked like the Michelin Man!) - we climbed upwards in the pitch black. Stars lit up the sky, but no moon to be found. It was a special moment, in the silence of this freezing night, as I looked up at the row of headlamps twinkling in switch-back motion up the steep ascent.
After roughly two hours, at around 4,850m, I started getting strange pains in my stomach, as did my guide, which gave way to feeling utterly frozen. I saw a healthy, fit man being carried down, arm-in-arm by two porters. He looked out of it, which was a little unsettling. After 5,000m, the cold really got to me - luckily, we had a spare down jacket in one of the bags...the ninth layer! Why did I choose to do this in winter, when I live in the desert?! At the expected six-hour mark, we reached Stella Point (5,756m) and the sun began to rise. This earns you a certificate but isn't quite Uhuru Peak. That was the toughest part. Nearly 6,000m up you have 50% less oxygen and every step leaves you gasping.
One lady reached Stella Point and a man called out to her, 'just another hour to go!' - she broke down in tears... there were people struggling everywhere, sitting in the snow or leaning on their poles as the altitude got to them. We were lucky and just kept going 'pole, pole' - slowly, slowly in Swahili... it felt like an eternity, but we made it! 7 hours 25 minutes after leaving Barafu, we were at Uhuru Peak, 5,895m, 1st January 2022 - The Roof of Africa and world's tallest free-standing mountain. We had a hug and shed a little tear out of sheer exhaustion. Six days of climbing for ten-minutes at the summit, three and half hours back down, one hour of sleep at Base Camp and a four-and-a-half-hour hike to Mweka Camp (3,100m) for a safer altitude.
Around sixteen hours of hiking that day - my knees were burning. I can't say I enjoyed that particular day, but once rested we definitely felt a sense of achievement. The next morning, we woke up at 5am totally refreshed and pretty much jogged the three-hour descent to Mweka Gate, getting there in two and half - probably buzzing from the adrenaline! We were the first people down off the mountain that day, picked up our certificates and Kili was in the bag! Hakuna matata! Those who have done it will know how amazing it feels to spend a week like that out in stunning nature, no phones, with difficult challenges each day and teamwork. We had such a laugh. I'll never forget it. Asanti sana to all who contributed to Marie Curie, you really helped to spur us on!
There is still time if you would like to donate. Read more about the charity, the reason why Ms Gomaa chose it, and show your appreciation of her efforts by donating here: justgiving.com/fundraising/Steph-Gomaa