Last October, our friend, CAFOD supporter and parish priest at St Joseph’s in Basingstoke, Fr Mark Hogan successfully climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in aid of CAFOD. He raised an incredible £2,600 for CAFOD and Camrose Centre.
We wrote about his preparation for the big climb here. You can read all about his challenging ascent up the tallest mountain in Africa and what kept him going below:
“Within twenty-four hours of reaching Tanzania we were beginning our climb up to the top of Africa. Within two minutes of starting our stroll up Mount Kilimanjaro, we had met two unfortunates who had been forced to come back down due to the effects of altitude sickness. An hour later, another very athletic looking but slightly pale, blond-haired man was being accompanied towards the exit. ‘This is the escape route’ our guide, Daniel, informed us. ‘That was Robbie Savage’, one of our party revealed. ‘Even super-fit premier league footballers are not guaranteed to make it all the way’ was the message that we all picked up, loud and clear.
“There were six of us who had paid to climb this mountain, each of us hoping to go higher than we had ever been before (aircraft excluded). We were accompanied by 19 porters, three guides and one chef. That in itself was something quite humbling and we soon realised how these porters would set off after us in the morning, having cleared the camp, but still manage to march past us in order to arrive, pitch the tents and welcome us ‘home’ to the new camp at the end of each day’s walk. Many before me have commented how these are the true heroes of Kilimanjaro.
“It took us four days of steady trekking to reach the Kibo Huts. From here we would make our final push for the summit, still some 1,145m above us. The walking had been good so far, with stunningly beautiful views back across dozens of miles of Kenya or Tanzania below, depending on which way we looked. Uhuru Peak had been our main focus, though, for most of this time, and we had seen glimpses of the shrinking glaciers glistening in the sun. The altitude had begun to take its toll on most of us, with headaches, nausea and drowsiness the main symptoms. These were common, our head guide reassured us, but we must let him know if any became more severe.
“Mountains are biblical code for meeting points with the divine. There is a sense of power and majesty here as we ascend towards the heavens. Up to this point I had been able to celebrate three masses on the mountain slopes: for the parish back home and for friends and family; for those who were confirmed by the bishop whilst I was away; finally for our group that we would reach our destiny. It was the rosary which kept me going after we had set off at midnight. Despite the early bed-time, I had been unable to sleep and I was exhausted. Each step up the zig-zag scree path marked out another line of the Hail Mary, whilst each pause to re-group had me nodding off in standing position, supported by my walking poles.
“As we went higher and higher, it became colder and colder and the liquid in our camel-backs began to freeze. At last, after about six hours of this torchlight procession, someone pointed out a flag! Another 20 minutes later, just before sun-rise, we had reached the rim and were able to collapse look back down at the red-tinged mountain below. Most of us welled up with emotion. After months of planning and anticipation, of anxiety and hope, we had reached the crater. Each of us had our own reasons, perhaps a sense of personal accomplishment but often accompanied by fund-raising for some cause or another, dear to our hearts. Another hour of trekking remained to reach the real summit and so off we plodded, with feet and brain barely able to communicate with each other. Again, we were overwhelmed with emotion and, for me, most of this was thanksgiving: that we had all made it safely to the top.
“It took several hours before we reached Kibo Huts again. My head was throbbing and I just needed to rest and lie down for a while. After lunch we set off again and, within an hour or two, as the air became less thin, it was possible to feel alive once more and start to take in the achievement. What had taken four and a half days to climb, took us a mere one and half days to descend. It had been an incredible six days, and a real team effort. The final beer with the whole group, porters and all, on our way back to the hotel, was probably the best I have ever tasted. The bed was certainly the most comfortable. Blessings that I take for granted back home had come alive in my consciousness once more. Thank you, Lord.”
If you would like to donate to Fr Mark’s Just Giving page click here.