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Our journey up Mount Kilimanjaro !

August 12th, 2012 by Laith Haboubi

Although I am no stranger to hiking/climbing challenges, the fact that this attempt at summiting Mt Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak and one of the 'big 7' (i.e the highest points on each of the 7 continents), was going to be made along with my 2 children, Emily (17) and Alex (13) added a whole new dimension.

Emily and Alex understood the seriousness of the challenge and we had all trained hard for the climb over the past few months. Although difficult to simulate some of the conditions we were to encounter on Mt Kilmanjaro, we did stair climbs in hotels and ran frequently. We also tested our fitness levels and equipment by hiking up and down Dubai's famous 'skiDubai' indoor ski slope which is chilled to -4 degrees C.

Upon arriving in Arusha, Tanzaniya, and after eventually having our clothes and equipment delivered, we met our guides and porters along with our team-mate Dr George Hecht from New York.

With our 15 strong support team, we started our ascent using the North Eastern Rongai route on 15th July and with near perfect conditions arrived after dark at our 1st camp at 2,650m above sea level. Each subsequent day, we increased our vertical hight by several hundred metres, significantly noticing the cold, the strong levels of UV from the sun and the reaction of our bodies to less oxygen. 

By day 5, we reached our base camp at the old shool huts and were already feeling the effects of the altitude at 4,850m. We were all suffering slightly in different ways, Alex with a suspected tummy bug and Emily and myself with recurring headaches, but felt positive about the final push to the top.

We set out at 12.45 a.m on 20th July and reached Gilmans point, the 1st point on the top of the Kibu crater at around 8am. It had been an exhausting climb and we had passed a number of climbers who were unsuccesfuly returning back to base camp. The effects of the altitude had kicked in at about 5,000m and both Alex and I felt the effects considerably, in particular as we had opted not to take the Diamox tablets which we had with us. Our water supplies including camelbacks had all frozen during the climb, as the temperature, with the effects of wind-chill had plummeted to -20 deg C.

After a short break, we continued to Stella point, where Alex was forced to turn back with one of the guides as he had fatigue and had started to blackout (still, no mean feat for a 13 year old to have climbed to 5,752m). Emily and I continued on with chief guide, Harold's encouragment and summited at Uhuru peak (5,895m) at around 11.am The feeling of elation at the top of the glacier was indescribable, and we were lucky to have the summit to ourselves. This gave us the opportunity to take a few photo's and catch our breath for a while. This was needed as we still had a 4 hour descent through steep and treacherous rock scree before we could next take a break.. this would then be followed by an 11 km hike to our camp for the night (and importantly, a drop of 2,000 metres from the summit) which was to be then followed the next by a 21 km hike to get back to the Kilimanjaro National park exit gates.

The encouragment and support we have had from friends and family has been tremendous. We were proud to have completed the challenge under the 'Walk for Iraq' banner and managed to raise a substantial amount of money to support this important UK based charity which funds empowerment projects for widows and orphans in Iraq. 


Laith Haboubi

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