Arrived in Africa.
Driving South to Arusha, Mount Kilimanjaro loomed into view. Proud and snow capped Mount Kilimanjaro is instantly recognisable dwarfing the 14,000 feet Mount Meru.
I will be on expedition with Donnie Campbell – a former marine commando and the current Scottish 100km champion. Basti Haag one of the worlds leading speed climbers and videographers will join us for speed ascents of Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Kenya.
We acclimatised on Kilimanjaro for a few days before retreating back to the park gate at 1,610 metres. Kilimanjaro is the largest free standing mountain on earth so ascending this way gives you more ascent in metres than climbing Everest from base camp.
Mount Kilimanjaro is large enough to have five distinct zones – rainforest, cloud forest , moorland, desert and glacier. We started low in the forest early in the morning where the air is relatively thick and running easy enough. By the time we had entered the desert zone at 4,300 metres, we were all huffing and puffing and moving more slowly. Over 5,000 metres we caught up with a few climbers who had started at top camp who clearly thought we were madmen dressed in shorts while everyone else had numerous layers on.
The crater rim in Kilimanjaro is alluring – like a giant cake with icing dripping from it but reaching the summit is hard work. There is about 50% as much oxygen available to breathe as at sea level. Being from Scotland I usually like 50% off but 50% off oxygen is an exception making running very tricky.
We arrived at the top , 5,895 metres, 19,270 feet with a tangible sense of relief and blitzed down an alternative route to complete a traverse.
It was an astounding day – fine views shared with friends. We topped out after 7 hours and 16 minutes. The next day, I feel surprisingly ok except for some nasty blisters. We ran another 50 kilometers with each step at altitude a prisoner. So 2 ultramarathons done – 16 more to go. Tanzania is incredible and it was an eye opener seeing what some porters carry up the mountain.
The expedition promises astounding views, colours and the chance to learn. Running ultra marathons every day at altitude over various hills and terrains is clearly a challenge. A huge thanks to all for collecting shoes for Running Across Borders – the shoe-meter is over 500, amazing and for huge generosity for African Palliative Care Association (APCA), a charity I am passionate about, improving palliative care in East Africa.
Donnie Campbell also shares his thoughts via @getactiverunnin on twitter