Rob Westall

Rob Westall

Climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for MRF

When i was about 12 years old, Blue Peter was on the tele as i was waiting to go to school. Ex-presenter Simon Thomas was climbing Kilimanjaro for the show. I watched it in absolute awe and when it finished i turned to my mam and said 'mam, im gonna do that one day!!' her reply probably involved the fact that i was now late for school but that’s unimportant as now, 6 years later at the age of 18 I’ve completed the climb up Africa’s highest mountain and raised £3000 for the Meningitis Research Foundation.

The fundraising effort stems from a family friend, Dave Pattie, who died from meningococcal septicaemia ten years ago. The Patties have been family friends since my Dad (who also had meningitis when he was 18) and Daves dad Micheal were small children. The Pattie famiy has raised nearly £300,000 for the foundation since Daves death. All of this led to me doing a skydive for the foundation which raised £400, then to the bigger challenge of climbing Kilimanjaro this summer.

The trip itself was a fantastic experience, a fantastic challenge and a fantastic view and achievement! It was hard work but totally worth it to watch the sun rise over the plains of Africa from the continents highest spot.

There were 26 of us all together on the trip with Charity Challenge, all raising money for different charities, and as we arrived at Nairobi airport in Kenya and onto our little bus that took us on the 8 hour drive through Kenya into Tanzania on, well, a dirt track, we realised that its called Charity 'Challenge' for a reason!

We started our ascent from the Tanzanian town of Arusha, and were into the thick of it straight away. As the climb got progressively higher and harder, the amount of people suffering from the lack of oxygen grew and the group doctor had his work cut out handing out Diamox (a drug that combats the affects of AMS) and by the fourth day I myself had to start taking it. Nothing however managed to dampen our spirits as we climbed higher and higher towards the summit. Even up the Barranco wall (don’t look down!), probably the most technical part of the climb, the jokes and banter flowed between us, the guides and the porters.

A once in a lifetime trip
...on the 8 hour drive through Kenya into Tanzania on, well, a dirt track, we realised that its called Charity 'Challenge' for a reason!

The summit night. Without question the coldest and hardest night of my life! We got up at midnight and set off with temperatures at about -20. It seemed impossible to get warm but we just had to go for it. We soon learned that the best way is to forget the summit, just think of the next step. Just one more step. Just one more step. One more and one more. Anything to take your mind off the cold and the altitude, which by now made it difficult to think never mind speak.

By 6am the sun was starting to rise which i overheard someone on our trip describe as 'a second engine'. It really was, and we really needed it! It gave us the inspiration we needed to plough on to Stella Point, about 40 minutes from the summit. Here we regrouped and headed up to the Ahuru Peak where got to touch that sign that we'd dreamed about for so long! It was an unforgettable moment. The sun, the view, the sign, the crystal clear blue sky that seemed to stretch forever, the people, everything seemed to just come together in one inspirational moment- one that I’ll remember forever.

The porters and guides. What can i say?! They were the ones who got us up the mountain. They were fantastic. An amazing group of people who i think are important to mention. They did the real hard work! If you go on this trip, don’t underestimate it! But if you’ve prepared in the right way it’ll be one of the best things you'll ever do.


If reading Rob's story has inspired you find out more about our Mount Kilimanjaro treks