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  Voltaren Kilimanjaro Challenge 2004: Victory over Disability Dispatches

Dave Lim, Everest Climber, author and motivational speaker.

Introduction, Team, Route

The Voltaren Kilimanjaro Challenge has successfully completed its mission in climbing Africa's highest summit, Mt Kilimanjaro, 5895m, in Tanzania. The Voltaren team of disabled mountaineers comprised David Lim (Singapore), Peter Steane (Australia), Paul Pritchard ( Wales ) and Jamie Andrew ( Scotland ).

The team faced various setbacks including unseasonal rain an snow higher up the mountain for days; altitude sickness in one member and two failed recconnaissance missions. The Credner Glacier route, their original way up the peak proved hard to locate in the low visibility and sustained mist.On Jan 17th, the team switched their goal to climbing the mountain by the Western Breach Wall, a steep climb, not often taken by climbing groups. At several steeper sections, Paul Pritchard was belayed with a rope for safety by Pete Steane. The team continued to support each other; aware of unique weaknesses of each other's conditions - as well as their respective strengths.

Leaving the Arrow Glacier camp ( 4800m ) at 1am on Jan 18th, the team climbed to the crater rim of Kilimanjaro through the darkness and snow; reaching the 5700m rim after about 10 hours. After a short rest, the team climbed to Uhuru, the summit of Kilimanjaro; reaching the top around 3pm. They did not see any other teams on the mountain and enjoyed the solitude that is rare these days on Kilimanjaro. Descending, the team dropped 1800m to their campsite at Karanga; making the summit day an exhausting 23-hour day - the final six hours was made in the dark, and with almost all the team badly dehydrated.

The team in now resting in Moshi, having descended on the 20th. The climb has been covered extensively in the world media including CNN, BBC Swahili and Tanzanian national TV and radio news. Singapore media can meet the team or obtain more information when the team ( excluding quadruple amputee Jamie Andrew who will be flying back to the UK from Nairobi ) when they arrive on an Emirates flight at 1935hrs on Jan 24th. Messrs Paul Pritchard and Peter Steane will be in Singapore for one day only ( 24-25th ) The team wishes to thank their main suporters: Voltaren Emulgel, Reuters Foundation, Marmot - Mountainworks. Video footage as well as still digitalimages are available upon the team's return.

In the meantime, wishing all our Chinese friends a Happy Chinese New Year! David Lim, Expedition Organiser

20 Jan 2004, 2pm (Singapore), 3,000m Mweka Camp: It's morning here. We are packing up and moving down to Mweka Gate and then catch a ride to Moshi town. Long last, a hot bath and food. We hope to reach Moshi by tonight. Lots of aching muscles but we are happy. The local press seems taken by our expedition. I take it that they have never seen a more motley group of disabled climbers before. David

19 Jan 2004, Karanga Hut: From the summit, Kibo, we descended 1,400m down to camp and rest. We took a different route, going down the other side of the mountain. We started our descend at about 3pm and we stopped just before midnight, making it a 23 hour day, from ascent to descent. In between, we chewed a few cereal bars. We were looking very hungry when we finally stopped. Tired... and dehydrated. Did the necessary, boil water, drink, boil more water, drink some more and eat some stuff before crawling to rest in the tent. All of us felt great from the climb. Tired but good.

Our next move will be to leave the mountain via Mweka Gate and then off to Moshi town for a good wash and fresh meat!! slurp. David

18 Jan 2004, 3pm, 5,895m Kilo: All of us reached the summit, it is now 3pm. It has been a long hard climb up but it is worth it. The view is fantastic, breathtaking. We are the only team on the summit. Standing on the top of Kilimanjaro has been a challenge, the scree and snow gave us a bit of difficulty. The sun's still shinning and it is a beautiful day. We now face the prospect of a long descent down the mountain. Our plan is to descent and camp at Karanga Hut. David

17 Jan 2004, morning, 4,600m, Lava Tower Camp: We left Shira Camp and made our way up to Lava Tower Camp yesterday. Some other climbers went up to Credner Glacier yesterday for a look, and I think they found the going there tough too.

Spent the night here. It started raining and snowing yesterday and it kept on going for about 15 hours. Last night, you would see us huddled around feeling rather morose, damp and cold. It was a cold night and because of the rain and snow, much of our stuff's frozen this morning. Lava Tower Camp is now covered with about 3 inches of snow. The hill in front of us looks covered with more snow, and we might be ploughing through as much as 12 inches of snow higher up.

The sun's up this morning and around camp, you will see us hanging our delicates up to dry in the bright sun :). Morale's up too, a change from last night's low.

Our plan now is to get some of our stuff dry, make our way up to Arrow Glacier which is about 200 vertical meters above us. This should be a 2 hours hike. Rest at Arrow Glacier and we will begin our summit attempt at about midnight tonight. David

15 Jan 2004, 3800m Shira Camp: It was a bit eventful yesterday. Paul developed a mild case of altitude sickness. So we moved down further to Shira Camp at 3,800m for the night. He seems better this morning.

Yesterday, Pete and I, went for a hike up to Credner Glacier from Shira Camp after moving with the rest for the team down to Shira Camp. We climbed up about 500 vertical meters to about 4,610m, reaching the edge of the glacier, before it started raining and snowing. Visibility was limited as the clouds came down. Looking at the wicked terrain there, our conclusion was that we have to take the Western Ridge route instead of the Credner Glacier. The alternative plan.

It just stopped raining, and it looks like a fine morning today. Our next move will be to move up to Lava Tower Camp again before making a summit attempt. Everyone have had a good rest last night. We still think a steak would be good for dinner.... :) David

13 Jan 2004, Moir Hut, 4,200m: We woke up to a wet and cloudy day today, it rain sporadically during the rest of the day. We ended up rather moist and damp, and a bit gamey. Spent a rather uncomfortable night at Lava Tower Camp. We didn't sleep too well so we decided to move down today to about 4,200m and set up accommodations for the night. At a lower altitude, we hope that we will get our required beauty sleep... :) We are now at Moir Hut, a small campsite midway between Lava Tower Camp and Shira Camp. This trail requires some climbing over scree slopes and boulders. A bit tiring.

Tomorrow, we will begin the tough part of the climb. We will make our way to the base of Credner or Penck glaciers. Then, we plan to spend some time acclimatising and planning our next move. We anticipate steep climbing over snow and rocks, it will challenge every one of us. On the 16th, we will attempt the glacier route and if everything goes well, 17th Jan will be summit day.

We are all feeling a bit tired today, because of a lack of sleep last night. Other than that, we are all OK. All our limbs are holding up to the punishment. We look forward to some hard climbing tomorrow.


12 Jan 2004, Lava Tower Camp, 4600m: Reached Lava Tower after 4 hours of hiking. It's lunch time here, about 1:30pm Kilimanjaro time. Nothing much to eat except trail food. Where is that impala steak when you need one.

We are all in good shape, a bit of sore muscles and a few blisters. We are in good health. Jamie, says to tell all that he is fine and doing well. Pete, wants meat too.

There are some Austrians here at Lava Tower Camp too, they seem impressed by our trekking skills. They ain't seen nothing yet... :) The views here are great, offering us a good look at the glacier route that we planned to take. Tomorrow, we will rest and acclimatise at this altitude. David

11 Jan 2004, Shira Plateau, 3,800m: We spent the day hiking and acclimatising. We did a 4 hour hike today. Tomorrow, we will be climbing up to Lava Tower which is at 4,600m. The weather here is challenging. Mornings begin with clear skies, great climbing weather. But for the afternoons, we see clouds moving in and everything gets moist and damp.

The last few days have been interesting for all of us. We are getting to know each other's strengths and weaknesses. Each of us have different impairments and this has been a learning experience. Each of us struggle against our own limitations everyday. And in spite of it, all of us are in great shape both physically and mentally. (BTW : We have not run out of our stock of bad jokes yet!) David

Friday, 9 Jan 2004, Machame Camp, 3,000m: We are on the trail! Our walk began at Machame Gate, a short way from Machame Village, a small community at 1,500m. Reached 3,000m after trudging up the Machame Route for about 5 hours through mountain rainforests. Tomorrow we will make our way through scrubland to Shira Camp where we will rest and acclimatise. Tonight, we camp here at Machame Camp, which is on the Shira Plateau. The route here was nice, the plants and cool air reminds me of the route up Mt Kinabalu in Sabah. We are all warming up our muscles and gearing up for the climb ahead. All are well ! David

Wed 7 Jan 2004, Nairobi: Africa! Here at last in sunny Nairobi. Temperatures at 22 degrees C make it very mild even when the sun is shining. We're picking up the rest of the team at 8pm and then heading for a big pow-wow and eats at the famous Carnivore restaurant where three items are on the menu: Meat, meat and meat.  Tomorrow ,  we leave for the Tanzania border and Moshi, our base of operations for Kilimanjaro. En route, we'll stop at lunchtime at the Upendo Leprosy Centre to see the place and meet the good people that we have been in contact with for 2 years

Word from our operators say a lot of rain has been about ( unseasonal ). That means a good dusting of snow on the mountain - which should make it less icy on our desired route - a good sign

Crocodile steak anyone?
Checking out, David

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