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Way back in time before the onset of adulthood I enjoyed countless days heading into the hills of Yorkshire with nothing more than a squashed sandwich & youthful sense for adventure! Despite long past youthful and work commitments keeping me in the city, the sense of adventure and love for the outdoors never left me. After digging my boots out and returning to the hills I attended a number of courses to improve my hill knowledge and skill base, during one of these courses it was suggested I join the Mountain Leader Training scheme and was delighted go on to gain the MOUNTAIN LEADER Award in April 2012. As well as spending time on the hills and mountains of the UK I have also enjoyed trips to the Nepalese Himalaya, Swiss & French Alps, Mallorca’s Tramuntana, Andorran & French Pyrenees, Morocco’s High Atlas, Tanzania’s Mt Meru & Kilimanjaro, Argentinian & Chilean Patagonia and winter expeditions to Norway’s Hardangervidda. Since gaining the ML I have also gained the SINGLE PITCH AWARD, INTERNATIONAL MOUNTAIN LEADER AWARD and the WINTER MOUNTAIN LEADER AWARD. I am now enjoying working in a freelance role whilst trying to get out climbing as much as possible.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

This is Africa (Part 1) - Mt Meru.

   June and I again joined Rob Johnson of Expedition Guide, this time for a trip to Africa with the goal of reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro. Along with Lord Martin Cocks of Cocksville, Vic, Paul, Barry (George Clooney's dad), Andy & Steve we would first summit Mt Meru to help us acclimatise before heading up the 'Western Breach' to the 'roof of Africa' to stand 5895m above sea level and on top of the highest free standing mountain in the world - Kilimanjaro!!
Kilimanjaro stands above the cloud at sunset - seen from Mt Meru.
  I was fortunate enough to have received an invitation to spend a few days in Tanzania by my friend Simon Enstone which I gratefully accepted. Simon, who I met whilst on the Mountain Leader training scheme, is teaching at a school near Arusha and was generous enough to introduce me to Africa, as well as take me on safari and explain TIA (This Is Africa!). So it was having sampled a tiny bit of Africa that I waited at Kilimanjaro airport for the rest of the team to arrive and to meet our 'in country' agents, eager for our mountain adventure to begin.
 We would spend a comfortable evening & night at Weru Weru Lodge near the town of Moshi before heading into the Arusha National Park to start our acclimatisation climb on Mt Meru.

 Mt Meru would be a demanding few days to start our trip seeing us ascend from 1500m to over 4500m, and down again, in less than 60hrs!
Starting the trek through the forest.
 Day 1 Leaving Momela Gate we walked through dense green forest as we headed to Miriakamba Hut, which stands at 2500m, where we would spend the night. We would also have our first meals provided by our cooks for the trek so it was thumbs up all round having sat down to a tasty & plentiful 3 course evening meal, the moral and overall success of an expedition or trek can hinge on the standard of food!
 Day 2 we continued making our way up, soon leaving the forest below, and out into the bright African sun. We reached Saddle Hut at 3500m where we rested for a couple of hours before myself, Rob, Vic & Paul took a leisurely stroll up to 'Little Meru' accompanied by Jimmy & Ernest of our guiding team. The stroll would take us up an additional 300m above the hut and help with acclimatisation when we dropped back down to sleep in the hut.
Approaching Saddle Hut in the African sun.
Compulsory 'man leg' pose on Little Meru.
  On arriving back at the hut we sorted our kit ready for our ascent to Mt Meru summit, which we would be doing during the early hours. We then sat down for our evening meal before heading to bed around 7pm!!
The plan was to sleep until midnight, we would then get up and have some breakfast before leaving the huts to ascend the 1066m to the summit in the darkness.
On the dark ascent to the summit of Mt Meru.
 Under the stars of the clearly visible Milky Way we made our way slowly upwards, leaving any sign of vegetation behind as we walked with volcanic rock and scree underfoot. The path to the summit took us to Rhino Point and continued up a tiresome scree slope where it was 3 steps forward and 1 back at times, we then had a few areas of scrambling where a fall could have proved somewhat painful!

 After around 4hrs the first light of dawn appeared and we were approaching the summit just in time. Making our way up the final ascent we were treated to sunrise over Kilimanjaro which stood around 70km away on the horizon.
Break of dawn over Kilimanjaro

George Clooney's dad Barry, Lord Cocks of Cocksville, myself & Vic with the flag of the kingdom of Yorkshire.
Commander Johnson takes tea at the summit.

Sunrise over Kilimanjaro
  After a brief stop for photo's and a snack we turned and retraced our steps back down as the warm African sun chased away the chilly night air. Going was easier on the way down with the benefit of light other than that of our head torches.
The clearly visible ash cone of old volcanic action on Meru.
Paul making his way over the volcanic ridge.
 Back to Saddle Hut around 08:30hrs we took time for some food before packing our kit up and heading back down to Momela Gate, leaving the volcanic landscape behind and back down through the lush forest.    In total our day was an ascent of 1066m followed by a descent of just over 3000m, arriving at the gate at 14:30hrs, making a 14.5hr day, a very good day!!
Lord Cocks of Cocksville makes his way down through the forest.
Commander Johnson leads the way out onto the African plain (where the dangerous animals live!)
  On to Kilimanjaro!!

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