x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

A dream is fulfilled

Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah Al Thani's daily update on his climb for antimalarial charities.

It was a quarter past midnight and Zed had come to wake us out of our tents. The interrupted four-hour nap felt like a mere 30-minute snooze, as we were tense from thoughts of the gruelling climb ahead. In fact, most people were rumoured to give up by Stella Point, which was just short of the summit, because of sheer exhaustion. Masoud and I switched on our flashlights, and walked out to join the rest of the group.

We had no time to lose, and began our six-hour climb heading north-west through the biting cold. The steep seven-kilometre ascent would prove to be the most mentally and physically challenging thing I had done. We could see the flashlights of a few climbers ahead of us, but there was no way of telling how far we'd climbed or how much farther we'd have to go in the darkness of the night. We were worn down by the seemingly endless slog till about 4.30am, when we noticed that the flashlights ahead of us had disappeared into the night sky. It meant that the climbers must have reached the rim of the Kibo crater, and that we weren't far behind. The beams of our flashlights met the sunlight creeping in from the East as we took the final steps to Stella Point. I'd imagined what it would be like to see the sun rise from 5,685 metres above sea level, but nothing had prepared me for how magnificent a sight it would be.

We were joined by other climbers at Stella Point, some of whom had arrived well before us, but Zed was the first to inspire us to continue on to Uhuru peak. The decision seemed obvious. We hadn't climbed this far to stop 200 vertical metres short, but we could barely mumble a half-hearted "yes" as we dragged ourselves to our feet. After having walked for over an hour, we began to see a sign in the distance. I knew I had seen it before, and it drew nearer with every step. Finally at 7.19am on day 6, we were there. "Alhamdulillah," it was the most rewarding sign I had ever seen, and it read: "Congratulations, you are now at Uhuru peak, Tanzania, 5,895m AMSL". The pain gave way to tears of joy. A week's climb and months of training had paid off and a dream was fulfilled. I pulled out my bucket list and checked off Mt Kilimanjaro.

We huddled for a photo and spent a few minutes taking in the memories. We soon began our walk back down to Barafu Camp. It would be three hours before we could rest, and the day had taken its toll. We reached Barafu at 10am and headed to our tents for a nap. At 11, we woke up and continued to Mweka Camp, where we would settle for the night. The climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro was the most challenging thing I had done, and our bodies were aching from head to toe. But as I looked back at the memory of Uhuru Peak, nothing else mattered. I had conquered Kili.

You can follow more of Sheikh Al Thani's adventures at www.musafir.com .