x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

A glimpse of what's to come

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

Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah Al Thani's daily update on his climb for antimalarial charities It was 6.45am and hints of sunlight were creeping through the wooden slats in our bedroom window. Despite the previous day's travel, I'd woken before the alarm: I had to see Kili. I threw on a jacket and raced out of our hotel room to the street below. There she was: Mt Kilimanjaro. The forests at the foot of the mountain were covered with haze, but the snow-capped peak pierced through the patches of rain cloud to shine a dull golden brown. She was magnificent.

After what would be our last shower for days, Masoud and I packed and went down for breakfast and a briefing with the other 10 climbers. We were going to take the remote Lemosho route up to the Shira plateau at 3,840 metres before we chose our way to the peak. And although the weather for the next five days wasn't forecast to be perfect, Zed Al Refai wasn't fazed. As the leader of our climb, a veteran of all seven summits and the first Arab to conquer Mt Everest back in 2003, there was nothing Al Refai hadn't seen before.

The porters packed our supplies into three jeeps and we were off. Our two-hour drive was going to take us north-west from Moshi and around the mountain to the Londorossi park gate at 2,100 metres. The roads and shrubs of the city gave way to the rugged terrain and trees of the forest, and when we arrived at the gate it had begun to drizzle, but there was no hesitation as we signed our papers for the climb.

A different set of jeeps took us east through the forest to Machame camp, where we stopped for lunch. I felt every bone in my body rattle during the hour-long drive. We didn't need an armed ranger - none of the groups ahead had seen any elephants, and the rain had also sent the playful monkeys into hiding. After loading our backpacks and putting on hiking boots, we headed up through the Lemosho glades to Mti Mkubwa camp, which means "big tree camp", our target for the day at 2,750 metres. The air was dense and misty, and the rains had made the soil as slippery as ice. By the time we arrived at 6pm, most of us were covered in soil from slips along the way. Judging by the porters' backpacks, they didn't have much luck either. They had already lit a fire for preparing dinner and the next day's water (we are only able to carry a small flask of drinking water with us, and need to prepare each day's supply by boiling water collected at each camp and using purification tablets).

After dinner at 9pm, we sang and joked about our falls along the way, until 10pm, when we retired to our tents. Although it was 26°C in Moshi, it had grown cold here and temperatures were expected to drop below freezing. Masoud, exhausted from the hike, fell asleep on top of his sleeping bag with his soil-encrusted hiking boots still on.