Biting cold, baking heat, and shortness of breath caused by the thin air were all challenges overcome by a team of Lincolnshire freemasons and friends who conquered Kilimanjaro to raise funds for the Province’s #Lincs2025 Festival.
The result is a donation sure to top £9,000 – and with your help could reach £10,000 – as well as a huge sense of personal achievement. The money will ultimately be given to the Freemasons’ charity the MCF, which uses it to support worthy causes, including in Lincolnshire.
The price for 20 minutes at the top of Africa’s highest peak was nine days of arduous climbing with frosts, two coats, and sleeping bags at night, contrasting with suncream, hats and sunglasses by day as they made the ascent with the support of 40 guides to carry all the tents, food, and water needed by the party.
The group had chosen to take the nine-day climb, which organiser Colin Hill felt had proved to be the right decision. A shorter six-day ascent might well have meant they couldn’t have coped, and would have failed in the attempt.
“The first two or three days were a shock to the system,” said Colin. “Some of us struggled, but the guides were fantastic all the time. The altitude knocks it out of you, but they made sure we ate and drank. We were drinking up to five litres of water a day, which on the last two days, where there’s no water available, had to be carried up by the guides, some of whom went up and down twice to be certain there was enough.”
At the end the party had no appetite, but were urged to eat. “I never want to see beetroot soup or ‘beef sauce’ or ‘chicken sauce’ again,” he said.
Throughout the trip the party shared their food with the guides. “We’re Freemasons. It’s what we do. Some parties look after each other and ignore the guides, but we made sure that we shared what we had with them. It was the right thing to do, and they appreciated it.”
Getting to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro isn’t mountaineering, but a long, unrelenting uphill walk. “Day Four was the make or break day, with a trek of 14 kilometres and an ascent of 1,200 metres – three quarters of a mile – to the Lava Tower. They said if we could do that, we could reach the summit.
“No amount of training could ever prepare us for those last two days,” he went on. “On the penultimate day we were walking by 7am, with 6 kilometres (almost four miles) and 1200 metres of ascent to cover. Then it was bedtime at 3pm in order to be up by 10.30pm to start the final assault on the peak. And it was so cold when we started the final day’s climbing that night; we wore everything we could possibly get on.”
“The overall climb and decent on the way to the peak was 16 km with 1,200m of ascent for our last night on the mountain.”
The only lights during the night came from their head torches, and those of other parties ahead and behind them, forming a chain of lights up and down the peak. “Looking up only told us how far we still had to go,” said Colin. “In the end we just looked down, so we could see how far we’d come.”
Kilimanjaro has three peaks. When they’d got to the first, called Gilman’s Point, any sense of achievement was quickly snuffed out when they realised that the objective of Uhuru Peak, the actual summit, was a further two and a half hours walking away. “And it wasn’t easy walking,” said Colin. “It was on shale, so with every step your feet slipped back a little.”
After their 20 minutes at the top, when the picture was taken, the party headed down again and was back in camp by 4pm. “We were dusty and sweaty, but no-one cared. We just crawled into our sleeping bags,” he said.
The trip wasn’t without incident, such as the time someone at the top dislodged a boulder which came crashing down past the party, fortunately without hitting anyone.
“We also saw someone desperate to reach the summit, but who was turned back because the guides knew he wouldn’t be able to make it. We also saw an ‘ambulance’ taking someone down. It was a wire mesh affair with a single wheel, guided by four people. It would have been a tortuous ride on that for several hours.”
Once back on lower ground the party spent three days on safari soaking up the feeling of achievement – but even that wasn’t without incident. Said Colin: “It wasn’t until I’d got out of the shower that I realised I’d been sharing it with a scorpion. Apparently, a sting wouldn’t have killed me, but I’d have been really ill!”