Noeleen on Mount Kilimanjaro
Ain't no mountain high enough - Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
In January this year, Noeleen Pritchard and her colleague, Richard Stabbins, climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest summit and the world's tallest free standing mountain. The team, christened "Altitude with Attitude", together with their colleagues at Capita Business Travel, friends and family raised in excess of £16,000 for Macmillan Cancer.
This wasn't a pampered celebrity dash with fitness trainers,helicopter back up and 27 guides, Noeleen trained for the seven day climb and fundraised alongside her fulltime job.
I spoke to her about the highs, lows and how a great team and lots of determination can banish the thoughts of bacon sandwiches and make you....well, climb mountains.
Noeleen, why Kilimanjaro?
The charity was the major reason but also I wanted to do it for me - something absolutely amazing that I could be really proud of.
What did you think it was going to be like?
Hell! I was absolutely petrified before we went and I purposely didn't research it as I knew that it would only make it worse. I was really looking forward to my first time in Africa and I can't wait to go back. I want to do a Safari.
It's a pretty challenging journey just getting to the base of the mountain isn't it?
Yes, it was three flights: from Heathrow to Addis Ababa; Addis Ababa to Nairobi and then from Nairobi to Kilimanjaro. I can remember taking the first step of the climb, when there is so much ahead of you, and thinking "why did I ever want to do this?"
I've read about the high calorie, healthy diet. What did you miss most?
Bacon Sandwiches....and my friends and family.
Tell me about the group that you climbed with.
There were 18 of us and we got on so well. I didn't think we would at the start but we gelled and, I can honestly say, the reason that we all got to the top was because of all of us together. We are even having a reunion next week at an African themed Bar in London. Our guide was a born motivator too, he would continually tell us "You look so nice!!" and sing songs. The porters were absolutely fantastic, they carried most of the luggage, cooked, built the camps and even cleaned the portaloos.
What could you see as you walked?
Every single minute is different on Kilimanjaro. It goes from being covered by a massive cloud when you can only see the person in front to soaring views of the mountain range. At one of the camps, we could even see a shanty town nestled in the mountains.
Did you have any low moments?
Day three is when exhaustion and altitude sickness start to set in. It's tough because there is still so much in front of you. But this is where the team is so important - when you are down everybody builds your momentum.
The hardest section is the final climb to the summit because it's steep, it's pitch black, it's freezing, the wind is against you and you are very tired. But as soon as you reach the top, you switch from crying to more crying but this time from joy and the amazing feeling that you've made it.
Right, the most important question - how horrible were your feet when you had finished?
Actually not too bad. I was an absolute baby wipe maniac so I felt pretty clean all the way up. The only time you feel dirty is coming through the gravel on the way down.
Finally, do you have any advice for anybody who is thinking of climbing Kilimanjaro?
Your general level of fitness does need to be good but more important is being mentally prepared. You need to know why you are doing it and to take each day as it comes. Four hours from the top, I could easily have given up but I knew the people back at home that would benefit from me achieving it. I can't say enough times how much the team helped. When you are on the mountain you want to do it but more than that you want everybody to reach the top. That's why the end celebration means so much.
Altitude with Attitude climbed Kilimanjaro to raise money for Macmillan Cancer.