5. Fail to Prepare, then . . .

It's all in the throw

It’s all in the throw

Spring moves on to early summer, and it’s time to put some elbow behind the good intentions. Time to book ourselves a trip to Kilimanjaro.

Back in January, Kilimanjaro came back into my thoughts due to a leaflet from a charity. It was pretty much a one-liner on the leaflet, alongside charity bike rides, walks and runs. But the one-line led to a website, where there was much more information. After a few minutes reading, I was smitten.

Slightly daunting was the sponsorship money that people needed to raise for the charity to become a member of the trekking party. Some of this would no doubt be to pay for the costs of the trip, with the remainder to go to the charity. I would of course pay for the costs, but it still left a hefty target to achieve. However, if I was going to get to do the climb, this was the way to do it. Or so I thought . . .

And this is where my friend Jonathan comes in. Having agreed to join me on the trip, he suggested that we do a little investigation before we sign up with the charity. Was it the only one going? If not, how did the trips vary? Could we do anything else whilst we were in Tanzania?

This research uncovered a number of interesting facts. First was that the specific charity I had been looking at was by no means the only route to the top of Kilimanjaro. Other charities had trekking parties to the mountain, and quite a number of travel agents also arranged trips. We also found that another major factor was in the length of time we would spend on the mountain. The slower one ascends the mountain, the less the altitude effects the body, as it gradually acclimatizes to the different pressure and atmospheric conditions. This reduces the likelihood or the severity of altitude sickness. So, if we could find a trip that took longer than the charity one, we would stand a better chance of reaching the summit.

This led to further investigation. A company called Gane and Marshall organised a variety of treks on Kilimanjaro, including one that took eight days on the mountain. The success rate of getting people to the top was in the high 90% – much better than trips that were quicker. Gane and Marshall were also the company that got the Comic Relief team of nine celebrities to the summit for the Red Nose Day appeal in 2009. If they could get pampered celebs to endure the hardship of the mountain, they obviously knew what they were doing!

So, within a couple of weeks we had provisionally booked our trip. We gave ourselves an even greater chance of reaching the summit by planning to reach Tanzania a few days before the climb to trek up a smaller mountain near to Kilimanjaro, along with a couple of days of safari.

The excitement of the booking over – the hard work began. We had to work on:

  • Getting fit – especially by having some hill walks (at the least) and other exercise
  • Acquiring the right clothes and equipment – getting used to them all
  • Arranging vaccinations and visas
  • Starting to make plans for fund-raising (yes, charities will still benefit from our efforts)

More like planning for an expedition than planning for a holiday. Lots to get right before we stepped onto the mountain.

And it will be this careful preparation, from booking the right trip, with the right company, and preparing both ourselves and our kit and equipment that will see us to the top of the mountain.

In juggling, the experts tell us it is not so much the catch of the ball that is important as the throw. If the throw is in the right place the hand will automatically move to catch the ball. I think it will be similar with climbing: if the preparation is right, the execution of the climb will be that much easier (although by no means a doddle).

Lesson No. 5 for aspiring climbers – or for that matter aspiring anythings (!) – fail to prepare, then prepare to fail.


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