After six months of training and planning, we finally arrived at the Machame gate entrance and the start of our eight-day trek. We could hardly believe we were actually about to start the challenge of a lifetime.
We were in Tanzania, looking up at the highest freestanding mountain in the world and the Roof of Africa - Mt. Kilimanjaro (19, 340 feet). The sight was a little daunting.
We started the trek on June 10. We hiked, rock climbed and scrambled one slow step at a time or, as our Tanzanian guides would say, "Pole, pole," Swahili for slowly, slowly.
Each day we hiked approximately 3,000 feet, through five different climates beginning with the amazing scenery of the rainforest, heather, moorland, alpine desert and finally the snow and glaciers of the summit.
As we ascended, the altitude changed, and by 15,000 feet, we were breathing only 50 per cent oxygen - another reason to go "slowly, slowly."
God was shining on us, as the weather conditions throughout our journey were perfect. Sunny days dropping to freezing temperatures at night allowed us spectacular views of the mountain in the day and beautiful star-studded skies at night.
The ultimate challenge was climbing the Western Breach, a steep 3,000 feet ascent prior to reaching the Crater Camp at 18,000 feet.
Our final push came the following day (day six). After a 5 a.m. wake-up call, we prepared ourselves for the final 800 feet to the summit. The day was clear and well below freezing. Breathing was an effort, but by 8 a.m. we had reached the summit.
We stayed on the summit for 20 minutes relishing this amazing moment. It was difficult to believe we had arrived at our goal. We then began our descent, coming down over scree, huge rocks and never-ending steps - it was a long 11-hour day before we reached our last stop, Camp Mweki.
The final day (day eight) was a hike back through the rainforest to the park gates and off the mountain. We had done it.
We had the good fortune to be led by a guide, Reggie, and his assistant guide, Dickson, and four porters, who made the hike all we had hoped it would be and a great deal more.
We would like to say thanks for all the support and encouragement we received and for the generosity of family, friends and strangers who have donated $8,000 to our cause - the cancer foundation (Lymphoma).
- Margo Grant/Suzette Willcox