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~ I dont blog about things to be liked. I blog about things that I like ~ ... so that one day, on my death bed, I will have said and done what I wanted to do, and die peacefully without regrets.
Live your life in such a way that when your feet hit the floor in the morning, Satan shudders & says..' Oh shit....She's awake'

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Chris Bramhall and his family climb Kilimanjaro

Well done to my friend Chris Bramhall and his family for making it to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. Chris's sister Sue Bramhall, and his dad Paul Bramhall joined each other on a once in a lifetime family expedition. 

Chris's wife (and one of my bestest friends) Cindy, was planned to join them on the trip, but Cindy had to stay at home after finding out she is pregnant with their third son. All round congratulations to the proud family for these celebrations of a lifetime. 

For many people, the approach of their 70th birthday signals a time to slow down and take things easy. Not so for Paul Bramhall, widely-travelled Chairman of the Kleinmond Bird Club. No thoughts of “downhill from here” for Paul, in fact just the opposite. And not just uphill – up Kilimanjaro!
Paul returned this week after sharing an epic adventure with daughter Sue, (44) and son Chris (39) after months of careful planning and preparation while his wife, Pauline, waited for news of their success. Living in Kleinmond, with its many hiking trails criss-crossing the Kogelberg Biosphhere Reserve, provided Paul with the perfect training ground. He walked daily from his home near the mountain along the circular Jean’s Hill route, which he estimates he must have completed about 40 times during training, averaging 40 minutes each time. Having walked this route myself, admittedly at a very leisurely pace, the mere thought of doing it in 40 minutes leaves me a little breathless.

Paul, Sue and Chris’ excursion, organised through Wild Frontiers, left Jo’burg on 01 October. Their small party of 3 was accompanied by 2 guides, 1 cook and 10 porters, quite an entourage. This support group enabled them to focus on the task at hand with meals and stops that sustained stamina and prepared them for the climb. Their experienced guides, Freddy and Clemence, led them at a slow but steady pace and carried out daily checks on blood oxygen levels and heart rates while on the mountain. Fortunately, none of them experienced any difficulties.
After leaving the Keys Hotel in Moshi on day 2, they passed through the Rongai Forest Gate into a  forested area, reaching Simba Camp in the late afternoon. There they enjoyed what was to become a popular afternoon snack – tea and popcorn. On day 3 the vegetation along the route began to change  from forest to scrub as they passed Cave 1, arriving at Cave 2 (2200m above sea level) just after midday. It was considerably colder, too, as Freddy took them on an acclimatisation walk in the afternoon. The cloud cleared en route revealing the majestic peak of Kilimanjaro above. What a magnificent sight. Frost lay on the ground as they set off on day 4 and after lunch and a snooze at Khekula Camp, they were taken up 200m of the path they would begin on day 5. Paul was happy to see many White-necked Ravens and a Langermeier along the way before returning for – you guessed it – tea and popcorn!
Setting out on day 5 on the eastern side of the mountain, the path became significantly steeper and the scrub vegetation gave way to lava fields. As they passed through this rocky barren area they endured drizzle, then rain and finally snow which fortunately didn’t last for long. On their way to Mawenzi Camp, they passed a large group of 40 hikers (together with their support party of nearly 180) who were later unable to summit. In November 2008, a Cessna aircraft crashed on the mountain killing 4 Italian tourists and its wreckage was still visible as they headed for Kibo Camp, which stands at 4703m above sea level. It was early to bed for them all as they planned to begin their assault on the peak at midnight.
The final ascent began shortly after midnight on day 7. In the darkness and wearing headlights, the group  gradually zig-zagged towards the top. Ahead of them, a string of  lights indicated other climbers on the same quest although some turned back, unable to finish. Some 2 hours into the climb, it began to snow quite heavily, oddly seeming to make the group warmer instead of colder. They stopped on the edge of the crater at Gillman’s Point for a much needed rest and mug of tea before the final push. As the sky began to lighten, glaciers with sheer faces of 20m became visible and, as the weather cleared, they stood spellbound at the sight of the scarlet sunrise. On past Stella Point and towards Uhuru, Africa’s highest point, they marched until finally – they were there. Having reached the famous sign their jubilant exhilaration shut out the temperature of -13′C and it was hugs and handshakes all round. Paul described his emotions on summiting in 5 words: elation, awe, beauty, family, thanks. There was a short time for contemplation and wonder before heading straight down once more, a total of 13 hours on foot.
When they finally reached Main Gate in the early afternoon of day 8, the hikers’ unwanted gear was laid out for the porters to choose, in hierarchical order. The choosing over, the porters then sang and danced with Paul, Sue and Chris joining in. Later, back at the hotel, guides Freddy and Clemence presented them with their certificates and the three intrepid adventurers flopped into bed, utterly exhausted. Ten days after beginning his journey, Paul arrived home to an exuberant, proud but no doubt relieved wife, Pauline, who had been a source of encouragement all the way.
Aside from the actual achievement of his goal, Paul’s enduring memory of this journey will be sharing those 10 days and many laughs along the way with his two children. And is he planning another adventure any time soon? He’s thinking about it.

Story source: The Kleinmond Talk

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