Tackling Kilimanjaro? Climb with a good cause in mind

Climbing the tallest mountain in Africa is no easy feat but Dubai residents who have recently returned from the summit have valuable advice for a pair who are preparing to go.

Climbers with Gulf for Good, a UAE charity, reach the summit of Mt Kilimanjaro, the highest point in Africa, last week. The group raises money for the Hanne Howard Fund, which cares for 130 vulnerable children in Lenana, a slum community in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo courtesy Gulf for Good Charity
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DUBAI // Climbing the tallest mountain in Africa is “possible for anybody”, but Dubai residents who have recently returned from the summit have valuable advice for two men who are preparing to go: climb with a good cause in mind.

“It is possible for anybody,” said Jennifer Hardie, who climbed Mt Kilimanjaro for the charity Gulf For Good earlier this month.

“But of course you need to be fit and healthy, and you have to know how your body reacts to altitude.”

Ms Hardie was part of a group of nine residents who climbed the 5,895-metre mountain this month. Despite studying the mountain and meticulous preparation, she said it was not what any of them expected.

“It was harder than we thought it would be. We were so exhausted at the end, but all of us said we’d do it again for charity,” she said.

Along the way, they came across a bush fire and had to trek through flames and dense smoke. It was, she said, the first time in years the guides had seen fire on the mountain.

Emirati Hessa Al Mulla hiked the mountain with 50 colleagues from Emirates NBD a week before Ms Hardie. She and her fellow climbers were also raising funds for Gulf For Good.

“It was an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime experience,” she said. “I didn’t expect to do such an adventure. I’m such a city girl and didn’t think I’d be able to climb the highest mountain in Africa.”

She said the group was extremely motivated by a visit to the orphanage the climb was helping to raise funds for.

“Thinking of the kids in the orphanage was what really motivated us and gave us a big push,” she said.

The lessons learnt by Ms Al Mulla and Ms Hardie will come in valuable for Mark Williams, a 38-year-old ice hockey player with no mountaineering experience who plans to climb Mount Kilimanjaro in September.

Mr Williams, a Briton, will be joined by Jenny Balac, 18, who has represented the UAE in swimming and show jumping. “I’m petrified. I am also scared of heights. Even sitting here gives me the jitters,” said Mr Williams, glancing out the window of his 22nd floor office.

Mr Williams is raising funds for Brain Tumour UK, in honour of his sister, who has a tumour, and for an orphanage in Ethiopia.

Ms Hardie said the key to reaching the top was the way the group trained in Dubai.

They climbed the stairs of the 58-storey Media One Hotel three times once a week, and Ski Dubai allowed them to climb their slopes.

“The stair climbing was really good and the movement you do at Ski Dubai really helped,” she said.