This is a lament we hear often at Mountaintrails, sometimes spoken in frustration, sometimes in anger, and most often at the end of a wet day.

So why is our precious waterproof clothing failing to perform? In many cases it is because we are simply asking too much of it.

 

The techi bit….

So called ‘breathable’ fabrics have a micro pore membrane bonded to a hardwearing outer layer. This membrane allows water vapour to pass through, but not liquid water. This in turn means that the moisture you produce when working hard is allowed to escape, whilst preventing rain from penetrating your garment.

The ‘breathability’, or Moisture Vapour Transmission Rate (MVTR), is measured in laboratory conditions over a 24 hour period. Manufacturers can then make claims about their materials based on these results.

 

The problem…

The issue is we are not in a laboratory, we are slogging our way up a damp hillside, and our own transmission rates vary considerably, depending on our activity levels and metabolism, amongst other things.

Exercise vigorously on a wet and humid day and your body will pump out a lot of moisture, much more than the ‘breathable’ fabric of your waterproofs can cope with. Water vapour will condense on the inside of your jacket and your clothing will begin to feel damp. You might think your waterproof is leaking, but it is not, it’s coming from you.

For the water vapour to escape effectively it is important that the outer surface of the material is not saturated with water. To prevent this your jacket is treated with a DWR coating (Durable Water Repellancy), but this coating wears off over time and needs to be replaced. If your jacket is no longer ‘beading’, i.e. the water is forming into small droplets and running off the surface, then it is likely to become saturated, and will ‘wet out’.

 

This will slow the MVTR and lead to more condensation on the inside of your clothing.

In addition, humans are not well designed for waterproof layers, any clothing has to have holes in it to accommodate our head, hands and legs, and water can enter through these holes resulting in us getting even wetter!

 

So what can we do to try and stay dry…?

First and foremost, don’t wear your waterproof jacket if it’s not raining. I see so many waterproof jackets being used solely for insulation and wind proofing, and this leads to a build-up of condensation as described above.

Far better to wear a ‘softshell’ jacket. This is essentially a jacket that offers a degree of insulation, can be fully windproof, and will allow moisture to pass through, (in both directions). None of your moisture will condense on the inside and you will feel much more comfortable. Some softshell jackets are designed to keep out a light shower, but might be less ‘breathable’ as a result. The Buffalo is a good example of this.

However, when it starts to rain you must exchange your soft shell for your waterproof shell.

 

Don’t overheat…

If you have to put on your waterproofs then be sure to remove a layer first, by adding an extra layer you are adding more insulation and will be getting warmer. This will lead to more water vapour being produced by your body and will put extra pressure on the waterproof membrane to perform, resulting in more condensation inside your clothing.

 

Wash and reproof your jacket regularly…

Waterproof clothing

 

When the DWR layer wears off and the rain water no longer ‘beads’ on the outside of your jacket it will become saturated or ‘wet out’.

This layer of water on the outside of your jacket will impede the movement of water vapour through the membrane, and more condensation inside your clothing will result, making you feel wetter.

Reproof your waterproof clothing with NikWax Wash-In, or a similar product, on a regular basis. The more you use your jacket the more often you should treat it.

 

 

Check on the build quality of your jacket and pants…

The material may be waterproof but rain can still penetrate through seams, pockets, zips and those large openings for your head and hands!

Check that the seams are sealed, or ‘taped’, some top end jackets now have welded seams.

Consider waterproof zips when you purchase your waterproofs, these are much better than conventional zips, though more expensive.

Make sure the hood fits well around your head and can be pulled in tight without impeding vision. Check that the cuffs are adjustable, and can be closed down with Velcro to reduce water ingress.

 

Avoid cotton T shirts and underclothes…

Cotton will absorb up to 25 times its’ own weight in water, and the hollow fibres of cotton won’t release it easily, so it stays with you and makes you feel cold and clammy. In colder conditions this can also increase the risk of hypothermia.

By wearing synthetic wicking layers the moisture your body produce will be moved to your outer layers and away from your skin, making you feel much more comfortable.

 

It is not possible to stay completely dry when battling through horizontal rain on a windswept mountain, but by caring for your waterproof clothing and using it appropriately you can stay comfortable, if a little damp, even in the worst of weather.

 

Russ Mills – Mountaintrails

 

As summer advances ticks are becoming more active, and more outdoor enthusiasts are finding these unpleasant critters embedded in their skin.

To understand the importance of avoiding being bitten, here are our Top Ten things you should know about ticks:

1.  Ticks are arachnids, and related to spiders and scorpions. They have a 3-stage life cycle, larvae, nymph and adult. At each stage they need a blood meal to grow, ticks feed on small mammals, deer and sheep and will bite humans. They are most active in late spring and summer.

Ticks life cycle

 

2. Tick bites do not hurt, therefore you will not know if one has bitten you. They prefer warm and damp parts of the body, particularly the hairline, navel, waist, groin and behind the ears and knees.

 

3. Initially ticks can be very small, about the size of a poppy seed, but will swell as they become engorged with blood. If you find a tick on you or one of your children do not pick, scratch, burn, drown or squeeze it, as it will vomit it stomach contents into your blood stream and pass on any infections it may carry.

 

Ticks

4.  Ticks generally do not feed for the first 24 hours, so you have time to check yourself in the shower when you get home.

 

5.  To remove an embedded tick use a specialised tick removal tool, either a ‘tick hook’ or a ‘tick lasso’. Narrow end tweezers will also help, but remember to grab by the head, and not the body.

 

6.  Ticks carry a bacterial disease called Lyme borreliosis, or Lyme disease, not all ticks carry it, they get it by sucking the blood of infected animals.

 

7.  Around 50 -100 cases of Lyme disease are reported in Ireland each year, if you think you are infected you should see your GP, who will run tests to determine whether you have Lyme disease and whether to give a course of antibiotics.

 

8.  Symptoms may appear after 3 or 4 days, but may take several weeks to appear. Common symptoms are a bullseye rash at the site of the bite, and flu like symptoms, headache, fatigue and fever.

 

ticks rash

9.  Regular campers, hikers and fishermen are most at risk, and these groups would be wise to carry a tick removal device with them.

 

10.  Ticks climb tall foliage and drop onto animals as they brush past. To avoid being bitten stay on tracks and paths and away from bracken and other tall foliage in the summer. Wear long sleeves, and particularly long trousers, and tuck trousers into socks or wear gaiters. Applying insect repellent to clothes will also help.

Russ Mills runs Mountaintrails, a guided hiking and mountain skills training enterprise based in Dublin, Ireland.

To learn more go to our website at mountaintrails.ie.

It’s a cliché to say we have become reliant on technology, and we certainly need a map and compass, and perhaps a GPS system, to find our way around unfamiliar hills.

But how did our ancestors find their way around, and what natural features did they use to navigate across the land in times gone by?

Here are 5 ways in which our forebears may have navigated around the landscape; and though we don’t suggest you leave your map and compass at home, it might be fun to try these out sometime, and see if you can navigate like the ancients!

Navigate by the Sun

We all know the sun rises in the east, but in reality, due to the complicated relationship between the Earth and the Sun, this only happens on the equinoxes, in March and September. In the middle of June it will rise in the northeast, and in December in the southeast.

However, it is possible to use the sun to determine the cardinal points (North, South, East, West) by using a ‘shadow stick’. To do this you need a stick around a metre long a handful of pebbles and a sunny day.

Push the stick upright into the ground and mark the end of its shadow with a pebble, now hang around. Every 15 minutes or so mark the end of the sticks shadow with a pebble, and after an hour a distinct line of pebbles will become apparent. The first position of the shadow is the western end of the line, and this line is aligned west to east, allowing you to determine the cardinal points for East and West, and those at right angles to that line, North and South.

 

Navigate by the Moon

It is possible, when in the northern hemisphere, to find south by observing the Moon. Look up at the Moon when it is waxing or waning, (this does not work when there is a full Moon), and draw an imaginary line between the ‘horns’ of the crescent of the Moon. Continue that line down to the horizon, either by eye or by holding a straight object up to it.

The position on the horizon where this line falls is South.

 

Navigate by the stars

The details of how our ancestors navigated by the stars may seem complex to us now, but perhaps the easiest piece of stellar navigation is this method of locating North.

Natural navigation - using the stars

Many of us in the northern hemisphere can recognise the constellation Ursa Major, or the Plough, it’s the one with the distinct saucepan outline.

By locating the outer edge of the ‘pan’ we can draw a straight line, about 5 times the distance between these outer stars, and here we will find Polaris aka the North Star.

The North Star sits directly above the North Pole on Earth, and so enables us to find the direction of North.

 

Navigate by using plants

Plants will always grow towards the sun, and a tree will always have heavier and more luxuriant growth on its southern side rather than its northern side. To see this effectively you need to find an isolated tree growing alone, in a wood the trees are crowded for space and this effect is overshadowed by the need to compete with each other.

Certain lichens and mosses prefer sun to shade, and can often be seen growing on the southern side of large tree trunks, this can be quite reliable when seen on a number of trees growing together.

 

Navigate by the wind

The prevailing wind, (the direction the wind predominantly blows in), can be determined for your location. In Ireland the winds are generally westerlies, and in exposed areas trees will be ‘raked’ by the wind and will grow bent and downwind. By observing the shapes of these trees it is possible to estimate where West is.

The wind does not change its direction a great deal during the course of a day, unless a frontal system passes though, and this is usually easy to spot. So it could be possible to navigate using the feel of the wind on your face, or the direction it is blowing the grass and other vegetation. However, in hilly areas the wind can swirl around the peaks and saddles, so this may not be so reliable in the mountains.

 

Russ Mills runs Mountaintrails, a guided hiking and navigation training business based in Dublin, Ireland.

You may wish to learn to navigate using the more familiar methods of map and compass. If so, check out the navigation courses on our website: Mountaintrails Navigation Courses

It seems as soon as the hot weather arrives in Ireland it has gone again. But it may return, and summer heatwaves do occasionally occur in our uncertain climate. In addition, many of us now head to hotter countries like Morocco, France and Spain to take hiking holidays.

 Know Your Enemy

There are inherent dangers to hiking in hot weather and when the sun is beating down all day, and the most obvious of these are sunburn, dehydration and heat exhaustion.

Sunburn

Campaigns in recent years to alert us to the dangers of exposure to too much sun seem to have sunk home. Now almost everyone is aware of the risk of sunburn and skin cancer that comes with over exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.

At higher altitudes the sun’s ultraviolet rays are stronger, as the air is thinner and less able to shield us from them, and this leads to an increased risk of sunburn.

Sunburn is at best painful, and at worst brings the increased risk of melanoma and other skin cancers.

Dehydration

When hiking in hot weather, particularly when working hard or moving uphill, the human body starts to sweat to loose heat and regulate its’ core temperature.  It is important to replace this lost fluid and the mixture of essential salts (electrolytes) that it contains, to maintain normal body functions.

One of the first and most obvious signs of dehydration is feeling thirsty, and this may be accompanied by a headache, dizziness and a feeling of weakness.

Your muscles need water to function correctly, and a further sign of dehydration may well be cramps in the legs.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is not as severe as heat stroke, but could be considered as a precursor to it. It is often related to dehydration, and the early signs are the same, headache, thirst, dizziness and dark yellow urine. These symptoms may also be accompanied by confusion, profuse sweating, cramps, rapid heart rate and fainting.

It is important to cool down, so seek out shade, rest and avoid exertion. Drink plenty of fluids and if possible wet the head and neck. Act quickly to avoid heat stroke, which is a serious condition requiring medical intervention.

Hiking in the heat

 

So how best to cope when the heat is on?  And what can we do to minimise the risks?

 

  1. Avoid hiking in the hottest part of the day.

Consider hiking in the early morning or evening and resting during the hottest part of the day, usually the afternoon. This is a good strategy in hot weather, and is important in avoiding the other risk areas, dehydration and overheating.

  1. Slap on the sun block.

The first line of defence against sunburn is to apply sunblock to exposed skin, the fair skinned and those not used to the sun should consider a factor 30+ or higher, and reapply during the day if you think you are sweating it off.

Remember to apply behind the ears and other awkward places, and if you are travelling over reflective surfaces, such as snow, apply below the chin and under the nose. I have seen some painful cases of under-nose sunburn in people travelling over snow for extended periods!

  1. Cover Up.

It’s important to cover exposed skin, wide brimmed sun hats are a must in strong sunlight, and wear long sleeve shirts and long pants to avoid too much exposure to the sun. Loose fitting and light coloured clothing will help you to stay cool when things heat up.

  1. Wet your shirt or buff to cool down.

Wearing a wet cloth (a light scarf or buff) around the neck, will help to cool you down, as the blood vessels run close to the surface here and a wet cloth next to the skin will help to cool the blood. If it’s really hot you can dampen your shirt in a stream for an even greater cooling effect.

  1. Drink to rehydrate.

To replace these lost fluids drink between 2 and 4 litres of water a day, though this is a generalisation as individuals differ in their needs. Drink when you are thirsty, which makes sense, avoid drinks containing caffeine and alcohol as these are diuretic and will make you pee more.

To replace lost salts mix water 50:50 with fruit juice or add shop bought electrolytes, such as dioralyte, to your water bottle.

  1. Modify your expectations.

Don’t take on too much in the day, rest more often when shade is available, and avoid the hottest part of the day. Take your time.

  1. Take care of your feet.

Sweaty feet pose an increased risk of getting blisters, take your boots off when you can and dry, or better still, change your socks.  Dipping your feet in a cool stream on a hot day is one of life’s finer pleasures, and is great for cooling the blood.

  1. Lighten your pack.

If the weather forecast is nailed on for a sunny day, consider leaving your waterproof pants or spare warm layers at home. You might need the space for extra water anyway.

  1. Check your pee.

Check the colour of your pee, if it is a dark yellow colour than you are dehydrated, in a normally hydrated person it should be of a pale straw colour.

  1. Beware of cold water shock.

This occurs when the body is suddenly subjected to a rapid drop in external temperature, such as you might get if you jumped into a river.  This sudden immersion results in a ‘gasp’ reflex, which can lead to water getting in the lungs, and to drowning.  It is accompanied by contraction of the blood vessels which puts a strain on the heart, leading to possible heart failure.

Mountaintrails guided hikes.

We all like to hike on clear sunny days, perhaps with a few white fluffy clouds and a light breeze to take the edge off the heat.

However, summer heatwaves do occur, even in these northern climes, and many of us now head to hotter countries like Morocco and Spain to hike and to take trekking holidays. 

 There are inherent dangers to hiking in very hot weather and when the sun is beating down all day, and the most obvious of these are sunburn, dehydration and heat exhaustion.

So how do we cope when the mercury starts rising? And what can we do to minimise these risks?

Sunburn

Recent campaigns to alert us to the dangers of too much sun seem to have sunk home. Now almost everyone is aware of the risk of skin cancer that comes with overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays and subsequent sunburn.

The first line of defence is to apply sunblock to exposed skin, the fair skinned and those not used to the sun should consider a factor 30+ or higher, and reapply during the day if you think you are sweating it off.

 

Moroccan mule trail


Remember to apply behind the ears and other awkward places, and if you are travelling over reflective surfaces, such as snow, apply below the chin and under the nose. I have seen some painful cases of under-nose sunburn in people travelling over snow for extended periods!

Remember too that at higher altitudes the sun’s ultraviolet rays are stronger, as the air is thinner.

It is also wise to cover exposed skin, widebrimmed sun hats are a must in strong sunlight, and wear longsleeve shirts and long pants to avoid over exposure to the sun.

Consider hiking in the early morning, this is a good strategy in hot weather, and is important in avoiding the other risks areas, dehydration and overheating.

Dehydration

When hiking in hot weather, particularly when slogging uphill, the human body starts to sweat to regulate its core temperature. It is important to replace this lost fluid and the mixture of essential salts, called electrolytes, that it contains.

 

Dawn in the High Atlas.

One of the first, and most obvious signs of dehydration is feeling thirsty, and this may be accompanied by a headache, dizziness and a feeling of weakness. Another clear indicator of dehydration is dark yellow urine, in a normally hydrated person it should be a pale straw colour.

The muscles need water to function correctly, and a further sign of dehydration may well be cramps in the legs.

To replace these lost fluids drink between 2 and 4 litres of water a day, though this is a generalisation as individuals differ in their needs. Drink when you are thirsty, which makes sense, avoid drinks containing caffeine and alcohol as these are diuretic and will make you pee more.

To replace lost salts mix water 50:50 with fruit juice or add shop bought electrolytes, such as dioralyte, to your water bottle.

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion is not as severe as heat stroke, but could be considered as a precursor to it.

It is often related to dehydration, and the early signs are the same, headache, thirst, dizziness and dark yellow urine. These symptoms may also be accompanied by confusion, profuse sweating, cramps, rapid heart beat and fainting.

 

African rain forest, Tanzania.

It is important to cool down, so seek out shade, rest and avoid exertion. Drink plenty of fluids and if possible wet the head and neck. Act quickly to avoid heat stroke, which is a serious condition requiring medical intervention.

To reduce the risk of heat exhaustion it is important to stay hydrated, and to cover up with a wide brimmed hat and wear loose clothing. Try to avoid hiking through the heat of the day, hike in the early morning and rest in the early afternoon, when the heat is most intense.

Wearing a wet cloth around the neck, such as a buff or neckerchief, will help to cool the blood as it passes just under the skin surface at this point.

Heat Stroke

This is a condition resulting from acute overheating of the body, it occurs if the core temperature exceeds 105F (40C).

The symptoms of heat stroke include rapid heart rate, red dry skin, lack of sweating, nausea, confusion and fainting. This is a very serious condition that can result in permanent organ damage or death.

If heat stroke is suspected call the emergency services and begin rapid cooling by seeking shade and spraying or immersing in cold water.

If the symptoms of overheating are treated at the heat exhaustion stage then heat stroke can generally be avoided.

When the temperature soars, cover up to stay comfortable.

 

Having hiked, climbed and backpacked in temperatures often exceeding 30C, I have found the most important factors in staying comfortable are to remain hydrated and to cover exposed skin. These two alone will help avoid many of the associated problems of hiking in hot weather.

As a teenage boy, I read a book by Earnest Hemingway, titled ‘The Snows of Kilimanjaro’. Since then this mountain has always fascinated me, and as a geology student studying the volcanic rocks of the African Rift valley, I revisited that fascination in my mind.
This colossal cone of rock, rising from the hot African plain, and topped with glaciers and snow; one of the seven summits, the highest point on the continent of Africa, is a wonderful mountain and a challenge attainable by anyone with determination.
Kilimanjaro, 5895 metres high, seen from the Moshi road.
It must be over 12 months ago now, that my friend and work colleague at the time, Mostafa Salameh, asked me if I would be interested in joining him as an assistant guide on a charity climb of Kilimanjaro.
The charity concerned was the King Hussein Cancer Centre and Foundation in Amman, Jordan, a hospital that specialises in the treatment of people with cancer from across the Middle East. I was delighted to be able to help, both to give my time for such a worthy cause, and to finally take a close look at this magnificent mountain.
And so I found myself at the beginning of February on a plane to Doha to meet with Mostafa and the 25 Jordanians who were taking on this challenge. My flight was late, and gave little time for introductions before we were again in the air, and this time bound for Tanzania and Kilimanjaro International airport.
From there we were transferred to our accommodation for the first night, the Ameg Lodge in Moshi, where there was time for a leisurely meal and time to get acquainted with my adventurous travelling companions.
The Ameg Lodge was a series of bungalows, set in well kept gardens, and with an accompanying bar and restaurant. A pleasant start to our trip.
The next morning we bustled into our vehicles for the 2 hour drive to Londorosi Park Gate, where we were required to sign in with the park rangers. From there we headed to Lemosho Glades, our start point at 2100 metres, (6900ft). The journey was slow, on rapidly deteriorating mud tracks, finally we left our vehicles, ate a hasty lunch, and set off on the climb through the rain forest that now surrounded us.
We were headed for the overnight stop at Mti Mkubwa (big tree), campsite, for some of our group the first night they had ever slept in a tent. It had started to rain, the beginning of the unseasonal damp and cool weather that was to be a feature of our eight days on the mountain, and the heavily used campsite soon became muddy. We assembled in our large domed dining tents, drank tea, and chatted excitedly about the challenges ahead.
Black and white colobus monkeys in the rain forest zone.
The next day we started out early, and still moving through the rain forest zone, soon encountered a resident of these parts, the Black-and-White Colobus monkeys. They were quite illusive, only giving themselves away by the heavy movement of branches in the trees. We occasionally got a glimpse of one, silently staring down at us from the safety of their lofty perch.
By lunchtime we were out of the trees and in the moorland zone. At this altitude the flora consists almost entirely of tall, woody tree heather, a large straggly shrub with small white flowers. On leeward slopes, out of the wind, it can reach well over 2 metres in height.
The steep path we had been following levelled out as we made our way across the Shira plateau, and headed for Shira 1 Camp, our home for the night.
The following day was a short one, we reached Shira 2 Camp by lunchtime, and had the afternoon to rest and acclimatise to our new altitude. We were at 3800m (12630ft.).
Moving through the moorland tree heather
In the late afternoon I took off for a short walk up the mountain, the ground here was rocky, vegetation more sparse, and the skyline dominated by the crisp white outline of Kibo, the highest of the three volcanic centres that make up Kilimanjaro. Behind our campsite was Shira Cathedral, the smaller of the three, the other being Mawenzi, a peak we could not see from this side of the mountain.
It snowed overnight, and lay as a pure white blanket over the mountain. We were headed for the Lava Tower, a prominent jutting pile of volcanic rock at 4800m, from here we would descend to the Barranco Campsite at 3940 metres, thus giving us valuable acclimatisation time.
Just before the Lava Tower we lost the first of our colleagues, the first of six who would not make the summit; succumbing to Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS), he was given oxygen and escorted back to Shira 2 for evacuation, summit bid over.
Snow and Kibo, our final destination
We were now hiking through the alpine zone, an arid and cold landscape, desert like and with little vegetation. However, we found it blanketed with snow, not normal and an unusual sight at this altitude.
It is here that we saw the amazing Giant Groundsels, plants that have adapted to this harsh environment by using dead foliage to insulate the stems against the cold and desiccating winds, and by storing water within their fleshy leaves and trunk.
Dendrosenecio Kilimanjari – Giant Groundsel
Campsite below the Barranco Wall
The particular adaptations of plants, isolated on high peaks like Kilimanjaro, Mount Kenya and Mount Meru means each species is unique to its environment. These Kilimanjaro Giant Groundsels are found nowhere else on earth, and indeed there are many other plants for which this is the case, forever isolated on this alpine island of ice and snow, amid a sea of hot African savanna.
The low lying snow, and yesterdays sun, had caught many of the porters unaware, by morning they were queuing for anaesthetic eye drops to treat snow blindness. This is sunburn of the retina, and can easily be avoided by wearing sun glasses, but most of the porters did not have sun glasses. It was a sad sight, and a salutary lesson.
Thankfully they were all much better in a few days.
From Barranco campsite we would move up to our penultimate stop before the summit, but first we had to negotiate the Barranco Wall, a rocky scramble of a few hundred metres.
The morning was wet, persistent light rain fell in the grey early light, making a relatively straightforward route somewhat more challenging as the rock, well polished from hundreds of booted feet, became slippery and challenging for the unwary.
One or two of the party were nervous of the climb, and the precipitous drop from the rocky ledges, but reassurance from our African guides and our steadying hands, ensured that everyone made it safely to the top.
From here the path levelled, meandering through pleasant little valleys and over coarse rocky ridges before descending into the cloud and back into the heavy vegetation of the moorland. Soon, however, it climbed again, back into the rocky alpine zone.
By mid afternoon we reached our bleak overnight stop, perched on a broad ridge with the mountain behind us and before us a sea of fluffy off white cloud, so close you felt you could step out on to it and walk across the skies of Africa.
The next morning we headed out for Barafu Campsite, the trail was rocky and firm, with very little vegetation around, patches of snow still daubed the ground, though it was not cold. We traversed below glaciers and icefalls, high on the mountain above us, before dropping into the Karanga valley, a dry and desolate place.
A final climb onto a sharp ridge and we were at Barafu or High Camp.
We had arrived in the early afternoon, and the camp was crowded, busy with porters shouting, guides giving instructions, tents being erected and weary trekkers stumbling through the rocky maze.
One of our capacious dining tents.

Our cook soon prepared a hearty lunch, and afterwards we had a briefing about the climb to the summit later that night.

We were at 4600 metres, (15,092ft.), and with 1295 metres, (4,250ft.), to the summit the ascent would be taken very steadily, ‘pole pole’ as the African guides would say, (swahili for slowly slowly). This mantra, often repeated over the last seven days, would take on a real significance that night.
New batteries in the head torches, plenty of snacks in the pockets, fleece base layers and down jackets, all were checked. Then we rested, ate a small dinner, and rested again, some tried to sleep, I busied myself ensuring everything and everyone was as ready as they could be. One of the women was ill, gastroenteritis, desperately bad luck, her chances of summiting gone.
And so it begins.
 At 11.00pm we set off, a snake of light joining with the other lights making their way up the mountain. It soon became cold, and then the snow came. 
It fell on already icy, compressed snow, making the route slippery and difficult, the slow pace slowed again. Barafu camp had emptied itself of summiteers, and they were all heading up the same slippery path. We stopped regularly, to warm cold hands, take on a little fluid or food, and to re-assess our group. In the dark and snowy conditions it was hard to find everyone, I stayed towards the back looking out for stragglers, periodically meeting up with knots of familiar faces, huddled in the biting cold of the night. Another one of our colleagues had to return to camp, dizzy and with a blinding headache, and another with chest problems, given oxygen, they were sent back down accompanied by a guide.
Dawn over Mawenzi peak.
People were now coming down towards us, members of other groups who had not made it to the summit.
Slowly we clawed forward, and slowly we got nearer to the summit, as dawn came and the snow stopped we could see the sun rising over Mawenzi, the third of the volcanic peaks that make up Kili.
We were well over 5000 metres, and the thin air held much less oxygen at this altitude, we were gasping for breath, and then suddenly we were at Stella Point, the day grew lighter, and photographs of the triumphant climbers taken.
The last stretch, though difficult in the thin air, was on much easier angled ground, and my attention was taken by the wonderful views of glaciers and the snowy crater rim. It did not seem long before we were stood at the summit, Uhuru peak, almost 10 hours after setting out.
Stella Point
Lots of photographs were taken, and then I accompanied some of the team back down the mountain to Barafu camp, a relaxed decent. Much of the snow that fell the night before had melted in the mid morning sun, and lower down the patchy snow gave way to bare rock and scree, giving better purchase and allowing us the opportunity to try a bit of scree running, always good fun.
We chatted happily in the thickening air as we approached the camp, and headed for the dining tent for well earned tea and biscuits.
Slowly the others joined us, many with aching muscles and sore knees but all elated to have made it to the summit.
After a late lunch we headed out to our overnight stop at Millennium camp, before continuing the next day to the park gate and the end of our adventure on Kilimanjaro.
The summit photo, 5895 metres, (19,340ft.), Uhuru peak.

21 of our 27 summiteers had made it to the top of Kilimanjaro, and in so doing they had raised more than $1.4 million for the King Hussein Cancer Centre, an astonishing effort.

And I got to walk in the ‘Snows of Kilimanjaro’.

Not a bad result.

Thank you to all our team for making my job so pleasant, and the wonderful guides and porters who climb this mountain every week.