We are so proud of everyone that takes on a challenge for Team Panda. As well as our regular calendar events, such as Brighton Marathon, we have fantastic supporters taking on their own personal challenge. Holly Curless, decided to take on Kilimanjaro, dedicating a year to training and fundraising, here is her inspiring journey to the summit.
I’m going to start this story at the end… On 8 August I climbed 5895m to the top of Kilimanjaro, raising £1,635 for WWF. The world’s highest free standing mountain looks down on the Serengeti Plains which is home to many of the most endangered species. To spend a week in the majestic world above the clouds was a luxury, despite the challenges. The campsites on the mountain must be some of the most beautiful in the world. Looking out over the clouds below we could see Mount Meru in the distance while the iconic summit of Kilimanjaro towered behind us.
After walking all day there was much peace and tranquillity to be found sitting on the edge of that momentous mountain. Far away from the distractions of everyday life I felt a deep connection to the Earth. I saw the landscape change from a vibrant, green jungle to a barren, rocky grey where the only life was us humans struggling to cope with the unfamiliar environment. At times the landscape looked like the bottom of the sea and at other times it really felt like Mars. I watched the white neck ravens soar above the clouds and I listened to the sound of their wings as they moved through the air. Every night we saw a blanket of stars fill the sky, watched shooting stars fly and even saw the Milky Way. To look beyond the Earth and see the magnitude and beauty of The Universe was an incredible experience. And of course it was sharing the experience with other people that made it so special.
The climb to the summit we did overnight in the dark. A chain of people snaking their way up the mountain in silence. I was overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude for being so fortunate in my life. Despite the lack of oxygen and difficulty breathing I felt a tremendous sense of safety with the moon and stars watching over me, as if Mother Nature had me in the palm of her hand. As we approached the top of Africa, colour seeped across the horizon and the sun boldly rose her head in a smile that warmed both our hearts and our frozen fingers. There are few times I can say I have genuinely experienced awe but this was certainly one of them.
As with life, it was the journey up the mountain that counted rather than the brief time I was at the summit. Part of the journey was the training and preparation that led up to the event. I regularly went up Munros with my Dad (who did Kilimanjaro with me) in the proceeding months. It was great that by doing this event many of my friends and family were inspired to climb a Munro for the first time. A number of my friends couldn’t quite believe there is snow on the top of Scottish mountains in May!
My training included some very long days, such as a ten hour day doing three of the Arrochar Alps. I also climbed Ben Nevis. I went through a phase of doing a fast walk up Arthur’s Seat in the morning before work, which was a great experience in itself and far superior to a step machine! I’ve always loved camping and have had plenty of experience roughing it at festivals so I was ok with that aspect of the trip. I have a regular Ashtanga yoga practice which has really developed my physical strength over the years but perhaps more importantly it has given me the ability to control my breath. This was key on the mountain as altitude sickness hit me hard when we reached 4000m. Staying calm and elongating my breath through meditation was a pivotal factor in my ability to continue.
The £1,635 I raised came soley from my very generous friends, family and colleagues, using online and offline fundraising tips, plus all the great fundraising tips from WWF. Just Giving was a fantastic tool and helped people donate quickly and easily. Even my yoga school, Union Yoga, sponsored me. They also helped to publicise the trip by including information in their monthly newsetter and on their Facebook page. I created a Facebook event page, ‘Holly climbs Kilimanjaro’, so I could post up pictures of my training events to generate some interest. Pictures of the event itself are also up there now. I would encourage anyone to take up a charity event for WWF as the benefits come on so many levels. We live in such a beautiful world and I’m so glad I could support WWF in some of the great work they continue to do to protect it for the animals.
We are so incredibly grateful for supporters like Holly, who take on such an amazing challenge and choose to raise funds for WWF. If you have a personal challenge you are taking on, whether its a half marathon, marathon, trek, or sitting in a tub of baked beans and would like to support Team Panda then please let us know by completing your own place application form. We will be in touch with fundraising advice and be able to support you on your journey. Go #TeamPanda!