Two friends from Cornwall have taken on the challenge of a lifetime to help raise vital funds for Cornwall Air Ambulance.
Maurice Bennett, from Bodmin, and Shane Julian, from Wadebridge, had wanted to climb Mount Kilimanjaro for years and finally decided to give it a go back in 2019.
The pair chose to raise money for Cornwall Air Ambulance as their local charity and signed up through Global Adventure Challenges. In preparation they did a lot of cycling, hiked the Cornish cliff paths and even climbed Snowdon.
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the trip got delayed, but after three years in the making they finally set off on their adventure in September 2022. Shane and Maurice were part of a group of 25 people, joined by a highly trained support crew and medics.
Kilimanjaro, a dormant volcano in Tanzania, is 5,895m high and is the tallest mountain on the African continent.
The 11-day challenge included seven days of hiking through a diverse range of ecosystems, including savannah, cloud forest, moorland and alpine desert, to reach the snow-capped summit.
Shane said: “There wasn’t much sleep, but the high was the group thing, the more people there are doing it the better. We made some really good friends and just helped each other, if somebody needed help we’d just help, gets things for people and carry things for people.
“Sleeping and the tent were tough, but the walking was brilliant. You just don’t understand the altitude as you never see it, weather wise it was cold some days, hot some days, wet some days, much like Cornwall.”
Maurice added: “It was a bit harder than I thought it was going to be, you’re on the side of a mountain sleeping with rocks underneath you. But the highs are the people there doing it with you, supporting you, the laughs and the giggles.
“It’s mentally challenging, psychically it’s long days and you’re not getting a lot of sleep, the summit day is probably the hardest day because you’re starting at midnight and walking in the dark and all you can see in front of you is people’s feet. But the team there made so much difference and were singing the local songs, it made such a difference.”
The trek, which followed the Machame Route, allowed gradual acclimatisation to the altitude as the group made their way up the peak.
Along the way they encountered all weathers, terrain, hiked through night and day and stayed at various camps along the route to reach the highest point of the mountain, Uhuru Peak.
“Getting to the summit was hard work, the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, but coming back down it was more joyful knowing that we’d gotten to the top and come all the way back down”, said Shane.
Maurice added: “Getting to the top was really good, the views from up there were amazing, then getting to the bottom was the main thing, knowing you’d completed it without any injuries and that’s when the challenge was actually over.”
Through their fundraising efforts Maurice and Shane have raised over £11,500 between them for Cornwall Air Ambulance Trust.
They came to visit the charity’s airbase near Newquay for a cheque presentation, where members of the team thanked the pair for their incredible efforts.
Rob Foster, Fundraising Officer for Events and Challenges at Cornwall Air Ambulance, said: “We are incredibly grateful for Shane and Maurice’s enormous fundraising feat, and what an incredible way to do it. To hear how a trip of a lifetime saw them create unforgettable memories, make lifelong friends, and raise vital funds at the same time is amazing. By taking part in challenges like this you can help to fund more lifesaving missions across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, so our crew can help people when they need it most.”
You can find out about all our upcoming events and challenges for the charity here.