Barry Cudmore at the peek of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa [submitted]

On top of the world

The Guestbook | by Barry Cudmore

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After months of preparation and with the prayerful support of family and friends, I reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa, on Monday, October 10 at 7 am. It was a clear, fresh mountain morning. 

We were accompanied by 40 support staff, guides, cooks and porters. Reaching the summit was the culmination of six difficult days of reaching higher. Although Kilimanjaro is not technically difficult to climb, it requires considerable determination to keep going up. 

The last ascent was a challenge. We left our final camp below the summit at 11 pm and climbed upward into the night with our torches and a full moon for light. It seemed the slow and steady pace would never end. We trudged upward over loose rock and gravel. We were kept warm by heavy mitts, toques and layers of clothing. By 6 am we could see the eastern sky brightening up and by 6:30 am the sun was rising over lesser peaks and with sunshine, warmth. Shortly before 7 am we reached Stella peak. We now realised that victory was in our grasp if we could continue on higher to Ureshala peak. As we arrived at the summit I was overcome with emotion and elation of reaching the roof of Africa. In every direction we looked, it was lower than where we stood on the summit. 

Shortly after reaching the summit, I was hit with altitude sickness. The guides recognised the symptoms immediately. They put me on oxygen and with support on either side of my body, they ushered me down the peak to lower altitudes to safety and I quickly recovered.

None of the days were easy; I described them as hard and harder, lots of ups and downs, but the scenery was amazing and breathtaking figuratively and literally, views I had never seen before.

Since there were many other trekking groups on the mountain, our head guide made the correct decision to have us on the trail early. We had a wake up call at 5 am and were usually on the trail by 6:15 am. We slept in tents individually or as partners. When the sun set, the temperature plummeted. We stayed warm in our sleeping bags by wearing insulated jackets, mitts, extra socks and toques. Conversely, as the sun rose the temperature shot up and we were peeling off layers of clothing. In the words of the guides,”wear what your body tells you,” was good advice, a fine line between too hot and too cold.

When the trek was difficult and I needed extra encouragement, I thought about my family and the kids in Kenya. I wanted this to be more than Barry. With the donations made by many family, friends and strangers, we’re providing extra food for children in our Kenyan schools where they have been experiencing drought for several months.

Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro at 19,361 feet is not for everyone. It should not be your first high climb. However, with proper preparation and determination, you can succeed.

PEI potato farmer Barry Cudmore trekked Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds for Farmers Helping Farmers (FHF) in October. The non-profit organization partners with farmers, dairies, womens’ groups and schools to build sustainable agricultural communities. Cudmore and his wife Ellen were part of the first delegation of Islanders who travelled to Kenya and Tanzania more than 40 years ago, resulting in the formation of FHF.