Heroes' welcome for barefoot climbers
Nielen Bottomley, News24
Cape Town - A group of South Africans who climbed Mount Kilimanjaro barefoot to raise funds for the Red Cross Children’s hospital in Cape Town were given a heroes’ welcome by patients on a post-summit visit.
The Old Mutual Barefoot Kilimanjaro Team, who returned home on Tuesday, summated the 5 895m peak on 28 January. As a celebratory gesture, a few of the climbers spent some time with children at the burns unit of the hospital on Wednesday.
Amid chanting of “barefoot Kilimanjaro” from young burn victims, the climbers handed over their summit flag to hospital staff.
“To all our heroes, thank you for the inspiration,” read the inscription on the flag.
“It was unbelievably spectacular,” barefoot climber Matt Botha told News24 at the hospital.
‘On top of the world’
In their team of 10 climbers, five climbed completely barefoot. Other team members included guides and a cameraman.
“We may be on top of Africa, but we feel like we are on the top of the world,” they proclaimed in a blog post after the climb.
They spent months preparing for the climb - spending time in a freezing room and climbing local terrains barefoot. They admit to being barefoot for most of the preceding months.
Some of the challenges the climbers faced were the cold, the altitude and the rocky terrain of the mountain.
They also climbed through five different geographical zones and some climbers faced mild cases of altitude sickness.
“On the way up we had a couple of disheartening encounters with climbers that had failed to summit and were visibly delirious and vomiting,” said Andrew King, another climber, on their website.
Frostbite on feet
No serious injuries on the trip were recorded.
“The biggest injury we got on the trip was from putting our shoes back on after the climb,” joked Botha.
Dr Ross Tucker, a physiologist who also went barefoot, had frostbite on his feet he obtained before the trip started. “I wanted to test the limits and found the limit by going too far,” he told News24.
According to Botha, going out and doing something for someone is much more meaningful than completing it for a medal. He said the climb was all about “finding the line between possible and impossible”.
New poisons centre
“The kids motivated us incredibly, they did a lot for team spirit,” said Botha. “This is nothing compared to what they must surmount.”
The team chose this time of year to climb because of the good weather. They encountered the most snow on the last day. This was still less than they expected and prepared for.
“The sun helped a lot,” said Camilla Howard, the only female climber. “When I saw the sign on the peak, I became very emotional,” she said.
All of the money donated is going directly to the upgrade of the Poisons Information Centre at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital.
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